Something to Think About

"I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love."
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Saturday Six - January 26, 2013

1. U is for UBER: What topic might people accuse you of being a bit “too extreme” about? I guess that depends on who you're talking to!  A conservative might think I'm a bit too extreme in my liberal point of view, for example.  Others might find my views on religion a bit too "extreme" or my civil rights views.

2. U is for ULCER: On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most stressed, what is your stress level in an average week? Most of the time, a 4 would be about the top.  I have weekly deadlines but I rarely have an issue meeting them.  Other than that, there is no real stress for the most part.

3. U is for UMPIRE: If you had to officiate any sport, which one do you think you’d have the most trouble dealing with? Basketball - because I know next to nothing about the rules and regulations so I'd have to do a lot of studying!

4. U is for UNDERWATER: Which sea creature would you most fear if you were diving in the ocean? I'm not sure.  Sharks can be dangerous but I'm not sure that they tend to bother humans most of the time.  How about jelly fish?!? There are some hugely poisonous jelly fish out there that are hard to even see!

5. U is for UNDERWEAR: Which color are most of your undergarments? Multicolored. Seriously, they are.  I guess navy blue is a common color, however.

6. U is for URBAN: Would you most prefer to live somewhere more urban, somewhere more rural, or somewhere more suburban? Sometimes I think I'd prefer somewhere more urban - as it's a pain to have to drive to get almost anywhere around here - but I really do enjoy living in my little village.

These are the Saturday Six from Patrick's Place!

Acts of Kindness - week 4

I'm sorry that I'm late posting this week's list.  I've had an issue with neck pain that was aggravated by using the computer so I took some time off from recreational use of the computer. I'm feeling much better now.
I'm on week number 4 of my year-long project.  Here's what I accomplished this week!

January 19, 2013 - Helped K's family members transport food items from their vehicles to the church.
          K's family, as I believe I mentioned before, was helping to "cater" the light meal following his aunt's memorial service. There was a lot of confusion as far as where to enter the church as it was unfamiliar to many of the family members (and us, as well, until we explored a bit) and it has been built onto many times creating a bit of a maze to wind through to get from point A to B.   I decided to place myself just inside the one door so I could keep watch out he window and go out to help people transport their items inside and so that I could direct where everyone was to go.

January 20, 2013 - Cooked up soup and filled several small containers for K's uncle.
          K and I had provided vegetable trays for the meal after his aunt's memorial service and we had prepared too much and had a lot of leftovers.  I made a couple batches of vegetable broth with a good deal of them - then made a lentil vegetable soup and a white bean & kale soup. I made up a couple single-serving containers of each kind for K's uncle and we took them in to him.

January 21, 2013 -  Picked up garbage around library
          As I was passing the library on the way home from work I noticed that it appeared like someone had strewn the contents of a McDonald's bag in the bushes next to the building.  I always carry a plastic grocery bag in my coat pocket (so I have one when I'm walking the dog) so I pulled it out and filled it with the garbage and took it home to throw away.

January 22, 2013 -  Donated to the stained glass window fund
          The church where K's aunt's memorial service was held is quite old and has the loveliest stained glass windows.  There was a notice up at the church where they were asking for donations to a fund to repair some of the windows which are showing signs of aging.  I sent off a small amount to the church to help them with this project.

January 23, 2013 - Plugged a quarter into another driver's parking meter
          I had to go into the small city just south of here and most of the parking in town is metered.  I saw that the vehicle next to mine had an expired meter - but had not been ticketed - so I plugged a quarter in their meter so they wouldn't get a ticket.

January 24, 2013 - Left a Thank-you note for the mail carrier
          I thought that it would be nice to let our mail carrier know that we appreciate her so I left a thank you note attached to the mailbox.  I hope it made her smile!

January 25, 2013 - Placed newspaper on porch
          When I passed my neighbor's porch, I noticed their newspaper on the sidewalk in front of it.  Even though it was in a plastic bag, there was a chance that the moisture from the snow/slush would make its way inside the bag to the paper so I picked up the paper and tossed it up on the porch and out of the weather.
If you have any suggestions for acts of kindness, please leave them in the comments or email me by clicking the "contact" button on the side of my page.  If you feel I've not hit my goals let me know as well!  Thanks!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Could Gun Registration be part of the Solution?

I know very little about firearms.  I've never owned one. I did not grow up in a family of hunters or gun owners. I've never even fired a gun.  Not once.  So, no.  I don't suppose I know what it feels like to own such a weapon.

In light of recent events - such as our President and Vice President determining that we, as a nation, need to take a hard look at gun control issues - I've delved into the subject a little.

I discovered one thing that surprised me greatly:  Most states do not require that a gun be registered.  For whatever reason I figured that this was done everywhere in the US.  Not so, it appears! I guess that I thought that there would be some way of tracking where a gun came from if it was used in a crime but surprisingly no!  This is not the case in most states. I guess the guns can be tracked to the dealer by serial number but that would be the end of the line, if I'm not mistaken. (Please correct me if I'm wrong.)

So, alright.  What if - and I'm just throwing this out there - the federal government required all guns to be registered. What if we then decide that a gun owner should be held responsible for anything that is done with the weapon(s) registered to him or her?

Private sales would be permitted but only with a proper background check done on the buyer before he or she takes possession and the registration would transfer to the new owner.

I would think this would be a win-win situation.  If a person wanted to own a gun, he or she would have to have a background check done.  There should be no exception to this.  When they purchase the weapon, the serial number would be registered with the federal government and the gun owner would be responsible for making sure that his or her gun did not fall into the hands of a child or anyone else who should not be using it.  It would have to be properly secured/locked up to prevent accidents from happening.  If you aren't willing to go through measures to prevent your weapon from falling into the wrong hands, then you shouldn't be a gun owner in the first place, in my opinion. (especially if you have children in your house!)

If by some chance your gun is stolen, you would be required to report it to the authorities immediately and there would be a severe penalty if you are found to be in possession of an unregistered or stolen weapon.

This seems to me a reasonable way to go about things.  Now, no.  I'm not a gun owner and frankly I don't agree with the Supreme Court's interpretation of the 2nd amendment but I accept it as law because that is the way it works here in the United States. Your opinion may differ and that's fine.  You're entitled to your own opinion as I am entitled to mine.

Now, then.  What, if any, objections would there be of such a plan?  I mean... our motor vehicles are required to be registered, why not our weapons?  Let's overlook the possible cost of such measures for now and problems with implementation and look at the core idea, itself.  (because, yes.  I'm sure it would be expensive to implement and complicated to do so)

What problem is there with requiring gun registration in the United States? Would measures like these make a difference? What do you think?

Image obtained here

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Saturday Six - January 19, 2013

1. T is for TALKER: Which specific topic tends to get a lot of attention on your blog? I'm not sure there is a specific topic that gets more attention - perhaps politics?  What I do know is that I cannot predict what does and what doesn't!  Sometimes I'll write something I think will garner a lot of attention and discussion but I get hardly anything.  Then I'll post something I'm sure will be ignored and get a lot of attention!

2. T is for TELEPHONE: Who was the last person you spoke to on a telephone? My daughter, Chelsea, who is attending school out in Pittsburgh.

3. T is for TIME: Which do you usually have the most difficulty doing: getting to work on time or leaving work on time? Leaving work on time.  I have arriving on time down to a science - which is pretty easy for me as I walk to work - but I get engrossed in what I'm doing sometimes and find it is past the time I should have left!

4. T is for TOUCAN: If you could own any kind of bird (and feeding and housing wouldn’t be an issue), which bird would you like to own? An African Grey! I have a friend who owns one.  They're really neat but I don't know the first thing about owning a bird so I'm not the best choice to own one!

5. T is for TOY: What do you own at this point that you consider your favorite “toy”? Does the computer count?  How about my smartphone? One of those, I suppose.

6. T is for TYPEWRITER: At what age did you first start learning to type? I was in middle school when I taught myself to type.  My father was a high school business teacher so he had a book on learning to type that I came across one day.  I started going through it and I was glad I did as I got to learn at my own pace and was ahead of the curve when I took typing in high school.  (it was a required course)

These are the Saturday Six from Patrick's' Place!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Acts of Kindness - week 3

I'm on week number 3 of my year-long project.  Here's what I accomplished this week!

January 12, 2013 - Let a women go ahead of me in line at the grocery store
          She looked like she was in a hurry and I was not.  'Nuff said.

January 13, 2013 - Helped a confused woman at the hospital
          She couldn't find the room she was looking for.  She was following the room numbers down the hall but got to the end without finding the one she was looking for.  I was familiar with how oddly they number the rooms in that hospital so I helped her find the one she was heading to.

January 14, 2013 - Let a couple people go ahead of me in line at the cafeteria at work.
          Production employees have to be back on time but office employees like myself don't need to worry about that. I figured I'd let them go ahead of me so they would have more time to eat.

January 15, 2013 -  Returned several carts to the cart stall at Walmart
          I'm not sure why people leave their carts out in the middle of the parking lot when there are plenty of cart stalls for them to use. Laziness? Apathy?  I took several strays to the nearest cart stall along with mine when I was finished with it.

January 16, 2013 - Packed up a bag of clothing to go to Goodwill.
          I finally started going through my clothing.  I have items I doubt I'll wear again even if I do manage to lose the extra weight I'm carrying.  I'm not in my 30s anymore, after all.  I went through my one bureau and removed items I won't wear again.  I'll take the bag into town next time I go that way and drop it into the Planet Aid box I just noticed recently. (I'd not heard of them before.  If you haven't, click the link. It sounds like they do good work!  They haven't been reviewed by Charity Navigator but I'm taking the chance, anyway.  I like that they seem to be a secular organization.)

January 17, 2013 - Made up a couple of meals to freeze for K's uncle
          I'm not sure what K's uncle is going to do now that his wife has passed away but I know he doesn't cook.  I imagine K's mother will make sure he doesn't starve but she and his father are on a fixed income, too, so they really can't afford to feed someone else.
I made up a couple meals for K's uncle and stuck them in the freezer.  I'll make up more over the weekend and we'll take them in to him. I wanted him to have something decent to eat that he can just pop in the microwave to heat up.  If he seems to eat them, I'll make up more periodically so he has home-cooked food to eat.
I'm going to suggest he call our local Meals on Wheels, as well, and see if he qualifies.  That way someone would visit daily and bring a hot meal.

January 18, 2013 - Paid for the next person's latte at the coffee shop
          I got to use one of my smile cards!  I was the only customer in the coffee shop so I told the barista that I wanted to pay for the next large latte ordered and gave her one of my cards to give them.  My anonymity might be at stake, however, as she recognized me and greeted me by name.  I used to stop in several times a week before work but then my work schedule changed so I've not been in for months.  I didn't figure she'd know me but she did!  Oh, well... Chances are the next customer won't know me if she tells them my name!

Administration stuff: 
My "smile" cards which I mentioned ordering a couple weeks ago arrived in the mail ahead of schedule!  I received them on Saturday! What a nice surprise!

If you have any suggestions for acts of kindness, please leave them in the comments or email me by clicking the "contact" button on the side of my page.  If you feel I've not hit my goals let me know as well!  Thanks!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Matters of Grave Concern... or What should we do with the Body?*

What do you want done with your body after you die?

This is a very personal question I feel we should all ask ourselves well in advance of our deaths, if at all possible.  Our family members will appreciate knowing what we would prefer beforehand instead of having to muddle through after our deaths.  They will have enough difficult decisions to make at that time. The most responsible thing to do is to discuss this with your loved ones well in advance of your death so they know what you would have wanted and so that you can answer any questions they might have.

It's a question that I think about occasionally but it popped back up in my mind recently with the death of my boyfriend's aunt over the weekend.  Her family chose cremation.  I'm not sure what they will do with her ashes.

I've absolutely decided that I don't want my body buried in a box in the ground.  That seems like such a waste of space, money and it serves no purpose.  I thought, perhaps, cremation would be the solution but... what would I want done with my ashes?  I certainly don't want them in an urn on someone's mantle.  I don't expect my loved ones to spread them anywhere.  That solution creates problems, as well.

Then it occurred to me: Whole body donation.  I could donate my entire body to science. Medical students need cadavers to practice on, after all.

Or, I thought, what about those places that they call Body Farms - where cadavers are left to deteriorate naturally in various situations for scientific study.  That appeals to me, as well.

It appears that there are four such forensic facilities in the US:  University of Tennessee Research Facility, Western Carolina University, Texas State University, and Sam Houston State University.  The University of Tennessee seems to have the most extensive program and is the closest to me but they will only pay to transport your body if you are within 100 miles of the facility.  I've no idea how much it would cost to transport my body 530 miles and across several state lines but I imagine that it would not be cheap nor simple. I'm not sure it would be right to expect my loved ones to go through all that paperwork.

(Note:  I tried to use Google to get an idea of cost but I was unsuccessful.  If I'm picked up and questioned by the authorities we'll know all know why and that what we Google is being monitored by the government. Just saying...)

If you do live within a reasonable distance of these universities, you might want to consider donating your body to them. Of course, it would be best to check out their requirements and contract them ahead of time.

Well, alright. Back to my first idea. A friend on Google + pointed out that some medical schools - he mentioned Harvard - might have all the cadavers they need and that I might want to research this.  I did and I  found Science Care, an organization that coordinates donations of bodies to where they are needed.  This sounds promising.  I checked the requirements and it seems that I am within the weight  and length limits so this is a distinct possibility and an added motivation to keep my weight down where it is or less.  I wouldn't want to be too obese for donation!  The only issue would be if I die of a contagious disease or if they wouldn't need me for some reason.  I guess a plan B will also have to be in order.

There are several organizations who receive whole body donations.  The one I mention here is accredited by both the American Association of Tissue Banks and the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education. - and is a A+ member of the Better Business Bureau.  I'm not sure how important this is but I feel better knowing that a company that would handle my remains has some sort of accreditation. Other organizations may be accredited, as well.  I didn't check every possibility.

In any event, I have some ideas to start with and will continue to research the possibilities so that I can fine-tune my requests for my next of kin. Do give this some thought yourself.  Even if you are sure that you would prefer burial, there are still arrangements that you can make ahead of time that will ease the burden on those left behind.

Even in death we can be considerate of others, can't we?
*Nope, nothing is sacred here.  Excuse my possible lack of taste but I find the title funny!

Image obtained here

Monday, January 14, 2013

Healthcare Debate Continues...

I was listening to the radio this morning and I heard about yet another business that is facing fines for failing to comply with the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).  I've mentioned before how I feel about this so I see no reason to go into that here.

There is another point that I'd like to make, however. Let me make it clearer why our government can't allow businesses to deny certain health care coverage for their employees based on their owner's religious beliefs.

Many religions have a problem with abortions and birth control but let's take a look at what else some religions have an issue with.

Jehovah's Witnesses do not believe in blood transfusions even in an emergency and even if it is the patient's own blood. Should we allow businesses run by Jehovah's Witnesses to exempt life-saving blood transfusions from being covered by their health insurance? They certainly don't come cheap if you have to pay for them out of pocket!

What about Christian Scientists?  Christian Scientists believe that sickness is an illusion that can be healed with prayer. They allow broken bones to be set and basic surgical procedures but disapprove of most other medical procedures and of medications.  Should we allow them to provide health insurance for their employees that strictly follows their beliefs?

Let's take a look at the Church of Scientology. There are a lot of claims about the church that focus on their auditing procedures which some seem to claim have healed them of illness.  The church, itself, seems to deny that they treat illnesses and says it encourages members to seek medical treatment for illnesses.  I'll take this at face value.  What they do actually seem to have an issue with is pain medication. The page I linked seems to imply that one should avoid painkillers and ends with this quote:
"One has a choice between being dead with drugs or being alive without them. Drugs rob life of the sensations and joys which are the only reasons for living anyhow."
It is clear that using painkillers is discouraged by Scientology.  Should businesses owned by Scientologists be  exempt from covering pain killers?

This article lists many different beliefs held by people of different faiths concerning health care.  It appears that Buddists may object to pain killers as may Muslims.

What about those who believe in faith healing?

If we allow members of one religion to be exempt from providing certain health care procedures or medication, then we have to allow every group the same right. The government may not treat members of one religion differently than members of another.  They may not favor any one religion over another.  Doing so would clearly violate the separation of church and state.

Do you really want the health care you receive to be based on someone else's beliefs?  What if that conflicts with your own beliefs?  Wouldn't you rather make those sorts of decisions yourself?  Clearly the best solution to this problem is for the patient to decide what care his or her beliefs allow.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Saturday Six - January 12, 2013

1. S is for SEW: What is the extent of your sewing talent? I can get by fairly well with a sewing machine.  I used to make costumes for my daughters for Halloween every year and I've made a lot of different items over the years.  I really don't sew anymore.  It used to be the cheaper way to make something but the pattern prices and even the fabric has become so expensive that it is no longer the cheap option.

2. S is for SHOPPING: Which store do you dread visiting the most? I dislike clothing shopping so any department store if I'm shopping for clothing.

3. S is for SONG: What’s the last song that got stuck in your head? I had one stuck in my head at the end of the work day yesterday but I can't recall what it was.  I think it was something by the Police...  Maybe Message in a Bottle?

4. S is for SPEED: As a general rule, how close (in miles per hour) do you stay to a posted speed limit? I stay within 4 or 5 miles most of the time.  I've been known to forget myself and go faster than that sometimes, though.  I have to pay attention as I have a lead foot!

5. S is for STRIP: Would you be more or less likely to attend a party if you knew strippers would be present? Less likely.  I really find that rather embarrassing.

6. S is for SUGAR: When you want to sweeten something, are you more likely to use real sugar, the pink packet, the blue packet or the green packet? Real sugar. I don't like the idea of artificial sweeteners.  I just use sugar in moderation.

These are the Saturday Six from Patrick's Place!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Acts of Kindness - week 2

I'm on week number 2 of my year-long project.  Here's what I did this week!

January 5, 2013 - Returned stray carts from the parking lot to the grocery store.
          I often shop for groceries at a small, locally-owned grocery store.  They have an extra-wide porch area on the side of the building where the shopping carts are kept when not in use and the entrance to the store is on this side of the building. The parking area except for a few spaces is at the front of the building.   As would be expected (and I have to believe it is universal...) not everyone returns the carts where they should go.  When I returned my cart to the store, I also collected several others that were along the front of the building but that someone had not bothered to take over to the side where they are kept and returned those, as well.  I had to smile a moment later as I noticed a store employee come out and walk around to the front of the building -  I'm thinking she was looking for stray carts - only to shrug and go back inside.

January 6, 2013 - Wrote and sent off a quick note to one of my internet friends who I've known for a long time telling her how much I appreciate her.
          I have several internet friends who I have known for quite a number of years and know well enough to have their mailing address. Many of them know me from my previous blogging platform.  One of these friends doesn't spend a whole lot of time online anymore but we try to keep in touch.  I wanted her to know how much I appreciate her friendship so I sent a card off to her telling her so!

January 7, 2013 - Helped a co-worker carry items to her car.
           As I was leaving work, I noticed a coworker coming out of our retail store which is located on the one end of our building.  She was struggling with several bulky bags of product- and probably wished she'd made more than one trip - so I offered to take a couple bags from her and follow her to her car.        

January 8, 2013 - Picked up advertising papers and placed them on porches
          This might become a weekly task at this rate! I thought that, perhaps, there were so many papers out on the sidewalks last week when I walked home because they arrived a day later because of the holiday and folks didn't think to look for them.  Turns out I was wrong!  I think I found 8 - 10 to pick up and place on porches and stoops on the way home this week.  I'm slightly irritated at the people who deliver them for being so lazy but it gives me an opportunity to do good so I guess it's all good.

January 9, 2013 - Held door for co-worker
           As I was opening the door to go into work, I noticed one of my co-workers hurrying to cross the street from the parking lot.  She looked like she was running late so I paused and waited for her - as it sometimes takes folks a while to locate their pass to swipe to get in the door and I thought I'd save her some time. Turns out that she was hurrying because she had forgotten her door pass at home and would have been unable to open the door without it to enter the building. When she saw me nearing the door, she started running as she was hoping to follow me in.

January 10, 2013 - Chased after a woman with her dropped bag
          My boyfriend, my daughter, her two children, and I went to the Farm Show after I got off work.  It was crowded - as expected - though perhaps not as bad as it would have been over the weekend.  We were taking an escalator from one area to another and as we were nearing the top I noticed a woman pushing a stroller. She stopped to the side adjust something and when she set off again I saw a bag drop off the side of stroller onto the floor.  She didn't notice she had dropped it so she continued on.  When we reached that area moments later the bag was still there on the floor.  I picked it up and made my way through the crowd to find the woman and return it.  She hadn't even realized she had lost it and was glad someone had noticed.
          [Funny granddaughter story:  We asked Emma - who turns 4 in a little over a month - what she wanted to see first at the farm show thinking it might be the cows or the pigs or some other animal.  Nope!  She wanted to see.... the tractors!! She loves all manner of motorized vehicles - fire trucks, construction equipment and even tractors!  She's one of a kind! (and got her fill of examining all sorts of tractors up close!)]

January 11, 2013 - Made a donation to Wikipedia
          I don't know about you, but I use Wikipedia a lot!  I find it an invaluable source of information about practically anything and a terrific source of images that I can use here on my blog! (Most, if not all, of their images are licensed under Creative Commons for free re-use. l always check to be sure that I can use them, however, and to see if attribution is required or not.)
Wikipedia is a non-profit [501(c)(3)] organization and is able to remain advertising-free because of donations from people just like you and me from around the world.  If you use Wikipedia, consider making a donation yourself! It is a worth-while organization to help out!

Administration stuff: 
My "smile" cards which I mentioned last week should be arriving in the mail next Tuesday!  I'm looking forward to using them!

If you have any suggestions for acts of kindness, please leave them in the comments or email me by clicking the "contact" button on the side of my page.  If you feel I've not hit my goals let me know as well!  Thanks!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Skeptic's Dilemma

I am both an atheist and a skeptic.  I make this distinction because not every atheist is a skeptic. An atheist is simply someone who "denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings".  That's all that term means.  It doesn't address how or why a person came to that understanding nor their general philosophy or anything else, really.

Many atheists are also skeptics.  In my case, the fact that I am a skeptic caused me to eventually become an atheist.  If you turn your skeptic eye on religion, it may not pass muster.  That is what happened with me.

I belong to a small local group of nonbelievers. I use that term, nonbelievers, because that is how the group describes its members.  Some people in the group identify as atheists.  Some people prefer to call themselves an agnostic.  (Note: agnosticism addresses knowledge - as in whether we can know something - while atheism addresses belief.  One can be an agnostic atheist or an agnostic believer or, perhaps, someone in between who hasn't reached a conclusion. Most of the time a person who identifies his or herself simply as an agnostic is a nonbeliever.)  Some people prefer the term freethinker or nonbeliever. Not everyone in the group is a skeptic.

This last part is causing some problems. Our local group has a core group of six of us who almost always show up for the monthly meeting with several others who attend when their busy schedules permit. Out of that core group of six, one of them is actually a practitioner of alternative medicine and one of them is a conspiracy theorist.  One of the members who is not able to attend regularly is also a practitioner of a different alternative medicine.

You've no idea how much tongue biting I've been going through over this.

Our group is very informal.  There are hardly ever any speakers or scheduled discussions.  We simply meet once a month and discuss topics pertaining to our beliefs - or lack of, really.  It's really more of a group therapy sort of thing. When you are a member of a minority group like we are, it is good just to get together and talk with like-minded individuals sometimes.

I try changing the subject when the topic turns to conspiracy theories or alternative medicine in our meetings but this doesn't always work. Sometimes I wonder if I should just tell them I don't agree with them but I'm not sure I want to get into an argument about these things.  If it were a one-on-one discussion, I would have no problem telling a person I didn't share their beliefs but in a group I feel it is more appropriate to remain quiet.  I wrestle with this decision sometimes because remaining quiet can make it appear that I agree with them and I don't want that to be presumed. I do suspect that another member - who is an actual scientist - is also a skeptic, as well, so I don't think I'm alone.

I do have a difficult time understanding, however, how reasonably intelligent and educated individuals can really believe that something I would classify as "woo" is a reality.  It boggles the mind...

So, dear reader, I am asking for your opinion.  What do you do when you are in a situation like this? Is it best to keep the peace or should I speak up?  Keep in mind that these topics have absolutely nothing to do with why we are meeting in the first place and that I generally like these people even if we don't agree on everything.  What would you do?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Is Dr Oz a Quack?

A couple weeks ago a co-worker mentioned something that I thought sounded odd.  He told me that he'd been taking a green coffee extract to lose weight.  He swore he'd lost several pounds and that something in that extract - which I think he said cost him about a dollar a day -actually melts fat away.  I'd never heard of it before and my skeptical side thought it sounded suspicious. He then told me that he heard about it on the Dr. Oz show.

Now, I had heard of Dr. Mehmet Oz before but I wasn't in the habit of watching his show.  I had seen him on Oprah's show several times (when she had one) and he seemed like a reasonable doctor - an actual physician with all the right credentials. (Ivy league degrees and all) I hadn't ever heard him say anything that seemed off when he was a guest on Oprah.

I looked up the green coffee bean extract and found this article which makes all the claims that my co-worker had stated.  It also listed several other "fat busters" which had also been mentioned on Dr. Oz's show.

This didn't make any sense to me.  We all know that diet and exercise are the keys to losing weight - not fancy pills or special shakes.  What was going on?

I shrugged and forgot about it.  After all, if my co-worker was happy with his diet pills then I couldn't see any harm.  He did mention that he didn't have an appetite for fatty foods when he took the supplement so perhaps his mind was helping him eat healthier and that was having an affect on his waistline. I noticed this article from Shape magazine that seemed to suggest that there was really no evidence that it worked for weight loss but that it probably wasn't dangerous.

Then I caught sight of this article which came right out and suggested that Dr. Oz is a quack.  It mentioned that he has had psychics on his show and wasn't even slightly skeptical of their claims for starters.  This annoys me to no end but I realize that even doctors might believe in "psychic" powers and such.  It also mentioned that he seems to recommend alternative medicines including reiki, holistic medicine and faith healers.  Alright. Now I'm concerned.  Unless the doctor is actually casting a skeptical eye at these alternative treatments he should not be mentioning them on his show.

I continued my research.  I wasn't familiar with Orac who writes for Science Blogs but I did find an article from a scientist who I am familiar with, Phil Plait who is also critical of Dr. Oz.  Phil Plait is an actual scientist and skeptic and I trust his judgement. There was also this critical piece from Dr. Steven Novella who had been a guest on Dr. Oz's show to discuss alternative medicine, this Slate article, and this article from Forbes.

It appears that, no matter what he was in the past and despite his degrees in medicine, Dr Oz has turned his back on science.  He has lost all respect with me.  He seems to have decided that ratings are more important to him than telling the truth or perhaps he simply doesn't care.  That's the only conclusion I can come to.  It's sad, really.  He could have been the voice of reason but instead is muddying the waters. It's practically criminal.

I guess this just proves that if something sounds too good to be true it probably isn't - even when it comes from a supposedly respectable source.  Shame on you, Dr. Oz.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia and found here

Monday, January 7, 2013

Saturday Six - January 5, 2013

1. R is for RACE: If you had to attend some sort of race — horse race, NASCAR, etc. — which type would you most likely choose?  NASCAR.  I've been to a NASCAR race and I really enjoyed it!

2. R is for REALITY: If you had to choose one reality show to watch, which would it be? I really don't like reality shows at all and it isn't that I haven't given them a chance!  I guess if I had to watch one, I'd choose The Voice.  I really like that show but I can't commit to watching a program multiple days a week. I just don't have the time for that!

3. R is for REINCARNATION: If you could come back after death as an animal, which would you choose? I don't know... Maybe a cat?  I admire their ability to balance and their gracefulness - mostly because I trip over my own feet and would not be described as graceful ever.  

4. R is for REPORTER: Which local reporters do you trust more: your local newspaper’s or your local TV stations’? Our local newspaper is a bit dodgy when it comes to facts.  (and that's putting it nicely)   I'd go with my local TV station's reporters.  

5. R is for ROBOT: If science provided a practical robot to take care of chores around the house, would you be interested, or would you prefer doing it yourself? I enjoy some chores so I wouldn't want one to do everything for me.  That said, I would love for one to take over some tasks so I think we could work something out. 

6. R is for RUDE: When you encounter what you consider is rude customer service, are you more likely to contact the manager on site or call the corporate office? I'm more likely to contact the local manager first.  I don't like to create a scene so I'd probably go home, calm down, and then decide if I feel I need to do something about it and call to talk to the manager.  If I felt my concerns were not being addressed, then I'd go up the chain of command.

These are the Saturday Six from Patrick's Place!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Acts of Kindness - week 1

As I mentioned in a previous post, I intend to try to commit one act of kindness every day in 2013 and at least one more significant act each week.

Furthermore, I've stated that a standard act may be nothing greater than allowing someone to go ahead of me in line or holding a door open for someone else but the weekly more substantial act must require more effort and/or preparation.  I'll just have to judge these myself, I suppose, though I'll allow you all to cry "foul" if you think I didn't really meet my goal.

So! The first week of the year has passed.*  Let's see how I did!

January 1, 2013: Donation to Shenandoah Area Secular Humanists to help fund a replacement display for the one that was vandalized.
             Background story:  A nativity scene is set up in front of the courthouse in Warren County, Virginia every year.  I'm not sure how long they have done this but for the last seven years there has also been a display placed next to the creche from the Shenandoah Area Secular Humanists. Their display includes a quote from John F Kennedy about the separation of church and state, a greeting from the society and this statement: "With reason and compassion as our guide, let us work together to produce a world in which peace, prosperity, freedom, and happiness are shared by all."  All in all, it seems to be a fairly noncontroversial display.
             [Note: When someone challenges a religious display on public property, the local government has a choice to either remove the display or to allow other groups to place their own display along with the original.  Either way, no preference to any particular religion or any religion at all is shown and it is not considered a violation of the separation of church and state.  It is likely that this is why the secular display is  placed next to the nativity scene every year in this location.]
              Someone must have disagreed with the placement of the secular display as it was vandalized this year - spray painted and then burned.  The group stated that they will replace the signs next year and that the original signs cost them around $300.  Obviously, they will cost more now to replace than they did seven years ago.  I decided that I would like to help with the costs of this replacement so I went to their website and donated a small amount to the cause.  I hope that others will do the same so that they are able to replace the signs.

January 2, 2013: Sent an anonymous thank you note to our receptionist at work.
                 The receptionist here at the company often will go out of her way to make our jobs easier here at the company where I work and I wanted her to know that we appreciate all she does.  I was sneaky enough to take an interoffice envelope from another area of the plant (so she wouldn't know it came from our particular office area ) and to place the envelope in the outgoing mail slot in yet another area of the plant for the same reason.  I'm sure she won't recognize my handwriting as I printed the note and I rarely print anything here at work.  I hope that it made her smile!

January 3, 2013:  Placed advertising papers that were down on the sidewalk up on porches so people could see them
                  We get a free local advertising paper delivered to our houses every week.  They are supposed to be placed on our porches or stoops but sometimes the boys or girls delivering them get lazy and miss the porch.  As I was walking home from work today, I noticed quite a few of these on the sidewalks in front of the porches.  I know from experience that I would sometimes look out and not see the paper unless I stepped down off the porch so I stopped to place these papers up on the porches so people could see them when they opened their doors.

January 4, 2013: Helped a co-worker unjam the copier
                   Technically I do this sort of thing all the time. I'm in the same room as the copier and I guess this means people think I know more than they do about it.  I don't - especially since we got a new one - but I do know how to read and follow instructions so I manage. Still, I'm going to count this as a good deed as I didn't have to stop working to help him.

Administrative stuff:
I remembered seeing little cards once that one could hand out when doing an act of kindness to encourage the receiver to pass on the kindness to someone else so I looked around the internet.  I found this site where you can order cards for free. (they are paid for by donations) Their cards are alright but not exactly what I had in mind as I really didn't get the idea from their website and the design is a bit plain. From what I read on the site, it doesn't seem like they would mind if someone "stole" their idea or wording so I decided to make up my own cards!

So!  I ordered my cards (mini-cards, actually) from (<--This is a referral link. If you use this link you can get 10% off your order if you order from Moo and I get a credit on my account. I get no credit for your clicking my link, however.  I just wanted to be up front about it.)

The cards look like this:
The print on the green side reads:
Someone reached out to you with an act of kindness.
Now it's your turn to do the same!

Do something nice for someone, leave this card behind, 
and keep the spirit going!

I can't wait to get my cards so I can hand them out!  I wish I had thought of this before the beginning of the year.  Oh, well.  I should have them by mid-month so it isn't a big deal.

If you have any suggestions for acts of kindness, please leave them in the comments or email me by clicking the "contact" button on the side of my page.  If you feel I've not hit my goals let me know as well!  Thanks!

*I'm going to make a post every Friday to tell of my efforts throughout the week. This means I'll actually have 53 weekly entries instead of 52 as I'm not starting off documenting an entire week and that will leave 4 days at the end of the year. I've decided this doesn't matter so I'll continue on as if I didn't notice.  So!  "week" 1 it is!**

**I'm the only person you know who is anal enough to worry about this, aren't I?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Two things

I've been extremely busy lately with the holidays and short work weeks but I wanted to quickly mention a couple of things on my mind.  They are totally unrelated to each other which should speak to the state of my brain today. (a bit woozy due to the effects of cold medication)

First up, a topic that is near and dear to my heart:  Metrication in the United States.

I remember teachers telling us back when I was young that the US would be moving towards switching over to the metric system of measurement.  We were taught all about the metric system and the virtues were extolled:

  1. It is easier 
  2. Practically everyone else in the world uses it
Then.... nothing happened. We didn't switch over.  The schools stopped teaching us the metric system and preparing us.  It all ground to a halt.

What happened?  Well, it appears that the United States Metric Board - which was set up to help us transition to the new system - stopped being funded by Congress and ceased to exist in 1982.  Meanwhile, we've been continuing to use the imperial system here in the US.  

I came across this article yesterday which reminded me of the whole notion of conversion to the metric system and renewed my interest.  The article mentions a We The People petition asking  that we renew our efforts to transition to the metric system.  

If you are unfamiliar with them, these petitions are set up by people who wish to petition the Obama administration to take action on whatever topics we feel are important.  If the petition reaches the signature threshold - 25,000 signatures within 30 days - then it will be reviewed by the administration. 

Please consider signing the petition.  Thanks!
My second item is a situation I mentioned in passing in an earlier post. Hobby Lobby, the craft store chain, sued the government over having to provide birth control to its employees as mandated in the Affordable Care Act.  They lost their case.  Now the deadline is here and the company says it will not provide the health care required.  It appears that they will have to pay 1.3 million dollars a day.  (Side note to any Hobby Lobby employees:  Run, don't walk, to your nearest job center and start getting those applications out there. It appears that you may not have a job for long.)  The fines are on hold right now pending an appeal of the ruling they lost but I cannot see that a higher court is going to disagree.

So, to put this into context:  Hobby Lobby believes that some methods of birth control cause abortion or are equal to abortion so they refuse to provide health care to their employees that would cover these methods of birth control.  

The problem with this is twofold.  First, birth control does not equal abortion.  The morning after pill does not cause abortions.  Other methods of birth control do not cause abortions. This whole thing is based on an inaccurate assumption.  Secondly, there are medical reasons that a birth control pill might be prescribed that have nothing to do with preventing pregnancy.  What are their employees supposed to do if they can't afford the medication because it isn't covered by their insurance? Suffer?  

So, Hobby Lobby is asking for an exemption from the law because they hold false beliefs about birth control and they are willing to put their employees on the unemployment line to... prove a point? (If a company is a person can they be a martyr, too?)  I think they need to rethink their business model.

Image obtained here.