3.31.2005

the clapper!

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Remember the cheesy "Clapper" commercials made their debut in the 80's with it's constant rain of commercials on network TV?

Clap on (tack! tack!), Clap off (tack, tack!), Clap on Clap off... the Clapper (tack, tack!).

When I was a teenager, I remember my mother brining one home excitedly to plug into our Christmas tree. It was always a bit too sensitive and with out loud family the tree would turn on and off. We'd encourage our guests to clap, clap, clap and watch our strobing Christmas tree!

Unlike the original, the model lets you operate two electrical thingies (one requires two claps, the other three).

A distant bedside lamp - that we'd always argue about who should turn off once comfortable in our toasty bed and a hard-to reach back-light in a corner made this old-time favorite a necessity.

I still don't know what happened to the original clapper from 20+ years ago but last night I unwrapped the cellophane off the new model and excitedly showed it to my husband who wasn't around for the 1980's media blitz - and was completely skeptical about "another gadget" that I'd brought home. He kept his most scathing comments to himself (the benefits of being pregnant - you don't get criticized as much!) and quizzically examined the box. I ran to our bedroom to plug in the back-light and bedside table lamp, stood back and let him go clapping!

A smile broke across his face as the lights lights turned on and off remotely. He wouldn't admit it, of course, but he liked it and last night he couldn't wait to "clap off" the beside table lamp!

3.23.2005

Your shower curtain and your garden hose are trying to kill you...

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As an unintended follow-up to my mad cow post last week... more news about more things that are dangerous for us. The summary of the following news story brings to the forefront how much progress and technology has excelled in consumer products (and food) with complete lack of thought towards the actual safety of the person using/consuming this product. It's enough to make you paranoid!

Here's the beef, so to speak...

A study looked at 44 different chemicals in six classes that are common to comsumer products but have been associated with health problems. 70 participants nationwide were asked to send in samples from their vacumcleaners after 1 week of vacuming. The study, one of the first of its kind, showed that hidden away in dust balls in vacuum cleaner bags were 35 toxic industrial chemicals that are legal in products but have been shown to cause reproductive, respiratory and other health problems in humans or test animals.

The greatest amount were the little-known phthalates, plasticizers used to soften everything vinyl, including flooring, raincoats, shoes and purses, tablecloths, shower curtains, upholstery, carpet backing, garden hoses and PVC water pipes.

Here's the whole story...

3.18.2005

Peeheuwww! And other general intolerance...

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I've often spoken about my fellow bus commuters (one avid reader told me that maybe I do so too much but hey, this is where I spend most of my time where I'm not at work or home!) and I thought it was worth noting that I believe they all have something in common - general intolerance. Let me explain...

As noted in a previous post I'm preggers which means I'm sensitive to any smell known, or yet to be discovered, by man. Working in San Francisco, where there is a feast of smells emanating primarily from the homeless and the general lack of public bathrooms, I am always greeted with very unpleasant smells that bring me to the brink of loosing my breakfast, or last night's dinner. So, following the advice of a friend, I've started to apply herbal oil - lavender in my case- to my wrists and such so that when I get off the bus THAT scent can distract me from what's going on. Now, keep in mind that I've been riding the bus and applying this oil for months - at least three.

Yesterday morning, I sat next to a woman I wouldn't necessary sit next to (the breast cancer survivor who gives everyone regular updates on her health status usually at the bus stop on the way back) who was pretending to be asleep. Generally, if someone is awake, I ask them if it the lavender oil would disturb them but since she wasn't "notably" available I applied a little in hopes of preventing nausea.

Five minutes later..

"Oh my god! Did you just spray perfume or something?!"

"Are you allergic to perfume? I did not apply perfume, it's an essential oil, lavender.. are you allergic to lavender?"

"Oh... I'm getting a headache"

I start to get up and say, "let me switch seats, I wouldn't want to inconvenience you."

She grabbed my wrist, pulled me down and, "don't worry, the damage is already done."

"Well, I'm really sorry that this is upsetting you - it's too bad that something that helps me does not help you."

She went back to pretending to be asleep.

This morning, I purposely avoided sitting next to her - it was easy since she had her bag along anything else imaginable a commuter might need in the seat next to her but I also made a concentrated effort to stay as far away from her as possible! I end up in the last seat in the back of the bus, I apply my lavender and she begins to protest - keep in mind that I'd been applying lavender in different areas of the bus for the last THREE MONTHS and this was never a big "to do" but today she was complaining to the people behind her about me and as she arrived to her bus stop she told all the riders around her, "what a great way to start my day.. with a headache!" then she turned and GLARED at me! As she was descending the steps of the bus she theatrically threw her head back with her hand up to her forehead and groaned before stepping out into the street.

How is it that for the last THREE MONTHS I have sat in front of her, behind her and everywhere else on this bus and it never bothered her until now?! Because it's a sign of general intolerance.

What's so general about intolerance?
I've noticed that, in this country anyway, it's everywhere. It's particularly dangerous because how on earth can we live peacefully with each other if the first thing on everyone's mind is how someone else's behavior is inconveniencing me! What ever happened to tolerance and personal responsibility?

If the breast cancer survivor I mentioned on the bus was truly allergic to perfumes (which is doubtful since her allergy only began once she knew about my lavender oil ritual) why not take matters into her own hands and wear a little filter mask when you're on the bus instead of demanding that the world stop wearing perfume so that she can be comfortable?

If someone parks on the street in front of your house why get all upset and call a tow truck when there are plenty of spots across the street? No one is trying to personally inconvenience you!

If there's a kid running around the restaurant, not being noisy or actually bothering anyone just being a kid, why do you have to shoot dirty looks at the parents?!? How is this actually inconviniancing you - other than your preconceived thoughts of how the world should run?

Puhleeze... I'm so sick of this personalized, customized and adjustable experience that is reflected in every aspect of our little American lives that makes us completely intolerant and annoyed with anyone or anything that has different needs.

Take responsibility for christssakes and stop trying to make the world conform to your ideal! I promise, it will save you lots of energy and grief in the end.

3.15.2005

What you eat could kill you...

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Success! I've been "nagging", that's what wives do when they give helpful advice to their husbands, about not eating beef for about a year. Yet, my husband still chooses a burger at Mc Donald's (because it costs less) and requests beef in his burrito. He travels often to Japan - where they screen all cows for BSD and told him he could have his fill of beef there but not in the United States where - though some independent farms have tried - the beef industry has been staunchly against testing all cows for this deadly disease. w

So what's this big success I'm talking about? Well.. I've had it with getting frustrated in recounting the dangers of Mad Cow to my husband so - by coincidence - TiVo recorded an episode of Forensic Files Called "Foreign Body" a very scientific, factual account on the origins of mad cow and it's effects on those who consume the infected meat. Before I turned on the program I made a pledge to my husband.

"If you promise to pay attention for the next 30 minutes, I will never bring up your beef consumption habits, nor try to prevent them. After seeing this program, I think you should make up your own mind about consuming beef and I will respect your decision."

When the program finished my husband was declaring vegetarianisim as the way to go - maybe I was a little too successful!

Mad Cow - and why US Beef still isn't safe
Like many Forensic File episodes, this one opened with a mystery. Why were healthy young people in Britain suffering from Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease - a disease that usually strikes the elderly? Beautiful microscope slides are displayed showing the holes in the brain caused by this disease and personal stories are recounted for three youths with promising lives ahead of them dying within 9 months to a year after displaying symptoms of what was later discovered to be CJD. Then various scientists were interviewed about how disease could jump sepcies, and a short animation displayed the specific effects of this disese on prions - a normal protein that for unknown reasons becomes infectious. Fast forward to a few screen shots of cows suffering from "Mad Cow", sheep suffering from "Scrapie" (thought to be the original cross species jump), and a few shots of cow and sheep carcasses being ground-up and turned into little pellets which are later fed back to the cows - who are now no longer herbivores but omnivores because of this practice- and the path of this disease is clear. The program ends with one grieving parent looking in the camera asking the viewer how he could possibly feel comfortable eating beef again without a concentrated effort to erradicate the infected cows and BSD's path of transmission.

As a side note, United States outlawed feeding carcasses back to cows in the 1997. The FDA is the agency who has been tasked with tracking and enforcing compliance with this rule but their most recent report, Agencies Work to Corral Mad Cow Disease, admits to not having 100% compliance and hides in plain view the fact that they are only monitoring animal feed firms- not the cows.

Why is this statistical shell game important to note? In 2003, the United States has tested only 20,526 cattle out of 35 million slaughtered - that's .05% While the testing has increased ten-fold in 2004 that only brings the number of cattle tested to 176, 468 (according to the USDA) - that's .5%. Conrtast these numbers with Japan where they tested 100% of the cattle destined for the commercial market and new European Union regulations that require that every head of cattle over the age of 30 months, headed for slaughter be tested and you can clearly see why U.S. beef is blatantly unsafe.

So... next time you're tempted to ask, "where's the beef?" what you should really be asking is, "where's the test results?"