Sunday, May 24, 2015

You Gotta Be Kidney Me!

Typically, I have a high threshold of pain and try to maintain proper hydration. For the most part, I have gradually cut down on eating junk food and drinking soda over the years. But, I recently had a very bad kidney stone experience...which on a scale of zero to Bo Derek was about a Spinal Tap! Although my third time, the other two were mild in comparison. It later turned out to be a common calcium oxalate stone. As such, I had to seek professional help. They pumped me with fluids - my bladder and kidneys were floating!!! - and pain medicine. After some careful analysis of my dietary intake, the stone in fact was caused by drinking too much apple and cranberry juice - which I would drink on a daily basis - and, of course, consuming the dreaded soybean/soybean oil THAT IS IN EVERYTHING! According to several sources, all three are extremely high in oxalate - apple juice being the worse, as it turns out - and are really bad for those susceptible to calcium oxalate stones. It just eventually built up. Nuts, spinach and sunflower seeds too are high in oxalate, just to highlight a few other things which I regularly consume. So much for trying to eat “healthy”!

Ever since, I have been reading about the benefits of lemon juice - and adding more citrus in general - to increase citrate levels that can help block both calcium oxalate and uric acid stones. I am not a huge fan of lemonade, or tart food in general, but probably will start drinking more lemon-flavored water. Coconut also is touted for its benefits, not just in hydration but in preventing stone formation. (Fortunately, it is only the consistency of coconut I dislike rather than its taste.) There also is the argument for consuming a “normal” diet of calcium, because, oddly enough, it will combine with the oxalate in the intestines before it can reach the urinary tract. For this, I will actually have to decrease my dairy intake...because I still love drinking milk and eating cheese (another problematic food)!!! Fiber-rich (artichokes; beans; rice) and potassium-rich (bananas; potatoes; tomatoes) foods are good too, although some like beans and potatoes also are high in oxalate.

There is a lot of contradictory information out there, even from leading authorities on the subject. What it comes down to is proper judgment in tweaking guidelines and recommendations for what works for the circumstance. Naturally, the best advice, as always, is to drink more water and follow the mantra of moderation - presumably, neither of which I have been properly adhering.

Kidney Stone Prevention: ‘Fact versus Fiction' (Renal and Urology News)

Kidney Stones Raise Atherosclerosis Risk (Renal and Urology News)

Prevent Kidney Stones (

Did Drinking Iced Tea Really Cause My Kidney Stones (

©2015 Steve Sagarra

Friday, May 15, 2015

Still Misplacing Blame Knowing What We Know

The evil of the world is made possible by nothing but the sanction you give it.” -Ayn Rand

Knowing what we know now” arguments are irrelevant to history, i.e. the Iraq War. We cannot study it through that prism, because decisions were based on what was believed at the time. Besides, what is it that we supposedly “know now”? That Saddam Hussein indeed had weapons of mass destruction, and impeded United Nations-mandated weapons inspections for over a decade? Check. That Iraq harbored terrorists throughout that time? Check. That we are still fighting terrorism, despite those who wish to ignore that fact? Check. That current instability in the region is a direct result of U.S. troop withdrawal and failure to secure a Status of Forces Agreement? Check. And that ISIS grew from this failure? Check. So, what is this “new” information warranting yet another re-visiting and second-guessing the reasons for the war?

A decades-old argument - “Would a president drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima knowing what we know now?” - has morphed into the current discussion - “Would a president invade Iraq knowing what we know now?” Since hindsight has a perfect record, this always is a flawed debate. On both accounts, information at the time said yes; any present circumstances - which are due to many unrelated factors - is irrelevant to that decision. The best example of this in more recent memory is the equally divisive and oft-compared Vietnam War. A conflict that epitomizes the Cold War, it was supported early as a fight against legitimate communist aggression that potentially could cascade across Southeast Asia and beyond. When that “domino effect” failed to materialize, critics attacked the validity for the war in the first place. Remember too, at the onset of the Second World War, the U.S. was only fighting Japan until Germany declared war on us as well. The focus then shifted to a two-front war, but as part of a larger picture; in my opinion, and for many like-minded people, a similar situation existed with Afghanistan and Iraq. Yet, we have pulled out and failed to maintain a military readiness in either country to counter the continuing cascading threat from the likes of al Qaeda and ISIS.

Concerning the lead-up to the Iraq War and its fallout, I still wholeheartedly support - as do many of those same like-minded people - the decision by the Bush Administration and our allies to act in 2003. Saddam Hussein and his tyrannical regime had to go, as a threat to the Iraqi people, to the region and in the grander scheme of fighting terrorists and those who harbor them. After a decade of disregard and obfuscation by Iraq over its WMDs, who finally was going to force them to comply? The ineffective U.N. that cowered and had been duped by Saddam over that time? How much more time would he be allowed? Another decade? The U.S. and its allies took the initiative lacking in the useless U.N. in order to enforce that compliance. Even more, the critical attacks on the intelligence for WMDs now have been shown, at the very least, to be without merit themselves given “what we know now”...which some of us knew all along concerning Iraq’s weapons program:  they had them.

In comic books, it is becoming evermore a rarity to have purely good superheroes, because even they must exhibit a darker side to have value in an increasingly cynical world. That is the problem with the world today. Every decision is second-guessed in hindsight as a consequence of this attitude, forgetting the valid reasons for it at the time. In doing so, we perform a disservice by tearing down good while raising up evil. For his part, President Obama's “legacy” will be remembered as a failure, defined by ineffectiveness, weakness and retreat in the face of that evil born from that cynicism. Meanwhile, the legacy for those opposed to the Iraq War - both then and now - will be the still cynically misplaced blame on the “evil” President Bush for that current situation. All because of the ambiguous assertion over “what we know now.” 

©2015 Steve Sagarra

Friday, May 1, 2015

My Take: Batman vs Superman Dawn of Justice

Batman vs. Superman:  Dawn of Justice opens in less than a year. As soon as it was announced, I decided to have some fun and create my own version of the opening scene as follows:

Events of the battle of Metropolis are witnessed once again. Approaching its ultimate climax, the scene pans out to a darkness illuminated only by the light of an oversized monitor. A cave, the nocturnal activity of its residents echoing. Attached to the monitor is an advanced computer terminal, before it a fashionably dressed gentleman, his hair coiffed neatly to match his designer cufflinks, sits in a high-backed chair. Through his chiseled and stoic appearance, he keenly observes the action between Superman and Zod play out on the monitor.
      The gentleman pushes a small, black button on the console.
      “Alfred, I believe it’s time for that meeting with Alexander Luthor in Metropolis.”
      “Very well, sir. Will you be visiting in your typical manner, or just as Bruce Wayne?”


With his personal servant and bodyguard, Alfred Pennyworth, leading the way, Bruce Wayne disembarks into a private hangar at Metropolis airport. He is approached by a throng of the city's media personnel, none more visible than Lois Lane.
      “Mr. Wayne, why have you come to Metropolis? Are you here to help or to exploit?”
      “Ms. Lane, isn't it? I am here to offer the resources of Wayne Enterprises to assist LexCorp and the citizens of Metroplis rebuild this great city from the destruction caused by this so-called ‘Superman’ and his people.”
      “We all witnessed Superman save this city, and the world, from his people. Do you not believe his motives in protecting us?”
      He winks at her. “I tend to take a more skeptical approach than those who sensationalize them in the media. After all, we witnessed him kill one of his people. Seems we should question the danger he could pose to all of us.”
      Not allowing questions from any other reporters concerning Wayne's trip, Lois Lane further presses him on the topic of Superman.
      “What about other stories uncovered that portray him as a savior? Do those not allay any fears we should hold concerning him?”
      “I'd say more urban legend fabricated by an enthusiastic journalist than definitive proof of his intentions.”
      She smirks, glaring at him. “Like Gotham City's ‘Batman,’ Mr. Wayne?”
      “Exactly, Ms. Lane. Nothing more than a rogue vigilante who should let the real heroes do their jobs. Now, if you'll excuse me I have a meeting to get to with Mr. Luthor. Thank you everyone.”
      Alfred escorts Bruce to a waiting limousine, and they drive away.

It can be subtle, but I want references to Batman's former partners…whose real names don’t turn out to be Robin (screw you Nolan!), but rather are called “Robin.” Especially, Jason Todd, the second “Robin” after Dick Grayson, and the memorial established in the Batcave by Batman after his death. There is speculation that Grayson's Nightwing is to make an appearance, possibly along with Carrie Kelley who became Batman's partner in Frank Miller's seminal graphic novel, The Dark Knight Returns. It would be cool to have a cameo by Tim Drake as well, who became the third “Robin” after Jason. (All of which could lend itself nicely to a solo Batman prequel/sequel movie centered around either the New 52’s “Court of Owls” or “Death of the Family” story arcs while reflecting on past adventures. But, I digress…)

Despite all the hate he receives from critics, I always have enjoyed Zack Snyder's films. In my opinion, 300 (another Frank Miller creation) and Watchmen (Alan Moore, who automatically disowns all film rights, be damned) are two of the most faithful adaptations of a comic book/graphic novel. Although I was unfamiliar with the source material at the time of each movie's release, both have the look and feel of it (again, Moore be damned). I have faith that once again Snyder will be faithful to the source material, while exploring and expanding upon it to bring his nuance touch to DC Comic’s signature cinematic universe. (I'm sure Moore would disagree though.)

©2015 Steve Sagarra