Monday, November 12, 2012

Dermatology For Dummies: Six Months

This past April I was diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma, the most mild form of skin cancer. The news changed the way I take care of my skin and marked the beginning of a life long relationship with a good dermatologist.

A topical treatment effectively erased the basal cell, but one of the facts I learned from my diagnosis is that my risk another basal cell occurrence within the first year is at least 80%. My doctor explained that because of this risk, a supplementary screening six months after the original diagnosis is recommended for the portion of your body affected -- either upper or lower. My basal cell was on my shoulder, so today I went in for a six month upper body check.

The first thing my doctor asked me was if I noticed any differences since my last visit. In fact, I had developed two new red spots on my face that concerned me. They looked like acne when they first popped up but have never healed even after a couple of months.

I won't lie. I was a little more than concerned. I was worried they were the start of more basal cells and I wasn't looking forward to having biopsy stitches on my face just in time for a holiday full of visits with family and friends. Luckily, my doctor confirmed they are only a form of acne, just a more stubborn one often seen in women and closely associated with hormone production. One more reason being a girl isn't always fun....

On the plus side, the spot where my basal cell was removed is looking better every day and I got a clean bill of dermatological health until my annual full body screening next April. Great news to start the week indeed!

Now if I can just get rid of my dry skin I'll be golden. Every time I itch I feel winter coming closer...

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Lost Art of Debate

On the eve of our country’s next election, there is no escaping the constant stream of political messages everywhere we turn. Print media, television, radio and the Internet are constantly screaming for our attention on issues from who should be President to whether our food should be labeled as genetically modified. If your mail box looks anything like mine, it’s probably filled with political messages too. This is just a sample of all the fliers I received in the last week alone.

Using mass media to communicate a point of view is nothing new in the world of politics. The growth of the Internet and social media, on the other hand, is a relatively new phenomenon. Politicians and their handlers are more savvy than ever about using social networks to get their message out but it isn’t just them communicating their point of view. It’s the very people we have invited into our lives through those networks that sometimes frustrate us the most when it comes to politics.  So why is that?

Before Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other online social networks, political debate among friends and relatives took place over coffee, by the water cooler, at the dinner table or at cocktail parties. Growing up, our kitchen table was the site of many arguments between my father and I over whatever political and social issue was important that day. While we disagreed more often than not, I always learned something from those conversations.

As he passionately espoused his position I learned about another side of the issue, and in responding to him I had to learn to articulate MY position with authority and credibility. Those conversations helped me solidify my own point of view by forcing me to understand how things looked from a different perspective . I could present my case MORE PERSUASIVELY because I understood the other side of the argument and could use those ideas to defend my position. And because those conversations took place face-to-face I learned to disagree with respect and advocate with dignity. If I chose not to participate in the current events discussion of the day, I would find a way to excuse myself from the dinner table and go work on homework -- or think more deeply about the issues raised and question my own position in the process.

In the online social world, this respectful process of debate is often sorely lacking. When  you don’t have to look another human being in the eye, it’s much easier to respond to disagreement with venom, accusation and name calling. Ann Coulter’s recent reference to President Obama as a “retard” based on his debate comments is a perfect example of everything that is lacking in contemporary political discussion. Even worse, you can ignore people altogether! I see examples every day of people online who “unfriend” someone on Facebook simply because of their politics. If you don’t respect and value them enough to hear them out, are they really a friend at all?

The digital world SHOULD make it easier than ever to exchange ideas and learn more about issues, yet more people seem less reluctant than ever to do so. The same tools that have the power to open our minds allow us to filter out information that doesn’t support our beliefs. It also allows us to ignore people who see the world differently than we do.

We live in a complex world with complex problems. With easy answers few and far between, the only way our society can make REAL progress on issues affecting us all is to collaborate and share ideas. We can’t get there when we fail to listen and consider other points of view, as well as thoughtfully questioning our own. Is it any wonder why the world is such a mess?

As you head to the polls tomorrow, I hope you remember two things. First, we are privileged to live in a society that encourages us to let our voices be heard. But that privilege comes with a responsibility -- to respect others voices just as you wish to receive respect for yours. Second, and perhaps most importantly, our debate cannot stop simply because of one election outcome. Our continuous progress as a nation requires hard work and tough conversations every day. That’s how problems get solved. Continue the debate and solutions will follow.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Cleveland Eats

Cleveland, Ohio is no one’s idea of a tourist destination. It’s a middle class American business travel city, the kind where screenwriters place a character who is down on their luck or going through the motions in a dead end job dreaming of life somewhere better.

Since nothing about Cleveland jumps out and screams “interesting” or “different,” I imagine lots of people passing through fail to explore it. It’s a big mistake, because I’ve found Cleveland has a surprising variety of interesting and unique things to try, especially when it comes to dining. So the next time you’re in town on business, skip the  Red Lobster or Olive Garden and check out some of these great local food finds. The best part is that you will eat well and still keep your expense account in control. Here is a list of a few of my recent favorites.


Chef Michael Symon takes the basic burger upscale, complete with a variety of table side sauces that work as beautifully as dips for your fries as they do on the burger itself. The food is great and the atmosphere is hip and cool. There is only one caveat with B-Spot -- if you’re the kind of burger aficionado that likes to build your own burger, find one elsewhere. Mr. Symon is pretty adamant about how his combinations go together and they specifically note their policy of no substitutions on the menu. But if you like the combos as is, order a bacon infused cocktail and get down to business.

The concept at Paladar is attractive rum bar with Cuban-style food. Mojitos are a must to start (I highly recommended the pomegranate ginger variety), then order one of the homemade guacamole choices. If you’re feeling adventurous, get the chef’s choice and prepare to be surprised. You can’t go wrong with anything else on the menu -- the hardest part will be choosing just one entree.

Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse
It doesn’t look like anything special from the outside, but inside Hyde Park is a classic, elegant steak house filled with dark wood, banquettes and tuxedoed waiters. During regular dinner hours there is nothing innovative about the menu, but if you get there early your wallet will thank you. Hyde Park has an "Early Night" special that will get you a small Fillet Mignon, soup or salad and a side for under $30 -- suitable for even the stingiest expense limit. If you have a generous boss, go for broke and enjoy the full steak house experience.

Corky & Lenny’s
I love a good deli and there is none better in Cleveland than Corky & Lenny’s. The pastrami is an instant classic and the chicken noodle soup nursed me through a cold 17 years ago on my very first visit to Cleveland. Nothing has changed in their 55 years of doing business and it doesn’t need to -- everything is perfect as is.

Steak & Shake
Yeah, it’s a chain so it’s not unique to Cleveland, but since I tried my first Wisconsin butter burger there I’ll always think of it as a Cleveland joint. Add bacon and it’s a whole new level of fat and flavor.

What About Bob’s
Bob’s is a great little sandwich place in an old fashioned downtown strip of Willoughby, Ohio -- also know as America’s Most Polite City. If you’re craving a great lunch stop for burgers, melts and subs this is the place. I can personally recommend the turkey melt (pictured below). You won’t go back to work hungry.

I have never tried this place but it’s on the list for my next visit based on a rave review from a co-worker. According to their website, "Melt opened in September 2006 with one goal: To provide gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches and as many beers as possible in a cool and comfortable environment." What's NOT to like there? They just opened their fourth location so they must be doing something right.

Winking Lizard Tavern
Seventeen years ago I visited this iconic joint with a group of co-workers during a training assignment on my first big corporate job. The “newbie” right of passage at the time was eating the Lizard’s “911” hot wings and having your face survive to tell the tale. I only had one and tasted it for 3 days, although I did take a  menu home as a memento of the experience and still have it. If burning your lips off your face isn’t appealing there are plenty of other wing varieties to try -- and plenty of beers to wash them down.

Malley’s Chocolates
A friend that grew up in Cleveland introduced me to Malley-Ohs! years ago and my Malley’s addiction began. Now I pick up a box to take home on every trip, along with whatever other treats look tasty -- which is basically everything in the store. You can see the pink painted plant where they have been making all that chocolaty goodness since 1935 as you’re flying over the city, so stop at one of their retail stores and grab a sweet taste of Cleveland to remember your foodie adventures.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Riding Out The Storm

“Into each life, some rain must fall.”

I heard that expression from my mother a lot growing up. It was often coupled with “Life is not fair,” “This too shall pass,” and other words of tacit acceptance for the difficult events in life none of us can change.

I imagine many people in the Northeastern portions of the United States are saying these things right now, immediately followed by prayers for the rain to stop -- literally and figuratively.

The devastation from Superstorm Sandy left unprecedented changes in its wake. The physical landscapes of cities, towns and beaches were altered forever. The flow of commerce and transportation was interrupted. Above all, the storm left an indelible mark on millions of lives, each one as individual and unique as a fingerprint.

When we witness destruction and pain on such a massive scale, it is easy to think that such devastating losses are confined to huge events and large numbers of people at once.  We forget that life altering events and unimaginable loss happen in our lives every day.

  • The car that comes out of nowhere and causes a fatal accident.
  • The unanticipated health issue that suddenly puts an expiration date on someone’s  existence.
  • The electrical short circuit that burns a home to the ground, along with the life inside it.
  • The random act of violence that ends an innocent life.

If you look honestly at your own life, it won’t take you more than 5 minutes to remember an event that changed it forever. None of us are immune to tragedy and pain. Loss and suffering are not unique, whether they are caused by a natural disaster or something else.

What IS unique is how you choose to move forward, survive and rebuild your life.

  • Do you allow hope to buoy our spirits or get bogged down in despair over what you’ve lost?
  • Do you reach out to help others whose losses are greater than our own?
  • Are you grateful for what you still have?

In the coming days, everyone affected by Sandy will grapple with these questions. I have faith the stories of their responses will be even more memorable than the tales of their losses. Because the beauty of rain is that it doesn’t last forever -- and the sun always looks brighter after the storm passes.