Monday, August 30, 2010

Government has no part in who counselors can and cannot counsel.

I agree with this opinion piece that the government does not have a say in what a person can and can't study because the student won't apply the degree the way the schools wants them to.

Julea Ward was studying for her Masters in Counseling.   When the school found out she refused to counsel homosexuals, because of her religous beliefs, they expelled her.

As the article states, it would be impossible to expect all counselors to counsel everyone in all situations.  Sometimes their biases are so strong that they would be unable to give proper counseling for the patient.

An Attack on Religion and Counseling (NewsBlaze)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Mary Bale: Evil Incarnate for trashing cat? Not even.

By now you have probably heard about Mary Bale, the woman who dumped a cat into a dumpster.  Clearly she's got some issues.  Maybe a cat bit her when she was a child?  Maybe she thinks all small furry things are disgusting?  Maybe she was having a bad day?

Regardless, while she should be chastised and perhaps even be involved in some kind of police action for her cruelty to an animal, she is not 'a monster' or 'evil incarnate' as the following articles suggests.  Nor should someone 'give her grief for the rest of her life.'

Mary Bale The Lady Who Threw Cat In Garbage: Most Hated Woman In World!

Life is Hell for Evil Lady Who Threw Cat Into Garbage Container

And for the record, I am a cat lover.

Lastly, she does NOT deserve police protection.

UPDATE:  Bank clerk 'who dumped cat in wheelie bin' charged with animal cruelty (DailyMail)
UPDATE: Cat bin woman Mary Bale fined £250 (Guardian)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Are 'light cigarettes' better for you? Addicts rationalize 'yes'

The Feds have a new law that disallows tobacco companies from claiming one type of cigarette is 'better' for you than others; or more realistically, 'less bad' for you than others.

A colorful death by tobacco (LA Times)

I am of the opinion that if cigarettes are legal, they should be treated as any other legal product, with the exception that they should not be allowed to be purchased and used by those who are under-age.

However, if a company is claiming that one product is 'better for you' than another, they need to show this. But just because a regular cigarette is bad for you and a light cigarette is 'almost' as bad for you, isn't reason enough to prevent them from marketing them that way.

Companies who manufacture 'organic products' market their products as 'better for you'. And this isn't always the case.

I don't encourage laws that limit what people decide to do, but these organic labels make people who don't investigate to eat more. Organic Labels May Trick Dieters Into Eating More (Live Science). The problem with this article is the 'trick dieters'. People can investigate organic and read labels and make their own decisions. Taking 'organic' at it's word is the consumer's own fault.

People who decide to smoke can decide which cigarette to smoke. If tobacco companies have 'less tar' in one cigarette, they can market it as 'better' for the consumer. It's up to the consumer to make up their own mind. The only reason for the Feds to step in is if the claim is not valid. I don't see any evidence of that in this case.

Monday, August 23, 2010

You want Statins with those Fries?

A proposal in Britain will have free 'statins' available at fast-food restaurants.  Statins help reduce cardiovascular risk and, according to some, are safe, even at high doses.  If I read the article correctly, the statins will be available just like packets of ketchup and salt.  Patrons won't have to ask the clerk for them.

I agree with Dr Rubenfire, in the following article, that patrons will assume they can completely eliminate the risk of unhealthy eating by simply taking the statins.  And they may even 'super-size' their meals.

A Burger, Shake, and Some Statins (MedPageToday)

Information on Statins (MedicineNet)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Is Luck on your side?

Coincidences happen all of the time.  We walk out of a movie to find a friend who had recommended that same movie to us.  We see an advertisement for vacationing in Florida just as we're discussing where to go for vacation.  Mark Twain was born on the day of the appearance of Halley's Comet in 1835, and died on the day of its next appearance in 1910.

People forget the times when something does NOT happen.  Your family is discussing where to go for vacation and no don't see any ads for places to go.  So if you and your family discuss vacations 10 times and one time a coincidence occurs, you will remember the one time and forget the other nine.

With so many things going on in the world, it would be strange if coincidences did NOT happen.  But we only remember the coincidences and not all of the other times when things did not coincide.

Here is a good article on good things happening to good people, bad things happening to bad people, and all of the more numerous times that people forget.  Thoughts on Luck, Skill, and Coincidences (NewsBlaze)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Do you have 'privacy' for personal messages when using company phone or computer?

Imagine three scenarios:

1) You use your cell phone at work. 
You send a text message to your spouse. 
Your spouse sends a text message to you.

2) You are using your company cell phone at work.  
You send a text message to your spouse. 
Your spouse sends a text message to you.

3) You are using your company cell phone at home. 
You send a text message to your spouse. 
Your spouse sends a text message to you.

If you were never told of the company policy about cell phones, should you get in trouble for any of these?  Using your own phone at work, to make or receive a short text is not an issue.  And as long as you didn't use the company cell phone excessively, there probably wouldn't be an issue.  You send and receive a couple of text messages a day, no one cares.

Now, what if you were told the company policy.  And the policy states you cannot use the company cell phone for personal business.  Again, as long as you don't abuse the privilege, probably no one will care.

Now, you've been told the company policy stating you can use the cell phone for personal calls and text on your own time, but you need to pay for it.  Then there is no issue if you text during your off hours.  If you use it for personal calls and texts during business, you could, and should, get in trouble.

Lastly, you've been told you can use the company cell phone for personal calls and text during your off hours, but during your off hours, you send sexually explicit texts to your spouse.  Now what?  You are using it as instructed, you are paying to use it, should the company care what type of messages you are sending?

If you are using a company phone, don't expect to have everything you text as private.  It is there phone.  Even if you are paying for the texting you do during your off hours, it is their phone and the expectation should be that they will be monitoring communications.

Here is a news item before the ruling:  Justices hear case of Ontario police officer who sent risque messages (LA Times)

And here is a news item on the ruling:  Supreme Court allows reasonable searches of private texts on work-issued devices (

Monday, August 16, 2010

Prop 8, don't discriminate

Lots of talk going on about Proposition 8 being being struck down.

Much anger about 'the will of the people' being subverted. Some say "why can't we decide on validity of propositions before they are put on the ballot?" The simple reason is that if the Proposition doesn't pass, no time or money is wasted.

And when a Proposition passes, that's when the legality is questioned. Just because a Proposition is popular enough to pass doesn't make it legal. Many 'unpopular rights' were still 'legalized' because of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Think Civil Rights and Women's Rights.

It's been over 40 years since Civil Rights legislation was adopted. 40 years from now, we'll be thinking the same thing about Gay Rights.

Someone on a site I have misplaced said the Government should give a Civil Union License to those who want to be together in the eyes of the Government and all of the legal implications. If they want to get married, they go to a church with all of the religious implications. Makes sense to me.  Separation of Church and State.

Here is an opinion piece from the Los Angeles Times with a little background on Judge Walker, who struck down Proposition 8, and some quick info on racial discrimination in the 1960's. Proposition 8, Judge Walker, and our short memories (LA Times)

And another opinion on why Republicans shouldn't stand on the wrong side of another civil rights issue.  My Fellow Conservatives: Think Carefully About Your Opposition to Gay Marriage (Fox News)

Friday, August 13, 2010

A Yop Sign? A Stield Sign?

Gary Lauder, a venture capitalist, has an idea for combining a Stop sign with a Yield sign.  The idea is that at some intersections, particular T-intersections, many times it makes no sense to have Stop signs at the top of the T, the 'thru traffic'.  A Stop sign should only be required for the leg of the T.

Overall, I like the idea, but need more information.  The article almost had me convinced that it is a good idea, but the video or Gary speaking at a TED conference left me unconvinced.  I wish he had been given more time to discuss his idea more fully.

Check out the article and the video at the bottom of the page:  Stop the Madness, Yield to Progress (

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

How to keep your online presence private

Privacy on the web can be difficult. Once you post a book review, or upload a photo, or join a social network, the information will likely be stored and be available to anyone for years to come.

Here is a lengthy article on web privacy: The Web Means the End of Forgetting (New York Times)

These are some ways to keep your privacy on the web.

1) Create a separate email account
You already have an email account.  Give it to family and friends.  Now create another one.  The new email address will be used when you sign up at a website or need to give an email address when you will be downloading some software.  This email account will probably start filling up with spam after a while and you can simply stop using it at some point and create a new email account to use.

2) Give false personal information when signing up
When you need to sign up at a site for a one-time experience, such as downloading a piece of software, give them a false name and address.  Nearly all signups are completely automated, and no person actually sees the information besides you.  They don't go thru their database of thousands or millions of users and see the name Fred Flintstone and cut off your account.  Choose a name and address that you will always use to make it easier to remember.  If you try to use just random letters and numbers, some forms will not let you sign up.  So come up with something you will remember.  Fred Flintstone, 123 Stoney Lane, Bedrock, AZ, 92345.

3) Use a second credit card for online purchases
Don't use your main credit card for online purchases.  If someone gets your information and you have to cancel your account, you won't have a credit card available until your credit card company sends a new card with a new account number or you open a new account.  Get a second card that will only be used for online purchases.  If something goes wrong, you can cancel that card and still have your off-line card to use.

4) Use 'private mode' when surfing the internet
Most modern browers have a 'private mode' that prevents web sites from doing things like setting cookies for long-term use.  You can see what information is available to sites by visiting this link:

These are the top ideas for preserving your privacy while on the internet.  If you do the four items listed above, you will save most of your private information from becoming available.

This site will give you an exhaustive list of privacy areas and what you can do to prevent your data from becoming public.  Online Privacy: Using the Internet Safely (Privacy Rights Clearinghouse)

Monday, August 9, 2010

I'm Stressed! Where's my Chocolate!

A recent study says that people don't reach for 'comfort food' when they are stressed.  Comfort food might be chocolate, or potato chips, or peppermint sticks.  They say people are more likely to try something new during these times of stress.

Comfort eating at times of stress is a myth (Telegraph)

Of course with any 'rule' there are exceptions.  But I know several people who do, indeed, reach for their comfort food when they are stressed or sick including myself.  For example, I do eat chicken soup at times, but when I am sick, I reach for it just about every time.  (Whether chicken soup is actually helpful when you are sick is subject to review.)  When I am stressed, I usually reach for chocolate.  And I know several other people who reach for their 'comfort food' during similar times.

What are your favorite comfort foods?  Make mine chocolate!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Airline starts charging for extra carry-on items

Spirit Airlines is now charging for your second carry-on item.  Your first one is free (woohoo), but additional items will be $30 if you pay online or on the phone, $45 if you do it at the airport.

The good news is they have dropped prices by an average of $40.  So if you look at the total cost, there will be many cases where you could come out ahead.

Why did they do this?  Because of the charges for checked baggage, more and more people were carrying on larger and larger items to put into the overhead bins which was causing frustration for other passengers including leaving late from the gate.

Two videos at this link, a commercial for the change, and a new item on fliers reactions to it.  That's the Spirit!  Airline charges for some carry-on bags (LA Times)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Home Schooled or Public Schooled?

Current opinion: none

I have two cousins who home school their children. One cousin has home schooled, I believe, five children and the other is in the process of home schooling two children. They both swear by it. I spoke briefly with them some years ago about home schooling and why they did it. In general, it was to give them a better learning enviornment than they could have in public or even private schools. They said their children could focus on learning while in school and not be distracted by many of the issues that affect public school children such as negative peer pressure, others' disinterest in school, and being taught 'objectionable' material, among others.

Home schooling is not just a free-for-all of teaching your child whatever you want. The state still has minimum requirements such as math skills, english skills, and science. And many of the home schooled children leave home schooling for public High School because they are more mature and can handle peer pressure better. They also usually score better on tests once they enter High School because they are ahead of other students.

Which brings up a point... Most home schooling is done by religious people who don't want certain subjects (such as evolution and sex education) to be taught to their child. And many Christians believe they are required to give their children a 'Christian education'.

When most people, myself included, hear about home schooling we ask "but what about getting interaction with other children? Aren't they missing out?" Home schooled children are usually part of an outside organization (4H club, Girl/Boy Scouts) or they volunteer or go on field trips and are on sports teams. They also get together with other families who home school and build lasting relationships with other children their own age.

Social Skills and Homeschooling: Myths and Facts (

So what about public schools? Are they really that bad?

The dropout rate for public schools, in the 2007-2008 year, was 4.1% across all states. While that percentage may sound low, that's over 600,000 students. Public School Graduates and Dropouts (U.S. Dept of Education) Dropout rates for home schooling? I couldn't find any statistics on it and I have never heard of children dropping out of home schooling.

Public schools have a lot of students. It is difficult (impossible?) to teach to the level that every student needs. Some students will be bored by the curriculum. Some are way over their heads.

Peer pressure is an issue, no matter where students go. But public schools have such a diverse population there are all kinds of personal influences. Apathy, drugs, violence contribute to a less-than-ideal learning envionment.

Not every family can afford the time and money (or lack of it since one parent will stay home) necessary to teach their children at home. Many are not capable of home-schooling their children in various subjects. But for those who can and want to do it, I can't find any reasons why it shouldn't be done. The children excel in most subjects and are socially involved.

New opinion: If families can afford the time and money to home-school their children, it is a win-win.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Age-appropriate Sex Education

The Helena, Montana school district will be creating a curriculum for teaching sex education from kindergarten thru high school seniors.

I still need to read a lot more about this to form an opinion. I am okay with sex education in the classroom, but am not sure it should be started, even as age-appropriate, in elementary school.

In the following article, the writer says "Look around at today’s society. We are seeing the results of years of unbridled sex education in the schools." The statement makes a connection that is only a piece of the puzzle. Sex education in schools did not cause the woes in today's society.

Save the Children, Say 'No' In Helena (Fox News)