lunar eclipse

Solar Extravaganza- Total Eclipse 2017

by Marcia Dettloff, OD on July 18, 2017

Update 8/14/17  We are all OUT of solar specs. Thanks to your donations we collected $768 for Triangle Down Syndrome Network!  Unfortunately, there have been reports of substandard solar specs and even counterfeit products.  The American Astrological Society (AAS) has a list of reputable sources of solar viewers. From their updated guide  “Safe solar filters produce a view of the sun that is comfortably bright (like the full moon), in focus and surrounded by black sky. If you glance at the sun through your solar filter and find it uncomfortably bright, out of focus and surrounded by a murky haze, it’s [the viewer is] no good.”  If you don’t have solar glasses to safely view the eclipse directly, check out the links below for simple DIY projects that will allow you to safely view a projected image of the eclipse.

Since the last total solar eclipse in the US was in 1979, I had to settle for my photo of the 2015 blood moon lunar eclipse. But on Aug 21, 2017 a total solar eclipse will be visible across a large swath of the US and the entire US will see at least a partial solar eclipse. You don’t want to miss this once in a lifetime opportunity! I still remember the strange shadows on the grass and how surreal it was getting dark in the middle of the afternoon as I was walking between college classes during the eclipse in 1979 (where the obscuration only made it to 79% vs. the 93% we will experience in Cary).

While supplies last, we will be giving out ISO 12312-2 certified solar glasses from Thousand Oaks Optical for a donation of any amount to the Triangle Down Syndrome Network. Please stop by our office to get yours now.

Although a solar eclipse is an amazing experience, you need to be prepared in order to safely enjoy the eclipse. NEVER look directly at the sun without using special solar glasses (or shade 12 or higher welding filters) that block 99.999% of the sun’s visible light along with IR and UV blocking. Without protection, the intensity of the sun’s rays can cause damage to the retina that can result in permanent vision loss.  If you think you can safely take several quick peeks throughout the course of the eclipse, think again. The effect is cumulative and it only takes a combined total of 60 secs of exposure to cause damage.  Here’s a retinal photo of a Canadian friend of mine that has a macular scar in both eyes from looking at the eclipse of July 20, 1963 without solar glasses.  The scar is in the crescent shape of the eclipsed sun!

Here are some other safety tips:

  • The ONLY time you can view the sun without the filters is during the very short period of totality when the sun is totally blocked by the moon. At that point you will have to take off your solar spectacles to see anything because it will be dark. But you need to put them back on as soon as the sun pops out the other side. Since we are not in the Path of Totality, it will NOT be safe to view the sun without solar glasses during any part of the eclipse.
  • NEVER view the sun with binoculars or a telescope using the solar spectacles. They may get knocked off by the equipment. More importantly, the lens will magnify the intensity of the sun’s rays and can damage the solar spectacles or the equipment itself.  If you are going to use a binocular or telescope to view the eclipse, you HAVE to place a solar filter over the OBJECTIVE lens (where the light comes in), not the eyepiece.
  • A camera will also need a filter in FRONT of the camera lens because the sun will be too bright for the sensors. You also don’t want to be looking through the viewfinder without a filter.
  • Make sure the solar spectacles are free of scratches, pinholes or other defects before using them to view the sun.
  • The American Astronomical Society has a pdf handout with full details on safely viewing the eclipse

Here’s a map showing the path of totality for the eclipse. You can click any location to see the eclipse details for that location. Subtract 4 hours for our local time (Eastern DST).  The entire eclipse event lasts about 3 hours but only locations within the shaded band will experience totality where the moon totally blocks out the sun for up to 2 ½ minutes and major stars can be seen, like at twilight. Here in Cary, the moon will transit across the sun from 1:16 to 4:05 PM, blocking 93% of the sun at its max at 2:44 PM. That’s much more than what I experienced back in college. And if you are willing to drive 3 ½ hrs to south Carolina or 4 1/2 hours to the NC mountains, you’ll be able to experience a once in a lifetime total eclipse of the sun. At least take a few minutes to look out the window, wherever you are.

DIY projects for viewing the eclipse indirectly:
Cereal box pinhole projector

Science Friday’s 5 projects for viewing the eclipse

AAS Pinhole Projectors

Binocular projection system (for those that want a more sophisticated solution)

Other eclipse links:
Excellent explanation of all the phases of the eclipse and what to look for when at

Simulation of eclipse  look up the local time for the eclipse by town/city and see a simulation of the effect at that location

NASA Safety Tips

Washington Post article shows what can happen when eclipse is viewed without proper protection  Source of solar filters for cameras, binoculars and telescope and solar film for DIY filters

Youtube DIY instructions  for a solar filter for your camera

Megamovie citizen science project- take a picture that will be combined with other images along the path to make a video of the entire eclipse

American Astronomical Society

NASA Eclipse Info

Great American Eclipse

Astronomy magazine

Sky and Telescope

Eclipses for the next 10 yrs



In Defense of Coconut Oil

by Marcia Dettloff, OD on July 13, 2015

I recently heard a very interesting lecture by Bruce Fife, C.N., N.D on the health benefits of coconut oil. Here are my notes on his lecture along with some additional information.

Coconut oil has gotten a bad rap the past 30 years. Nutritionists have shunned it because it is a saturated fat. However studies have long shown the health benefits of coconut oil and more recent studies have shown that saturated fats are not as evil as previously thought.

Coconut oil is one the few natural sources of lauric acid, a medium chain fatty acid (fat). Breast milk is another. It has many unique properties not found in the long chain fatty acids that make up most of the fat in our diet. Studies have shown that it improves absorption of nutrients; has antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties; helps weight loss; decreases insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome; prevents seizures; and reduces the symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease in some patients.

For those of you that just want to know what to do:

  • Use 1-3 tablespoons of coconut oil a day for general health benefits.
  • Look for cold-pressed virgin oils. Tropical Traditions, Nutiva, and Vitacost are high quality brands. Super heating and chemical extraction methods are much less expensive ways to extract oils but they change the chemical structure of the oil, negating many of the nutritional benefits of the oil.
  • Coconut oil tolerates much higher temperatures than olive oil so cook with coconut oil instead and save the (cold-pressed extra virgin) olive oil for salad dressings, drizzling over cooked vegetables, etc.
  • Coconut oil is a solid at 75 degrees and a liquid at 76 degrees so it can replace butter and shortening in baking recipes.
  • When I don’t want the coconut flavor, I use Tropical Traditions Expeller-Pressed Coconut Oil. Some of the benefits are lost in the processing but it has no flavor and it still contains high amounts of lauric acid, the medium chain fatty acid that is unique to coconut oil and provides most of the benefits.
  • Avoid liquid coconut oil. While it sounds like a great option for use in salad dressings and other cold items, the beneficial lauric acid has been removed to make it a liquid.
  • Coconut milk in a can does contain coconut oil but coconut milk in the refrigerated section and coconut water do not.
  • Palm kernel oil has properties very similar to coconut oil but palm oil is totally different.
  • Coconut Oil FAQs by Mary T Newport explains the different coconut oil products.  Recipes and tips for including coconut oil in your diet can be found on the last page.

Read on if you want more detail about the benefits of coconut oil.

Maximizes the Absorption of Nutrients

  • Eating a meal with fat slows down the emptying of stomach so the food bathes in digestive enzymes and stomach acids longer. That increases the absorption of the nutrients in the food. This is especially true for fat soluble nutrients like Vitamins A, D, E, K, lycopene, lutein, and others. It also improves the absorption of the water soluble B vitamins, minerals like Ca and Mg, and amino acids in proteins.
  • Tests comparing meals with many different oils have shown that coconut oil provides the most absorption of nutrients, followed by olive oil.
  • Absorption is much higher in meals with coconut oil than soybean oil, corn oil or no oil.

Heart Disease

  • The Cholesterol Ratio (Total Cholesterol/HDL) is a better indication of heart disease risk than Total Cholesterol and coconut oil improves the ratio (better than any other fat) by increasing HDL cholesterol.
  • Rates of heart disease are lowest in areas where coconut oil use is highest.
  • When those areas cut back on the use of coconut oil out of concern about saturated fat, heart attack rates went up.


  • Coconut oil helps to stabilize blood sugar by slowing the absorption of sugars
  • Coconut oil improves insulin production and insulin sensitivity
  • 90 % of diabetics are insulin resistant. Since insulin is what transfers the glucose in the blood into the cells, the glucose builds up in the blood while the cells starve.  Ketones are another fuel source that can enter the cells without insulin. The liver can convert fats to ketones, but it only does that when the blood sugar is low so that doesn’t help a diabetic.  However coconut oil converts to ketones any time, providing a high energy fuel to the cells even when the blood sugar is high.

Alzheimer’s Disease
One theory is that Alzheimer’s Disease is diabetes of the brain. While most cells can get energy from glucose, fatty acids or ketones, brain cells can only use glucose or ketones. Since most fatty acids are only converted to ketones when blood sugar levels are low, the brain cells starve in patients with insulin resistance in the brain. Based on this theory, the ketones provided by coconut oil can protect the brain cells.

He gave an example of Steve Newport, a patient that was rejected from a clinical trial for Alzheimer’s Disease because his disease was too advanced. His wife, Mary Newport, MD, found the patent application for the drug and discovered that the active ingredient was a medium chain fatty acid. She calculated the trial dose to be the equivalent of 2 1/2 T of coconut oil and started giving it to her husband. He showed significant improvements in symptoms and test s of cognitive function starting from day 1 and continued to improve. She set up the website with information and did an unofficial Tedx Talk that describes their journey.

That is just one anecdotal report but a clinical trial using medium chain fatty acids did show a significant and sustained improvement in Alzheimer’s patients without the APOE e4 gene (which is 60-65% of Alzheimer’s patients).

Other Neurological Diseases
Ketogenic diets (low carb/high fat diets that produce ketones) have been used to treat epilepsy and other neurological problems since the time of Hippocrates. Unfortunately, most people cannot stay on the diet for very long. The hope for coconut oil is that it can turn any diet into a ketogenic diet. There are currently studies using coconut oil/medium chain fatty acids in the treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, ALS, Multiple Sclerosis, epilepsy and wound healing.

Benefits of ketones on brain health

  • Provide a high potency alternative fuel to brain cells
  • Increase blood flow to brain which increases oxygen to the brain
  • Trigger brain-derived neurotrophic factors that decrease inflammation and regulate brain cell growth, repair and function.
  • Provide lipid building blocks for new cells and repair of damaged brain tissue

Cancer ?
Cancer cells require excess glucose, they can NOT use ketones and, when oxygen levels are high, they produce oxygen free radicals that damage their cells. Meanwhile normal cells CAN use ketones and are not harmed by high oxygen levels. Studies in mice combining a low carbohydrate ketogenic diet with hyperbaric oxygen have shown destruction of the cancer cells without damaging the normal cells. Here’s a Tedx Talk about it by Dr. Dominic D’Agostino of the University of South Florida College of Medicine.

For Therapeutic Effect
Take up to 5 tablespoons, split throughout the day, starting out gradually to avoid diarrhea and other GI side effects. There are also products such as Axona and Fuel For Thought that concentrate the medium chain fatty acids found in coconut oil, providing the critical components without the extra fat and calories from the other components found in coconut oil.

Other links:

Edited 10/11/15 to put practical tips at the beginning of the article.


Chemistrie Lenses: The No-Clip Custom Clip-Ons

by Marcia Dettloff, OD May 7, 2013
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Chemistrie magnetic lenses allow you to quickly and easily convert your prescription lenses to polarized sunglasses, computer/reading glasses or even 3D glasses. Just bring the lens clip up to your frame and the tiny magnets embedded in the lenses will snap them into the proper position and keep them there until you remove them.

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Get Healthy- Cut Back on Sugar

by Marcia Dettloff, OD March 11, 2013

the most important change you can make to your diet: cutting back on simple carbohydrates like white sugar, white flour, white rice and fruit juice. These carbohydrates cause rapid increases in your blood glucose which we now know leads to inflammation and disease.

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Use It Or Lose It

by Marcia Dettloff, OD December 11, 2012

As 2012 comes to a close, don’t forget that many vision and healthcare benefits expire at the end of the year and insurance deductibles start over Jan 1.  If you’ve put off having your eyes examined or buying new glasses, sunglasses or contact lenses, be sure to do it before Dec 31st to avoid losing […]

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Don’t Bake Your Glasses In Your Car

by Marcia Dettloff, OD July 8, 2012
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Along with children, pets, DVDs make sure you don’t leave your eyeglasses in a hot car in the summer. Temperatures in the car can reach up to 200 degrees. It takes much less than that to damage your glasses. Also includes other tips on protecting your eyewear.

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A Posterchild For UV Protection

by Marcia Dettloff, OD June 8, 2012
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For all of you that worship the sun in search of that beautiful bronze glow (like my daughter) or think manly men don’t need sunscreen (like my husband), or think you are safe in your car behind glass (like me), I hope this photo published in the New England Journal of Medicine will change your mind.

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emPower Lenses Don’t Live Up to the Hype

by Marcia Dettloff, OD April 9, 2012

As I mentioned in my review of the emPower electronic focusing lenses last year, I did not think they were ready for prime time. So far it sounds like I made the right choice.

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An Allergy Survival Guide

by Marcia Dettloff, OD March 17, 2012

With allergy season upon us, here are tips for minimizing your exposure to allergens and a discussion of treatment options available to prevent or reduce allergy symptoms.

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My Favorite Holiday Light Displays

by Marcia Dettloff, OD December 19, 2011

To get you in the holiday mood, here’s some of my favorite choreographed holiday light shows. The first clip is from Carson Williams in Ohio. His choreographed Light-O-Rama Christmas display started the light show craze when someone posted a video of his 2004 Christmas light show on YouTube in 2005 and it went viral. I […]

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