Archive for December, 2006

Last night I learned that my friend Eve Grace died in July. She was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia in June and died one month later. Eve was someone I met when I first moved to Portland in 1996. I joined a group of people interested in co-housing and Eve was one of the members. We both eventually dropped out of the co-housing group, but we remained friends.

One of the things we had in common was an interest in investing and in planning for an early retirement. A long while back, we met regularly for an investment group. Eve’s house was fully paid off and she was very good with money. I don’t remember exactly when she planned to retire, but it was within a year or two.

We had both read the book Your Money or Your Life and Eve embraced the money saving ideas presented in the book. I delighted every year when I received a Christmas card from Eve with 4 or more recycled stamps pasted to the envelope. That was something I used to do back in my starving graduate student days – look for letters where the stamps hadn’t been cancelled and then carefully steam them off – and it was the kind of thing that Eve loved. She was proud of the money she had saved for her retirement and enjoyed getting a bargain and finding ways to save money. Eve was frugal but not cheap and she was definitely generous. I so admired Eve’s wisdom and life plan and loved to talk to her about finances and money.

When I met Eve she was very overweight to the point where it affected her ability to live her life. In November of 2001 she had gastric bypass surgery. She stuck vigilantly to the eating rules that go along with a bypass surgery and lost a tremendous amount of weight. She became much more active and I think she really was able to live life fully in what would turn out to be her last five years. She became very active in the Red Hat Society and enjoyed it tremendously. The last time I saw her was a year ago on New Year’s Eve. We had a party at our house and she came decked out in her Red Hat purple and red.

I feel tremendously sad this morning – sad that I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye and even more sad that such a wonderful woman who had overcome such adversity in her life was cut short at the age of 57. I thought about her all night last night and woke up thinking about her and found that I couldn’t just sit down and get to work this morning. There were no obituaries published for Eve, so I wanted to put this out here. Eve was not a friend I saw with great frequency, but I will miss her greatly.

There’s been a fair amount of news lately about norovirus on cruise ships and I have had some people ask me about it, so I thought it would be a good idea to give you some information and some resources. Basically, norovirus is a stomach flu. We hear about it mostly on cruise ships, but you can get norovirus anywhere, and you probably have at some point in your life. The link above takes you to the Center for Disease Control’s information page about norovirus.

The Center for Disease Control has a Vessel Sanitation Program where you can learn minute details about the ship on which you may be thinking about sailing. Cruise ships that fall within the purview of the Vessel Sanitation Program sail on voyages from 3-21 days and carry 100 or more passengers. Any time any of these ships has a sailing in which 3% or more of the passengers or crew report symptoms of gastrointestinal illness, the details must be reported to the CDC. You can view all reported incidents going back to 1994 here. What you’ll see is that no cruise ship is immune to norovirus, but you’ll also see that in some cases the numbers are quite low.

Norovirus on cruise ships is big news. What isn’t big news is some bug going around at your place of work or at your child’s school. It could be the same thing, norovirus, and the percentage infected could be even higher, but it doesn’t make the news. I say this not to minimize the issue, but just to let you know that your risk of getting sick on a cruise ship is really not much higher than anywhere else.

You can reduce your chances of getting sick by making sure you wash your hands frequently. Cruise ships actually make it easier for you by providing hand sanitizer before you board the ship and before you enter any place to eat. If you don’t want to get sick, use that stuff, whenever you see it.

The web site I provided above, plus this one, which provides sanitation inspection scores from the CDC for all cruise ships, can help you choose your cruise wisely. Make sure you click to read why cruise ships had points docked from their scores. Sometimes it’s something really bad – sometimes it’s really not.

You can also pay attention to the ship you’re on and their attention to cleanliness. Last June we were at a cruise-a-thon and toured a number of ships. One of the ships we toured required us to stand in line for over an hour and fill out forms stating whether we had any signs of illness in the last 4 days. When we got to the point where we could board the ship, they took the forms without looking at them and did not direct us to use the hand sanitizer that was at the entrance to the ship. This told me that the staff of this particular ship were not actually concerned with preventing the spread of illness. They had paperwork to prove that they were doing something but, unlike every other ship we boarded, they did not make us wash our hands before boarding the ship.

I’ll end with a story I just heard about someone who became ill with a stomach virus the night before boarding a cruise ship. She boarded the ship and ignored signs all over the ship asking passengers experiencing any gastrointestinal illness to report to the ship’s doctor. After two days of illness she finally did report to the doctor. Needless to say, they were very unhappy with her for waiting. She was quarantined to her room for one day and brought stomach-friendly foods like rice and other white things.

The cruiselines can take all the precautions in the world, but there is nothing they can do about someone who chooses to walk about the ship sick and infect others. I urge you to think about others if you become sick. They may quarantine you, which means you can’t leave your room, but they’ll also bring you food and wait on you hand and foot. I know my girl doesn’t do that for me! My partner did actually develop a nasty cold once on a cruise ship and quarantined herself. She reports that if she has to be sick, she’d rather be sick on a cruise ship than anywhere else. She had everything she needed brought to her and all she had to do was lie about. There are certainly worse things in the world.