Saturday, March 31, 2007

Vintage Plastics

I'm off to enjoy the sun and a beautiful weekend here in the Tampa Bay Area. There's much going on, and I don't want to miss it. I just discovered that this is the most event-filled weekend of the year! So, here's an informative little piece I wrote on vintage/antique plastics. It was designed to teach how to test for Bakelite:

There is something enchanting about Bakelite and Galalith (a.k.a. French Bakelite). Both are very old plastics dating from the late 1800s/early 1900s. These products allowed jewelers to get creative with shapes, designs, and colors and introduced costume jewelry to the masses.


Some people (including dealers!) have actually mistakenly believed that the ONLY vintage plastic worth collecting is Bakelite. However, Galalith is a similar plastic with a different chemical makeup that actually predates Bakelite by a full decade!

While Bakelite is made of phenol and formaldehyde, Galalith is made of milk proteins. So if your "Bakelite" piece doesn't test out to be Bakelite, don't be too hasty to discard it! It could be Galalith and further testing is needed. There are also additional old, collectible plastics such as celluloid, so don't assume your piece has no value if it's not Bakelite. There are specific collectors who prefer Galalith or celluloid to Bakelite (I actually collect all three).


*A Quick Note about Terminology* Bakelite is a common term for plastics that were made with phenol and formaldehyde. Another type of Bakelite is called Catalin, but we'll use the term Bakelite here to describe ALL plastics of this composition.


Be aware of the fact that Bakelite was fashioned into many items such as furniture knobs, electrical outlet plates, brush and mirror sets, and pretty much anything else that we use plastic for today. So, if you have something made of plastic that's particularly old, test it before you discard it.


Almost all experts agree that the best test for Bakelite is the Simichrome test: It's foolproof! Simichrome is a metal polishing paste that is a faint tannish-pink in color. Take a small amount of Simichrome and apply it to a Q-tip. Rub it onto the plastic in question, and if the plastic turns the cream to a mustard color, you know you have Bakelite.

NOTE: Do the Simichrome test on a portion of the piece that won't show (such as the back of the piece) and don't rub hard - you don't need to. Also, clean your piece with soap and water before you perform the test, and clean it again afterwards.

There are other chemicals and methods that people advise, but none of them are as non-invasive or as conclusive as the Simichrome test. For instance, some people suggest a hot pin (which can crack, melt, or burn the object). I've also heard other chemicals recommended which can permanently dull or mar the finish of a piece.

So, trust me: Invest in Simichrome polish. It's truly worth it and it's not that expensive (it runs about $10, on average). You can purchase it on Ebay or you may be able to find it locally at a hardware or car parts store.


Your piece may still be collectible and may be worth as much, or more. Run it under very hot tap water: How does it smell?

Perhaps it smells like wet wool, mothballs, or another strong chemical smell. If so, it's likely that your piece is celluloid.

Perhaps it smells like burnt or sour milk. If so, you probably are holding a piece of Galalith (a.k.a. French Bakelite).

Friday, March 30, 2007

Circumcision Helps Prevent AIDS

In a stunning revelation, the World Health Organization (WHO) has disclosed a series of 3 medical trials in Africa that have finally put a 20+ year-old controversy to rest. Circumcision is, indeed, better: In fact, it can prevent AIDS!

These 3 trials showed that male circumcision reduced the risk of heterosexually-acquired HIV infection in men by approximately 60 per cent.

Any Americans who have had male children in the last 20+ years have been subject to Circumcision Angst: Is circumcision worth the pain it might cause the baby? However, uncircumcised boys are often the source of jokes. In the locker room they stick out in the crowd (no pun intended) and they must be very careful to clean themselves thoroughly or they take the chance of repulsing their partner and, of course, they risk disease.

Often we have been told that the most compelling reason to circumcise is when the father is circumcised himself. This has always made little sense to me: If the father has brown hair, do we need to die his son's hair to match, too? After all, if we're worrying about matching penises, shouldn't the curtains match the carpet?

However, my father's best friend (a cardiologist) helped sway our decision when he told us of studies that show the partners of circumcised men are less likely to get cervical cancer. Looking ahead to his future wife and children, it was an easy decision to make.

In America, the vast majority of men are circumcised, but only 30% of the men in the entire world's population are! So, the WHO has a daunting task ahead of them. However, this is achievable.

For instance, in some parts of Africa it is traditional to circumcise the male in late childhood or early adolescence. We don't do that in America because this causes unnecessary pain with the chance of serious complications. Since studies indicate that infants experience less pain and complications when circumcised, we choose to do it as soon as possible. However, in Africa this means that it will be easier to sell the idea to older boys as well as targeting the babies.

And the truth is that circumcision, even late in life, is preferable to death by AIDS.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Iran Thumbling Nose at U.S. / U.K.

Well, I'd like to write something more jolly. I really would. But this simply sticks in my craw: Iran is thumbing their nose at us, while we do nothing.

This reminds me a little of the scene in Monty Python's The Holy Grail, when the Frenchman is mocking King Arthur safely from his castle's battlements. Like King Arthur, we're sitting and taking it, looking vaguely puzzled as it continues.

Iran has made it very clear: They think we're weakened by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and they feel that they have the majority of the world backing them. And, they're not far from wrong.

However, if the U.S. were in the hands of a capable leader, these complications would not exist.

Now, I'll admit that the majority of the Arab world is pathetically uneducated and easily manipulated. Even if they see defeat directly, they are all too happy to believe that either they are the exception ( and others must be winning), or that they're guaranteed a better place in the afterlife.

Such ignorant and superstitious people can be dangerous, because they have no grounding in common sense and have nothing to live for. That complicates things for us, because it means that we have to teach each and every one of them a lesson that would be obvious to an educated middle school child. And that means that we can't simply make an example of one person or even one country. Instead, we must tackle each new problem as it comes. However, we're not doing this decisively. If they don't see immediate punishment come as a result of their actions, they will never learn their lesson.

All our dithering and hand-wringing will accomplish nothing. Neither will nation-building or ground troops. Have we learned nothing from the Iraqi war? We need to get in, and we need to get out.

We can do this one of two ways: We can send in an air raid and bomb their capital and major infrastructure, or we can change our national policy to allow covert assassinations of world leaders once more. I recommend that we consider doing both, since obviously playing The World's Policemen has not worked.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Body Lotions

OK, everyone. I'm exceedingly uninspired today (please forgive me). Therefore, I'm going to treat you to an analysis of body lotions that I recently wrote. Men will probably find it quite dull, so I apologize in advance. Read no further if you're in danger of falling asleep and drooling all over your keyboard!

As we age, we tend to suffer increasingly from skin complaints like dryness, patchiness, and cellulite. And living in Florida, where the sun beats down on us daily, we also have learned the need to seek daily UV protection. Perhaps this is why I've grown increasingly interested in finding the perfect body lotion.

Before I go any further, let me say that I am being completely impartial and stand to gain nothing by endorsing any of these products.

Following is what I've discovered:

BIOTHERM I adore this product line, which can be found in department stores or online. There's just something about it that you must experience yourself. I have found their skincare to be superior to almost anything else. They claim that their "purified and patented the scientific key to the effectiveness of (their) products." Certainly something sets them apart from the rest, and it's not mere marketing.

I highly recommend any of their body products, but specifically I would urge you to try their body firming and shaping line. They were the first to introduce such items, and they are definately the experts in the field. Of course Biotherm is no longer alone in this, and they aren't inexpensive; so if you're on a budget, treat yourself only occasionally. I wish I could recommend a good Biotherm SPF body lotion, but they do not produce any.

BATH & BODY WORKS There is a Bath & Body Works store in virtually every mall I've ever entered. This means the product is very available, and the price is quite reasonable. They often have sales which bring a quality product within easy reach of even the most frugal budgets. Their lotions are, without question, of superior texture and quality. They easily absorb into the skin with the right amount of fragrance that lingers without overpowering. This is true even when the lotion is specifically designed for dry skin (I've noticed that other manufacturer's lotions have a tendency to be "stickier"). However, none of their daily body lotions contain sunscreen, which is a pity.

MARY KAY This is a company that has done much to dispel their old image of greasy lotions. At one time their face makeup remover cream could be used alternatively to grease door hinges. However, their new lines definately have the same quality as department store brands (and are just as pricey). Their TimeWise Cellu-Shape Contouring System has impressed me when it comes to cellulite control. Their other various moisturizers are quite good, and leave no greasy residue while delivering lasting fragrance (although this fragrance can be, at times, a little strong). However, they have no daily body lotions with sunscreen.

If I were in the market for a simple body lotion, I would turn to Bath & Body Works, instead, since their prices and availabilty are superior. But, if you find yourself suddenly in the midst of a Mary Kay party with your hostess staring pleadingly at you, you can't go wrong with one of their lotions.

OLAY Despite the fact that Olay products (at can be found in any corner drugstore or supermarket, Olay's Regenerist facial cream was declared to be #1 by Consumer Reports in a recent review. They've come a long way since the 1970s, when they had earned the reputation of being cheap and oily (which is one of the reasons they shortend their name to "Olay" from the former "Oil of Olay"). Their Regenerist UV Defense Regenerating Lotion is superior to any other product which I've tried. The average price for a 2.5 oz. bottle seems to be $18. However, I've seen it on Ebay for $9-$10.

The Olay website says "Perfect for daytime use, Olay Regenerist UV Defense Regenerating Lotion combines the exclusive Olay amino-peptide complex with vitamin C, Olay moisture and UVA/UVB (SPF 15) sunscreen to speed surface cell turnover and enhance skin's condition one cell at a time. This light, non-greasy formula with a light, fresh scent smoothes evenly onto the skin and includes light-bending powders to soften the look of fine lines and wrinkles."

SHISEIDO The Shiseido product can be found in department stores or online. They take UV protection seriously. Of all the products that I've reviewed here, they have the highest SPF levels by far. Shiseido states that they have "...developed a unique PA rating system to show the level of protection against UVA rays (aging rays), with the highest index being PA+++ as extremely effective protection." If SPF is of utmost importance, this is the product I would recommend. But be warned: Shiseido also quite pricey. My favorite Shiseido body lotion is the Ultimate Sun Protection Face & Body Lotion. It's available in 18 SPF, 33 SPF, and 50 SPF.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Iraq: New Tourism Destination

Iraq has apparently become the chic travel destination for our national Congress.

The waiting list is long, because so many lawmakers have decided they need a guided tour in order to be able to make up their minds about national policy concerning Iraq; just like all our famous leaders before them. Everyone knows how much travel-time Congress put in during World War II.

Let's face it: These congressional representatives want the thrill of living on the edge with none of the consequences that our troops face on the ground. They want a taxpayer all-expenses-paid vacation, in which they'll stay in an elegant hotel in a neighboring country, and then be shipped in for a quick tour before they're whisked away to safety again. And, this is supposed to teach them...what?

Meanwhile, British troops are languishing in Iranian prisons while the Iranians trumpet defiance across the waters, beating their chests loudly. Although surely someone is doing something, it's apparently not enough.

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Terrifying Overreach of the FBI

Today I ran across something that I honestly hadn't heard about yet. It is a bone-chilling example of how we are either losing (or are in the process of losing) our individual rights.

Before I discuss this latest atrocity, let me say something: Every time I sound a warning, there are many people who dismiss it. They say they're willing to give up their individual rights in exchange for safety. I fear that we have fallen so fast and so far, our nation may never recover from it if we don't act immediately.

If you are about to say that you're happy giving away your freedoms for security, first contemplate the reality of this. Take it one step further and envision what the government can do with such tremendous power. The framers of our Constitution certainly did, and that's why they crafted it as carefully as they could. Are we smarter than Benjamin Franklin? Better than Thomas Jefferson? Wiser than George Washington?

No. Our society may have advanced, but the individual has actually regressed, both in education and in courage. This dumbing down of America has created a nation of sheep, not wolves.

If our people were suddenly transported back in time, the American Revolution would never have happened. Men would sneer at George Washington's leadership, and refuse to fight or slog through the snow without shoes, as his dedicated soldiers did. Families would refuse the sacrifices that were expected of the colonials at that time. "What? Go without luxuries?" we would cry. "Bring on the taxes!"

If our people were transported to WW2, we would be speaking German now and concentration camps would be as normal as nightclubs.

Until we stand up and write our local congressional representatives, we will not be able to fight this insidious decline.

So, what has alarmed me to such a degree?

In today's Washington Post there is an article that you must read. It is written by a man who has been subjected to a National Security Letter issued by the FBI.

I had never heard of a National Security Letter. Until recently, they didn't exist. But the Patriot Act has given the FBI untold and never before experienced powers. As the article states:

"The Justice Department's inspector general revealed on March 9 that the FBI has been systematically abusing one of the most controversial provisions of the USA Patriot Act: the expanded power to issue "national security letters." It no doubt surprised most Americans to learn that between 2003 and 2005 the FBI issued more than 140,000 specific demands under this provision - demands issued without a showing of probable cause or prior judicial approval - to obtain potentially sensitive information about U.S. citizens and residents."

Furthermore, these letters are accompanied by gag orders, so the recipient cannot discuss it with anyone besides his attorney(s). As the anonymous writer states, "Without the gag orders issued on recipients of the letters, it is doubtful that the FBI would have been able to abuse the NSL power the way that it did."

Although the Patriot Act specified that the FBI was to keep Congress fully informed, it did not. The report revealed that "the FBI significantly underrepresented the number of NSL requests in 2003, 2004 and 2005."

Please take this latest revelation seriously. Simply because you aren't a terrorist does not make you immune. Some day the government may suddenly decide it doesn't like you because you're Jewish, Christian, gay, Buddhist, dark skinned, light skinned, conservative or liberal. And that day can come at any time. We have seen this proven repeatedly throughout history, and we have seen how quickly we are losing our rights in only the 6 years that President Bush has been in office.

As a nation, we have made a step in the right direction: We have elected a Congress that may push back. We need to encourage them. We can no longer merely elect someone and then sit back and wait. We all must act.

Take the time to click on the link above and write to your local congressional representatives. If it's easier or you're in a time-crunch, simply send them a copy of this article and add "Me too!"

As Benjamin Franklin said during the crafting of the Constitution, "We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately."

Saturday, March 24, 2007

How the Codependency Movement is Ruining Marriages

I was counseling an unhappy wife one day. She had already admitted that the difficulties were not coming from her husband. "I have a codependency issue," she said glibly to me.

"No," I assured her firmly, much to her surprise. "You don't!"

Although codependency is a favorite pop-psychology term, it is not listed in the DSM-IV-TR diagnostic manual, which is an industry standard. In fact, many mental health professionals do not believe that it exists. This label originally came from the 12-Step Program, and is usually used to excuse away bad choices and behaviors. "Oh I can't help it," it is often said or implied. "I'm a codependent."

In a time when we don’t like to believe in right and wrong any more, codependency is a convenient diagnosis.

Codependency has been bantied about so often on TV and in books that it has become an accepted diagnosis. It was popularized in Melody Beattie’s wonderful books “Codependent No More” and “Beyond Codependency.” But although Melody writes well and gives much sage advice, she is primarily responsible for the growing misuse and misdiagnosis of codependency.

Codependency does not exist. However, it is an “easy” diagnosis that most people prefer, because it often allows them to avoid confronting their true inner conflicts. People who are misdiagnosed with codependency seem to fall into two categories:

1. UNHEALTHY: This person is very troubled. He’s in a toxic relationship due to his own mixture of unhealthy practices, values, and beliefs which he has formed that prevents him from living a happy and productive life.

2. HEALTHY: This person may have some mild issues that she's dealing with. However, she is mistakenly diagnosed as "codependent" when the root cause could be something completely different. Often, the source of her problems might be anxiety or depression or other troubles that can be solved with medication and/or counseling. When she is treated successfully for the underlying cause(s), her "codependency" is solved.

Sometimes a perfectly healthy individual (with no issues whatsoever but old-fashioned loyalty and fidelity) might be mislabeled as codependent. It becomes a risky diagnosis, because levels of loyalty and love vary from one person to the next. Who dares to measure how "healthy" it is to love deeply and love well? Mind you, I'm not addressing obsessive preoccupation with a loved one: I'm saying that many different people experience many different degrees of love. Devotion in a relationship should not be automatically labeled as "codependent".

It is very possible for a primarily healthy person to find herself suddenly in a relationship with an unhealthy person. Both partners may be misdiagnosed as codependent, when the situation is much more complicated than that.

Let me illustrate this:

Adam and Barbara have only been married for a short time. Each of them came into the marriage with a certain set of expectations and preconceptions. Adam assumed that marriage was merely a continuation of their dating relationship. He still expects to tee-off with the boys every Saturday morning and go fishing with his best friend, Ted, every other Sunday.

However, Barbara grew up in a family in which her parents were exceptionally close and never did anything without each other. She believes that her partner is her best friend as well as lover and roommate. Since Adam and Barbara have the weekends off together, she is growing to resent Adam’s playtime with the boys. While Adam is off with his friends, she either sits at home alone or goes on outings with friends and family. But the problem is that most of her friends have marriages in which their own families come first, so they are often too busy to commit to her. And, her family is always asking where Adam is.

Barbara begins to regularly demand that Adam spend less time with the boys. Adam grows resentful of this and tells her that she’s being “codependent”. This escalates into a regular series of arguments in which Barbara nags ineffectively, and Adam dismisses her concerns. Barbara says that she never would have agreed to get married if she’d known that she was going to be neglected. Adam says that he would never have married Barbara if he’d known that she was going to change overnight. Neither one wants a divorce, because it’s against their religious beliefs.

Are Barbara and Adam “codependent”? No. It’s more complex than mere “codependency.” First, both partners need to work on their communication skills and should learn the art of compromise and conflict resolution.

Adam is currently being selfish and inflexible. He made the vow to Barbara that he was going to forsake all others, but he isn’t doing so.

Barbara is also being unfair. She allowed Adam to blithely walk into the marriage under the assumption that no changes were expected. Perhaps this was unconscious on Barbara’s part, but if there is poor communication in a relationship, both partners need to take responsibility for it.

To their credit, Adam and Barbara were devoted, not codependent. They chose to put each other’s needs and desires before their own, and worked out a healthy compromise. Barbara is now taking golfing lessons and driving the cart when Adam and the boys go golfing, which they now only do once a month. And when Adam goes fishing with Ted, they bring their wives along or they cut the trip short so that Adam can spend some quality time with Barbara.

There are couples like Adam and Barbara that are misdiagnosed as “codependent”. But if these couples hide behind such pop-psychology, and don’t get to the root of their problems, their marriages are doomed to fail.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Debunking Management Fads

When I went to college in the late 80s, management fads were in their infancy stage. We cut our teeth on Tom Peters' books "In Search of Excellence" and "Thriving on Chaos", John Naisbitt’s “Megatrends”, and Kenneth Blanchard's "One Minute Manager".

When I taught college in the 1990s, most of those texts had already been replaced by Roger von Oech’s “A Whack on the Side of the Head”, Stephen Covey’s “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, and there was a resurgent interest in Og Mandino’s “The Greatest Salesman in the World” (originally published in 1968).

Businesses were paying for expensive seminars with Anthony Robbins, who hopped about the stage like a frenzied lab rat being hit with repeated jolts of electricity. Women and minorities were gaining increasing footholds in the workplace. Corporate re-engineering was a hot trend in the early 1990s: Companies started streamlining to save money and "downsizing" came into vogue. Corporate Raiders were hot, employee rights were not. Born from this environment, Michael Douglas starred in the movie “Falling Down” in 1993. This movie was representative of many American workers, who were growing increasingly disenfranchised.

Again, by the turn of the century, we were met with even more theories and buzzwords: Total Quality Management (TQM), Total Productive Management (TPM), Learning Organizations, Team-Based Management, and more.

With the 9/11 attack in 2001, we were introduced to Terror Management Theory (TMT) which states “When humans are faced with their own mortality by random acts of terror, they respond in ways that show their lives have meaning and purpose.” It’s still too early to tell if this may lead to a kinder, gentler workplace, but many businesses have incorporated certain changes as a direct result of those terrorist attacks.


The public is very mercurial with a short attention span. To keep an idea or product new and fresh, it sometimes needs to be repackaged. Despite the fact that most of these authors and gurus would recoil in horror at this revelation, I’ll let you in on a little secret: With some small variations, most of what they tell you is nothing new.

But, these fads get people talking. Ideas that were discarded years ago may be resurrected and discussed, or evolve into something more useful. They create excitement, and excitement itself is of value in many organizations where people fall into stale routines.


Fads tend to polarize people. The people who fervently follow fads and trends seem to fall into two categories. One type is the kind that is always thirsting for knowledge: The Scholar has a genuine desire to better herself and her work environment, and she’s willing to do the work needed to achieve that.

But the other type is The Groupie. His interest is shallow, at best. He is just like the old lady at the checkout counter who is almost fidgeting with impatience to get the latest issue of The National Enquirer. If he can merely pick up a few buzzwords to throw about the office, he is content. If there IS anything new to be learned, you can be sure that he won’t have the ability to utilize it.


Sadly, most employees have grown very resistant to new techniques and theories because they’ve encountered too many Groupies and not enough Scholars.

Let me give you an example: I was a department store manager in the early 1990s when my employer decided to re-title all salespeople. The new title was to be “Associate” because the word “salesperson” was too diminutive. This mere name change was expected to “empower” the Associates. Management had only a vague idea of what this “empowering” was supposed to do, but it was sure that this would result in higher productivity.

The name change was rolled out with great fanfare at a meeting specifically called for that purpose. Associates were told that this was a new era! People arrived as salespeople, but left as Associates!

There was one awkward moment at the meeting, when an older, more cynical Associate asked if there was a pay raise “associated” with the title. There wasn’t. Never the less, the inexperienced salespeople left, excited, while the more experienced salespeople resumed their posts, exhibiting no changes that we could see. Interested, I pulled one of them aside.

“Joy,” I asked, “What was your feeling about the meeting?”

“Same old, same old, hon,” said Joy. “Nothing will change.”

“Isn’t that a little cynical?” I asked, surprised. “You haven’t even given it a chance yet!” (I was very young and naive).

Joy smiled at me mildly, and merely said, “Wait and see.”

Joy was right. Nothing changed. And as time went by, those excited new salespeople became as jaded as their predecessors.

Unless an employee can see a relatively immediate and ongoing change (with results), she won’t have any buy-in to the new ideas. And without employee buy-in, all ideas are bound to fail. This creates a vicious cycle: Ideas that could work are labeled as frivolous, because they were initiated improperly. And that creates a lasting memory, and the unwillingness to try anything new.


Management can be even more resistant because, like the employees, they’ve seen many failures. But unlike their employees, they are the ones that are ultimately responsible.

Most managers feel that they’re in place because they already know how to do their job, and there’s little or no need for change. They resent any implications that they may not be doing their job well.

They grow tired of the young pups coming on to the scene, spouting the latest theories they just learned at college. And, truthfully, most managers have seen or heard such ideas before. Like their employees, if they’ve seen such ideas rolled out by a Groupie, they will be very resistant to any variations of those ideas.


If you are suddenly exposed to a new idea that seems revolutionary; stop, look, and listen:

STOP: Don’t go rushing around your workplace talking about this new idea. Instead, take the time to investigate it. Do your homework. Resist the impulse to jump on the bandwagon before you've met the driver.

LOOK: Read as much as you can about it. Research it on the internet. Ask yourself if it can be utilized in your workplace.

LISTEN: If you have a mentor outside of your workplace, discuss it with her. Ask her if she’s heard anything similar to it, and get her reaction to it. Pick it apart, looking for potential weaknesses. If you’ve taken the first two steps, consider convening a panel of employees and management to get their honest input. If people are consulted before an idea is rolled out, you have a much better chance of “buy-in” if and when it’s implemented. And once the program is rolled out, make sure that you get genuine and regular feedback on its success or failure.

Although the word “fad” has a negative feel to it (think 80s hair and fishnet stockings), it remains a genuine American phenomenon. Presenting and initiating a fad in the workplace can be very challenging. However, as long as we take the scholarly approach, and weigh each idea carefully and with the knowledge that “there’s nothing new under the sun”, we may find approaches we’d not considered before.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Designer of the Hillary "Big Brother" Ad Fired

The recent mystery of who created the Hillary Clinton "Big Brother" style ad has been solved.

NetworkWorld reports "Phil De Vellis, a political operative at Blue State Digital (the company name tells you what party’s candidates it serves), has been outed as the ad’s designer, and, depending on which account you wish to believe, has resigned or been fired because his employer’s most prominent client is presidential candidate Obama."

All this brouhaha over an ad that, frankly, wasn't designed well! The ad has Hillary actually saying that she encourages discussion and other ideas; hardly the stuff Big Brother would say. Anyone who has read 1984 would heartily agree. And artistically, it was an easy knock-off from the original ill-fated Apple ad which was aired during Superbowl in 1984.

Even though the original Apple ad was lauded as one of the top 50 commercials in the last 50 years by Advertising Age (in 1995), the American public didn't agree. The ad was panned, many viewers "didn't get it", and it was never circulated again... Until recently, when De Vellis replaced Big Brother with Big Sister.

At the end of De Vellis' commercial, it had a promotional tag suggesting that the viewer vote for Barack Obama instead. Perhaps De Vellis had floated this commercial as a trial balloon: If it had been a success, he would have stepped forward. However, it was received by both campaigns with the same distaste as an owner who's had a dead rat plopped in front of her as a "present" from an adoring pet.

De Vellis has now parted ways with his employer. Some pundits argue that this was overkill. They suggest that De Vellis should merely have been suspended, unpaid, for a short amount of time. But because this prominent spoof creates so much excitement and publicity, Blue State Digital had to be cautious.

As a representative for Barack Obama, Blue State Digital could have been accused of attempting to attack Hillary covertly, which would be viewed as a cowardly thing to do. Additionally, if a political ad doesn't contain the disclaimer as to whom it's produced by, it is in violation of the law. This would have given Hillary an opening wide enough to drive a truck through.

The only option that Blue State Digital had was to distance itself, fast, from the designer. I doubt there will be any further actions against De Vellis (if he's lucky) but this is the only way to minimize the damage for Blue State Digital, which would have been inevitable.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


I have been busy lately, taking cuttings to make seedlings for a big xeriscaping project I'm doing for a friend. So, this article may sound very dull to some of you. If that's the case, I apologize in advance and recommend you page down a bit for something more controversial.

For those of you who don't live here in Florida, or in other areas with similar climates or water shortages, you may be unfamiliar with xeriscaping. Xeriscaping is actually a copyrighted term by the Colorado WaterWise Council. However, like "Kleenex", it has come to be commonly used to describe a product/concept that is universal.

The Colorado WaterWise Council describes it this way: "Xeriscape promotes creative approaches to water conserving landscapes by helping people improve their landscapes and to reduce the need for water, maintenance and other resources. ...Xeriscape can reduce landscape water use by 60% or more."

Truthfully, if a yard is properly xeriscaped, you really don't need to water it at all in Florida. You simply need to maintain it (in my humble opinion) even though some people choose to let it grow wild.

In Florida, we need to plant more decorative gardens that artfully display succulent (i.e. water storing) plants of all varieties and types as well as other drought-tolerant vegetation. As the tourists come here and decide to move down permanently, we are running out of both land and water. That means that it's unwise to plant grass lawns anymore: Even when recycled water is available, is it really best to waste it on grass lawns (which are notoriously water-greedy)?

To arrange a xeriscaped yard in an attractive manner, it's wise to google "xeriscape", where you'll find many attractive examples. It's important to take a plant's maturation into consideration. If it is expected to grow tall, you should position the plant toward the back of an arrangment, with shorter plants at the forefront. Ground cover-type plants can be interspersed throughout the arrangement.

I also recommend placing your plantings within a free-form shape, bordered with something (such as a plastic or wood-slat border) that will let people know that what you're doing is intentional. Otherwise, you run the risk of having a yard that looks "weedy". And mulching, even if with an inexpensive mulch such as pine needles, is mandatory for reducing the weeds and giving it a uniform and finished look.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Florida: The Only State to Consider Saying NO on Anti-Viral Meds

If the United States were represented by people, New York would be a brash businessman, Texas would be a cowboy, and Florida would be a clown with a large red nose and floppy shoes.

49 states have made the decision to purchase their share of discounted antiviral drugs to develop a state stockpile in the event of an influenza epidemic (which experts universally assure us is coming). However, Florida is dragging its size 20 shoes.

"The chairman of the House committee in charge of that budget said the five-year shelf life of the drugs leaves him skeptical. "It just doesn't rank as one of my priorities," Rep. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach said last week," according to the St. Pete Times article today.

Leave it to a Republican* to decide that public healthcare and saving lives isn't cost-effective. Er, even though Bean is the Chairman of the House Healthcare Council.

I wanted to know what Rep. Bean has as his priorities, since potentially saving lives isn't one. So, I googled him, and was very impressed to see that...

1. He spearheaded a campaign this March to encourage fellow legislators to lose weight. Weigh-ins were held every week. As he so wittily said, "Nobody likes pork in government. But as legislators, we can't resist the pork chops, mashed potatoes and ham sandwiches."

2. He made sure that Florida courtrooms no longer have convicted felons serving as jurors. Hey, that's pretty good, huh? Oh... yeah, they shouldn't have been there in the first place.

3. In 2005, he sponsored a bill that made Florida’s 68 abortion clinics one step closer to being required to operate according to the health and safety standards which are required of other medical facilities in the state. Well now, that's pretty good, right? Oh... yeah, they are a medical facility and should already have been held to those standards.

4. In Feb. 2007, "Rep. Bean stated that health care costs were consuming too much of Florida’s budget and that due to expected increases in healthcare costs, the Medicaid program needed to be reformed. Additionally, Mr. Bean praised the “marketplace” theory of healthcare in that beneficiaries are more likely to get quality care if private organizations such as HMOs are competing for the beneficiaries’ business," reported Sarah Sullivan.

Isn't that typical Republican-Businessman reasoning? We know how well our healthcare is already doing under the HMOs. Good thing we don't have to deal with such a thing as corporate greed.

Now, Rep. Bean is probably the typical legislator: Neither good nor bad, with few things that will distinguish him the annals of history (even though he is the Chairman of the House Healthcare Council). I'm sure that he's done some things that were correct, and contributed towards the good of all mankind.

However, it is obvious that Bean is more interested in the daily minutiae than he is in the big picture. It's time for him to behave responsibly and look beyond the simple challenges.

* "Hello, my name is Saur and I'm a Republican." But I'm a moderate Republican that carefully weighs out all points of view. I despise knee-jerk politicians on both sides of the aisle.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Taking the Day Off

I had an emergency this morning that I had to attend. Unfortunately, I won't be posting today, but I will definately be "back in business" tomorrow morning.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Kid Who Flashes Teacher Whines About Punishment

Look at this cocky kid. You can actually see him swaggering, can't you? And this is the most modest picture of him. For another picture of him surrounded by his friends, go to this article. When you look at it, you'll know exactly what we're dealing with. These are the "cool kids", the ones who sneer at every teacher and abuse the students who just don't "fit in". You've encountered him in high school, and most likely you've hated him.

His name is Taylor Tillung. Taylor recently decided he was going to be cute, and mooned his teacher. He didn't do it halfway. He dropped his pants, then made sure his butt cheeks were spread wide open so that she could get a good view of his assh*le and presumably at least some of his genitalia, too. (I can't imagine wanting to share my genitalia with any teacher that *I* know: Perhaps he has unusual tastes).

The St. Pete Times reports that this incident was one of a "prolonged and multifaceted series of offenses" that this kid committed. Apparently he got very lucky with only suspension and a transfer to another high school (where we assume he won't have enough time to gather up another posse of retarded groupies that will egg him on).

However, Todd and Terry Tillung have hired a lawyer to defend their precious offspring. They state that his actions were wrong, but they apparently don't believe it. Here is yet one more example of parents who create monsters.

Todd and Terry have cleverly given their child yet another "T" name. How very cute. I wonder if they have other children and what those kids were named. I grew up with a family of Js: Jodi Jones, Jennifer Jones, John Jones, etc. Like the Jones, the Tillungs apparently are a typical, over-indulgent family more enamored with appearances than reality.

The reality is that Taylor is a brat, soon to become a monster. He is almost 18. He is not slated to become anything that will improve the Tillung's social standing. And if they truly want to be socially acceptable, they might try taming their offspring, first. This means that it's time to fire the lawyer and apply a little heat to the spot that Taylor used to moon the teacher in the first place.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Warmest Winter on Record

It was just reported that this was the warmest winter on record. As I'm a person that hates the cold, I was glad for this temporary respite. I know, I know: This has bigger implications than simply the lack of Coat Weather. Still, I really enjoyed this winter a great deal.

So did the squirrels in my yard, who are as fat as Butterball turkeys from eating the surplus of avocados that my massive avocado tree has produced. I think we humans were able to rescue only 5 avocados out of the whole batch: Humans=5, Squirrels=500. It's very comical to watch fat and sassy squirrels valiantly trying to drag off an entire avocado fruit.

The oak tree pollen was a little worse than usual. Everyone's cars were bathed in a yellow glow of pollen daily, until the next rains came or the owner passed through a carwash. The rains have helped, but many asthma and allergy sufferers have been dealing with more than their usual share of problems as a result of this.

Pests and insects didn't have a long dormancy this time, and they're back in full-force. Mosquitos buzz hungrily about, looking for victims.

The real concern, of course, is how this weather might affect sea levels and crops. It's too early to tell, yet. But at least here in Florida, it made little difference.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Out-of-State Senators Encroach Upon Florida's Waters

In the ultimate chutzpah bill of 2007, Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho and Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota have proposed that the United States government should hand over Floridian waters to oil drilling.

Since the Senators from Idaho and North Dakota feel that they're entitled to give away our little piece of the pie, then I suggest that we return the favor.

First, North Dakota has a population of only 27 people (and Sallie Mae is rumored to be pregnant, which will bring it to a whopping 28). So, I think we can safely say that there's much that we can do with this under-utilized land:

1. Use it for nuclear weapons testing and biological weapons experiments. This is an ideal place to test the Ebola virus on capuchin monkeys, with no possibility of it affecting any humans when we relocate the 27 (or possibly 28) North Dakota citizens.

2. There's apparently a lot of fresh, glacial water to be had in North Dakota. Assuming we choose to perform the nuclear weapons testing in Idaho instead, we could petition the government for a water pipeline to be constructed. Since Florida's population has boomed, there always seems to be a water shortage. This would easily solve the shortage, and we would no longer need to be discussing desalinization plants.

3. North Dakota is mostly a farming area. Since Florida has grown so rapidly, orange groves are being edged out. I suggest that we adopt a new crop as our standard; sugar beets! We will simply allocate most of North Dakota for this crop, and we can even process it there (so we can avoid factories and the pollution that ensues). I'm sure that the 27 (or possibly 28) citizens there won't object.

As North Dakota has little else to offer, let's move on to Idaho. As we all know, Idaho is famous for the following schoolyard joke:

Boy: Where ya from?
Girl: Idaho!
Boy: I didn't ask what you were, I asked where you were from!

But jokes get us nowhere, and I certainly hope that no one would think I was casting aspersions on the citizens of Idaho. Instead, let's tackle what Idaho can offer Floridians:

1. Idaho's best-known crop is potatoes: We see them advertised everywhere! And United States citizens consume more potatoes than almost any other food. We eat them mashed, baked, fried into chips or served as fries with every burger. So, I think we Floridians could appropriate their potato crops and make a hefty profit. And, as we might do with sugar beets in North Dakota, we can keep those nasty processing plants in Idaho so they can't interfere with tourism in any way.

2. In 2006, 23% of Idaho's population registered as practicing Mormons. They've grown rapidly from a mere 14% in 2001. With roughly a quarter of the population being Mormon, we have a strong market for the Church of the Latter Day Saints. Now, in Florida there is a great deal of land owned by the Mormons. They're known to snap up land, and it's admittedly a good investment. So, why don't we sell them some more land in Idaho? If we sell enough Idaho land to the LDS, Florida may be able to afford that high speed rail that we've been dreaming about.

3. The Idaho National Laboratory (INL), a government lab for nuclear energy research, is located in Idaho. Perhaps we should consider moving The INL to North Dakota. They would then have the handy option that they undoubtedly don't have in Idaho: The ability to conduct nuclear testing. And, of course, if The INL is testing in North Dakota, it will lessen the chance of affecting any Floridian potato crops.

I think these suggestions could work! I recommend that Floridian Senators Bill Nelson and Mel Martinez attach them to the current bill that Senators Craig and Dorgan have so thoughtfully produced. This way, we all will profit and (as I'm sure that Senators Craig and Dorgan will agree) it's a fair exchange.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Saying Goodbye to a Furry Family Member

My parents' dog, Ewok, was over 15 years old. She was a small, black poodle mix who resembled this puppy shown here (from the movie "Lady & The Tramp"). Although my mom had given her a very elegant name, I had given her the nickname "Ewok" when she was a fluffy puffball of a puppy. If she had been posed with a little spear in one paw, she would've looked exactly like an Ewok from the Star Wars series.

Ewok was a sweet, gentle, cuddly girl. She loved laps and snuggling with people. Her great favorite was my father, who seems to be able to gentle any animal; wild or tame.

When they found out that Ewok had bone cancer, my parents were devastated. Of course, ever practical, we all knew it was coming. However, my parents made the decision to keep her on pain medicine but not treat the cancer. "After all," the vet said, "once a dog has been diagnosed with bone cancer, they never live for more than 6 months... even IF you treat the cancer with chemotherapy."

They had hoped that Ewok would last a little longer. My younger brother, who is soon due to arrive from Japan, had been especially close to her and he wanted to see her one last time before she was put to sleep. And, of course, Mom and Dad were very reluctant to part from her.

But yesterday as I was on the road, I got a tearful call from my mom. Ewok had taken a turn for the worse. She was now obviously in a lot of pain and her breathing had grown labored. It was time. They had to put her to sleep, and they needed me to come dig the grave.

I hate seeing my parents upset. I had dreaded this day for that very reason, although I was also very sorry to see Ewok go. I told Mom I was on the way, and headed directly for their house.

When I got there, Mom was in tears. (As she later pointed out, ironically we have shed less tears at the death of certain family members than at the death of a pet). I hugged her, then went to greet Ewok, who was struggling to make her way to me. She still wagged her tail at me, happy to see me even though she was in pain. I've always marvelled at the sweetness of such animals, who would put your happiness above their own, even at death's door.

I petted her and spoke softly to her, and shed a few tears with my mom. Dad watched stoicly, but I knew he was in as much pain as my mom was. I was concerned that such stress might slow down his healing, since he'd been in surgery less than a week before.

Mom and Dad showed me where the shovel was, and I attended to the distasteful task of digging the grave (almost 4 feet down). When I had finished, it was time to go to the vet's.

The drive was a grim one, but we tried talking of other things in an attempt to lighten the mood. Mom had been crying all day long, and tried to distract herself by staying in conversation with me, but it wasn't easy for her.

Dad held on to Ewok tightly.

The moment we walked into the vet's, Ewok started shaking violently (she's always been scared of the vet). We had been advised to request a sedative before the euthanasia, so that she would remain calm: It would ease the process for her. A nurse came out and gave her the shot, and within minutes, Ewok was considerably calmed down, relaxed in my parents' arms.

We were soon ushered into a private room, where they weighed Ewok a final time. Mom watched everything, tears rolling quietly down her cheeks. I also cried silently, in pain for my parents. Even Dad's eyes were red-rimmed.

Finally it was time.

My parents laid her gently on a soft blanket on the table, keeping their hands on her, stroking her as the vet administered the final shot. Ewok's breathing slowed, and finally faded. A moment later, he checked for a heart beat and pronounced her dead.

I stayed behind to settle up the bill, while Mom and Dad waited in the car to make the long journey home.

Dad held her all the way home.

When we got home, we headed to the grave. Ewok was in a little box, but we bury our pets "as is", letting the earth and the worms do as nature intended. (Some day, I hope that my wishes will be respected and I'll be given the same sort of burial). So, my dad gently removed her from the box, arranging a towel around her carefully before he lowered her into the ground. I then filled in the hole, as they looked on.

With almost a sense of relief, we headed to the house. The worst was now over and there was no going back. And yet, this morning their house is quieter and only one dog remains. Mom worries that he will miss Ewok, but Dad dismisses that. He thinks the separation will have little impact on the remaining dog. As he indicates, they're only dogs.

However, Dad's eyes show something different.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Intrinsic Problems With Veterans' and Military Health Care

The Walter Reed Hospital scandal is only the tip of the iceberg. And amazingly, although most of us have heard the horror stories that emanate from military and veterans hospitals and health centers, apparently President Bush has not.

According to Think Progress, a non-partisan "think tank":

"During yesterday’s White House press briefing, Tony Snow tried to play down the neglect uncovered at Walter Reed by portraying it as old news. President Bush “certainly has been aware of the conditions in the wards where he has visited, Snow said, affirming that the administration was aware of Walter Reed’s conditions “before the articles appeared in the paper.”

The White House has since backtracked from Snow’s comments. In a small addendum added to the bottom of yesterday’s briefing transcript on the White House website, a note now reads that Bush “first learned of the troubling allegations regarding Walter Reed from the stories this weekend in the Washington Post,” and that he is “deeply concerned” by the conditions:

Following the reversal, Snow told the Washington Post that “he did not know why the president, who has visited the facility many times in the past five years, had not heard about these problems before.”

Asked yesterday if Bush may talk about this scandal at some point in the future, Snow answered, “No.“

I've heard apologists for the administration claim that this is merely yet another way for the evil Democrats to try to find a chink in the armor of the Bush Administration. The truth is, either the conditions are poor or they are not. If they are not, then the truth will be most apparent. It's simply not that easy to dismiss.

However, it's very possible that President Bush genuinely didn't know. After all, he was raised by a father who didn't even know what a grocery scanner looked like until he made a public appearance at a supermarket during his Presidential campaign. And we all are fully aware that this is due to the rarified environment that this family exists in. It's quite possible that President Bush has never had a plebian friend or family member that has suffered at the hands of the V. A. (Veterans Administration). And yet, if he was at all informed as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Services, he would be aware of the complaints.

Problems abound. A very good friend who is a well-known surgeon in the Tampa Bay Area once practiced at the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System. I vividly remember when he left in disgust due to the terrible S.N.A.F.U. s that repeatedly occurred. He was warned to stay silent and cover it up. Instead, he chose to walk away from a losing battle. It's a shame, because the veterans were deprived of a top-notch surgeon who was staying on due to his love of the troops, yet had to leave when his principles were conflicted.

One of my best friends is a military veteran. Due to the stories she's heard and the experiences that she has had, she would rather go to a Medicaid free clinic than set foot in Bay Pines.

When my ex-husband contracted a strange disease with unusual symptoms (which he incurred as a direct result of his military service), he was repeatedly misdiagnosed by military doctors until he left and procured the services of a specialist who correctly diagnosed and treated the problem. Apparently the government wasn't too eager to admit to subjecting their troops to such hazards and they quietly gave him an honorable (not medical) discharge so that he could leave the service and get better without drawing any attention to the environment he had been subjected to.

A very close family member serves in the Air Force. When his wife was having complications with her pregnancy, they had heard enough horror stories about military base hospitals that they chose to place her in a standard hospital. He was very firm about it, saying that he'd never dream of subjecting his loved ones to the tender ministrations of the military medical system.

I've heard conservative talk show pundits claim that this is an example of what socialized health care would become if we instituted it in the U.S.A.


The truth is, the military medical system is this horrendous because it is allowed to be. It remains in conflict with a dual responsibility both to the military and it's patients. When there is a direct conflict of interest, the military medical system answers to the people that pay the bills; the armed services. The patients come a distant second. Also, many soldiers and internal employees and doctors that complain are either repeatedly ignored or subjected to harassment. Such complaints are often seen as divisive and disloyal.

Of course when it comes to socialized health care, these complications wouldn't exist (though other complications would surely arise). To compare the military health establishment to socialized medicine is to compare Jerry Lewis to Bill Gates: We are dealing with apples and oranges.

Until the administration views military health care as enthusiastically as it views war, our troops and veterans will never get the treatment which they deserve.

There's a sign we've all seen in shops which sell fragile items: You break, you buy. As Commander-in-Chief, President Bush needs to take full responsibility and fix these problems immediately. The military and the government have created a system with more cracks than Humpty Dumpty. Let's hope that they can put it back together again.

Monday, March 12, 2007

OK, NOW I Can Write...

I have a break! Thank you very much for your patience.

1. My dad is doing very well. Thanks for any and all prayers and well-wishes.

2. My friend (Zen Buddhist) is still in the process of moving, which is why I'm exhausted and we're still plugging away. The place she bought was termite-ridden and the workmen had to tear down a lot of wood, put up a lot of drywall, do a lot of spackling and ripping stuff up, then putting it back together. Additionally, they had to install a closet, a kitchen counter and sink, and carpet in the living room. We were painting, cleaning, fetching, carrying, and doing any and all odd jobs they needed us to do. It will be done tonight, thankfully.

3. It's interesting to see the fallout from the Walter Reed Hospital debacle, isn't it? Now Army surgeon general Lt. Gen. Kevin C. Kiley has resigned. Heads are rolling (deservedly).

Sunday, March 11, 2007

I'm Absent This Weekend

Forgive me for not posting Fri-Sun but I haven't have more than a moment to get out the door each morning. When I drag myself home at night, I immediately go to bed. There is no in-between.

My father had surgery on Friday (he's doing well so far) and one of my best friends is moving into a home of her own. We've had to work alongside workmen in order to get this done so that she can move in on Sunday night. It's been non-stop and backbreaking.

I'll resume my posts on Monday morning.

Thanks for being so patient.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Couey Convicted

As all of you have heard by now, John Evander Couey has been found guilty of the rape and murder of little 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford.

Couey is a prime example of how dangerous registered sex offenders can be when they're let loose into civilization. Already a convicted sex offender, Couey moved in near Jessica's family and, when the time was "right", he kidnapped her, raped her for days, and finally buried her alive in garbage bags, where she slowly suffocated to death while clutching a stuffed toy.

There are some child molestors who have great excuses: "I didn't know he/she was under age", "I was wrongfully convicted", etc. And yes, some of these excuses may be valid. However, the legal system was set in place to gauge the veracity of such statements. Although it's not perfect, all who are convicted are condemned due to a trial by jury. So, for future argument, let's assume that all who are convicted have at least some degree of guilt.

There are levels of child abuse. The police are less hostile toward a man who's slept with a 17-year-old-girl than toward a man that's raped a 9-year-old child, for obvious reasons. And someone that's raped a young child is usually banned from being near schools or parks where they might play. The man who's molested a 17-year-old will normally not face such sanctions after he's served his time.

Couey had already been convicted in 1991 in Kissimmee, FL, on a charge of fondling a child under age 16. In the 70s he had assaulted another girl during a burglary. He would've been an excellent candidate for at least chemical castration, if not physical castration because he had already proven himself to be the worst sort of molestor. Such a move would have prevented his perverted desires and his subsequently acting on them. It would have saved Jessica.

Instead, Couey was free to roam about the country, settling where he may. Although he was not supposed to be living where he was found, our system did not force him to conform to his court orders. He was one of the many criminals who dropped through the cracks in the system. His parole officer was apparently too busy to check up on him.

Also, we are so busy protecting criminals' rights that our children have none. They are not safe anywhere. They cannot (as we used to) play outdoors, wander around ponds skipping stones, catch tadpoles, climb trees, or freely explore. There could be a child molestor nearby, watching and waiting for that one opportunity.

If Couey had been restricted, Jessica would still be alive. Until we get our priorities straight, such criminals will continue to have more freedom than our children do.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

No Time to Post Today

I'm SO sorry, this is a hectic day to end all days. Nothing particularly bad, just insane! Please forgive me, I'll return tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Sex Change Operations: Are They Choice or Necessity?

The Tampa Bay Area (in Florida) has become a great area for scandals; many of them make world news. The latest one surrounds Steve Stanton, the City Manager for Largo (one of the suburbs here). He was about to go through a sex change operation, but word got out before the operation occurred. The city council fired him yesterday.

Reaction is mixed. Some people are furious with the city council, others are applauding it. News hounds have descended in droves to interview Steve, who is very happy to give interviews left and right.

The question that underpins all of this: Are sex change operations a choice or a necessity? If they're a choice, and we feel that choice is reprehensible to the majority of Largo's citizens, then he can and should be fired. But what if, as Stanton will undoubtedly argue, it's a necessity?

In some cities in California, sex change operations (known to the politically correct as "sex reassignment surgery") are now covered through insurance for any government employees but this policy is being re-assessed in many areas.

The IRS Office of Chief Counsel ruled that sex change operations are a cosmetic procedure, unless due to a congenital abnormality, an accident or trauma, or a disfiguring disease, which are required to qualify for a medical deduction. Most Sex Reassignment patients are diagnosed as suffering from Gender Identity Disorder and must have a doctor’s recommendation to undergo the surgery.

Traditional Values Coalition Chairman Louis Sheldon says, “There is a whole network of individuals on the internet who think they would be better off having their arms or legs chopped off. Should surgeons help these people who suffer from what’s called ‘apotemnophilia’ to remove their arms and legs? Of course, not. These individuals have a mental problem – not a physical problem.” He then adds that people who wish to undergo sex change operations "...should not be encouraged to have life-altering surgery to fix a problem inside the mind.”

Historically, the court system has always upheld the employer's right to fire under such circumstances, ruling repeatedly that Title VII does not embrace transsexual discrimination.

So Steve Stanton has a weight of evidence against him. His only feasible argument is that it's elective cosmetic surgery, but as he admitted, he "had an eight-page plan to acclimate staff. He believed his employees would have accepted him as a woman if he had had a chance to educate them," according to the St. Pete Times. There is no other cosmetic surgery that requires an 8-page plan in order "acclimate" anyone. This in itself indicates the extremity of the situation.

Obviously sex change operations are a choice: Not only is the evidence of this overwhelming, but the court of public opinion has already weighed in.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Is Chivalry Dead?

In another forum, there is a debate doing on about chivalry. The question is "Whatever happened to chivalry?" which presupposes it's death.

When I was a little girl, I used to bite my nails. One day, as I was gnawing away, my grandmother (who had grown tired of simply telling me to stop) said "Honey, I'm going to tell you a story:

One day, when you're all grown up, your prince will come. He will ride by on a fine white horse; handsome, strong, proud. He will see you and be smitten by you. He'll stop, leap off his horse, come up to you and fall on one knee..." (here my grandmother dramatically fell to one knee and took my hand in hers). "He'll say 'YOU are the one for me', and then he'll go to kiss your hand, take one look at those nails, and say 'Uh... never mind!' and ride away."

I continued to bite my nails with the secure knowledge that no such man existed. And, I liked biting my nails.

Chivalry originated in the medieval times, and was encourage by royalty because it instilled a code of ethics in potentially unruly courtiers and fellow royalty. Chivalry forced strict accountability to others and encouraged loyalty to the reigning powers. Simply put, it made sense and created civilization where little existed before.

Today, chivalry has evolved into what we call "manners". And, just as it was in the middle ages, those who practice good manners have a better chance at getting what they want, than those who choose to behave rudely.

Manners still belong in our society. Because women are now treated equally, we have equal responsibilities when it comes to societal manners. Although I do not expect men to open doors for me, I thank them when they do because that is polite on MY part. When I get out of a car, I wait a discreet amount of time to see if the man will open it for me. If he does, I thank him. If he doesn't, I do not take offense because this has become a "gray area" in our society and it is not the fault of the man if he does not participate in this archaic, but sweet, custom.

If I am walking down the street, I do not expect the man to stop me before I get to a puddle and, with a flourish, place his coat over the puddle so that I don't have to soil my dainty feet. I would also think he was daft if he wanted to drink champagne out of my slipper. Goodness knows, I don't want to drink anything from ANYone's footwear and unless you have a foot fetish, there is no need to.

Some "chivalrous" behaviors are still welcome, and are still in practice. Sending flowers, writing love notes and poems, and even serenades are wonderfully romantic and sweet. However, I believe that women should do the same: Why should the man do all the work?

And EVERYone should observe common courtesies. "Please" and "thank you" are never out of style. And if you're a woman and you see a man struggling with bags of groceries, it's time for YOU to open the door for HIM.

Chivalry is not dead, and we would be unwise to begin the eulogies just yet. Instead, we need to continue to encourage the little niceties that we do for each other: Simple thank-yous go a long way.

A man once told me that he opened the door for a woman who turned around and reamed him out for being "sexist". As my grandmother would have said, the woman had "poor breeding". Never the less, the man told me that he will still continue to open doors for others. THAT is the essence of true chivalry.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Cold, Wet, Yucky

This is a cold, wet, yucky Saturday. It's a good day to stay indoors, which we're doing. We're hunkered down, playing games, watching TV, cleaning, and playing with our various pets (ferret, bird, and three dogs). I am currently experiencing writer's block but the weekends don't bring me much traffic, so I'm sure you won't mind very much.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Friday, March 02, 2007

Glenn Beck's Treatment of Hillary Clinton

I am not a Hillary Clinton fan, so I really had to mull this over. But when I speak for Hillary today, I speak for all women, and any woman that runs for office anywhere in the land.

I was listening to Glenn Beck's radio show yesterday. For those of you unfamiliar with American talk radio, Glenn was a balanced moderate talkshow host until he began to make it in the big leagues. He is famous for his wit and insights, and I've followed him in his mercurial rise from talkshow host in the Tampa Bay market to national radio and TV.

But as Glenn has progressed, he apparently has begun to fall under the influence of the conservatives. A true moderate remains objective, and under the influence of neither party. And although he continues to give lip-service to his moderate listeners, the bent is going insidiously to the right.

A typical example is Glenn's treatment of Hillary Clinton yesterday. He was speaking with his Right Hand Man, Stu. He began to mock Hillary's voice and demeanor, saying that she was a typical nagging woman, and what man would ever want to be married to HER? He did his best to reduce her to a common fishwife, instead of a valid and formidable political opponent to the Republican party.

What message did Glenn send that day? Even if it was not intentional, it became a sexist comment. In his attempt to belittle Hillary, Glenn reduced her to the female entity that men fear and loathe the most. Is it really necessary to stereotype Hillary in order to water down her message?

I most likely will not vote for Hillary. She sent the wrong message when her husband was President: If your husband treats you poorly, shut up and be the "Good Little Woman". Whether her choice was due to political aspirations or timidity, she showed the world what it was to lack self-pride.

But Hillary deserves to be heard for her message, just as any man deserves to be heard. I don't know if Glenn's wife smacked him upside the head when he got home last night. Since he claims she's blissfully ignorant of politics, perhaps that's the way he believes ALL wives should be. But if Glenn and the other pundits aren't careful, they will not only alienate women on the left; they will alienate those of us leaning to the right, as well.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Helium's Response

Yesterday I wrote to Helium asking them to remove my writings, as they were currently under copyright. I was amazed to get a response from Jim Logan, the Senior Community Advocate. Here is his email:

Greetings (Somehow it doesn't seem appropriate to say Sour or Kraut for that matter) so simply...Greetings,

I would like to share a couple of things with you regarding the Helium User Agreement and its meaning. Where the agreement seems to be currently be misinterpreted what I would like to address are the following:

1) You as the writer that submits your work to Helium, retain the copyright to your work.

2) You are free to use the same content that you submit to Helium to publish as many times and in as many other places as you wish.

3) If Helium chooses to monetize your work in a way that will generate income, Helium will compensate the writer for this further monetization. (the specific wording for this is currently being worked on but in principle this is what we agree to)

I hope that this will help you to better understand the user agreement and that you will reconsider your decision. We are in the business of working with writers and in so doing know the importance of remaining fair and trustworthy.

I would like to get a response to this email from you and a confirmation regarding what you wish for us to do with your account. I also would like to ask how and where you found this blog.* We will be responding to it but it is always helpful to us to know where these things are found.

All the best,

Jim Logan

Jim Logan Sr. Community Advocate

*He is referring to Emma's blog here