Friday Focaccia

Do you have an adorable pet? Do you think others would think so to? Enter a photo of you pet in the Bissel MVP (Most Valuable Pet) Pet Photo Contest. The winning pet’s picture will be put on the new Bissell Pet Hair Eraser vacuum , and donation of $10,000 will be made to the charity of the winner’s (well winner’s owner) choice. Plus the top vote getter each week will win one of the Pet Hair Eraser vacuums, and the top 5 vote getters (getters?) will move into the finalist group. Grab your camera, snap a picture of your pet and send it in.  (Contest ends 04/30/08)

Why I hate people from Alaska – You remember Sen. Stevens (R-Alaska), of “The Internet is a series of tubes” fame?  Well, he is at it again, along with apparently equally dimwitted Senator Bill Nelson (D-Florida) and Senator Olympia Snow (R-Washington), who have introduced a bill to outlaw the already illegal practice of phishing.  Sounds a bit like yet another Bridge to Nowhere.  Of course I can’t but wonder, if it doesn’t pass if Stevens will throw another one of his hissy fits and threaten to quit the Senate.  Of course, I can always dream.

Your rights trampled in the name of profits – It seems Monsanto is on a tear again, pushing for lawmakers to get rid of your right to select milk not tainted with synthetic growth hormones.  Whether or not you believe or care about the rBST/rBGH controvery or not, you should care about your rights, as this is not the only product that is being targeted by large companies to get labeling stripped to keep the consumer in the dark.  Contact your representatives, and tell them, you have a right to know.

Emeril going green – Emeril is coming to the Discovery Channel with a new eco-friendly food show.  The show reportedly will be set in Whole Foods Markets and will feature organic, free range and natural foods.

And how about now? – Yes, I know I can understand if you are tired of me mentioning TheMeatrix, and Sustainable Table, and other food “activist” type things, because how could farms possibly be as bad as it is show in that little animated movie… right?  Well what about this video?  That is not fiction!  That is not “a demonstration” or even a theoretical re-enactment.   No cute little animation here.  This is the actual goings on that lead to the single largest recall of beef (to date) in the United States. [Via Sustainable Table Blog]

That time of the year

I have always suffered from what is commonly known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (or S.A.D.)  In simple terms it is a form of depression that is basically believed to be brought on by a lack of sunlight, and a corresponding lack of serotonin.  In itself, it is a difficult thing to deal with, but the seeming lack of acknowledgment of its existence from far too many healthcare professionals makes it at time downright maddening.

But this isn’t about me.  I know I have it, I have my coping mechanisms, and when they don’t work, I now have people that I can go to that can help.  The reason I bring this up is more about the kids.  When I was young, S.A.D. wasn’t even a diagnosis that would come into play (at the time it was strictly considered a condition for places much closer to the Artic regions where sunlight becomes even more scarce or downright non-existant in the winter).  But just as bad, it is still overlooked often today.

As adults, we have more of a tendency to “know” when we are out of sorts and when we just don’t feel quite right.  Not necessarily always, but we do tend to know when something is at least out of the ordinary.  Kids do not have this mechanism (or perhaps experience) to recognize this or at least how to verbalize it.

Kidshealth.org has an excellent article which includes some things to look for in your child (this includes teens as well) and to be aware of.   These symptoms include:

  • Changes in mood during winter months (admittedly, this can be a difficult one to recognize in teenagers, as their moods change often)
  • Lack of enjoyment in activities that the child normally likes doing
  • A lack of energy or unusual tiredness or fatigue
  • Changes in eating habits (often associated with lots of simple carbs, and sugary “comfort foods”)
  • Difficulty in concentrating  (Does your child tend to do better in the beginning and end of the year, but not so much so in the mid-year?)
  • Less time socializing

This isn’t a checklist.  A child suffering from SAD doesn’t need to display all of these symptoms, nor do they need to obvious.  The changes can just as easily be subtle (depending of course on how severe the case is).  It may not simply be a case of “the blues.”

Food Battle

Since more than 50% of people are against animal cloning according to a study done by the International Food Information Council, I am confident that I am not alone when I say how disappointed I am at the FDA approving cloned animals to be used in our food supply. What bothers me more than that, is that the companies that lobbied the FDA to get this through, are aware (as I am sure the FDA is as well) at the negative response, and because of this have gone through the effort to hide it by refusing to require food derived from cloned animals to be marked as such. Sort of a Don’t Ask Don’t Tell for Clones.

This of course leads to the potential for labels from those that do not use cloned animals to mark their products as such. But let us look for a second at an issue that I have mentioned here before, the use of synthetic hormones in milk. Dairies that have chosen to not use Monsanto’s rBGH/rBST should under the same theory be “free” to let consumers know that they produce a product that does not use these hormones, giving consumers that would rather not use them a choice. Simple enough, right? Wrong! Monsanto tried the court route, with mixed results, certainly not good enough for them. Suddenly now there appears to be a genuine campaign to get these labels removed, so that consumers will not be allowed to chose for themselves.

Is this what the FDA means by “free to label or mark their products?”  The simple fact is, that they assume an uneducated consumer is the best consumer, because that means more profits at the expense of your health… not that you would know it, because the FDA… who is supposed to be watching out for the best interest of the people, are all too quickly giving in to pressure from politics and big business.

It is coming to a point, where regardless of how careful you are or try to be with what you feed your family, these corporations have the money to take away your right to know what it is that you are eating.  If this all sounds “anti-business” it isn’t.  It is about anti-corrupt-businesses.  Businesses like Monsanto that have no ethics and cheat and lie to the public and try to buy off politicians.  Heck, I have all the respect in the world for companies like Burger King.  Are they selling products that are, well questionable in nutritional value and awful in regards to fat?  Of course.  And they make no bones about it.  They tell you simply the way it is.  We cater to fat people with big appetites.  Sure, a bacon cheeseburger is loaded with fat.  But if you are a big person, with a big appetite, and want something that has 5 layers of cheese, burger and bacon, and want to consume all that fat in one sitting, then we are happy to serve you.  It is not healthy.  It is not smart.  But they aren’t trying to get lawmakers to ban health food stores for “misleading customers by claiming that their tofu is a better choice” as their defense.  It is disgusting… but it is honest.   You want to eat that… you know what you are getting and are making a choice.

Unfortunately, when it comes to cloning (and unless we can stop it soon milk as well), you can’t make such a choice.

A game does not a gamer make

Kristen from Motherhood Uncensored was looking for feedback, on kids and computer/video games. This started out as a comment, but when my comment started developing into paragraphs, I thought perhaps it would be better addressed here. (nobody has ever accused me of being short winded)

First of all, she asks the question(s),”Is your tot a gamer yet? Ever? Never?” and in there is I think some of the problem. Commenters also played along and went with the same language and theory. However, “gamer” certainly draws a certain connotation to it (whether you believe that connotation is good or bad is wholly dependant on your POV) that I don’t think applies to kids. They play a game. In the case of some games like V.Smile or Leapster, they even LEARN while they are “playing” (not “gaming”).

I think the fear that every kid that knows how to use a computer is going to turn into some sort of computer zombie slayer is quite overblown. If anything, my bet would be that the exact opposite would often play out to be the truth.  Much the same way that kids that are completely denied sugar are the ones that often hit the candy racks the hardest when they are able to do so, the kid that is denied the opportunity to use computers, whether purely for learning, or even for some amount of entertainment, would be the ones that I would be on to become gaming addicts later as they attempt to make up for lost time.   Not to mention the fact that in this day and age, you are putting your child at a distinct disadvantage if you do not introduce them to technology in a society that whether you like it or not is technology driven.

Of course, like everything else, there needs to be limits.  Limits on the amount of time spent on the computer.  Limits to what they are allowed to play or use, and other common sense rules apply here as well as with anything else.  The fact of the matter is, if you keep it age appropriate, at a young age, whether they realize it or not, while they are playing these games they are learning something… colors, numbers, associations… there is learning going on there, interactive, touch and work with it learning.  Even Seasame Street can’t compete with that, let alone anything else that they might happen to watch on the “idiot box.”

Of course, TV has been outed for the most part as not necessarily the best baby sitter in the world, but most parents do employ it as least once in a while in an effort to get something done, or to find a couple of minutes to get in the shower, maybe get dinner ready without somebody hanging at your heels crying “I booooored.”  And to be honest, again if you keep it smart, and within limits I don’t thing there is anything wrong with that.  And “computer time” could simply be used as another way to not only teach but entertain.  Given a choice, I would rather my daughter grab her Reader Rabbit game, or log on to Playhouse Disney and play some games that teach her something that to give in to another hour or even half hour in front of the TV.

In the second grade, this has already paid off dividends for me and LatteGirl.  She had a science project last week (Don’t get me started on already having week long projects in the second grade), where she needed to look up different types of animals and find out facts about them.  With no help (but WITH supervision), she logged into Encarta, pulled up facts on each animal, and even copy and pasted the URL for each animal and pasted it into notepad so she could print out her bibliography.  I don’t know if I tasked TheWife with this project, if she could have completed the reseach any better or any faster than our seven year old.  That is not a knock on TheWife, but it is a telling scenario of just how proficient LatteGirl has gotten at using her PC.

Sure, when we were in school, we had to walk uphill both ways in the snow, get permission from Mrs. Shushman to go and dust off a seventy pound Encycolpedia to do our research.  But those days are gone.  Your not protecting anybody by keeping technology out of your kids hands.  If anything, you may be hurting them.  If they are going to turn into a gamer (not that there is anything wrong with that), they are going to do it whether or not you let them play an interactive game when they are young.  Our society is to technologically advanced to sit back and try and deny it is there.

Friday Focaccia – TGIF Edition

Most people (except those that work weekends), are usually happy when Friday rolls around.  But in our household this is definitely a week we would like to put behind us and not look back at.

It started with me getting a new laptop with Microsoft Vista.  I guess I am getting old, because this “cool new interface”  (some of course claim it is nothing but a Mac ripoff), is nothing short of annoying, and instead of making my life easier has slowed me down dramatically.  Now from a sneak peek I had gotten, I already knew that I hated Office 2007, but until I started to actually use Vista, I had no idea how dumbed down they made it, which is slowing me and my production down immensely.  Microsoft is very lucky that I am too invested in Windows to switch.  Of course, as this week went along, it turned out my Vista issues were the least of my worries.

As I had already mentioned we had the the discovery that my step father-in-law has advanced Lung Cancer which has already spread, and was given “6 to 9 months.”  What I have been avoiding talking about to this point was the TheWife had to go in for a biopsy on a “surpising large” lump that was found during her last breast exam.  It was thought because of the size and speed it had grown that perhaps it was just a puss filled cyst.  Well that was not the case, and it is a solid mass, so now we get the joy of sitting around a week waiting for results.  In most cases this would not be a big deal, but considering the news we got earlier in the week, nerves are to say the least frazzled.

OK, perhaps it isn’t really all that much, but I still am quite happy to put this week “in the books” and move on.  So let’s go to some less serous things shall we.

Idiot Savant – Week after week, I continue to be amazed that Helen Popkin continues to be employed as a columnist with MSNBC.  What I can’t figure out is if this is MSNBC’s way of trying to be hip, to have a “blog like” column written by a complete idiot, or if they are trying to pick on bloggers in general by having such trash highlighted.  Her latest piece, “How Technology has ruined life for our kids” really highlights her intellectual level as she laments that thanks to technology kids don’t have the joy of making crank calls anymore, or that thanks to “nannycams”, your poor babysitter won’t know the joys of being able to rifle through everything in your home while you are out.  She does point out some more meaningful stuff such as that fall or embarassing momment that my have just gone unnoticed or at least forgotten relatively quickly in years gone by can now live in infamy on You Tube.  But overall, this article is more proof than anything that she listed, since in today’s technology age, this is what can pass for news.  I feel sorry for the kids of tomorrow.

Propaganda as News – Then there is this other brilliant story that the Associated Press picked up (but I guess I can’t blame them as they are just reporting it).  According to a report to be published, a panel of “Medical Experts” concluded that Pot smokers are at a higher risk of psychosis.  Now let me point out up front just to be clear, I do not nor do I condone smoking pot, so you can not say, “Well it is because he is ‘pro-pot’” as that is not the case.  But this isn’t even a complete study.  This is a panel reviewing other studies and pulling out what they want to “prove” a point.  Now deep in the article it is admitted that they can not say if there are any “pre-existing conditions” that perhaps led to this.  They can’t even rule out that this is because a certain number of people happened to go on to other drugs.  They can’t even tell you what came first.  Perhaps people that are at risk of psychosis are more likely to seek out pot as a way of dealing with their condition.  None of these facts though was enough to keep them from making their declarative conclusion.   Would anybody be surprised when I say that the study was funded by the British Health Deparment, which (like the U.S. health department) has a vested interest in “Just Say No”?

 When does it happen too often to be called news? – After her lastest fiasco with a former Personal Assistant, I just officially give up on reading anything that contains the words Lindsay Lohan.  She needs to be hospitalized, incarcerated or both.  Not only for her own good, but for the good of the population in general.  She really has just become a public menace, and she is going to kill somebody if they don’t put a leash on that animal.

 News you can’t tell anybody - It has been a good year cheering the New Jersey Supreme Court, with the decisions that they have come down with (Abuse of Eminant Domain, Forcing equal rights for same sex couples), but that came crashing down yesterday when they declared unanimously that homeowners in “private communities” are NOT protected by 1st Amendment Rights, and things such as signs or displays on the lawn can be banned by the homeowners association of the community.  It is widely believed that the New Jersey case will have implications throughout the country.

WTF News – Couple denied adoption of a child for being too fat. (CNN Video story can be seen here.  News.com.au report can be read here.)  Look, I understand obesity is a problem, but is bias against fat people the answer?  This is actually becoming more of a problem (and not with just adoption) as people and officials seem to be developing definite discriminating tactics in dealing with overweight people.