Friday, December 25, 2009


We have this dog, well really we have two dogs, but this story is about a product ever-so-necessary for one of our dogs. One dog is 11 and he’s pretty calm and set in his ways. He’s still up for a good run, but he’d just as soon lie on the comfy bed as go outside. In fact he won’t go out if it’s raining or too cold. He’s 11 (almost retired) what do you expect. Our other dog, she is 3. She’s a complete and total nut. She is afraid of cameras when she is inside and when she is outside she moves way too fast to get a good photo of her. This is the best we could do and as you can see her feet are a complete blur. This is because she rips through the woods at dizzying speeds. This is her story.

BoBo is accident prone as one would be tearing through the woods at breakneck speeds only 30” from the ground. She is a German Shorthaired Pointer (GSP), the perfect hunting dog. The GSP was bred to be the multi-purpose hunting dog, built to run and hunt all day. We don’t hunt, but she does. And she is very good at it. She has brought us all sorts of animals, turkeys, grouse, deer and actually a moose. She is fearless and she is slightly crazy. In fact the breed is slightly crazy and although you would never find a nicer breed, if you don’t have hours a day, every day to spend with them, I wouldn’t recommend one. Trying at times, these dogs have enough energy to power the US energy demand for over a year and as such are the perfect dogs to test the durability of hunting dog clothing and other equipment. And this is where the real story starts.

BoBo has sustained numerous injuries. There were the rather frequent run-ins with barbed wire which brought about a variety of different quantities of stitches and veterinarian visits. In fact I’m sure her bills are building a new wing at the veterinarian’s office. And then there was the time that she ran so fast into a stick that it rammed itself through her right front legpit (I’m sure that’s not the right term for it) tore into her muscle, through the fascia, scraped her bone, and tore through the fascia and muscle on the other side of her leg, before hitting the skin on the opposite side of where the initial puncture occurred. At that point the skin at the original puncture point finally tore which ultimately resulted in a slightly hobbled (but only slightly) and moderately skinned dog. Her lack of motion was really the only indication of a problem because although the fur peeled back and exposed the muscle near the entry point there was surprisingly little blood. Nonetheless, 15 staples and 30 stitches later, she was put back together, and as soon as the anesthesia wore off, she was trying, pretty successfully, to run around again. Clearly healing is not a concept in her puppy vocabulary, only running.

It was at this point that we decided that she needed some protective gear. Since they don’t make body armor for dogs we went the next best route. Get her gear for hunting dogs. She is a hunting dog after all. So off to the Cabela’s catalog we went in search of something which would at least deflect the objects that were clearly in her path. It was there we found the Cabela’s Ripstop Chest Protector. This vest made of an “abrasion-resistant 600-denier ripstop material,…reinforced with a layer of heavy-duty 900-denier material through the chest and belly area.” buckles over the dogs back . I do not have enough good things to say about this product. BoBo has not once injured herself since we got her one, and in fact we have quite a bit of evidence that she has encountered things which could have torn her up. Barbed wire wounds have a very distinct “L” or “V” shaped tear and there is no less than 2 of those in her vest. But the tears are in the vest, and not in the dog, and so for that we are eternally grateful. Although the vest itself is a bit of a mess, the dog is, thankfully in one piece. The cost of the chest protector ($29.99) more than covers the cost of the vet bills and the tragedy of that horrible dog cone.

The material is very stiff when it is new and takes some time to break in. A few washings and some use will do the trick. The only issue with this product is that with the short haired breeds (such as the GSP) there are three areas that needed extra padding so that they don’t rub their fur off, or rub their skin raw. The three areas are: The leg holes, the elastic “V” shaped areas on the back of the chest protector and on the bands that go across the dog’s back to clasp the chest protector in place. You can see where I sewed fleece onto the chest protector to protect against such a thing.

Because this vest is so fantastic we got BoBo another one and bought one for our older dog. He doesn’t run anywhere near as quickly or as furiously as she does, but he is sensitive and it protects him from the massive numbers of raspberry bush thorns that we have in our area. We had to make one additional adjustment for him, and cut additional space in the “U” between the fleece patches so the edge of the chest protector did not rub on, and irritate his wee – it only seemed fair.

This is one of the greatest products ever created. I highly recommend this chest protector. It allows complete freedom of motion for the dog and freedom of worry for the people. Although admittedly, nothing is completely dog-proof, for this product to be BoBo-proof is a testament to its durability and effectiveness.

Friday, December 18, 2009


I admit it. I bought a BowFlex®. It was years ago and I just didn’t know what else to buy. I’m not a fitness professional so I didn’t know of anything better. I didn’t think that you could buy actual gym products for home use (something I know now you can do – live and learn). So, there I was, living in a rural community with no fitness facility and desperately wanting some way to work out. So I bought a BowFlex®.

In 2004 the only BowFlex® option I was aware of had “bows”, hence the name. Well actually the manufacturers and marketers call them "rods", and these “rods” are hardened rubber/plastic/synthetic material that bends with the resistance allocated to a weight. So the 10 lb rod gives you 10 lbs of resistance, the 30 lb rod gives you 30 lbs of resistance and the 50 lb rod gives you 50 lbs of resistance. Or at least that is the case when the BowFlex® first arrives at your home and you set it up.

When I first purchased this product, it arrived at my house in a box in multiple pieces and these things often do. I was putting it together when a friend showed up unexpectedly, chuckling about how it will turn rapidly into a “very expensive clothes line”. I can gladly say that is not the case and I have consistently and continuously used the BowFlex® throughout all of the years I have owned it. It has travelled across the country and back and although slightly awkward, is actually quite easy to move. It has wheels so you can tip it back and roll it along. This I must say is a very helpful design feature.

But since this is a review of the product itself, I suppose I should comment a little more on the product’s ability to function as advertised, as in how do the workouts work and are they worth the money. When I purchased this product in 2004 it was the next to the top of the line model and was somewhere in the range of $1500 to $2000. I don’t remember the exact cost, but I remember considering it an “investment in my health and wellbeing,” so I was not about to let it become “very expensive clothes line.” I set it up, and I did use it. I used it often in fact. So often, that over time the rods started to lose their resistance. I don’t leave the rods hooked up when I am done with my workouts, lest they receive unnecessary bending while not in use, but they still have lost resistance over time. Now when we work out we talk in terms of whether we will use the “hard 50,” (the 50 lb rod which is still quite firm and resistant) or the “easy 50” (the 30 lb rod combined with the two 10 lb rods all of which have lost a lot of their resistance). There is clearly a difference between the resistances of these 50’s. I don’t’ know what weights we are actually lifting most of the time, but we still use it. And we still use it often.

I suppose if you recognize the fact that the rods lose resistance over time, you can work around it, but it is certainly not ideal. It’s a good gym for home use for someone who doesn’t really care much about what weight they are lifting, but I certainly would not recommend it for a serious lifter since you can’t really gauge your progress.

Perhaps the newer models have remedied this problem and the rods are created out of a more durable material, and I am quite certain that the BowFlex Revolution® system that came out within the past few years eliminates the problem completely. I can’t be certain, but I imagine that the interlocking plates that define the BowFlex Revolution® don’t get lighter after multiple uses so although it is more expensive than the systems with the rod technology, it’s probably a better choice for the long term. Assuming that you actually use the product with any sort of regularity, you will theoretically get stronger and therefore need more weight and not less. Since the rods lose resistance, over time your original 30 lbs of resistance becomes 25 lbs so to get the same workout weight you must add the 5 lb rod. This, may be good for the ego because it appears that you are adding weight when in fact is just a little bit of a pain in the butt since you never really know how much weight you are lifting (or how much resistance you are resisting).

And may I please add that 20 minutes 3 times a week will not make an average person look like the BowFlex® advertisements claim. To look like that one must completely overhaul their life, do hours of cardio exercise every week, lift weights several times per week and have exceptionally perfect eating habits. Let me put it this way, unless you spend a lot of time doing other physical activities or have some sort of freaky genetics, you will not look like an Adonis using the BowFlex® 20 minutes 3 times a week. It’s just not possible no matter what the claims are and the testimonies say. Sorry BowFlex®, you have served me relatively well, but get real, no one really believes those claims of instant perfection, do they?

Friday, December 11, 2009


I have a fascination with the claims that over the counter pain remedies make. Having had back problems for most of my conscious life, I am always a bit wary of the claims of anyone or anything to reduce the pain. In fact after several prescriptions of 600 milligram Motrin, Loritabs, Tramadol, Lidocain patches and a lumbar Cortisone shot, none of which managed to even touch the pain, I sort of lost faith. I figure with two herniated discs and a small stress fracture, the best I could do was learn to live with the pain. I mean how many more doctors could I possibly listen to who would tell me that “Back pain is common. 80% of Americans have some sort of back pain.” True, perhaps, but with over 67% of American adults classified as overweight or obese (, back problems are not surprising. The human skeleton is just not meant to carry around that much extra weight. Couple that with the stagnant American lifestyle and the number of hours per week people spend hunched over a desk, is it any wonder 80% of Americans have back problems? I, unfortunately am one of those 80%.

Well suffice it to say that none of the prescribed pharmaceuticals helped the pain. Some of them made me not care that I was in pain, but the pain did not cease and my belief in Western medicine faltered. (Go figure.) So when I saw the Icy Hot® Patch (, I chuckled to myself and didn’t really believe the claims, but I must admit I was intrigued. I figured if it didn’t work, I’d be no worse off than I was the day before, $14 poorer, but no worse off. And considering I had spent no less than $1500 on the multiple doctor visits and the Cortisone shot, I figured $14 was no big deal. So I bought some. I got the XL because I figured the bigger the better. Why not, if you’re going to go for it, might as well throw caution to the wind.

On the evening that I decided to try them, I was in the usually amount of pain. Nothing extraordinary. I could move pretty well and the constant nagging was just nagging, not debilitating. I read the instructions which gave three easy steps “Pop, Peel and Apply”. The patches themselves come sticky-side down on a plastic sheet which you need to peel off. You then take the large gauzy, sticky patch and apply it to the aching area. It smelled like icy hot, you know that sort of medicinal, eucalyptus scent, but nothing too terrible. I didn’t smell entirely like an old man, for which I was quite grateful. The regular Icy Hot tends to have that effect. The patch must keep the scent contained. I did not understand exactly what was meant by the “pop” instruction so I just used what little finger nails I have to remove the plastic sheeting. It took a minute or two, but I managed. I applied the XL patch, which is 75% larger than the normal size and waited for something magic to occur. It was just like the Icy Hot cream that I remembered, only it didn’t move around, didn’t get wiped off, and didn’t make my clothes or my sheets smell like a nursing home. It was cold going on and a minute later is was hot. (hence the name – Icy Hot.) And the best part is that it worked. It clearly didn’t fix the crack in my spine or scoot my discs back into place, but it did make the whole area feel better. I was astounded.

The instructions say that you can keep the patch on for up to 8 hours, so I went to bed with it on. I half expected to wake up with a minor skin irritation, but I was willing to take that chance for a night of reduced back pain. When I woke up, no irritation and the patch was right where I left it, on my body. It wasn’t crumpled up at the bottom of the bed, stuck to the sheets. It wasn’t stuck in my hair. It hadn’t moved at all. But my 8 hours was up so I had to remove it. The adhesive they use is clearly just short of Gorilla glue since it didn’t budge even with all of my nocturnal movement, so, with good reason, I expected to tear of at least one layer of skin with the patch. I was wrong on that one too. It was like pulling off a Band-Aid. Granted an XL Band-Aid, but a Band-Aid, nonetheless. I’m sure if you are a hairy guy, you may have a different opinion on this one, but upon removal, I did not feel like I was being waxed by a sadist.

The Icy Hot Patch won’t fix a major medical problem, but then again, neither do hundreds of dollars worth of doctors visits, prescriptions drugs and minor “procedures.” In all, it did more for my back pain than all of the above combined and it didn’t make me incoherent, incapacitated, incapable of movement or force me to drive for hours only to wait several more hours to spend a lot of money on a solution that failed. In fact, I would say that the Icy Hot Patch is far better at fixing back pain than any of the multiple doctors and specialists I’ve seen. And except for the “pop” instruction, easier to comprehend, significantly less intimidating, far more effective and a fraction of the price.

Friday, December 4, 2009


I’m afraid on this one you’ll just have to deal with the fact that there are no photos. Because, and I’m sure you’ll understand why, I just can’t take photos of my 35 year old bad skin to plaster all over the internet. Don’t worry though, I promise I’ll describe it well. Although at 16 and 20 and even 25, I had skin like alabaster, ok not exactly, but it was still pretty good, at 30, my skin decided to finally rebel and at 31, I found myself purchasing acne products I never had to even consider in my youth. This I found highly disturbing on multiple levels. A zit or two periodically as an adult is one thing, but actual acne is something else entirely. I watch the commercials now about skin care products and there aren’t many that cater to adults with acne. There’s AcneFree (, Proactive (, and the many and varied other acne related skin care products available at your local drug store, but those for the most part focus on adolescents and throw in the token adult for good measure (and of course to cover all as yet undiscovered or unsubstantiated markets). There are products for other skin conditions, but since I am only dealing with acne, I will stick to what I know best.

So at age 30 my skin started to change and I sought assistance from professionals. I, despite my somewhat better judgment decided that facials were the way to go and thought that with the facial would come some sensible advice as to what an almost middle aged woman should do about acne along her jawline. What I was told at spa #1 was basically that at 30, there is a hormone shift and that jawline and neck acne are actually very common. I wondered exactly how common since I’d never witnessed this problem on anyone else. What I was also told was that I needed to spend a lot of money on fancy spa products to fit this issue. I tried, they failed.

At spa #2 I was given the same information and a different litany of products. They worked a little better but cost the same, and I had this strange guilt about actually using products that were so expensive. Surely there was something less time consuming and less cost prohibitive that would fix this silly little problem. After all, I would have to take a second mortgage out on my house to repurchase all of the many and varied products once these ran out.

Which brings us to spa #3. There in sensible South Carolina, I was told by the facialist(?) beautician(?), cosmetic professional(?) that I had “a lot happening under my skin”. I’m not entirely sure what that means and it sounds a little frightening if you stop to think about it, but I knew she was right. “So what should I do about it?” I asked hesitantly. “Well,” she said, “have you ever heard of AcneFree?” At that time, I have to admit that I had not. She said to me “they have it at Walmart and it’s under $20”. “Ha ha,” I thought to myself, “something that is called “AcneFree” so theoretically it should keep me in such a state, and even I can afford to keep up this beauty ritual.” So off I went to Walmart to locate the ever so elusive AcneFree.

AcneFree is a 3-step cleansing system designed to free you of your unsightly acne. Each step or product comes in its own clearly numbered bottle so you do not apply Step 2 prior to Step 1. It’s a simple product to use that is not exorbitantly time consuming as some facial cleansing systems are. Most people wash their face and apply lotion regularly anyway, so the only additional step is the exfoliating, but that one is always kind of fun since you get to really see all the dirt and grease that comes off of your skin. (Am I the only one who finds the dirty cotton ball fascinating?)

The 3-step process is really pretty simple and straightforward. It doesn’t require much deviation from a standard face washing routine. It involves:
Step 1: Purifying Cleanser
Step 2: Renewing Toner
Step 3: Repairing Lotion

These products do as their name implies. The first cleans and exfoliates, the second removes excess oils and like all toners, shrinks pores and the third is a time-release Benzoyl-Peroxide product whos job it is to kill acne and blackheads.

Steps 1 and 3 both contain Benzoyl-Peroxide which for as long as I have been watching adolescent skin care commercials is the key to keeping your skin in its most purified form. Benzoyl-Peroxide is supposed to be able to kill the bacteria that causes acne by drying out the skin so that it peels. It has been used in skin care products for over 85 years and can also be used for bleaching hair and teeth. As most of us know, Peroxide is a bleaching agent (as well as the stuff that made the bubbles that your mother put on your boo-boos as a child) which could explain why all of the washcloths I used during this particular time period developed odd bleached spots. I didn’t even think about it until I washed some of those washcloths in the same laundry load with a sweater or two. Hmmm…then it occurred to me. Benzoyl-Peroxide=bleach=bleach spots. I'm not always so cleaver apparently.

The good thing about the Benzoyl-Peroxide in the products was that it did seem to have some effect on my skin. It’s constant presence managed to cause some peeling, and the peeling accomplished two tasks:
1) It peeled layers of skin off of the pimples themselves which made it easier to express them (yes, yes I pop my zits, it’s a true but disgusting part of life), and/or
2) It peeled layers off of were the pimples previously existed (i.e. scabs) thus causing them to heal more rapidly.

Additionally, the Benzoyl-Peroxide not only bleached the washcloths, clothes and several towels, but it also bleached the redness out of the pimples themselves. Thus although the pimples were still present, they were less noticeable.

An independent study of this product did find that the product was effective with statistical significance. The test group was relatively small (40 individuals) but among other findings, they did find that “global reductions in acne severity were cumulative during the first 10 days of treatment with Acne Free regimen, during which global severity was reduced by 3%, 15%, 19% and 24% at Day 3, Day 5, Day 8 and Day 10, respectively.”1 These are pretty impressive findings and certainly not to be scoffed at, but (because there is always a but) I just didn’t see it.

This is certainly not to say that the product is a dud, because clearly that is not the case. I am certain that AcneFree has many happy customers, and I wasn’t entirely unhappy. It did something. I don’t truly believe that it was the miracle that the ads say it is, but it definitely did something. There was less redness which is definitely a plus. Were there less blemishes? I don’t believe that there were, but the blemishes were less noticeable because they were not such an atrocious, angry color. Perhaps there is a reason that it works on some and not others. Maybe because mine is a “hormonal condition” it was less effective. Of this I can’t be sure. What I can be sure of is that for $20, it’s completely worth it to try, and who knows, maybe you are one of those for whom after 10 days your “global severity” will be reduced by 24%. I hope so. Personally I wish I was. I think for me however, it’s just a matter of time, another hormone shift and some really good foundation. Maybe I’ll look into those next.

1 (2004) A Double-Blinded, Cross-Over, Safety and Efficacy Comparison of Two Acne Treatment Products. Clinical Research Laboratories, Inc., Clinical Study Number CRL19304. Retrieved September 28, 2009 from