Friday, October 31, 2008

Warning: doughnuts, alcohol don’t mix

OK, so I must admit, I have this fascination with doughnuts. Besides my love for eating them, my co-workers also send me news stories involving the sugary treats.

So, for nearly a year now, I have been watching with interest the case of the man who led police on a high-speed chase in a stolen Krispy Kreme doughnut truck.

Warren G. Whitelighting – yes, that’s his last name – was sentenced this week to two years in prison, followed by three years of extended supervision for his doughnut truck escapade, which was captured and, of course, posted on YouTube.

Click here to watch the video as thousands of precious doughnuts spill out the back of the truck as Whitelightning attempts to elude police.

It all started after Whitelightning of Crandon, WI, stole eight giant, red-hot pickled sausages and attempted to buy beer at the Open Pantry store before being asked to leave. Instead, he hopped into the truck, circled the parking lot a few times and took off on the open road. At one point he stopped, backed up and hit a police car, before putting the truck in drive again and hitting the gas.

And in case you were wondering, alcohol was involved.

He’s been arrested at least seven times on drunken driving charges. Upon his release from prison, the circuit court judge in Dane County has also ordered that Whitelightning must have an ignition interlock device installed on any vehicle he drives during that three years – which hopefully won’t include another adventure behind the wheel of a doughnut delivery truck.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

CYA and know your PSA

I’m watching my behind these days, because something may be sneaking up on me in a blind spot.

That something could be a problem with my prostate, a walnut-sized gland in my abdomen just below the bladder and in front of the rectum. It helps control urination and helps in sexual activity.

You guys know that gnarly test the doc does with his finger when you have your physical, the one he apologizes for doing? He is checking the prostate, to see if it’s normal size, shape and feel.

At this point, probably half of you guys reading this are feeling a certain puckering reaction and are about to click away. Please don’t. What you don’t know could cost you dearly.

Here’s why it’s important: The odds of men having prostate cancer average 1 in 6. It’s the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in men and the most common kind of male cancer, except for skin cancer. The sooner you catch a problem, the more treatment options you have and the better your odds of beating it.

I had my annual physical the other day, and a test indicated there might be a problem. The test, called PSA, measures the amount of “prostate-specific antigen” in my blood. The PSA test can be done with the blood sample you give for checking your cholesterol, sugar levels and so on.

Like in golf and cholesterol, the lower the score the better when it comes to your PSA. According to the U.S. government’s cancer site, PSA “may be found in higher levels in the blood of men who have prostate cancer, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), infection or inflammation of the prostate.”

BPH is a fancy way of saying the prostate swells. The tube that carries urine runs through the prostate – if the gland is infected, inflamed or starts to swell, it makes urination more difficult. It’s pretty common in older guys.

Normal PSA scores run from 0 to 4, although the docs are looking harder at the higher numbers. If the score starts to rise fairly quickly, as it has for me, the sawbones like to determine how fast it’s going up; they call it PSA acceleration. If it looks like something is putting the pedal to the metal in your posterior, then it’s time for further diagnosis.

After learning about the test around 10 years ago, I had one at my next annual physical so we’d have a baseline – like getting the baseline on how your engine normally performs, so if something goes awry, you have something to measure against. I’ve had one every year since, to see how it’s behaving.

Guys should have PSA tests done fairly early in life, especially if a blood relative had or has prostate cancer, and at least by age 50. Again quoting the government site:

“Several risk factors increase a man’s chances of developing prostate cancer. These factors may be taken into consideration when a doctor recommends screening. Age is the most common risk factor, with nearly 65 percent of prostate cancer cases occurring in men age 65 and older.”

Men who have a father or brother with prostate cancer have a greater chance of developing prostate cancer. African American men have the highest rate of prostate cancer, while Asian and Native American men have the lowest rates. In addition, there is some evidence that a diet higher in fat, especially animal fat, may increase the risk of prostate cancer.

With the possible exception of eating more fat than I should and being much closer to 60 than I like, I don’t have any of those risk factors. So I am cautiously optimistic that the problem will turn out to be some latent infection or inflammation, curable with antibiotics.

But I am not willing to bet my ass on that. So, if further tests are needed – ultrasound, even a biopsy – I’ll beat them to the exam room.

Look for updates here in the days to come.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Hey, there’s a human in here

Have you noticed how often someone comes up with a “brilliant” idea to solve the problems in the trucking industry and forgets that people, human beings, actually drive those trucks?

We’ve been down this road with hours of service regs and idling restrictions, and now the California Air Resources Board is moving toward mandating fuel-efficient retrofits.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is constantly forcing the think tanks, politicians and such to think beyond the solution they are trying to achieve and look at the unintended consequences. What is the real-life impact of your proposal?

This is routinely met with blank stares. The concept that there is an impact on human life seems to completely escape them.

We have to point out that idling restrictions, coupled with hours of service regs, can land a trucker in a sleeper-berth in below freezing temperatures for eight hours.

You can see the puzzled look on their face followed by yet another stroke of “genius.”

“Why don’t they just buy a generator?”

“Do you have $7,000 to $10,000 just laying around? Truckers don’t either.”

“They could get a loan,” comes the inevitable response.

“Hello? Credit crunch.”

It’s a frustrating situation to battle day in and day out. Yet it’s one that must be fought.

I stumbled on to my own personal stroke of genius recently when I had this debate with a friend who has no comprehension of the trucking industry, but thinks he has all the answers.

I told him that I could cut my grocery bill by 90 percent starting right now. Look at all the money I’ll save, I told him. I’ll be able to buy a new car in no time.

He took the bait and asked how I could cut my grocery bill that much.

“Simple, we just won’t eat.”

The human consequence.

I think it sunk in.