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It's Not TV

HBO makes for an expensive cable bill, but you get what you pay for. The movies are good, but I'm mostly speaking to the series. I'm giving them props for three recent series, one which may last for a while, another which may not (which is a shame, because I think it's fresh and witty), and one which already has been canceled.

On that note, I don't know how HBO researches their ratings. Do they use Nielsen, which is more geared to commercial networks? Do they have focus groups? Do they gather stats from OnDemand viewing?

The first is Big Love, a drama about a polygamist Mormon family trying to blend into mainstream society. I'd rank it up there with Six Feet Under, but unlike that popular series, I haven't heard much buzz about it. Of course, my circles number two: poor college students who can't afford HBO, and 40-something pharmacists who don't seem the HBO type. Then there's where I live... many people here may get hung up about a show portraying a polygamist family, even though it doesn't promote the lifestyle. But Desperate Housewives, which enjoys its highest viewership in my part of the country, is fine. [I privately steam in my own frustration]
Update: HBO will produce season 3 of Big Love

The second is Flight of the Conchords, a comedy about a two-man folk band and comedy troupe from New Zealand come to New York City. In addition to themselves, their quest for fame is hindered by a distractable manager unable to secure real gigs who is also a cultural attache in the New Zealand Consulate office, a single stalker fan, a continual struggle to pay the rent, and serious co-dependency issues preventing them from separating long enough to pursue normal dating. The standard formula is two songs performed per 30-minute episode. The songs are gems. Enjoying the show may require a warped sense of humor possessed by few. I hope the show will find such warped individuals and form a cultish fanship; however, they're almost unheard of in the U.S., and the show may never catch on. A pity, that.
Update: HBO will produce season 2 of Flight of the Conchords thanks to the vocal cult following it has generated.

The last show is Rome, which wrapped up its second season earlier this year with a series finale. Apparently, it had a movie-size production budget and was designed for two seasons only. Nevertheless, I really liked the show, and was sad to see it end.

:: Bryan Travis :: 07/27/2007 @ 12:56 :: [link] ::

In One Nare and Out the Other

Dudes, I simply must tell you about this wonderful thing I discovered: nasal douching. Yes, that's right, nasal douching. In yoga circles, it also goes by the name "jala neti," which Wikipedia defines as an "ancient yoga cleansing technique," traditionally performed with a neti pot. A neti pot looks like a small teapot with a long spout. They're usually made of ceramic or metal, and choice of material can be controversial among yoga purists; from a purely practical standpoint, I'd chose metal because it's easier to clean. The spout is flared at the tip, which fits against the nostil and forms a seal. With the head bent over a sink and turned slightly to the side, the neti pot solution is poured into one nostril and allowed to flow out the other by gravity. It sounds disturbing. It can be disturbing to watch. But it works.

I've noticed from beach vacations that swimming in the ocean and getting some sea water in my nose improves my sinusitis and allergies. This led me to try saline nasal sprays like Ocean, but the small bottles are intended for spraying a little every few hours to moisten nasal passages; they don't help allergies much.

I first heard about neti pots on an episode of Six Feet Under, and patients come into the pharmacy from time to time asking if we sell neti pots. Whilst on rotation at a Walgreen's pharmacy, I learned about the Neilmed nasal irrigation system, which works like a neti pot, but instead of the water flowing by gravity, the Neilmed product has a plastic squeeze bottle to put some pressure behind the water. Since I have severe allergies, chronic sinusitis, and dry nasal passages, I bought one a few weeks ago. Neilmed package designs are very busy and visually distracting. They look like something you'd see on a late night infomercial. If I were shopping for something else and saw these products in the cold and allergy section, I'd roll my eyes and walk on.

Here's a YouTube video on how it's done; the audio is low, so expect to boost the volume to hear anything: Neilmed sinus rinse video.

The Neilmed manual says to only use Neilmed's premixed packets to prevent burning and discomfort, because they're pH balanced; however, I'm too cheap to pay $10-$12 for 50 uses (I use hypertonic solution, which requires 2 packets). Sodium chloride is slightly acidic, and human extracellular fluids like blood and plasma are slightly basic, so a sodium chloride mixture will sting the nasal passages. Been there, done that -- it really stings.

Making your own nasal rinse solution is inexpensive and easy, but the trick is having a recipe. The Neilmed packets list sodium chloride and sodium bicarbonate as ingredients, but I didn't know how much of each. The sodium chloride is easy enough to guess, but how much baking soda? That's what Google is for. In about 3 minutes, I was comparing jala neti solution recipes online. The recipe I use is a hypertonic neti pot solution:

  • 8 ounces (240 ml) lukewarm water (distilled or tap water, boiled)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)

Alternatively, you can use 1/2 teaspoon sea salt by itself. The pH of ocean water is already basic at about 8.2 - 8.4, so the baking soda isn't necessary.

It's that easy. If an isotonic solution is preferred, use 1/4 teaspoon each. I haven't tried it, but 3/4 - 1 teaspoon of each should make a solution comparable to ocean water. Baking soda buffers the solution to a basic pH to prevent stinging. Iodized and table salt should not be used. The iodizing agent in iodized salt, potassium iodide, is irritating. Table salt contains an anti-caking agent, which also is irritating. The best salt to use is one without any anti-caking agent, but that kind of salt is hard to find, and if you do, it's probably rock salt with crystals too large to measure in a spoon -- that's why most salt has an anti-caking agent. Kosher salt has an anti-caking agent, but it's different from the anti-caking agent in table salt, and seems to be less irritating.

The first time I used the nasal rinse, I stood with my head bent over the sink for at least 5 minutes, laughing nervously, trying to work up the courage to do it. The directions casually tell you to squeeze the solution into one nostril and relax so it can flow out the other nostril. I didn't know such things were possible, and the thought of it freaked me out a little. It did feel weird the first couple times, and even stung a bit, but you quickly adapt. The important thing is that it really does work, and when you get past the aversion to squirting water up your nose, it's a great way to help relieve sinusitis.

Some final thoughts about nasal rinsing:

  • Cleanliness. This is the most time-consuming aspect, but cleanliness of neti pots or the Neilmed squeeze bottle is paramount -- after going to all the trouble, the last thing you want to do is promote a sinus infection by spraying contaminated water deep into your sinuses. Always boil the water first and allow it to cool; 2 or 2.5 minutes in the microwave is all it takes.
  • Disadvantage of Neilmed vs neti pots: the inside of the bottle is difficult to dry completely between uses. The instructions recommend cleaning with a wire brush, but I soak the inside with a dilute bleach solution a couple of times a week and rinse well with hot water and dish detergent after every use.
  • Disadvantage of Neilmed vs neti pots: the flexible plastic squeeze bottle isn't as durable as a neti pot. I haven't had mine long enough to know how often it should be replaced, but the instructions recommend every few months -- I expect it to last longer with proper care. At any rate, a bottle costs less than a neti pot.
  • Advantage of Neilmed vs neti pots: squeezing the bottle pressurizes the water. This was the primary selling for me. Since one of my nostrils is at least partially clogged most of the time due to allergies, water probably wouldn't flow well from a neti pot. No need to blast it -- if it takes more than a gentle squeeze, you're either doing it incorrectly or your sinuses are too clogged and nasal rinsing isn't for you.
:: Bryan Travis :: 07/16/2007 @ 09:52 :: [link] ::