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

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Saturday Six - March 30, 2013

1. How much older or younger than your actual age do you feel on an average day? It depends on the day.  Sometimes I feel exactly as old as I am and other days I feel younger.

2. What’s the best part of being the age you are now? I'm not sure I can think of a benefit.  If I were 20 years younger or 20 years older it'd be different. I'm at that "middle-age" age.

3. What’s the most challenging part of being the age you are now? I suppose trying to ensure that I'll have enough money to live on once I retire and to travel, as well.  My 401K took a hit and I really should start funneling more into it but I can't afford to right now.

4. Are most of the people to whom you feel closest younger than you, older than you, or your age? Most of them are a bit younger - but not too much younger.

5. Think back to when you were in high school and you saw someone who was your age now: looking back, what was your younger self’s biggest misconception about someone your age now? I guess I thought this age was a lot older than it is. *shrugs*  Of course, anyone over 30 is old to someone in high school!!

6. What do you think of that old saying: Is age really just a number? It really is, for the most part.  Some people age better than others.

These are the Saturday Six from Patrick's Place!

... and now i feel old.  Thanks a lot, Patrick! 

Friday, March 29, 2013

Some Bits of Randomness

Sometimes I come across things I want to share that aren't "big" enough for an entire post.  I thought I'd combine some of these here.

I don't know about you, but I found out not too long ago that I had been using those fast food ketchup cups all wrong!
Take a look at this video:

Not only does this make it easier to dip foods into the ketchup but you can fit so much more ketchup into the cup if you fan it out a little before filling it!  No more filling 2 or 3 cups and trying not to drop them on the way back to your table!

I felt really stupid once I found this out.  It just never occurred to me to examine the cups!

Next up is a misconception that I'd really like to put to rest. Once and for all, can we come to the understanding that sea salt is NOT better for you than table salt?!?  I am so tired of hearing this one!!

Sea salt is made from evaporated sea water.
Table salt is mined from the earth.
Both are "natural".

Table salt tends to be processed to remove other minerals and anti caking agents as well as iodine are usually added.

Sea salt might contain more minerals (it really depends on where it was obtained) and it might taste better - or just different -  but when it comes down to it,  salt is salt!  They both contain the same amount of sodium! Not only that but your body needs iodine to function correctly so eating iodized salt is a good way to get enough iodine -especially if you eat a lot of processed foods.

So!  If you choose sea salt over table salt, be sure you are getting enough iodine in your system but remember that it is still salt and is no better for you than table salt.

Finally, I'd like to present this item that I would place firmly in the "You have GOT to be kidding me" category.

State lawmakers in Montana are considering passing a bill that would allow people to use roadkill for food.  I am not making this up. I'm sorry but there is no way I could eat roadkill.  Well, alright, I don't eat meat except fish or seafood - and those are not likely to be roadkill - but seriously.  If I did eat other meats, it would not have come from roadkill.  I mean... how would you know for sure that it was safe to eat?  How would you know - unless you saw it get hit - how long it was sitting there?!?  The whole idea turns my stomach.

Moving on...
Yes, I know I said that was my last item but I can't end on that note.  I found a terrific website that I'd like to share with you all.  It is called Zen Pencils.  An artist, Galvin Aung Than, takes inspirational quotes and draws cartoons to illustrate them!  I think this one is one of my favorites. Which ones speak to you?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

What's all the hype about the gluten-free diet?

I've been hearing a lot about gluten-free eating recently.  There are tons of gluten-free products showing up on grocery store shelves and the label is even being added to products that never contained gluten in the first place. I suppose that's just to remind people that they are safe. Still, there are a lot more options than there used to be for people who can't eat gluten.

Some celebrities eat gluten-free diets.  Keith Olbermann and Zooey Deschanel have celiac disease so they cannot tolerate the gluten in wheat, rye and barley.  Other celebs like Ryan Phillippe have stated that they have a wheat allergy so they avoid gluten, as well.  Chelsea Clinton's wedding cake was gluten-free as she is said to have an allergy to wheat - though some sources say that it is her father, former President Bill Clinton, who has the allergy. Either way, her cake was gluten-free.

A recent study shows that around 29% of American adults are on a gluten-free diet.  Less than 1% of the population has celiac disease so why are so many others on the diet?  People can have a sensitivity to gluten even if they don't have celiac disease and others may have a wheat allergy and therefore avoid products containing wheat but what about the rest of them?

It seems that some people think that going gluten-free will help them lose weight or be healthier. In fact, I think it's fair to say that it is a current fad diet for those wanting to lose pounds.  The truth is that eating gluten-free may help you lose weight as you will have fewer options to eat (so you might not overeat) and because you might have to avoid pastries and pies but it is not a magic key to weight loss. What's worse is that some gluten-free processed food might contain more fat or salt than the regular products so they aren't good diet foods. Before you decide to go gluten-free you need to be aware that you have to watch that you are receiving enough iron, calcium, fiber, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folate in your diet as gluten-free diets can lack some of these important nutrients.

The take-away from this is that eating a gluten-free diet is necessary if you have celiac disease or a sensitivity to gluten but there really isn't a benefit for those without a medical reason to eat this way. In fact,you might be robbing yourself of some much needed nutrients if you aren't careful.

Also, for the record, a gluten-free, casein-free diet has not been shown to help autistic children despite what Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Jenny McCarthy would like you to believe.

Image found here and adapted as allowed by license.

Monday, March 25, 2013

5 Historical Myths You May Have Thought Were True

There are a lot of historical "facts" that we take for truth without giving them much thought. We've heard many of them since childhood so we have never bothered to think much about them much less try to determine whether or not they are accurate.  I think by now most of us realize, for example,  that Columbus didn't actually "discover America" (he never made it to the mainland but landed in the Bahamas) but not all of these fabrications - or stretches - have received the same examination. Upon closer inspection, it appears that some of them aren't entirely true - or are only partially true.

Here are five of these statements that are probably not historically accurate and what we now know about them.
  1. Witches were burned at the stake in Salem - Not exactly. 19 people were found guilty of witchcraft and hung during the Salem witch trials and one other was pressed to death under heavy stones when he refused to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. Burning at the stake was a more popular punishment for witchcraft in Europe, it seems.
  2. Van Gogh sliced off his own ear  - It seems like this might have been a fabrication.  Two German historians now think that Van Gogh's friend, Paul Gauguin, cut off his left earlobe in a fit of temper. Even if it is true that Van Gogh cut it himself, the truth is that we are talking about the earlobe not the entire ear so the statement still isn't entirely accurate.
  3. Magellan circumnavigated the world - Well, Magellan's ship did circumnavigate the world.  Magellan, himself, only made it about halfway.  He was killed by natives in the Philippines.
  4. Marie Antoinette said, "Let them eat cake!" - There is no evidence that she actually said this.  What's more, the phrase appeared in Jean-Jacque Rousseau's autobiography which was published when she would have been only 9 and it wasn't even attributed to her.  Besides, the phrase is actually, "Qu'ils mangent de le brioche!"  Brioche is an especially rich bread made with eggs and butter but not what we would call cake. Cake in French is "gateau". 
  5. Napoleon was a little corporal - Actually, he was 5' 7" which was taller than the average Frenchman in his day.  His nickname, Le Petit Corporal (The Little Corporal) might have to do with the fact that he surrounded himself with tall bodyguards and therefore looked short by comparison!
Image obtained from Wikipedia and found here.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Saturday Six - March 23, 2013

1. What is the best part of your job? (If you’re unemployed or retired, what’s the best part of your day?) Hmm... Well, it used to be when folks would ask me to make up a different report to show something as it is fun to have to figure out how to get the desired reports but we now have someone who does that sort of thing for all our different systems so I am not asked to do this.  I guess I most enjoy when I get to talk to one of our growers and answer their questions.

2. What was your favorite television show when you were a child? Well, it depends on what age but I always enjoyed watching Scooby Doo on Saturday mornings. (and I still like Scooby Doo!)

3. When you go to a coffee shop, what is your “usual” order? Skim milk latte, no syrup.

4. When you watch a movie, do you skip the previews or do you watch them all with anticipation? I like watching the previews so I can see what is coming out that I'd also like to see!

5. What’s the best thing that happened to you today (or this week)? Our hardwood floor came in so we can install it over the weekend!

6. Do you know any knock-knock jokes? If so, list it. Okay. But remember you asked for it!

Knock, knock.
Who’s there?
Norma Lee.
Norma Lee who?
Norma Lee I don’t go around knocking on doors, but I just had to meet you!

Knock, knock.
Who’s there?
CD who?
CD guy on your doorstep?

Knock, knock.
Who’s there?
Ivor who?
Ivor you let me in or I`ll climb through the window.

I'll stop there. *grins*

These are the Saturday Six from Patrick's Place!

Friday, March 22, 2013

What's in a Name?

I've decided that when I get married again - if I get married again* - I will not be changing my name.  I did that once and I'm not doing that again.

My fiance isn't sure he likes the idea but I think it's mostly because it is tradition for a wife to take her husband's name here in the US and he doesn't like doing things that are out of the ordinary. Yeah, I know.  He should be used to being a bit out of the mainstream as he's with me (a liberal in a conservative area, an atheist in a religious population) but that doesn't matter. He'll get used to the idea, I suppose.  He'll have to.  I'm not changing my name again.  I like this one.

The practice of a woman taking her husband's surname has always bothered me a little.  It reminds me of how women used to basically be their father's then their husband's property and that isn't something I think should be alluded to. I suppose it made a little sense when I was married the first time and presuming that I would be having children as it is nice for everyone in the family to have the same name.  Other than that, I can't think of a good reason that a woman should take her husband's last name.  Besides, there is no reason that the husband couldn't take the wife's name, is there? Or they could use some sort of combined name.  In short, there are other options that would still allow that connection between parents and their children.

I realize that I don't always think the same way others do so I thought I'd see what others in the US think about the issue. It surprises me to find out that, according to studies done in 2009, 70% of Americans think that women should take their husband's last name when they marry.  That sounds ridiculously high to me in this day and age. Not only that but about 50% of those polled felt that the government should require a woman to change her name!  What happened to all the talk of gender equality and such?

When I looked into the tradition, I was surprised to find that it is not something that is done world-wide. In some countries, a woman retains her birth name as her legal name but uses her husband's last name socially.  In other countries, she never uses his name.  Some countries, the couple chooses one or the other surname and both use it.  In others, they combine names and either the wife or both use the new name.  It varies greatly depending on where you live.  This Wikipedia article talks about how things are done all over the world. It's fascinating how many different customs there are!

None of this explains why it is more common for a wife to take her husband's surname today - in the US -  than it was in the 1990s, however. One could simply say that "tradition" is the reason but there are other traditions that we have had no problem discarding such as the wife promising to obey her husband in her wedding vows (in most cases). Perhaps, despite statements to the contrary, we haven't come as far as we thought we have when it comes to gender equality.  Perhaps that isn't the case at all and there is another factor I'm not thinking of.  It does give us something to think about in any event.

What do you think? Should a wife take her husband's surname? Is it important for her to do so? If so, why?

Image courtesy of Wikipedia and found here

*Note: This is not an indication of cold feet or that sort of thing.  It's just that I've been engaged for over 10 years now and I'm not positive that we will ever feel the need to actually tie the knot.  

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Truth About Detox Foot Patches

Do you remember this product?  Detox foot pads were all the rage several years ago - around 2008.

The idea was that you attached these pads to the bottom of your feet while you slept.  During the night, the pads would draw out heavy metals from your body and deposit them on the pads, darkening them.  In the morning, you would remove the pads and throw them away.  As you used them over time, the pads were supposed to be less dark indicating that they were working.

Users were supposed to have more energy and the pads were even touted to cure certain medical conditions! The manufacturer claimed they could be used to treat headaches, parasites, insomnia, depression, high blood pressure, diabetes and even cause weight loss.

I remember seeing an episode of the TV show 20/20 where these pads were discussed.  ABC has an article about what they found out on their website.  They had a group of people test the pads. All of them reported that the pads had darkened overnight so it appeared that something was happening.  The pads were sent to a lab that tested them.  The lab tested for 23 toxins and found none of them in the pads.  In fact, they discovered that even distilled water darkened the pads. Clearly the pads were not removing toxins as claimed!

Yep, the whole idea was a scam! In fact, the FTC banned the company that made one of the most popular brands, Kinoki, from marketing them in the US as they were making false medical claims.

I was aware of all this so imagine my surprise when I saw a similar product being sold on Amazon! In fact, a product using the name "Kinoki" is even available -though I'm not sure it is the same company as the package is different. I do see that they aren't making claims to cure any medical conditions but tell you that you will have more energy and that they will relax your muscles.  Still, it amazes me that these are still around even after it was proven that they do not do what they claim to do or anything at all!

I guess that only proves that there is not a lack of gullible people in the world, doesn't it?

image by .imelda and found here

Monday, March 18, 2013

5 Myths and Facts about Marijuana

The Pennsylvania state legislature is considering a bill that would make marijuana legal - but regulated-  in Pennsylvania.  We've recently seen similar legislation pass in some other states in the US.  I highly doubt that the bill will pass here in PA but if it does, the governor has vowed to veto it.

I've heard a lot of people talk about reasons why marijuana should or should not be legalized and regulated so I thought it was about time I checked into some of their claims.  I feel it is important to educate ourselves on the facts before we decide whether or not we agree with an idea or not.

Here are some common statements I've heard about marijuana and what I was able to discover about their accuracy.
  1. Marijuana is a "gateway drug" and people who use it often go on to try more dangerous drugs.  I'm fairly sure I heard this in school and I certainly have heard this recently. Unfortunately, we don't seem to have a good proof one way or another on this issue. Some studies seem to suggest that it is.  Other studies seem to indicate that it isn't. The Rand Corporation has an interesting take on this. Still, the only thing we can say is that we aren't sure, as dissatisfying as that answer is.  It is certainly not cut and dried. 
  2. Marijuana causes cancer. Marijuana smoke does contain cancer-causing agents, however, an extensive 2006 study surprisingly shows no link at all between lung cancer and smoking pot.  One theory of why this is so is that people who smoke marijuana - even heavily - don't smoke as much as a tobacco smoker does. Another theory is that the THC contained in a joint kills off cancer-causing agents.  In any event, it appears this statement may be false. We should keep in mind that we are only talking about the effects of smoking marijuana not consuming it. There seems to be no increased risk of cancer from ingesting cannabis.
  3. Marijuana is addictive. Well, it seems it can be but not on the level that heroin or even nicotine are addictive. Studies indicate that only 10% of marijuana smokers become addicted compared to 32% of tobacco users and 23% of heroin users. But yes. Some people will become addicted to marijuana.
  4. You can not overdose on marijuana.  This appears to be a fact. Scientists have decided that a lethal does of marijuana is about 1/3 your body weight consumed at one time or 1500 pounds consumed at once - depending on which study you quote. Thing is, these dosages seem impossible to accomplish. Most striking is the fact that there has never been a reported death from marijuana use.  
  5. Use of marijuana by teenagers can cause a drop in their IQ.  Studies seem to indicate that this is true.  This is why any legislation should make it legal for adults to consume - not children or teens. It is interesting to note that some studies show that alcohol use by teenagers might be more harmful to their brains than pot is.  Clearly we don't have all the answers so we should err on the side of caution.
To be honest, I'm not sure that I can think of any reason NOT to legalize marijuana based on what I've found thus far and I've not even delved into what decriminalization will do for our police departments and judicial system. Of course we need to try to keep the drug away from teenagers and children but this is not very different than the task of keeping cigarettes and alcohol away from children.  

Marijuana use might not be entirely without health risks but as long as we educate adults as to the possible risks/side effects it shouldn't be very different from using over-the-counter medications. The key is to educate the public about appropriate use and provide factual information without the rhetoric.

Image from Wikipedia and found here

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Saturday Six - March 16, 2013

1. AÑO (“Year”): Where do you see yourself in one year? Probably right where I am now.  That sounds rather sad but I'm not planning to move nor switch jobs - unless something new comes up when my company builds our new plant down the street.  There might be a new opportunity there for me.  We'll see.  I'd still be living here, though, if I did accept a different position.

2. CUÑA (“TV/Radio Spot*”): Which commercial do you find most annoying at the moment? Even though there seems to be no end of annoying commercials, I can't think of one right now.

3. JALAPEÑO: What’s the spiciest food you enjoy? I used to like hot wings but I don't eat chicken anymore. (nor do I eat any meat but fish or seafood anymore)  I do like a good fresh salsa, though, with a lot of cilantro!  Yum!

4. MAÑA (“Skill”): What would you consider to be your most valuable skill? I can work well with all sorts of different people.

5. PIÑA (“Pineapple”): What is your favorite “tropical” fruit? Coconut!

6. PIÑATA: Have you ever been to a party that featured a piñata, and if so, what was it stuffed with?  We bought a piñata to fill for one of my daughter's birthday parties.  We filled it with candy - too much candy, it appears, as no one could puncture it!  We had to rip it open for the kids.   

These are the Saturday Six from Patrick's Place!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Examining Evil

I read something recently that saddened me.  A blogger described an incident where her granddaughter came across a tortured, dead animal.  I'd link to her post but it appears that she's taken it down.

Without going into any details about what she saw, I'll just say that her mother quickly took her away from there. The child is young - maybe around 6 or 7 years old.  When she went to visit her grandmother, she told her about what she had seen. The grandmother explained to the child that most people in the world are good but that some people are evil.

My initial thought was that this was a good way to explain it to a young child.  It nags at me, though, because it isn't accurate.  People aren't either good or evil.  The world isn't black and white like that. Additionally, I'm not sure I'd use the term good or evil to describe actions, either, as it is much more complex than that.  I suppose one could call purely selfish actions "evil".  It doesn't seem to work for me, though. Perhaps when people set out with the intention to hurt another person we could call that evil.  I don't know. I contend that the labels just don't work - as much as we'd like them to.  I might consider an action evil while another would disagree.  It's subjective, isn't it?

Of course, we cannot explain any of this to a young child.

I guess there are adults who believe in labeling people as good or evil.  Perhaps they find it easier to slap a label on people and their actions than I do.  I get caught up in thinking about a person's intentions.  Did they mean to hurt another or was it simply a by-product of their behavior? Did they realize what they were doing to someone else or were they oblivious?  How accountable should they be for a result of their actions that was unintentional?  Surely we can't totally excuse people who go through life with blinders on and ignore those around them but... does that make them evil?

Wouldn't it be easier to acknowledge that we all fall into that middle territory between the extremes?  I don't think anyone could be totally evil nor totally good, could they?  Every one of us has the ability to make a decision to do something that hurts others - intentionally - and sometimes we do.  We justify those actions by telling ourselves that it was worth it or that hurting others was unavoidable - and perhaps it was - or that our victim deserved it - and perhaps they did.

We all have done things that we regret or that we later think we shouldn't have done.  I suppose there are inexcusable actions - premeditated murder comes to mind, of course.  Killing a defenseless animal also comes to mind - especially when the manner of doing so causes agony to the animal before they die.

But what do you tell a young child, then, when they come across the results of an action like that?

I guess I think it would be acceptable to tell the child that I just don't know why someone would do something like that - because I don't.  Additionally, it would be alright to describe the actions as a horrible thing to do.  Perhaps that's all that needs to be said.

What do you think?

Image by Crazii1 and found here

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Gerson Therapy - Effective Treatment or False Hope?

I first recall hearing about Gerson Therapy to treat cancer on a talk show.  I want to say that it was an episode of Oprah but I can't seem to find evidence that she had a show on this regimen once her show went national so I guess not.  Perhaps it was simply mentioned on her show once or perhaps my memory is faulty. It doesn't matter.  What does matter is that this treatment for cancer is still being considered by people in this day and age so I want to address it.

What is Gerson Therapy? It is a regimen that proponents claim cures cancer. The Gerson Institute website indicates that it is now being used to treat heart disease, arthritis, diabetes and several other conditions and illnesses. The therapy involves following a strict diet that includes drinking a lot of vegetable and fruit juices, taking supplements and having daily coffee enemas.

How is it supposed to work? The theory behind the treatment is the idea that cancer is caused by toxins that we encounter in our daily lives.  The enemas are to rid our bodies of these toxins while the fruit juices and supplements are supposed to provide nutrients to help our bodies fight off these toxins and their effects.

What is the attraction of this treatment as opposed to traditional medical treatments? This regimen is especially attractive to cancer patients who would normally be treated with chemotherapy or who have cancers that are not responding to normal treatment. Conspiracy theories that treatments like this work but drug companies don't want us to know about them are attractive to people especially if they are afraid of the usual treatments being ineffective or even fatal. It would also appeal to those who have been told that there is nothing that can be done to help them.

Is the therapy effective? There is no evidence that removing toxins is an effective treatment for cancer - or arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, etc.  There is no evidence that coffee enemas are effective at removing toxins, either.

Is the therapy dangerous?  If this treatment plan is followed instead of having conventional treatments it most certainly can be dangerous or even fatal!  Chemotherapy and other cancer treatments are more effective the sooner they are started.  If one waits for something like this to help them, they are wasting valuable time. Not only that but daily coffee enemas can result in dehydration which could be dangerous in a person who has other health issues.  So, yes. It is dangerous to follow this treatment instead of conventional treatments that are proven to be effective.

Conclusion.  Following a nutritious diet and drinking fruit and vegetable juices can be good for your health. This is not a substitute for medical treatments when they are warranted.  Your best options for beating cancer or any other serious illnesses will come from your doctors.  As with most things in life, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.  The same goes for treatments like this that are not backed up by scientific studies proving that they are effective.

Information in this post came from some of the following sources:
The American Cancer Society
Skeptic's Dictionary

Image by salmanahsan and obtained here

Monday, March 11, 2013

5 Myths and Facts about St Patrick

St Patrick's Day is held on March 17th and is coming up this week! 

I'm not Irish myself (as far as I know) but I generally wear green on St Patrick's Day anyway!  Green is my favorite color so it doesn't usually cause too much of a problem for me.  Besides, I understand that one is likely to be pinched if caught not wearing green so it is best to go along with the tradition, in my opinion.

In light of the upcoming holiday, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at some of the information about St. Patrick, himself, and the holiday bearing his name and see what is fact and what is fiction.
  1. St. Patrick was Irish.  Sounds like a no-brainer but actually... no.  He was born in Britain.  When he was 16, he was kidnapped and shipped to Ireland to tend sheep as a slave. He escaped 6 years later and returned home only to return to Ireland later in his life as a bishop.
  2. St Patrick banished the snakes from Ireland.  Well, there are no snakes in Ireland but... there never were.  Remember that Ireland is an island so there would be no way for snakes to migrate to it! This, too, is a myth.
  3. The first St Patrick's Day parade was held in the United States.  This one is actually true!! St Patrick's Day was a minor religious holiday in Ireland.  Generally, a family would have a small feast to celebrate but that was the extent of it.  The first parade was held in 1762 in New York City and they have spread all across the US. The parades are held more to celebrate Irish ancestry rather than to commemorate St Patrick, himself.  The holiday became much more of a celebration in Ireland once they realized how popular it was here in the US. The Irish soon realized they could increase spring tourism if they had more of a celebration themselves.
  4. It's customary to wear green in the US on St. Patrick's Day but that color is considered unlucky in Ireland.  This is true! It is thought to be the favorite color of "The Good People" (faeries) and superstitious people believe that a person is likely to be kidnapped if they wear too much of it.
  5. St Patrick used the shamrock to help illustrate the Christian Trinity.  This appears to be true.  He used it to help explain the three person in one god. It's interesting to note that the shamrock was already considered sacred in Ireland because it was thought to represent the triple goddesses in a common pagan religion in that area of the world.
My sources for these facts and myths are National Geographic (here and here) and Wikipedia (here).

Image found here

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Saturday Six - March 9, 2013

1. Å is for ÅKOMMA (“Ailment”): What illness do you most expect to deal with one day? I imagine arthritis is going to be more of an issue for me than it is now so we'll go with that.

2. Å is for ÅLDER (“Age”): Do you feel younger than your real age, older than your real age or at your real age?  I feel younger than my age most days. I'm still trying to figure out what happened to my 30s and most of my 40s!

3 .Å is for  ÅLDERON (“Old Age”): What part of retirement do you most look forward to? I hope to be lucky enough to travel when I retire!  There are so many places that I'd like to visit.  I just hope that I'm able to afford to do so.

4. Å is for ÅR (“Year”): Of the years you’ve lived through so far, which year was best for you? I honestly don't think I have an answer for this one.  There are good and bad times every year.

5. Å is for ÅSTED (“Crime Scene”)What’s the closest you’ve been to a real-life crime scene? Well... there was a shooting at the trailer park up the street a couple years ago so I'd say several blocks away - and that's close enough.

6. Å is for ÅTERVÄNDA (“To Return to a Place”): What place that you’ve visited in the past would you most like to return to some day?  I wouldn't mind returning to Paris one day.

These are the Saturday Six from Patrick's Place!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Rose-colored Glasses and our Children's Health

Last week, Patrick, of the blog Patrick's Place, wrote about a letter that went home to the parents of children in some Massachusetts school districts.  The letters told parents their child's BMI (body mass index) and whether that placed them in the normal, overweight or obese categories.

Some parents objected to the letters as they didn't account for especially athletic students who would have a higher percentage of muscle weight and because they felt the school was focusing on a number not the individual children.  I can understand this to a certain point but, as Patrick pointed out, we have to start somewhere in the fight against childhood obesity. Besides, I would guess that the vast majority of children who have a BMI that places them in the obese range actually do have a weight issue.

I encourage you to read Patrick's post as well as the comments. We had quite a discussion about the letters.  Feel free to join in on the discussion with your thoughts!

I was reminded of Patrick's post earlier this week when I was listening to NPR radio. They were discussing a study that seems to indicate that we may not have the most objective view of our own child's weight.  I have to wonder if this has something to do with the reaction of the parents over those BMI letters that were sent out in Massachusetts.

The study points out only 20% of parents in the US think that their children are overweight or obese. Figures from 2012 indicate that almost 32% of children in the US are overweight or obese so some parents aren't being objective when it comes to their children's weight.

It turns out that human beings tend to be optimistic when it comes to assessing health risks. We tend to think that bad news just doesn't apply to us and this shows in our reaction when we are faced with our own children's weight and possible future problems associated with it. The tendency to look on the bright side extends to other health-related issues so I encourage you to take a look at - or listen to - the NPR report to get more information.  Optimism can be a good thing but we have to be careful that we aren't ignoring potential health issues.

A neuroscientist, Tali Sharot, suggests that we should consider a different approach when we talk to parents about their children's health. One work-around she suggested would be to tell parents that eating meals as a family, eating healthier foods and exercising can "turbocharge" their children without mentioning weight at all.  This might accomplish more than asking parents to focus on their child's BMI.  Perhaps school officials simply need to change the way they communicate with families to get the results they are looking for. It's certainly something to consider.

NPR is running a series about families who are struggling to eat healthier and exercise that has quite a few good ideas that you might want to check out.  I'm especially interested in telling my daughter about another piece I heard about getting your children to eat their vegetables as her daughter is a picky eater.

Image by chloeloe and found here

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

What is the Attraction of Magnet Therapy?

[Yes.  I should be ashamed of myself for using that title but I couldn't resist!]

Every now and then I will come across an ad - usually in the back of a magazine - for magnetic bracelets which are supposed to help relieve pain. Of course I never thought that they would help.  After all, if you are selling something in the back of a magazine, it is probably not a high-end product.

Still, I did wonder if there was anything to magnet therapy at all so I did a little research.

What follows is the information I was able to find.

What is it?  Magnetic therapy involves applying magnets to various parts of the body (or wearing them) to create magnetic fields.  This is supposed to stimulate blood flow which is supposed to help relieve pain and/or help heal the body.  It is supposed to help relieve the pain of arthritis, headaches, and stress.  It is also supposed to heal broken bones, improve circulation, and cure cancer.

Does it work?  Despite the number of people who seem to believe that it does, I could find no reason to believe that this is an effective therapy based on scientific evidence. It seems like the placebo effect might have something to do with any positive results that people have.  One telling piece of information is that some websites selling magnetic bracelets tell you that they "wear out" after a couple of years so you need to buy a new one.  Well, of course they'd say that to keep you coming back for a new one periodically! Yes, magnets do wear out over time but I would think that a "high quality" magnet wouldn't wear out in a mere 2 years!

Have there been scientific studies of Magnet Therapy? Yes.  This 1997 study, this study from 2001, and this 2003 study all concluded that magnet therapy was not effective in treating pain.

Is it dangerous? I would imagine it is not dangerous to wear magnets or to have them around you under most circumstances, so no.  I don't think this is dangerous.  Neither does the American Cancer society - nor do they think it is effective.  [Although, it should be noted that Wile E. Coyote had a bad experience with a magnet in Compressed Hare - the magnet part begins around the 4:24 minute mark.  But I digress...]

What sort of training does a Magnetic Practioner go through? It appears that one can become a "certified" therapist though a home study course for around $1000 but I'm not sure what they do.  Most magnetic therapy seems to involve buying magnetic products to use, not visiting a therapist. I did see something called pulsed magnetic field therapy involving some sort of pad a patient would lay on for a period of time so perhaps a trained therapist would be involved in that sort of thing.

What does treatment cost? I'm unable to provide a dollar amount for seeing a practioner as there don't appear to be any in my area of the country. You can buy products containing magnets online, however.  This website sells everything from shoe insoles to jewelry to mattress pads.  Bracelets can be as cheap as $18 while a mattress pad can cost you nearly $550.  It looks like you could spend quite a bit of money on different items.

Conclusion:  This type of "therapy" seems to be very good at lining someone's pockets but there is no reason to believe that magnets will heal you or relieve your pain.  Save your money and use it to visit your physician.

Image found here

Monday, March 4, 2013

5 Myths and Facts about Minimum Wage

In his State of the Union Address this year, President Obama suggested that Congress raise the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $9.00 an hour.  There has been a lot of discussion about whether or not this is a good idea.

I'd like to take a look at some of the statements being made from both sides and see if we can discard the rhetoric and uncover the facts.

  1. Raising minimum wage will cause jobs to be lost. To be honest, this seems like a sensible conclusion.  If an employer has to increase what he is paying his employees, you'd think that he would try to make do with fewer employees to save costs.  Oddly enough, however, studies indicate that this doesn't seem to be the case. This article suggests several reasons why unemployment may not increase if the minimum wage is increased. Job loss seems not to be an effect of raising minimum wage.
  2. No one lives off of minimum wage.  It's just for teenagers. This is simply not true. The table on page 2 of this report indicates that in 2011 only 12% of minimum wage workers were teenagers. Most minimum wage workers are older and possibly trying to support a family with that income.  These people would be some of what we refer to as the working poor.  If you are paid $7.25 an hour, that means you make $15080 a year before taxes. Could you live on that?
  3. The increase of minimum wage has kept up with inflation.  Well, no. Minimum wage would be $10.56 an hour today if it had kept pace with inflation from 1968.  $9.00 seems more reasonable in this light, doesn't it?
  4. Low wage jobs are for unskilled workers.  Not necessarily...  Yes, the employee at the local burger joint probably is only paid minimum wage or close to it but have you thought about what security guards earn?  What about nurse's aides, child care workers and home health care workers? Bank tellers are not highly paid. Cooks, waiters and waitresses are generally not paid well, either.  All of these positions and many more are considered low-wage workers - paid at or slightly above minimum wage. My daughter worked as a nurses aide in a nursing home working with dementia patients - not a job for just anyone - and now works in a hospital ER.  She is a certified nursing assistant but she is not paid well for what she does (just over minimum wage in our state at the home but a bit more now at the hospital).  Think of the responsibility that is placed on workers like her but they are not paid well for what they do.
  5. Many states' minimum wages are actually higher than the federal rate. This is true! 17 states currently have a minimum wage that is higher than the federal minimum wage - though the majority of the states match the federal minimum wage.  The highest minimum wage is in Washington state where workers are paid at least $9.19 an hour!  They are the only state that would not be affected by a federal increase to $9.00 an hour.  This Wikipedia article breaks down the minimum wage by state - and territories - of the US.  Note:  Some states do not have a minimum wage law so they must use the federal wage.
Image obtained at

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Saturday Six - March 2, 2013

1. Z is for ZAKUSKA: What is your favorite appetizer in your favorite restaurant?
Shrimp Bruschetta

2. Z is for ZEPPELIN: If the great airships of old became an accepted form of transportation again, how likely would you be to travel in one of them? I'm fairly adventurous so I probably would try it at least once.

3. Z is for ZEPPOLE: Do you prefer doughnuts freshly made and still hot, chilled or at room temperature? Fresh and hot! Yum!

4. Z is for ZERO: What is a grocery item you’ve completely run out of at the moment? I believe I might be out of spaghetti sauce

5. Z is for ZOILISM: What subject do you feel people are too quick to criticize others about? Their political views, I suppose.

6. Z is for ZOOCULTURE: If money were no object and you could domesticate any wild animal and have it live with you, (and you knew the animal would be safe to live with), which animal would you choose to have as a pet? A white tiger or any big cat, to be honest.

These are the Saturday Six from Patrick's Place!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Plan B does not cause abortions

Some of you might remember that I've mentioned the craft store chain, Hobby Lobby, and that they have a problem with the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)  because they believe some forms of birth control  cause abortions.  Well, it seems that we now have scientific studies that have proven that this wrong.

People have complained primarily about Plan B - which is an emergency contraception to be taken by a woman within 72 hours of having unprotected sex.  It is highly effective at preventing pregnancy but scientists were not quite sure how it worked.  Some speculated that perhaps it prevented a fertilized egg to be implanted in the uterus. Some people took issue with this as they believe this is the same as causing an abortion. This is despite the fact that up to 50% of fertilized eggs normally pass through the uterus and fail to become implanted which would make "nature" an abortionist, I suppose.  In any event, it turns out that this is not the case.  The pills actually delay ovulation so there is no egg to be fertilized.

So... Plan B is not an abortifacient after all.  Perhaps this will cause Hobby Lobby to drop their case against the government.

This won't affect companies that are arguing that their owners/founders believe birth control, in general, is contrary to their religious beliefs.  Those companies would still have that argument to make, I suppose.

Image from Wikipedia and found here