Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Best Vitamin Supplement

OK, here is a post that will make most of you yawn and walk away. I can't say that I blame you. Reading about vitamins has never been thrilling to me. But I've tried many supplements over the years and this is the best thing that I've found

Great. Now I sound like a shill.

Anyway, I hate, hate, hate taking pills. The big ones usually end up making me gag. There's just something so horribly unpleasant about pills that I have tried the One-A-Days for the most part. However, they just never had enough goodies in them to make them a very good vitamin.

I'd heard about whole-food vitamins, but you usually have to take 3-4 of the pills to get the proper nutrients and those pills are big enough to choke a horse. Since I'd had neck surgery (they went in through the front of my throat) it isn't much fun to try to swallow massive pills. Although you can't see damage, I get panicky and it feels like I'm choking.

Finally, in desperation I went to a woman in a vitamin store and asked if there was ANY type of supplement that wasn't in pill form. She showed me this product: Alive! Whole Food Energizer Ultra-Shake. I got it in vanilla flavor, though I understand it also comes in Apple Cinnamon.

When you mix it with orange juice, it tastes just like an Orange Julius. It tastes wonderful with milk, too. It's basically a breakfast shake, and a tasty one at that.

So, if you're looking for something outside of the standard vitamin pill, I highly recommend this product.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Review on Helium: The New Blogger?

First, let me get something out of the way: When I was talking with SaurKid yesterday, I asked if he'd heard the latest "discovery" of Jesus' tomb. "Sure," SaurKid replied blithely. "They find one every year around Easter."

The lastest "discovery" is more full of holes than a lump of swiss cheese. I can't possibly debunk it as effectively as Bible scholar Ben Witherington III, a Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky, who has worked with co-hoaxer Simcha Jacobovici. So I recommend a trip to Witherington's blog here.

Helium: The New Blogger?

I have been flirting with Helium for weeks, now. As I had time, I downloaded various of my best articles. Recently I found out that Emma was dabbling in it, too. Emma asked yesterday if I was decreasing my writing due to an increase in writing at Helium. The answer is no. Following are some of my observations concerning Helium. I have concluded that it is fun, but (so far) it's a poor substitute for blogging.

Helium is interesting and it has some features that Blogger should consider acquiring. For instance, I like the fact that it give you ideas if you're struggling with writer's block.

Also, Helium "pays" for articles, although their pay is mighty small indeed. I've submitted almost 100 articles, and I've made only $2.30 in two weeks. Now, that isn't to say that it may eventually pay off at a future date, but Helium is very cagey and doesn't divulge its formula. For all we know, we may make $25 in two months or two years.

Helium does something that Blogger doesn't do: It has a rating system that compares similar articles and asks for readers to vote for the best. It can be very exciting when you see that your article is suddenly #1 (although it rarely remains in one place for very long).

But the problem is that you are not always comparing apples to oranges. For instance, an article on flag burning may contain both positive and negative views. The winner will be determined by the bias of the reader, and not by content and writing style alone. Or, an article titled "Is Global Warming Advantageous" may be completely moot for some people, as not all people (or scientists) believe in global warming and the title of the article indicates that the judgement has already been made.

And Helium is really not a substitute for Blogger, because blogs allow for interraction with the reader, which I enjoy. Also, you can never tell what's fresh material. An article could have been written 2 years ago or 2 days ago. So, information can be woefully out of date and there's no way to tell unless you're familiar with the content.

Additionally, Helium restricts the writer a little too much. For instance, I couldn't post my article on former Clearwater Mayor Gabe Cazares because it was "too specific" and (of course) I couldn't find a current topic about him or an even broader topical category, such as "Floridian Mayors" or even "Mayors" in general. Seemingly, there is no rhyme or reason: One judge may allow a title that another might find to be "too specific", and instead of suggesting an alternate title, they reject the entire article outright and it's up to the author to decide how to retitle it.

You usually are required to post on a topic that has already been written about, or your new topic has to be something that others can potentially write about. This leaves no option for true creativity.

And Helium has no use for HTML, so there's no possibility of embedding links or emphasizing text with bold or italics.

Helium also doesn't allow much editing of an article, and when an article is changed, it has to be reviewed by others (randomly selected). If they feel it doesn't need to be changed, it won't be. However, if your original article contains a serious mistake, that can be a major problem. For instance, what if you originally asserted "John Smith is undoubtedly a child molestor and a danger to the community," when what you intended to say is "John Smith is undoubtedly NOT a child molestor and NOT a danger to the community." Will a randomly chosen "editor" understand why you made the subsequent changes that you did? Will he rule in your favor, or will John Smith remain a child molestor? Helium needs a spot where the author can explain the reasons behind the changes.

Additionally, there's really no room for personal ruminations, which I like to indulge in. My little deviations from standard writing, such as Panhandling Perfected are not easily pigeonholed.

Finally, unlike Blogger, the average reader cannot flag questionable content on Helium. I've seen articles that are full of terrible words I'd never want my son to see, and I'm unable to flag them (unless I want to take the time and trouble to send an email to their help desk).

So, is Helium worth contributing to at all? That remains to be seen. They claim to be "...on a quest to build the best user-created reference resource there is." If that's true, it would be very exciting to be a part of that. But if an author contributes too much and Helium turns out to be just another flash in the pan, it would be discouraging indeed. If Helium takes note of some of the problems that I've listed and does their best to address it, there is still an excellent chance that they will continue to attract quality articles by quality authors which will result in a quality product.

P.S. WARNING: Emma just posted that she's discovered that Helium claims copyright of whatever materials you submit, so I had to write to them and tell them to remove all my articles as they're already copyrighted.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Worst Movie Accents of All Times

I am often amazed that there are big-name actors who are so verbally unskilled. After all, we left the silent film era behind almost a century ago. And yet, such actors abound in Hollywood! Some of these so-called actors are merely guilty of the crime of woodenly acting; mumbling a monotonous stream of dull lines. But others take it one step further and butcher our eardrums with horrendous accents.

If I were allowed to give out awards for The Worst Movie Accents of All Time, I would award the following:

1. Kevin Costner in "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves". A big applause for the man who dared to take on a lead role set in Ye Merrye Olde England, when it was most obvious that the closest he's come to the British Isles is at The Cat & Fiddle Pub in Hollywood.

2. Keanu Reeves in "Much Ado About Nothing". A secondary award should be granted to Kenneth Branagh, who apparently cast Keanu in the role of Don John in the hopes that the movie would appeal to a younger audience. This movie does have a rather humorous edge, since everyone else speaks with impeccable British accents except for Keanu, who seems to be reprising his role from "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure". He got better, but not much better, in "Bram Stoker's Dracula".

3. Keanu Reeves again, in "The Devil's Advocate". This time Ted visits the Deep South and pretends to be a lawyer.

4. Jessica Simpson in "The Dukes of Hazzard". Perhaps because I've lived in the Deep South my entire life, I believe that Southern accents are easy to do. But apparently this "actor" had a rough time of it. I would like to know what accent she thinks she possesses. It's a caricature of an accent, at best. As one critic wrote, "her lines were delivered so stiffly that Viagra could learn a few things from her."

5. Kim Basinger in "8 Mile". Kim seems to have the same voice coach that Jessica has. Apparently Hollywood labors under the misconception that if you're white trash, you have a bad southern accent. The truth is, white trash resides throughout the country and speaks in multiple dialects. Happily, Kim is a poor actor anyway, so her reputation was not lessened whatsoever.

6. Dick Van Dyke in "Mary Poppins". Poor Dick. He already suffers from a Double Name Faux Pas that would never have made it to Hollywood in modern times. Although he was charming, his accent simply wasn't. He is solely responsible for my high school drama teacher's ban of all "British" accents in our drama class.

There are other actors who try their best and do their worst at regional accents. However, these 6 examples really top the list.

I think that it's time for Hollywood to cash in on these poor performers. We need to unite these actors together in one film. It doesn't really matter what sort of plot the film has, although comedy is mandatory. I suggest a remake of "BJ and the Bear", with everyone doing the accent that they're most infamous for. This could be the Ultimate Movie: A movie SO awful that it's fabulous.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Pug Bowling

I hope you guys have a great weekend! I'm still recovering from my cold, so there's not a lot that I can do. However, I am thinking of going Pug Bowling. Well, in my case, I'll have to try this with BugEyes.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Should Smokers be Allowed to Smoke in Public Places?

A smoker recently complained "I also find the argument that illnesses caused by smoking cost the government enormous sums of the tax payers (sic) money, faintly absurd. Just as many people, if not more, cost the tax payer through drunken driving and, just as likely, through the increasing problem of obesity!" She added "Has the Goverment (sic) considered banning drinking in a public place because of the cost to the tax payer?"

Finally, she stated triumphantly "Be honest, who would you rather sit next to on (sic) an aeroplane - a person who was smoking before they got on the plane or someone who had (sic) had several too many drinks?!"

Er, I'll take the alcoholic, please. I'm deathly allergic to cigarette smoke, even if it's only clinging to the smoker's clothes and hair. And, truthfully, vomit smells better.

This type of argument is a very poor one indeed, because smoking is in a league of its own. If I am sitting in a restaurant, and an alcoholic in the next booth is slamming her 6th vodka and tonic, I am not going to become drunk or even tipsy as a result of HER choices. Now, I'll grant you that she shouldn't be driving, but even then she can make the correct choice to call a cab without impacting any one of us.

However, if the woman in the next booth is smoking, I am smoking with her. If you want to kill yourself, that's fine with me. Just don't take me with you.

According to the American Lung Association, "Secondhand smoke is a mixture of the smoke given off by the burning end of a cigarette, pipe or cigar and the smoke exhaled from the lungs of smokers. Secondhand smoke contains more than 250 chemicals known to be toxic or cancer causing, including formaldehyde, benzene, vinyl chloride, arsenic, ammonia, and hydrogen cyanide."

The dangers of secondhand smoke abound. Again, according to the American Lung Association:

"Secondhand smoke causes about 3,000 deaths each year from lung cancer in non-smokers.

Secondhand smoke causes irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat.

Secondhand smoke can also irritate the lungs, leading to coughing, excessive phlegm and chest discomfort.

Secondhand smoke has been estimated to cause 22,700-69,600 deaths per year from heart disease in adult nonsmokers.

Secondhand Smoke Especially Hurts Children!

Children who breathe secondhand smoke are more likely to suffer from pneumonia, bronchitis, and other lung diseases.

Children who breathe secondhand smoke have more ear infections.

Children who breathe secondhand smoke are more likely to develop asthma.

Children who have asthma and who breathe secondhand smoke have more asthma attacks.

There are an estimated 150,000 to 300,000 cases every year of infections, such as bronchitis and pneumonia in infants and children under 18 months of age who breathe secondhand smoke. These result in between 7,500 and 15,000 hospitalizations!"

My mother and her two brothers have never smoked a day in their life, because their parents DID. My uncle once told me of a particularly horrible memory that he had when they were small children, driving in the car with my grandparents, as my grandparents smoked. The windows were open but it didn't help much. In fact, it may have increased the smoke that was flowing in the back seat, and the children felt smothered. It was a terrible, suffocating feeling that made an indelible impression on my uncle, who swore he would never touch a cigarette.

Of course, American politicians are cozy with the tobacco industry, which contributes greatly to their war chests. This means that any affront to smokers is met with a vast arsenal of weapons. But Americans are still fighting back.

In California they recently passed a law that makes it child abuse if an adult is smoking in a car with a child present. I applaud the Californians for recognizing this, and I hope that the rest of America follows suit.

The Californians are speaking for the children, who cannot.

The truth is, that even though they're stinky, smelly, nasty, and expensive, cigarettes live on in the youth of America. You can't walk down a popular sidewalk without holding your breath as you go by some teen who's blowing smoke in your direction. It's so natural to me that I almost forget I'm doing it. And these kids get their habits from watching their parents and their peers. If children are increasingly shielded from their parents' poor judgement in this matter, maybe they'll have a better chance at good health and good choices.

Society needs to protect those of us that are allergic and asthmatic. We are the ones that can be hospitalized due to someone else's fault, even if we practice a healthy lifestyle. And society needs to protect the children if their parents don't care enough to do it.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Sick Today

I am fighting a nasty cold, and it's getting the best of me. I'm so sorry, but I can't think of a thing while I'm dealing with this. I would love to get your feedback on the last two posts, if you haven't read them yet. Have a wonderful day!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Fitting Room Etiquette

I hate shopping for clothes. Unless you have the body of a Barbie doll, nothing ever seems to fit the way that you imagine it will. I am reminded of the Cathy cartoons, when Cathy goes through her seasonal ritual of trying on swimsuits. It's always an experience fraught with misery.

Of course the agony is compounded when you are forced to interract with others.

I was once in a typical fitting room. You know the kind that I mean: The doors look as if they're the entry to an old Western saloon. You expect to see Sheriff Marshall Dillon come striding in at any moment.

Now, that kind of fitting room always makes me nervous. There's barely enough coverage (if you aren't too tall) to conceal your private parts, but there's always a large expanse of knees and thighs and you can be seen from your shoulders on up. It's uncomfortably easy to make eye contact with others while you're naked as a mole-rat and the only thing standing between you is a set of saloon doors.

As if that wasn't enough to induce hysteria, the stalls on either side stopped at roughly 18 inches from the ground, so there was never any sense of true privacy. If you put your purse down at the floor level, someone could reach over and grab it while you were stark naked and take off with it. I suspect that most women would let a thief take their purse if it meant streaking madly after the thief.

I was wearing nothing but a bra and a set of T-back panties. I had one foot near my purse so that I knew where it was at all times while I struggled into an outfit. At this point, I could have auditioned for the Cirque du Soleil. I had just got the outfit adjusted, when I looked down to see a snotty-nosed boy of about 5 years of age peering up at me from the stall next door.

I gaped at the boy, as he stared solemnly up at me, picking his nose. I made a shooing motion, but he continued to stare. "Go away!" I hissed. He vanished.

I turned around to the mirror to see how I looked, when the kid appeared again, this time from under the saloon doors. "Will SOMEbody get this kid?!" I hollered. "We've got a Peeping Tom here!" I heard his mother call to him, and he disappeared. She called out an apology that I responded to with a grunt, as I was busy being a contortionist once more. What kind of a mother lets her kid run about like that? And... what is he doing now? Peeping in his neighbor's windows at night?

Other fitting room nastiness abounds: Women who try on underwear and swimsuits WITHOUT wearing their own underwear beneath. I've seen sales associates throwing away these items when they've become smeared with bodily fluids. Because I've seen that, I will NEVER buy such a garment and wear it without having washed it first! I always get a chuckle out of the pieces that have a little insert that reads "For Your Protection". The belief is that when you buy the item, you can peel off the little insert and it's ready to wear. Has no one heard of pubic lice?! The whole thing makes me shudder.

And what about the stalls that are missing locks? If you don't have a buddy system, you are left trying to hold the door closed with one hand while you wiggle about helplessly. And if let go even for a moment, you KNOW that someone will burst in on you. And what about that? If someone bursts in on you, will they apologize? Or will they merely go on their way, leaving you spluttering in indignation?

It has grown to a point that I would rather buy a piece of clothing and try it on in the comfort and privacy of my own home. If I must return it later, then so be it. It's still better than going through the agony of the Fitting Room Experience.

P.S. One of my articles is featured on the cover of Helium today (near the bottom of the page). This is a true honor, indeed.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Confederate Flag

Hillary Clinton recently took a stand against the Confederate (a.k.a. "Rebel") Flag being flown in South Carolina.

"I think about how many South Carolinians have served in our military and who are serving today under our flag and I believe that we should have one flag that we all pay honor to, as I know that most people in South Carolina do every single day," the New York senator said. "I personally would like to see it removed from the Statehouse grounds."

Until recently, I had never liked Hillary Clinton. I thought that she was terribly weak and self-serving most of the time, and I despised her for letting Bill walk all over her. I never thought that I'd say I was in agreement with her, but lately there is much to applaud her for!

For instance, yesterday I listened as a radio talkshow host (Glenn Beck) sneered over Hillary's latest stand against the war in Iraq, claiming that she and Bill were merely poll watchers who only took a position once they saw what the people wanted.

Um... isn't that what we really need? Isn't that what "representation" is? I, for one, am sick and tired of having someone at the helm who refuses to listen to the average citizen.

But I give points to Hillary for standing in the middle of the Deep South and declaring that it is wrong to fly the Confederate Flag.

Strangely, this shouldn't even be a controversy. The Confederate Army lost to the Union in 1865. The South has had 142 years to get over it! Yet the same people who fly the Confederate Flag are the people who tell black Americans that slavery was over 142 years ago and they need to stop whining!

The Confederate Flag is a defeated flag. Moreover, it's a flag that symbolizes chaos, civil divide, slavery, and ultimately death. It is not a flag to be proud of: Instead, there is much shame and many wrongs which are attached to that flag. The Confederate Flag has come to be seen as a representation of great evil by the majority of Americans.

I've heard some defenders of The Confederate Flag claim that it merely means that they're proud of their heritage and/or proud to live in the South. Well great, then! If that is all this is about, fly the Bonnie Blue Flag instead, which is another flag that was created to honor and represent the South.

Strangely, you don't seen northerners racing about in BMWs with a bumpersticker that reads "Ha! The Yankees Kicked Butt in 1865!" However, there are plenty of pickup trucks in the deep south with bumperstickers that claim "The South Will Rise Again!"

So what is the true meaning behind such sentiments, and the Confederate Flag which represents them? I would venture to guess that just as some people cling in hopeless hero worship to sports teams, these people cling to the memory of a defeated regime because it is all that they can define themselves by. They feel unimportant and uninteresting unless they're attached to something bigger than they are.

It also displays an appalling lack of kindness to their fellow man. This flag is an insult to every black American, and it's an open denial of the Union of the States. Perhaps it is presumptuous of me to claim that everyone flying The Confederate Flag is a redneck that hates blacks. However, I know that I am not alone in suspecting it.

A "man on the street" was once interviewed about The Confederate Flag. Jeff Cordell said "...I don't see how blacks, if they are educated to see that it's a Christian symbol, could still think it's a problem." The Nazi Flag was also once a Christian symbol. But when a symbol's meaning has been perverted, the symbol can be used no longer.

It is time to retire The Confederate Flag. For good.

Monday, February 19, 2007

News of the Weird

Britney Spears outdid herself on Friday when she shaved her head bald. For many of us, that's actually a pretty satisfying image. We now know that even celebs have bad hair days, and we can also be somewhat smug in the knowlege that unless we've been Baker Acted, we've managed to avoid doing anything that nuts.

Japanese Scientists have successfully grown human teeth from a single cell and transplanted them to mice. This is what I picture ----->
And I'm led to wonder: Since mice need sharp incisors to eat what they prefer, what are they being fed? Baby food?

After the latest airline debacle (in which passengers were kept hostage in a Jet Blue airplane for 9+ hours), many people are demanding an Airline Traveller Bill of Rights. It's obviously overdue. I'd like to suggest that we also tackle the problem of airline food. When we'd rather go hungry than eat airplane fare, something needs to be done. The last airline meal I had resembled an old man's toupee with a little gravy spread on top. It tasted like it, too.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Stay FAR Away From The Bridge to Terabithia!

I have just returned from the worst movie I've ever seen in my life, and that encompasses a whole lotta movies. This movie is more putrid than a piece of rotting fish. It's more detestable than Michael Jackson, more disappointing than Macaulay Culkin's career.

If you love your children, keep them far away from this travesty of film-making.

Surprisingly, there were warm accolades from many reviewers. I can only believe they were dropped on their heads as babies. To enjoy this movie, you have to have the taste of the tasteless, the discrimination of Pamela Anderson, and the intellect of Brittany Spears.

Although the "hook" for the movie was all the fantastic graphics in the previews, the actual graphics were only about 1-5% of the otherwise dull and introspective film. You want to get up and leave halfway through the film, but hope keeps you in your seat. When it's over, pray that you don't have any weapons nearby: It's so dismal, you may simply want to end it all.

The film revolves around a backwards boy, living in the midst of a dysfunctional family. His only outlet is through drawing. A new girl moves in, and she's lively and fun and they become great friends. His life gradually begins to improve, as they play together and take on the school bullies. Then one day she dies in a shocking tragedy, and we are subjected to the horrors of his dealing with her death. At one point, we think he may be going mad. Later on, we wish he would. At least a glimpse into the mind of a madman would be more interesting than this dull cinematic attempt.

Amazingly, some reviewers have compared it to "Narnia", another Disney film. This is as akin to Narnia as the Reverend Jesse Jackson is akin to David Duke.

So, if you're tempted to take your children to the movies, stay far away from The Bridge to Terabithia, lest you drown in a maudlin mix varying between emotion and boredom.

Friday, February 16, 2007

White Trash Child Abuse

It seems that I see child abuse everywhere lately. I wish it wasn't so. Yesterday I pulled up next to an old run-down blue car with 3 young children strapped into the back. Dad was literally swearing at the top of his lungs at one of the kids, and either backhanded the kid or hit something near her as he half-turned from the driver's seat.

Mom was merely nodding as she chainsmoked away in the front seat. Mom looked as if she'd had her share of beatings, too. There were cuts on her face, and shadows under her eyes. I ended up calling the police on them, but there's little chance that anything could be done. The kids will most likely grow up to emulate their behavior.

Anna Nicole Smith was White Trash With Money; a sad parody who trounced across our TV sets and on and off the covers of magazines, wearing spiked heels and little else. When I first heard of her death, I felt sorry for her daughter. However, as more details emerged and I learned what she really was, I have come to the conclusion that her daughter will still stand a better chance at a good life without her.

After all, Anna Nicole didn't even raise her own son, so it's doubtful that she truly knew what to do with her daughter. It would (most likely) have been the "puppy syndrome": She would've played with the baby a little while until the child grew up and grew more challenging. Then the child would've been passed off to a succession of nannies.

Even if Anna Nicole's daughter is raised by someone who only wants her for her inheritance, she will be treated well. Although her future may sound desolate, it will be infinitely better than the future those three children face.

This goes back to something I've always said: All parents should be forced to go through mandatory parenting classes. If they haven't completed them, their children should be taken away from them until they do. It's sad to see bad parents reproduce their mistakes in their children, when good people who want to be parents don't always get the opportunity to be.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Iraqi Refugees

Well, Bush has done it again. After all these years, I am almost tempted to believe that he is deliberately doing his best to throw America into chaos. Bush's latest move is to throw open the doors for seven thousand Iraqi refugees.

If this keeps up, it will simply be cheaper to overtake Iraq completely, declare it to be the 51st State in America, and settle in. Of course we'd have to seal the borders there better than we do here, but it could be done.

This decision was made as breezily as if Bush was choosing between the lobster and the prime rib at a local steakhouse. As if we don't have enough problems with the illegal immigrants sucking our social security and welfare dry (even though they never paid into it), driving up our medical costs and overtaxing the hospitals. Sure! Why not? 7,000 more mouths to feed. Because (don't kid yourself) these people will be permanent residents of... the welfare rolls.

Of those 7,000, how many speak English? How many will have to be taught on our dollar, while living on our dollar? How many women would be qualified to work at all? And how many men in Iraq truly have marketable skills? These are questions that we need to be asking ourselves before we do this.

I'm sure President Bush loves looking like the Savior of Iraq. But, at what cost to the American people? This is as ill-considered as sending money overseas to Africa, when we know that the majority of it is intercepted by power-hungry provincial warlords. But because Bush apparently feels that the "appearance" is better than the reality of it, our hard-earned monies continue to flow out of the country. Remember that on Tax Day.

Oh, but "7,000 is a small number," said Ali Mahmoud, 60, also a former chairman at Iraqi House, which was set up after the first Gulf War. "It might encourage other countries to do the same." Sure, sure it will. Just as our other actions there have encouraged them to pitch in.

Well, why not? We're letting everyone in these days. Just ask Mexican Presidente Felipe Calderon.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Here we are, facing V-Day again. At one time, when I was single but younger than I am now, I dreaded this holiday. It was the day that I didn't get flowers, didn't receive a valentine, didn't have anyone to share it with. However, most of the time I've had a special someone for Valentine's Day.

Now that I'm single once again, I'm resigned to a day without any showers of affection. Friends have called me, concerned. "Are you going to be all right on Valentine's Day?" they've asked. I've told them truthfully that I'm fine. My friends and family are my valentines. I am too busy to worry about who will be my next Valentine, and that makes me happy.

But Valentine's Day is a truly interesting holiday. And in the spirit of V-Day, I am republishing my post from last year:

Happy Lupercalia Day!

According to tradition, Valentine was a Catholic bishop who was martyred for his faith. He's now omitted from the calendar of saints' days because he probably never existed. His festival was on the 14th of February, but the custom of sending ‘valentines’ to a loved one on that day seems to have arisen because the day coincided with the Roman mid-February festival of Lupercalia.

Lupercalia was a festival in celebration of Romulus and Remus, the two brothers who were supposedly raised by wolves (like Tom Cruise). So how was the original holiday celebrated?

Two village boys were annointed with blood and milk, and then (dressed in goat skins) they went running through the town streets with whips, hitting anyone they could. It was a purification ceremony of sorts. You were lucky if you got hit.

In fact, this is where the month February gets it's name; from the Roman word februa, which means purification.

As time went by, a sort of lottery system evolved, where available girls put their names in a box to be drawn out by the young men of the city. Look at it as the first recorded instance of "blind dates".

Typical of the Catholic Church, in it's continued attempt to absorb and replace pagan traditions, Lupercalia was eventually compromised to a "saint" day, and people drew the names of different saints, instead of phone numbers.

You can see why this never took off.

Eventualy the singles lottery emerged again during the medieval days of romance and chivalry. And from there, it evolved into the actual exchanging of valentines.

I think we make too much of Valentine's Day. There are many people who are very depressed on this day, because they're without a "significant other". And for many of us, our true valentines are our children or our families, no matter whom may come into (or walk out of) our lives.

So, I am recommending that we go back to Lupercalia festivities. Of course the jewelers may be reluctant about this, I'm sure. But instead of churning out diamond-studded whatnots, they could create jewelry in the theme of wolves.

Card companies could start putting out little sentiments that emphasize how family-oriented wolves are, and how wolves mate for life.

Instead of the occasional Olympic torch running, we would now have youths dressed in goatskin, running yearly through the streets with whips. And because it's good luck to be whipped, we'll all have a front row seat to see every member in Congress line up for a much-deserved whipping.

It could work.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Bees Dying in Alarming Plague

Here's a story that most newspapers and news organizations won't be discussing: Bees are dying in an alarming plague that is sweeping the USA.

Many people see bees as simply a nuisance at best. Some people realize vaguely that they're responsible for pollination, but they have no idea that a lack of bees means a lack of crops, which means a food shortage.

"Beekeepers in 22 states have reported losses of up to 80 percent of their colonies in recent weeks, leaving many unable to rent the bees to farmers of crops such as almonds and, later in the year, apples and blueberries."

In the 1960s, we saw a wasting plague that behaved in a similar manner. Right now, scientists are baffled. However, this is only the beginning of the attack on the friendly and helpful bee. African Killer Bees continue their insidious spread throughout Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California. Experts predict that they will soon overtake the majority of the United States. They are killing off the native bees, and prove to be very erratic, aggressive, and life-threatening to humans.

I don't know what can be done, but surely the government could do more than it's currently doing to help solve the problem. As always, the government's focus seems to be anywhere but where it should be: At home, within our own borders.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Should the HPV Vaccine be Mandatory?

Most cervical cancer is connected to the human papilloma virus, a sexually transmitted disease that causes 70% of all cervical cancers and creates genital warts. Recently a vaccine was developed which would innoculate any young women against HPV. It's the first vaccine that claims to prevent cancer, by targeting a virus.

The controversy which is brewing surrounds a question of parental "choice". There are parents who are crying out against the vaccine, claiming that they raised their daughters properly, so their daughters will have no need of such a vaccine. Really? Are you willing to bet her life on the chance that she will never make one mistake?

In Texas, Gov. Rick Perry chose to make it mandatory. In 2 years, all girls at a certain young age will have to have the vaccine unless their parents choose to opt out due to "reasons of conscience". Is that option available to Jehovah's Witnesses? Since Jehovah's Witnesses are not allowed to prevent their children from having blood transfusions, should these parents be allowed to make such a life-and-death decision for their daughters?

And what if your daughter is as pure as the driven snow, waits to have sex until she's married, and gets infected on her wedding night by a man who has HPV? What if it isn't caught in time, because she's certain that she's "been a good girl" so she believes there's no chance of contracting any STDs?

The vaccine should be mandatory, and no parent should be allowed to keep their daughter from obtaining it.

Friday, February 09, 2007

I Need Surgery Again

Some of my loyal readers and friends will remember the neck surgery I went through in November of 2005. I had two fractured disks. They removed the bone shards, replaced them with cadaver bone, and bolted me together with a titanium plate. It wasn't loads of fun, because they had to go through the front of my throat and the hospital care was very poor.

I get to do it again.

This time, there's another disk that has deteriorated to the point that I'm in constant pain, suffering from tennis elbow and neck spasms. The surgery will have to happen soon. I just found out about it today.

The up-side is that maybe this will be the last surgery I have to go through. The down-side is that I already thought I was done with the problem.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Rosie's Cancer

I haven't blogged about this yet, but there are days that I don't feel like writing anymore. I am dealing with many business problems, and Rosie has inoperable bone cancer which is terminal. She's only 42. I haven't written about this before, because to write about it is to put misery to words and dwell on something that I dwell on too much, as it is.

It is hard to watch a good friend decline. She is refusing chemotherapy because her health is already so bad that she can barely make it through the day. She can't keep food down, she's lost drastic amounts of weight, and the only saving grace is that she was very large and had fat to spare.

Rosie's spirit remains unbroken, although it is weak. We still laugh together, but now we cry together, too. Her husband is stressed and is doing the best he can to deal with it, but she is the love of his life, and they've only been married two years.

I've seen my readership decline because I am not able to participate actively in other blogs. This leads me to believe that, perhaps, it is silly to continue to write. However, writing is sometimes my only therapy in otherwise stressful times. I find that if I force myself to concentrate and write something every morning, it is a creative outlet that helps me get through the day.

I don't often share what I'm going through, because the last thing I want to do is to produce a maudlin blog that everyone shuns. And I am generally an optimistic person! As my grandmother always said, "This, too, shall pass." I still have much to be grateful for, I realize. But right now, the stress is rising with no end in sight.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


A recent study states that American cigarette packs are the least effective in their messages, which have almost no impact on cigarette smokers whatsoever. To be effectively deterrent, they need to follow in the footsteps of Canadian cigarette packs, which display graphic depictions of what can and will happen to smokers. I believe that we should follow in the footsteps of the Canadians and recommend this photo to start with:

Of course, American politicians are cozy with the tobacco industry, which contributes greatly to their war chests. But Americans are still fighting back. In California they recently passed a law that makes it child abuse if an adult is smoking in a car with a child present. I applaud the Californians for recognizing this, and I hope that the rest of America follows suit.

My mother and her two brothers have never smoked a day in their life, because their parents did. My uncle once told me of a particularly horrible memory that he had when they were small children, driving in the car with my grandparents, as my grandparents smoked. The windows were open but it didn't help much. In fact, it may have increased the smoke that was flowing in the back seat, and the children felt smothered. It was a terrible, suffocating feeling that made an indelible impression on my uncle, who swore he would never touch a cigarette.

The Californians are speaking for the children, who cannot.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Your Questions, My Answers, & Those Crazy Astronauts!

Dave Away From Home asked for a link to the Superbowl Commercials, so here it is!

Meow asked how the devastation was in Florida, and was I close to it? The answer is that we're in the Tampa Bay area, which is about 2 hours away from Deland. Here's a map (click on it to view it in a larger screen):

The morning that I awoke to the news, I was quite surprised because the storm had passed right over us before it hit the Deland area. Obviously there were no real problems, then. The destruction is amazing: Some buildings are flattened as if a giant hand reached down from the sky and smashed them down. Others have some interior walls remaining. One home had it's kitchen intact, but little else. Since the storm hit at night, and some people slept through the warnings, 20 are dead so far.

And have you read about Astronaut Lisa M. Nowak? She's been arrested for battery and attempted kidnapping after she hunted down the girlfriend of her lover, fellow astronaut William Oefelein. Now Bill's okay looking, but he's hardly supermodel quality. I can only suppose his bedroom skills must be astounding, since he's inspired quite a catfight.

Lisa is married, according to her NASA biography. However, their picture of her is obviously very outdated, and her marriage may also be.

Anyway, she realized that Bill was flying to Orlando to meet his other lover, Colleen Shipman. So, "when she found out that Shipman was flying to Orlando from Houston, Nowak decided to confront her, according to the arrest affidavit. Nowak raced from Houston to Orlando wearing diapers so she wouldn’t have to stop to urinate, authorities said."

You know, I can only hope that old Bill is a fetishist, because this gives the reader a very unattractive picture. Speaking of unattractive pictures, have a look at this:

Looks like she's on crack, doesn't it? I guess that's what you look like after sitting in wet diapers for 8 hours.

What is extra creepy: She was found to have in her possession a four-inch folding buck knife, a new steel mallet, black gloves, rubber tubing, plastic garbage bags (perhaps to dispose of the body?)

Anyway, I think that Lisa apparently needs a lonnnng vacation. As for Bill, surely he deserves at least a slap on the wrist? Looks like the player got played.

I just saw a picture of Lisa that reminded me of Monica Cartwright, who played the part of the obsessed mad churchwoman in "The Witches of Eastwick". Is it just me, or do you see it, too?

Monday, February 05, 2007

The Superbowl in Hindsight

The Superbowl was great. It was a game worth watching, and SaurKid was so excited that I wasn't allowed to look away for a moment. Toward the end, he was getting fidgety, but I can't blame him since I fell asleep after the halftime show and woke up just before they declared the Colts to be the winners!

Although I preferred the Bears, there was no coach better deserving of an award than Tony Dungy (of the Colts). While I didn't know Tony personally, I have a friend who knew him well when he was a coach for the Tampa Bay Bucs. Tony was well-loved, admired, and respected by all for his gentlemanly style, his calm and steady demeanor, and his Christian faith. When his son killed himself last year, many people mourned him for Tony's sake. But Tony soldiered on and this Superbowl was, perhaps, his reward.

Halftime was interesting, wasn't it? Prince must have the best plastic surgeon in the world. The man is an artist! He should win awards! Prince actually looks younger than he did in the 80s, and prettier, too. Although his music never really appealed to me (why do they keep inviting has-beens, anyway?), he pulled it off as well as anyone could. But who was the large woman who went prancing by in white rags, and joined him briefly at the mic? Does anyone know?

And did you notice that if it was up to the TV set, we'd never know that either team had cheerleaders? It's no loss, IMHO, but it's very interesing.

Overall, the commercials were pitiful. Oddly, some companies chose to air the same commercials they've been airing for months. Geico really missed big when they chose to air an old caveman commercial, instead of introducing a new one.

The Doritos ad was previewed to many of us before the Superbowl, and it wasn't impressive then. Although the gimick is admirable (see if you can get the fans fired up by causing them to compete to film ads for your company) the result is bland. The lesson to be learned: It's fine to encourage amateurs to donate time and energy to your cause, but don't air the results on the biggest commercial day of the year.

The other Doritos commercial, "Cleanup on Register 6", displayed excellent comedic chemistry between the two people but the ending was foul (hint: it's the title of the piece). SaurKid turned to me and said "I don't get it!" "You don't want to," I replied, crossly. produced an ad that was able to simultaneously insult intelligence, blonds, women, sales people, and people who work hard. A scrawny giddy blond runs up to some guy in the office and asks breathlessly if she can go for a ride in his new sports car. As he goes through the office, others fawn all over him. He finally reveals his secret: He uses some kind of sales data base because people who work hard are fools, and he works "smarter", not harder. I am not even going to bother to pick this horror apart. It speaks for itself.

Sierra Mist continues the tradition of atrociously horrid Superbowl ads by producing two more pitiful ones. One guy wears tacky clothing and has a horrid combover, and is shown as an example of a "bad" decision, but his boss is drinking Sierra Mist, which is a "good" decision. Another commercial has the same comedians doing some sort of martial arts class which teaches how to defend your Sierra Mist. I think. Needless to say... *yawn*

Budweiser, one of the bright shining lights in a murk of awful productions, has once again produced memorable, funny commercials. They include "Rock, Paper, Scissors," "Wedding Auction", "Mind of Mencia", "Dalmations", "Slap Fight", "Gossip Problems", "What'd You Say?", "It's a Bottle Opener!", "Our God", and "Shula vs. Jay-Z".

Blockbuster's "Click a Mouse" ad is at least a year old (maybe two)? Are they losing so much market share to NetFlix that they can't afford a new one? Great commercial, time for the sequel.

FedEx's "Moon Office" was cute, but didn't really say much about the product. Why was a dog floating around the office, anyway? Are restrictions loosened on the moon? And who cleans up the doggy poo? Those questions were floating around in my head as the song "The Final Countdown" played at the end, which also made me wonder "Why is it the final countdown? Is there some disaster awaiting these moonies?" Good graphics, but the unintended subconscious messages caused it to fall flat.

Their other commercial, "Names", has everyone arguing over the name "FedEx Ground." The argument is that FedEx Ground is a very fast service, and the name doesn't mean anything. Then they ask for agreement from all the little toadies that are standing around, whose names do represent what they are. It sends a mixed message, at best.

Schick's "Quatro Titanium" is another yawner. And does anyone really believe it takes all that to create a razor? With that much research and scientists contributing to it, that razor had better sit up and tell you all the day's headlines as you shave.

The Toyota ads bored me. One guy that was watching briefly looked up and commented on how strong the truck seemed to be, but otherwise everyone was reaching for the chips and dip.

Chevy's "Sing a Song" was a commercial featuring lots of people singing rather poorly while ogling Chevy products. I think they could've produced something a little snappier.

Snickers' "The Kiss" had the makings of being great. Demonstrating homophobia in a pair of brawny males can still be funny to most blue-collar Americans. Here's how it was set up: Two guys, working on a car. Guy #1 sticks a Snicker's Bar in his mouth. Guy #2 is so enamoured with Snickers that he can't resist chomping on the other end. When they meet, mouth-to-mouth, they jump apart and decide to do something "manly" which involves ripping hair off their chests. All good, except for the ending. I would've stopped at the "kiss" and had RuPaul come flouncing in with a wisecrack, instead.

My mother went to school with Ken Howard, and she assured us that he was a very nice guy, so our family has always rooted for him. However, I didn't recognize him in the new GoDaddy commercials at first, due to some very extensive plastic surgery and bad hair dye. Still, Ken was the only good thing that came out of that commercial. Their advertising department seems to think that big-boobed women pole dancing will sell their product for them. Perhaps they're right, but I wonder if they're missing their mark at this point. The initial shock value (which they sought a couple of years ago) is gone, and there are many women who also might want to use their services. These women are being ignored.

Coke surprised me by re-running two commercials: "Give a Little Love" (an obvious take-off from the Grand Theft Auto game) is clever, but it was introduced last year. "Where Your Quarter Goes" is a viewer's delight and is quite entertaining.

Coke's "I Have a Dream" was a nice tribute to MLK, but I don't know if it will do anything for sales. "The First Diet Coke" was about an old man in a nursing home who takes his first swig of Diet Coke, asks "What else have I been missing?" and proceeds to go out and live it up. That was pretty funny, and it created a strong message that if you're missing out on Coke, you're missing out on life.

The Honda, Lexus and Nissan ads were dull as dirt.

Garmin's "Mapzilla" was very clever, with excellent graphics that entertained. A large map becomes Mapzilla and a GPS unit becomes it's arch enemy. They battle it out, and send the message that GPS units have conquered the mystery of maps.

Chevy's "All Male Carwash" was pitiful. I didn't even recognize the product. All I felt was a slight sense of concern for those women who were stuck in a car as ugly, semi-nude men crawled all over it. Later, I discovered it was an ad for Chevy... and that's because I bothered to hunt it down. Most people won't. decided to try the whole theme of survival in the workplace. The ads were cute, clever, and it was fun to watch people running from pens (instead of dart guns), dodge large watercooler bottles swinging down from trees, and dueling to the death. Many of us can identify with it.

The American Heart Association tried to weigh in with a commercial that fell flat because it simply took too long to get to the point. You see this idiot wearing a silk heart costume, and then various bad guys wearing labels like "High Blood Pressure" take turns beating him up. You keep expecting something else to happen, but nothing does. They really needed a superhero to show up at the end, wearing the American Heart Association symbol on his chest, but he never came.

GM's "Robot Unemployment" made us feel very badly for the cute little robot and gave us the unintentional message that GM is heartless to it's employees.

Sprint's "Connectile Dysfunction" tried to poke fun at erectile dysfunction commercials. Sorry guys, that was all played out last year... and they didn't even do a good job of spoofing those commercials! This was another commercial that made such a drab impression, I had to do some research to discover which company produced it!

"Dungy and Smith" was a dull little Frito-Lay commercial showing lots of black people watching the Superbowl. OK, we get it! Dungy and Smith are the first black coaches in Superbowl. It's sad that so many people are trying to make a big deal out of their color, instead of their quality. It's no surprise that Frito-Lay was the only company to do this: It's kind of a moot point. Again, this commercial was not able to produce brand identification.

E-Trade's "Bank Robbers" was a magnificent commercial. It was able to convey that your own bank is robbing you, and you need to turn to E-Trade instead. It was attention-grabbing, with a message that packed a punch and strong branding. This is the firm that Frito-Lay should have turned to.

I didn't like Van Heusen's "A Day in Reverse" but it got the message across that if you wear Van Heusen, you get to sleep with a sexy girl and the clothes aren't half bad, either. Although I felt the graphics weren't up to the standards of the Coke or FedEx commercials, and I wasn't sure why the guy was regressing through the day, losing clothes as he went, I think it did what it was intended to do.

SaurKid and I liked Taco Bell's "Lions", despite the fact that there are no Taco Bells in the wilderness of Africa. Cute, simple, and you remember the brand.

Robert Goulet made his appearance in Emerald Nuts' "Low Blood Sugar". It was just kooky enough to be hysterical. The premise is that if you don't keep snacks on hand (such as Emerald Nuts) you can get low blood sugar and your work can suffer. But their advertising firm substituted "Robert Goulet" for "low blood sugar" and a marvellous commercial was born which includes Goulet climbing on the ceiling, tearing up paper and eating it, and generally wrecking havoc.

Nationwide Mutual Insurance has proven that Kevin Federline has no shame. It shows him going from being a rapper to working in a fast food joint and doles out the message that it can all be over in a split second. The fact that it rings appallingly true for Kevin may be irony at it's finest, but it gets the message across.

Prudential's "The Rock" just talked about various uses for rocks. At the end they mentioned that they were a rock, too. Or something like that. They need to perform a little corporate espionage, and discover the marketing firm for Emerald Nuts.

Izod's "Snow Globe" had people playing winter sports, morphing into people enjoying the tropics. In the end you see everything pull away to show that they're swimming in the Izod Islands, apparently. Finally the camera pulls away to show you that even this is part of a snow globe. Good graphics, and at least they had the foresight to put the name "Izod" in there in island form. Izod is enjoying a resurgence among teens, who no longer identify it with their grandfathers, so it's a good commercial targeted more at them than toward the rest of us.

E-Trade's "One Finger": Do you really want to associate your product with a proctology exam? Enough said.

Snapple's "Quest for Snapple" was disappointing. As one reviewer said, "Guy travels great distances to find the elusive answer to the eternal question ... "what is EGCG?" He's told he could have learned the answer by looking at the back of the bottle. Clearly, drinking Snapple green tea makes you stupid, and we want no part of such a product." I couldn't agree more.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Super Bowl Sunday

My ex-husband and I always had a Super Bowl Tradition: Even though neither of us are beer drinkers, on Super Bowl Sunday we always had to have Buffalo wings and a beer. I still continue that tradition (I don't know if he does) and so this Sunday we'll have the mandatory Hooter's wings that we love, along with the usual snack foods, and I'll have my one beer.

I'm one of those people who watch Super Bowl for the ads, because I have a strong marketing and PR background. It's fascinating to see the ones that hit it "dead on", and interesting to see when a multimillion-dollar-corporation can make a terrible mistake that can live on in infamy for years. To see a Leviathon misstep is fascinating.

Still, I'm somewhat aware of the teams, and I'll look up from a book when my son hollers at a touch down.

I'm rooting for the Bears this year. Their quarterback, Rex Grossman, doesn't impress much at first glance. "You can find Grossman all the way down at 24 on the league's quarterback-rating list... But that was the regular season. A look at playoff numbers reveals that a scaled-back Grossman has been slightly more efficient than Manning," writes Randy Hill of Grossman is the underdog: Bears fans are biting their nails today, because you never know how he will perform.

Then there's the Indianapolis Colts' Peyton Manning, who seems to be a quarterback that polarizes people. In the past, Manning has blamed his teammates for misses and losses, and been a little less than sportsmanlike in his behavior. He obviously is more consistent than Grossman, but many fans dislike his demeanor and feel that his biggest flaw is that he's easily frustrated. One person recently wrote "I hope he never wins. I watched him in college, up close and personal, be dismissive to a little girl asking for an autograph. He could have just said no, but he decided to be a BLEEP. God dont like ugly, and he threw INTs and lost his Heisman."

But no matter who wins, and who's at the helm, it's everything in-between that interests me. Super Bowl is a great American tradition: No matter what, there is always something there for everyone.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Doggy Genetic Testing

MetaMorphix has just announced the invention of a new DNA test for dogs which will be able to identify what their heritage is. "This is very exciting news for dog lovers," said Dr. Ed Quattlebaum, Co-Chairman and CEO of MetaMorphix, Inc. "The first question always asked of mixed-breed dog owners is, 'What kind of dog is that?' Now, owners need not guess and can say with certainty, 'The Canine Heritage(TM) test showed that my dog is a mix of Labrador Retriever, English Setter and Border Collie'.

It debuts in late February in Orlando, where pet owners can come to a doggy convention and try it out for themselves. It can identify 38 different major breeds.

Cool, huh? I'm going to be testing the new puppy as soon as it's available.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Cartoon Promo That Went Bad

I was driving yesterday as I heard the breaking news that Boston had been virtually shut down. A startling discovery had been made: Suspicious electronic devices had been planted throughout Boston at major strategic areas. Those areas included a major bridge and portions of highway.

These devices were little black circuit boards with a picture of a silly 1980s-style computer game figure flashing his middle finger. This caused authorities to suspect it was a hoax, of course, but it could also have been a nasty message on a detonation device. Wires hung from the devices, and as you can see, there's also something that looks suspicious at the base of it. Bomb squads were called in, and people waited in their cars for hours as the devices were removed.

Eventually it was discovered that the devices were simply an advertising ploy that went terribly wrong. The first to scramble to the mic to apologize was Turner Broadcasting. However, Interference Inc., the advertising firm that they hired, has made no comment yet. Interestingly, their website has been taken down. All that you can get is Google's usual synopsis which reads "A nationwide guerilla and alternative marketing agency from idiation through tactile implementation and staffing."

According to a 2001 interview with the CEO of Interference Inc., "Interference, Inc. will use street corner messengers, product samplings, publicity stunts, branded hitchhikers and other "random acts of kindness," anything to deliver a targeted message to a specific market."

The two men that were hired to distribute the devices have been arrested. As authorities pointed out, "Those conducting the campaign should have known the devices could cause panic because they were placed in sensitive areas."

Interestingly, it is most obvious that Turner Broadcasting and Interference Inc. intended these devices to raise a storm of controversy. No one pays for an advertising campaign that will create little or no publicity. The devices were placed in strategic places in 5 or 6 major cities, with the intent to initially frighten the viewer. I think they had assumed that someone would gasp and say "Oh look! A bomb!" and then, a moment later, say "Oh, it couldn't be. It's something cartoon-y. I wonder what it's all about?" However, I also think that they were fully aware that it might result in something this big: That was an added bonus. As one Hollywood promoter once said "There is no such thing as bad publicity."

Here is what should alarm us all: The devices had been planted in 5-6 major cities a couple of weeks ago. And yet, they were only discovered yesterday in one of those cities. If our society is so comfortable in it's denial of potential terrorist attacks, we are all doomed. This lack of alertness is alarming. Homeland Security needs to re-think it's current communications to the public, because they are not working.