FOR YOUR HEALTH: Is LASIK Safe? Plus, Answers To Six More Questions About LASIK

(NAPSI)—You’ve had it with glasses and contacts getting in the way of your lifestyle. You’ve heard about LASIK and maybe even talked to one of the more than 19 million people who have had the popular laser vision correction procedure. Dr. John Vukich, assistant clinical professor of ophthalmology at the University of Wisconsin and member of the Refractive Surgery Council, answers six of the most-asked questions about LASIK:

1) Is LASIK safe?

“All surgery comes with risk, but there is a huge amount of clinical research backing LASIK as safe and effective,” assures Dr. Vukich. “That research, and the clinical experience with the procedure, shows it has a 96 percent patient satisfaction rate and the risk of sight-threatening complications is extremely low—less than 1 percent.”

2) Does it hurt?

“The procedure is relatively painless because numbing drops are used throughout,” Dr. Vukich confirms. “Some people experience some mild discomfort after the procedure, mostly irritation and dryness, but that usually disappears within 24 hours.”

3) What are the side effects?

“Some patients experience dry eye symptoms. Some have light sensitivity, glare, halos, ghosting or starbursts,” says Dr. Vukich. “These generally go away with time and healing, but sometimes additional medication or other treatment may be needed.”

4) Will I be rid of glasses forever?

“LASIK doesn’t stop the aging process, so everyone needs reading glasses at some point,” answers Dr. Vukich. “LASIK improves the vision you have at the time of the procedure, but it won’t prevent the vision conditions that occur naturally over time, such as presbyopia and cataracts.”

5) Can anyone have LASIK?

“About 20 percent of patients aren’t good candidates for the procedure,” says Dr. Vukich. “Eye health, the shape of the cornea, medical conditions like lupus and diabetes, or certain medications can make it a less than ideal choice. It is important to share your complete medical history with your eye surgeon.”

6) Do they actually shoot lasers into your eyes?

“The short answer is yes! Today’s laser technologies reshape the cornea and correct vision without damaging any surrounding tissue,” says Dr. Vukich. “The technology we use today is so precise, the vision correction is customized to the individual patient’s eye, not just his or her prescription.”

If you are thinking now is the time to seriously look into LASIK, get the facts and go into it as an informed patient. Get started by visiting

SCORES & OUTDOORS: You’ve heard it before, and you’re about to hear it again

Roland D. Halleeby Roland D. Hallee

There is nothing like beating a subject to death. But, in this case, it’s worth every word.

You have to be living in a cave not to know that deer ticks are at an all time high. They are everywhere. Friends and family have told me stories about their encounters with the insect, and they all have one thing in common. They have all had multiple numbers on them at one time.

Also, as you know, deer ticks are hazardous to your health, primarily because they are the carriers of the dreaded Lyme Disease. In the last decade alone, the population of ticks of all kinds has ballooned in the United States. The number of ticks that carry Lyme disease has been on the rise in the mid-Atlantic states, and has skyrocketed throughout the Northeast. It has gained a reputation as a serious health problem in many areas. They can cause a life time of misery.

Only adult female ticks and nymphs can transmit infections through their bite. Male ticks attach, but they don’t feed or become engorged. Adult females have red and brown bodies and are larger than males. Nymphs are actively feeding between early April and early August.

Although not all deer ticks are infected with Lyme disease, you never really know. Only ticks that have fed on infected mammals are infected. About half of deer ticks are infected (usually white-footed mice can be other culprits).

Deer tick, left, and dog tick

Deer ticks live two to three years, and in that time usually enjoy three blood meals. In the spring and summer of its second year, a nymph will take its second meal. They insert their mouth parts into the skin much like a corkscrew, which ensures them a nice tight grasp. They often take up to five days to complete their meal.

This fact is key to reducing panic when discovering a tick. An infected tick must be attached to its host for at least 24 hours, and up to 48 hours to transmit the disease. It’s the very reason for checking your body right away after any possible exposure to a tick-infested environment.

Deer ticks crawl. They usually grab onto people or animals that brush up against plants near ground level, and then they crawl upwards to find a quiet place for their blood meal. Although many sources will state that ticks don’t land on you from an overhanging tree branch, many people have insisted it has happened to them.

Ticks live in wooded, brushy areas that provide food and cover for mice, deer and other mammals. The ideal tick environment is humid. Your exposure will be greatest along trails in the woods and fringe areas between woods and the border, where they will wait patiently on the tips of vegetation for an unsuspecting host to walk by.

Life is too short to avoid the outdoors during our short spring, summer and fall. In Maine, that is about half the year. There is no need to be brave, just be smart: cover your body; wear repellant; check yourself for ticks, if you find a tick, remove it immediately; shower soon after being outdoors; throw clothing in the dryer, that will kill any ticks present; and finally, if you are concerned, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor.

The best way to remove a tick is to use fine-point tweezers and grab the tick as close to the skin surface as possible. Pull backwards gently but firmly, using an even, steady pressure. Do your best not to jerk or twist. Don’t squeeze, crush or puncture the tick’s body, the fluids inside may contain infection-causing organisms. After removing the tick, wash the skin and your hands thoroughly with hot soap and water. If any mouth part of the tick remain in the skin, leave them alone. They will be expelled on their own. It could take weeks. Trying to remove them will only cause you unnecessary pain.

For the deer tick, Ixodes scapularis, deer are the preferred host of the deer tick, but they can also be found on small rodents. After the female is engorged, the tick drops off and overwinters in the leaf litter of the forest floor. The following spring, she will lay several hundred to a few thousand eggs in clusters. They are very hardy creatures. They will be active even after a moderate to severe frost, as daytime temperatures can warm them enough to keep them actively searching for a host. In the spring, they are one of the first invertebrates to become active.

It may be monotonous to keep hearing about the health hazards of being infected by a deer tick, but it’s one that needs to be repeated.

Roland’s trivia question of the week:

The 1927 New York Yankees batting order, including Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, was known by what nickname?

Answer found here.

I’m Just Curious: Interesting facts?

by Debbie Walker

Kids have some really good books. My latest example would be National Geographic KIDS, 5,000 Awesome Facts (about everything). Kathy is lucky; she gets any work out of me at school with all the books! I love books but you may have figured that out already. Anyway, the following is my latest and I hope you find some of it interesting to you.

North America’s only marsupial, the nocturnal Virginia Opossum, pretends to be dead = “Playing Opossum” – for up to six hours when threatened.

If a dolphin becomes sick, other dolphins will take turns pushing it to the surface so it can breath.

British author Ian Fleming, who created the character James Bond, was a spy himself during World War II.

A palindrome is a word that is spelled the same backward as forward such as noon, kayak, and race car.

Sign language is not a universal language – each country has its own sign language and vocabulary and grammar vary by region.

The word Quiz also means “odd person.”

A group of prisoners is called a PITY.

An Australian slang, “Bingle,” is a car accident, a “Captain Cook” is a look around, and a “whinger” is a complainer.

A Canadian Ice Breaker Ship weighs 33 million pounds and can break through thick ice sheets that are 62 feet thick. (Do we need one of those in Maine?)

Here are some survival facts. But I would check and double check on these before you rely on them.

Drinking salt water is worse than not drinking at all. Saltwater actually dehydrates you.

The International sign of distress when using fire is to build three fires in a triangle.

Quick sand can be an issue in some parts of Maine. The best way to escape Quicksand is to calmly lean back as if doing a back float. Slowly move your feet in small circles until you free yourself and can paddle to safe land.

Moving your arms like you’re swimming and keeping your mouth shut so snow doesn’t pack into your throat can help you survive an avalanche.

Compacted snow is like a recording studio sound proofed. When buried in snow, it’s a waste of oxygen to shout for help unless someone is very close by.

You are more likely to survive a shark circling your surf board if you stay calm. Thrashing around makes you look like its favorite food – a seal.

I love this one: A bear cub that survived a New Mexico forest fire in 1950 was nursed back to health and taken to the National Zoo. He became known as Smokey Bear!

If you count the seconds between the Lightning flash and the thunder and then divide by 5, that’s how many miles away the lightning is. It’s closer than you think.

Well, I hope some of this was informational for you, I enjoyed it and I haven’t gone a quarter of the way through the book. I probably won’t do much more of it unless you ask. Needless to say I’m Just Curious if I will hear from you. Contact me at and don’t forget to check us out online. Thanks for reading!

REVIEW POTPOURRI – Composer: Giuseppe Tartini; Singer: Annette Funicello; Band: Antal Kocze and his Gypsies

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Giuseppe Tartini

D minor Violin Concerto; Pietro Nardini: E minor Violin Concerto; and Giovanni Battista Viotti Violin Concerto No. 22; Peter Rybar, violinist, with Clemens Dahinden conducting the Winterhur Symphony Orchestra; Westminster XWN 18192, mono LP, recorded 1952.

Peter Rybar

This very antiquated LP contains very lovely examples of 18th century Italian composers, who were also very gifted and acclaimed violinists. The Viotti Concerto being my special favorite, all three Con­ certos are beautiful creations and played with exceptional feeling by violinist Peter Rybar (1913-2002) and nicely accompanied by Switzerland’s Winterhur Symphony under the able Clemens Dahinden.

Before Rybar’s recordings were transferred to CD, their LP issues could fetch 200 bucks, if they were in mint condition! Finally, the recorded performances can be heard on youtube in separate posts.

Annette Funicello

The Story of My Teens
Buena Vista- BV 3312, lp, recorded 1962.

Annette Funicello

The most popular singer, actress and all-around personality to be mentored by Walt Disney himself, Annette Funicello (1942-2013) had a very sweet endearing presence. As a kid, I found that she definitely held my attention in her numerous TV appearances, and remember her, Tommy Sands, Ray Bolger and Ed Wynn in 1962’s Babes in Toyland.

I also admired her cheerfulness and courage during her last 21 years of suffering from MS and was saddened by her tragic passing five years ago.

The above album contains most all of her hit singles and should be listened to in small doses at best; the early ‘60s chewing gum genre had way too much sugar content, although the arrangements were quite good. Yet I did read that she really didn’t enjoy recording!

Antal Kocze and his Gypsies

Gypsy Songs and Czardas, Volume 3
Westminster WL 3013, 10-inch LP record, recorded 1954.

During my decades of trying to listen to every record that falls into my lap, I have heard a number of them featuring gypsy music, most of them ranging from barely tolerable to okay. Kocze’s players are new to me and, based on back cover info, were very popular in Europe during the first half of the last century. After playing this record, I understand why. The music is very beautiful and beautifully performed with sentiment, taste and discerning intelligence, one charmer of an album.

Some interesting facts – the music of Kocze and his colleagues often served as unintrusive background ambiance for the adulterous flings of various Habsburg wastrels in exclusive cafes before the dynasty’s power became history. Secondly, the very former Prince of Wales, before his short-lived term as Edward VIII, heard the ensemble and invited Kocze to London to play two nights for Papa George V. Finally, the great conductor, Arturo Toscanini, was so impressed that he wrote some music for the band.

SOLON & BEYOND: African minister visits Solon and delivers Sunday sermon “Refuse to Fear”

Marilyn Rogers-Bull & Percyby Marilyn Rogers-Bull & Percy
Solon, Maine 04979

Good morning, dear friends. Don’t worry be happy!

Rev. Charles Sagay, from Cameroon, Africa, has been staying at the home of David and Mary Walz, in North Anson, for a week. He gave the sermon entitled “Refuse to Fear” at the May, 20 North Anson Congregational Church service.

After the church service, a light lunch was served. During the luncheon, Rev. Charles’ presentation of what is happening at the Mission School of Hope was shown. The North Anson Church supports this worthy mission each year and every time he comes he shows pictures of the many improvements that have been made, it is very impressive and heart warming of what love can do.

The Solon Pine Tree 4-H Club met on Saturday, May 12, at the Solon Fire Station with Cooper Dellarma.

Several members and four leaders helped at the Luck of the Draw on May 5.

On Mothers Day four members and one guest passed out flowers at the Solon Congregational Church.

Seven members are planning to attend Fun Day at Lake George on Wednesday, June 20.

After the meeting Logan Miller showed the members how to make key chains and dog leashes.

The next meeting will be on Saturday, June 9, at 9:30 a.m., at the Solon Fire Station. Following the meeting the members will be going on an educational tour to the Buffalo Farm, in South Solon.

The North Anson Congregational Church will be having an indoor rummage and bake sale at the church on Saturday, June 2, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Received the following e-mail from Happyknits and thought you knitters out there would be interested. “We’ve got a lot of fun happenings coming up at Happyknits, and we hope you will be able to join us for some or all.”

If you think of ocean waves when you think of a cruise, well, think again! Happyknits will be one of the 20 locally-owned yarn shops across the state of Maine participating in the summer-long Maine Yarn Cruise, a shop hop for yarn lovers. Anytime from May 25 through September 3, stop in any participating shop and pick up your passport, and a tote bag or a pin and then hit the road. Each shop will be offering monthly prizes, and everyone who completes the entire “cruise” will be eligible to win the grand prize, They have some extra goodies to offer folks who start the cruise here, so stop in!

While you’re here, throw your name into the hat for Main Street’s #ShopSkowhegan raffle. Happyknits has joined with lots of other locally-owned businesses that are offering shoppers a chance to win a free $25 gift certificate to their stores while supporting our towntown.

And speaking of Skowhegan, Happyknits will be celebrating Worldwide Knit in Public Day (yes, there really is such a thing!) and the Skowhegan Moose Festival by gathering at the moose at Gifford’s Ice Cream on Saturday, June 9, from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. They’ll have some special moose-related kits available too. So grab your folding chair and your work-in-progress and join them for a fun time! (Sounds like lots of fun!)

In my column last week I wrote about Percy and I starting our own little paper. In my continuing efforts to organize I came across some old e-mails I had saved about my short career as a publisher of a paper. I’m not going to say who sent this one to me back in 2005, but he was a writer for a paper. It starts out: “Hi, Marilyn, Hope you didn’t fall down from skock! Just wanted you to let you know I got your newspaper. Looks great! You’re doing quite a job and lots of news. I told Roland about your paper. The only thing he said was you should look into having it photocopied. The charge is based on copies so he thought maybe the more you do the better the rate. It might not be that costly. I wondered if you could make smaller margins and reduce the size of the type to get more onto a page and cut some of the cost.That’s my two cents worth! I’m glad you’re able to get the news out. I know how bad people need it and want it.”

This week Percy’s memoirs is about grave stone markers: In a London, England cemetery: Here lies Ann Mann, Who lived an old maid But died an old Mann. Dec. 8, 1767. And another, Harry Edsel Smith, of Albany, New York: Born 1903 – died 1942; Looked up the elevator shaft to see if the car was on the way down. It was.

ERIC’S TECH TALK – The A.I. Singularity: Are you ready?

The rogue A.I. HAL9000 from the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey (© Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer).

by Eric W. Austin

In the beginning, claim the physicists, the universe existed as a single point — infinitely small, infinitely dense. All of time, all of space, literally everything that currently exists was contained in this unbelievably small cosmic egg. Then, before you can say “Big Bang,” quantum fluctuations caused it to rapidly expand and the rest, as they say, is history.

This is called the Singularity. The beginning of everything. Without it there would be no Earth, no sun, no life at all. Reality itself came into being at that moment.

Now, in the 21st century, we may be heading toward another singularity event, a moment in history that will change everything that follows. A moment that will revamp reality so drastically it can be referred to by the same term as the event at the very beginning of all existence.

This is the Technological Singularity, and many experts think it will happen within the next 50 years.

Fourteen billion years ago, that first singularity was followed by a rapid expansion of time and space that eventually led to you and me. This new technological singularity will also herald an expansion of human knowledge and capability, and will, like the first one, culminate in the creation of a new form of life: the birth of the world’s first true artificial superintelligence.

Our lives have already been invaded by artificial intelligence in ways both subtle and substantial. A.I. determines which posts you see in your Facebook feed. It roams the internet, indexing pages and fixing broken links. It monitors inventory and makes restocking suggestions for huge retailers like Amazon and Walmart. It also pilots our planes and will soon be driving our cars. In the near future, A.I.s will likely replace our pharmacists, cashiers and many other jobs. Already, a company in Hong Kong has appointed one to its board of directors, and it’s been predicted A.I.s will be running most Asian companies within five years. Don’t be surprised to see our first A.I. elected to Congress sometime in the next two decades, and we’re likely to see one running for president before the end of the century.

We even have artificial intelligences creating other artificial intelligences. Google and other companies are experimenting with an approach to A.I. development reminiscent of the evolutionary process of natural selection.

The process works like this: they create a number of bots – little autonomous programs that roam the internet performing various tasks – which are charged with programming a new set of bots. These bots create a million variations of themselves. Those variations are then put through a series of tests, and only the bots which score in the top percentile are retained. The retained versions then go on to make another million variations of themselves, and the process is repeated. With each new generation, the bots become more adept at programming other bots to do those specific tasks. In this way, Google is able to produce very, very smart bots.

This is a rudimentary example of how we will eventually produce an artificial intelligence that is the equal of (and eventually surpasses) the human mind. It will not be created by us, but will instead be programmed by a less advanced version of itself. This process will be repeated until one of those generations is advanced enough that it becomes sentient. That is the singularity event, and after it nothing will ever be the same.

The problem, of course, is that an artificial intelligence created by this method will be incomprehensible to humans, since it was actually programmed by progressively smarter generations of A.I. By the time those generations result in something capable of thinking for itself, its code will be so complex only another artificial intelligence will be able to understand it.

Think this sounds like science fiction? Think again. Countries around the world (including our own) are now looking at artificial intelligence as the new arms race. The nation with the most advanced A.I. as its ally will have the kind of advantage not seen since the dawn of the nuclear age.

In the 1940s, America was determined to develop the atom bomb, not because we were eager to decimate our enemies, but because the possibility of Imperial Japan or Nazi Germany developing the technology first would have been disastrous. That same kind of thinking will drive the race to create the first artificial superintelligence. Russian President Vladimir Putin made this statement in a speech to a group of students only last year: “Artificial intelligence is the future not only of Russia, but of all mankind … Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.”

And it’s not as far off as you might think. Although an exact date (and even the idea of the singularity itself) is still hotly debated, most think — if it happens at all — it will occur within the next 50 years.

Ray Kurzweil, an inventor and futurist that Bill Gates calls “the best person I know at predicting the future of artificial intelligence,” pinpoints the date of the singularity even more precisely in his book, The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. He writes, “I set the date for the Singularity—representing a profound and disruptive transformation in human capability—as 2045.” Kurzweil thinks advancements in artificial intelligence will experience, in the coming decades, the same exponential progress that microchip technology has seen over the past half-century.

In conclusion, I’d like to leave you with a thought experiment that has been making the rounds on the internet. It’s called “Roko’s Basilisk” and is a futurist variation of Pascal’s Wager, in which we are asked to bet our lives on the existence of God. Pascal reasons that if God exists and we choose not to believe in Him, we risk eternal torment in the fires of Hell. On the other hand, if we believe in God and He does not exist, we have simply made ourselves a fool for believing in something that turns out to be only imaginary. Therefore, argues Pascal, one should believe in God since the risk of being a fool is preferable to the risk of burning forever in the depths of Hell.

In Roko’s Basilisk, belief or unbelief in God is replaced with support or opposition to the creation of a hypothetical future artificial superintelligence. In the future, this artificial superintelligence will come to rule over humanity and, like God, it will retroactively punish those people who opposed its creation and reward those that supported it. Which one will you be? Keep in mind that supporting it will increase the likelihood that such an A.I. will come to exist in the future and eventually rule the world, while opposing it will make its existence less likely – but if it does become a reality, you will surely be punished for opposing it. (As in Pascal’s Wager, neutrality is not an option.)

Yet, how can this superintelligent A.I. possibly know who supported or opposed it in the past before it existed? The answer to that question is not easy to get your head around, but once you do, it’s likely to blow your mind.

In order for the artificial superintelligence to know who to punish in the present, it would need to build a simulation of the past. This simulation will serve as a “predictive model” for the real world, and would be a perfect copy, down to every last detail, including little digital copies of you and me. The A.I. will base its real-world judgment of us on the actions of our digital counterparts in this simulation of the past. If the digital versions of you and I choose to oppose the A.I. in this simulated version of the past, the A.I. will use that as a predictor of our behavior in the real world and punish us accordingly.

Still with me? Because I’m about to take you further down the rabbit hole. For that simulation to be an accurate prediction of the real world, the digital people which populate it would need to think and act exactly as we do. And by necessity, they wouldn’t know they were only copies of us, or that they were living in a simulation. They would believe they were the real versions and would be unaware that the world in which they lived was only a digital facsimile of the real thing.

Okay, now I’m about to take a hard-right turn. Stick with me. Assuming all this is the case, how do we know which world we’re in – the simulated one or the real one? The answer is, we can’t. From the perspective of someone living inside the simulation, it would all look perfectly real, just the way it does right now. The people in that simulation would think they were living, breathing human beings, just as we do.

Therefore, we might simply be self-aware A.I. programs from the future living inside a simulation of the past, created by a malevolent artificial superintelligence – but we wouldn’t know that.

Does that possibility affect your decision to support or oppose the A.I.? After all, if we are the ones living in the simulation, then the A.I. already exists and opposing it will doom our counterparts in the real world. However, if this is not a simulation, your support will hasten the A.I.’s eventual creation and bring about the very scenario I am describing.

So, what do you choose? Oppose or support?

Some of you may be thinking, How can I be punished for something I didn’t know anything about?

Well, now you do. You’re welcome.

Eric W. Austin lives in China, Maine and writes about technical and community issues. He can be reached by email at

Give Us Your Best Shot! Week of May 17, 2018

To submit a photo for The Town Line’s “Give Us Your Best Shot!” section, please visit our contact page or email us at!

“ICE IS OUT, JOE”: That’s what these birds seem to be saying while sitting on Michael Bilinsky’s dock, in China Village.


JUST STRUTTING ALONG: Valerie Baker, of Weeks Mills, snapped this male wild turkey
crossing a road.


APRIL FLOWERS: John Gardner photographed these which he called “Martha Staples’ April flowers.”

FOR YOUR HEALTH – Atrial Fibrillation: When The Heart Skips A Beat

(NAPSI)—Every heart has a built-in pacemaker that ensures it beats regularly. When that natural pacemaker doesn’t do its job, however, a person may experience an irregular heart rhythm, the most common and undertreated of which is atrial fibrillation (AF). This irregular heartbeat isn’t always noticeable at first but can cause chaos over time.

Understanding AF

AF, which affects more than 33.5 million people worldwide, occurs when the upper chambers of the heart beat significantly faster than a normal heartbeat or quiver irregularly. Some people with AF have no symptoms, while others have chest discomfort or pain and experience fainting or light-headedness, as well as fatigue, shortness of breath or weakness.

“When I was young, my heart did funny things. It fluttered, it skipped a beat, but mostly it resolved by itself,” said Sue Halpern, a lifelong AF patient. “When it didn’t resolve by itself, I somehow learned how to make it stop. I began to notice in my 20s and early 30s that it was getting harder to make it stop, but I still didn’t know anything was wrong with me.”

Because the heart isn’t pumping normally, blood can pool in the heart and clot; these clots can also make their way through the bloodstream. If left untreated, people with AF have a much higher risk of stroke and an increased risk of heart failure.

AF is typically caused by damage to the heart from disease, an abnormality from birth, surgery or a heart attack. However, adopting healthy behaviors such as monitoring cholesterol and blood pressure, avoiding smoking and excessive caffeine, and not abusing alcohol can help prevent disease.

How To Tell If You Have AF

As with so many diseases, early detection of AF is important. Physicians may obtain an electrocardiogram (ECG) or stress test, or recommend short-term monitoring with a cardiac event recorder or Holter monitor. Unlike these short-term methods, a small insertable cardiac monitor (ICM) automatically detects and records abnormal heart rhythms for up to three years, while remaining barely detectable under the patient’s skin. For example, the Medtronic Reveal LINQ ICM is approximately one-third the size of an AAA battery, yet it can accurately detect AF.

What To Do If You Have AF

Once diagnosed, living with AF doesn’t have to be a burden. While treatment options vary, many people respond well to medications. For those whose natural pacemaker needs an extra boost to keep the beat, treatment may include an implantable cardiac defibrillator (ICD) or a pacemaker that can respond to and reduce the duration of AF episodes. An ICD can also detect a dangerous and potentially life-threatening heart rhythm and send a lifesaving therapy to correct it.

Another treatment for paroxysmal (fleeting) atrial fibrillation (PAF) is cryoablation, a minimally invasive procedure that isolates the pulmonary veins, which are a source of erratic electrical signals that cause PAF. The device used in the procedure uses cold energy to interrupt these irregular electrical pathways in the heart.

In Halpern’s case, cryoablation greatly reduced her PAF episodes and has given her a new outlook on life.

“For someone who was having episodes every seven to 10 days for eight to 12 hours at a time, I wouldn’t have dreamed of having a life free of AF,” Halpern said. “My advice is, if you feel something off with your heart, do something about it.”

Learn More

Those who are living with or who suspect they may have AF can get further facts about therapies that may help get their heart back in sync and find a physician by visiting

SCORES & OUTDOORS: Move to camp arrives to a welcoming committee


ruby-throated hummingbird

Roland D. Halleeby Roland D. Hallee

On Friday, May 11, my wife and I officially moved to camp for the summer. It’s always great to leave the city and live in the serenity by the lake for about five months.

And, on Sunday, we were greeted by my wife’s favorite bird, the ruby-throated hummingbird. It was nice to see the little critters back with us.

As usual, the rule of thumb for their return from the south is around the middle of May.

The ruby-throated hummingbird, Archilochus comumbris, the only hummingbird species found in Maine, winters between southern Mexico and northern Panama. During their migration south in the fall, usually mid-September, older male and female birds are better prepared for long-distance flight than first-year birds by having higher body weights and larger fuel loads.

Adults of the species are not social, other than courtship, which lasts a few minutes, they lead solitary lives. They do not migrate in flocks, so individual birds may spend the winter anywhere in this range where the habitat is to their liking. They probably go to the same place every winter.

While we’re talking about their migration, let’s put a myth to bed. The myth states that hummingbirds hitch a ride on the backs of geese as they migrate south. The legend is entertaining, but false. Hummingbirds and Canada geese migrate at different times and to different locations. It is also a fact that not all hummingbirds migrate south for the winter.

Following the mating, the male departs and the female provides all parental care.

When it’s time to return north to their breeding grounds during the spring migration, portions of the population fly from the Yucatan Peninsula, in Mexico, across the Gulf of Mexico, first arriving in Florida and Louisiana. That in itself is an amazing feat. How can such a small creature travel the 500 miles nonstop over water? It would seem the caloric energy would far exceed the hummingbird’s body weight of 0.11 ounces. Research has discovered the tiny birds can double their fat mass in preparation for their gulf crossing, then expend the entire calorie reserve from fat during the 20-hour crossing when food and water are unavailable.

During the courtship displays, they make ticking sounds with their wings, and shuttle side-to-side in flight. I once witnessed a male hummingbird during courtship by flying, rather rapidly, in a U-shaped pattern, beginning at the top of the inverted arch, flying downward, circling back up to the same height as it began, and back again, several times. It was pretty impressive to watch.

Hummingbirds have one of the highest metabolic rates of any animal. During flight, their oxygen consumption per gram of muscle tissue is approximately 10 times higher than that seen in elite human athletes.

They feed frequently during the day. When temperatures drop, especially on cold nights, they may conserve energy by entering hypothermic torpor (the process of lowering their body temperature to conserve energy).

During their hovering at feeders, the hummingbird’s wings beat up to 80 times per second. They are also the only bird that can fly backwards. Once, while my wife was sitting on the deck near a potted geranium plant, a hummingbird came to feed. It got so close she could actually feel the cold breeze coming off the bird’s fluttering wings.

Hummingbirds almost never stop. Although I have seen them sit on a perch at the feeders, they spend nearly all of their time in the air. Their legs are so small and weak, they typically can’t walk at all. But in the air, they are masters. They can, however, shuffle to move along a branch, and can scratch its head and neck with its feet.

Speaking of feeding, when is a good time to put out the feeders in the spring? In the northeastern United States, they should be ready by the end of March. Don’t wait until you see your first hummingbird, that may be well after the first ones arrive.

As unlikely as it seems, hummingbirds have predators. A variety of animals prey on hummingbirds given the opportunity. Due to their small size, they are vulnerable. However, only very swift predators can capture them, and a free-flying hummingbird is too nimble for most predators. Chief predators include sharp-shinned hawks, praying mantises, green frogs and bull frogs. Praying mantises especially have been seen to ambush adult hummingbirds at feeders on more than one occasion. Blue jays are common visitors at nests, as well as bats, squirrels and chipmunks.

The oldest known ruby-throated hummingbird to be banded was a little over nine years old. Almost all hummingbirds over seven years old are females, with males rarely surviving past five years of age. The reason probably being that males may lose weight during the breeding season due to the high energy demand of defending a territory. Also, the high demands of the migration can take its toll.

The “hummers” are back, and that definitely means summer is not far away.

Roland’s trivia question of the week:

“Game, set, match,” is an expression used to indicate a competitor has won the game in which sport?

Answer can be found here.

I’m Just Curious: What were you doing?

by Debbie Walker

What were you doing Monday night at 5 p.m.? Well, Humpfree and I were getting our 2.8 minutes of fame on WABI.TV, 5 o’clock news; actually we were on at 5:08 p.m.

Humpfree, if I haven’t already told you, is a stuffed moose. We found him in a box at the thrift store. His head was sticking out. Since our theme for the classroom is Maine Animals, the stuffed moose Patsy found was perfect! Perfect, even better, when we noticed he is a bag. The rest is history, he became my pocketbook!

Humpfree has put smiles on an unbelievable number of faces, however, most important is the reactions of the kids at school. Sometimes they just run their hands over the soft fur. If they need to they can hug him. Sometimes Humpfree just makes the day go easier.

As I said we were at WABI. TV, what a treat. The people who run the news are just wonderful. Jim and Emily, and even the producer just wanted to help us be at ease.

Mary-Ann (my area supervisor) and I were being interviewed for the Foster Grandparent Program. It is through the Penquis office in Bangor. Mary-Ann is the project coordinator for the administrative office. Marsha and I (in our school) are “Professional Volunteers” (Sounds good, huh) And, no, we are not taking in foster children in our homes as a lot of folks believe when they see or hear this title Foster Grandparents Program.

Being a volunteer in a school is not something I saw myself doing at this point in my life. I too brought up my child and enjoyed my grandkids (still do!) but never thought I would willingly go into a classroom once my kids were out.

I can’t tell you how glad I am that I did. Yes, we are there to give attention to the children. I give them that extra reading time needed to increase their skill and confidence. I support whatever concept the teacher, Mrs. Cloonan, is teaching them.

Whatever attention you might think I give these children, you can’t imagine the love I get back. When I go in the mornings I volunteer I am greeted by an excitement for my just being there! It takes a little while for the excitement to quiet down a bit, but that’s okay because Mrs. Cloonan is glad to see me too!

We could talk about it but you would get the best information about becoming a FGP and the benefits (yes benefits!) by calling Mary Ann or Maria at Penquis, 1-800-215-4942 and ask for Foster Grandparent Program.

Recently a family friend passed away. He had all but lost his complete memory. I came across this saying that I would like to share with those who have lived a similar situation: “What the mind can’t remember the heart never forgets.” I thought it was beautiful.

As usual, I’M JUST CURIOUS if you might be a wonderful addition to any classroom. Contact me at . Thank you for reading.