Wednesday, February 25, 2015

What I Want: Episode 1 - Recipes

I want all recipe photos to show not only the entire dish, but also what a single serving of it looks like on a plate.

Correlate 1:
I want the recipe to include the total ounces/grams in the entire recipe AND the total ounces/grams in a single serving.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Are Toddlers Taking Too Many Drugs? Fear-Mongering by the WSJ and NYT.

I'm way up on my soap box here, but I can't leave this without comment.I just read this load posted on a friend's facebook. My friend is awesome, and very smart. I suspect it was a knee-jerk that made her post this with a "what the what?" comment.

First of all, CCHR (the org that performed the analysis cited by WSJ in paragraph two of the above link) is a Scientology front group. This organization would naturally attempt to frighten the public into further distrust of the psychiatric field, due to its anti-psychology, pro-Scientology auditing/tech faith.

Second, if you skip the CCHR "analysis" and read the NY Times article cited in the WSJ blog post, it becomes clear what the real issue is, and it is an issue of privilege and lack of public funding for programs supporting low-income, high-risk families: children on Medicaid, our poorest, least privileged children, and those most likely to be victims of abuse and/or living in unstable homes, are being prescribed these medications at much higher numbers than children with private insurance, who are most often more privileged and in more stable homes than children on Medicaid, and are more likely to receive treatment and support that does not include medication.

Third, the article claims an extrapolated number of 10,000 toddlers on Medicaid nationwide being prescribed stimulant medications. Considering that there are approximately 25 million toddlers in the United States, that means ~.04% of toddlers total. Not as scary as the article and the "analysis" would have us think, though it does point out problems in our health and human services system that should be addressed, namely the need for behavioral training and support (and not just medical care support and early intervention programs, but also requirements for affordable quality daycare, paid time-off, adequate paid sick leave, etc.) for parents, as well as for caregivers and doctors who provide that support to the low-income, high-risk children. From the article: "Dr. Visser said that effective nonpharmacological treatments, such as teaching parents and day care workers to provide more structured environments for such children, were often ignored."

A personal anecdote might illustrate the problems parents face today that might encourage them to allow their children to be prescribed ADHD medications without trying other things first. We were fortunate when our premature triplets were born to have an excellent state-funded early childhood intervention program that provided a developmental specialist weekly, an occupational therapist and physical therapist bi-weekly, respite care at a hugely discounted rate weekly, and, at age three, state-funded preschool programs with excellent and highly qualified teachers. Developmental problems were discovered and addressed immediately with the latest ideas and techniques; we were trained, encouraged, and supported in doing what needed to be done to help get our children up to speed from a very early age; we were allowed respite from caring for our very high-maintenance children for a few hours each week, which saved our own mental health.

Over the years since then, funding for all of these programs has dried up and the early intervention program we received so much from has shrunk from that lack. There is a huge waiting list for services. The program depends more on dwindling private donations now than it can count on from state or federal grants or funds. The children on the waiting list are often living in low-income, high-risk households and neither they nor their parents or caregivers are receiving any of the help, training, teaching, or support that my family received 12 years ago. Nor do most of them have access to high-quality medical care and neuropsychology and PT/OT specialists that we were able to use for evaluation and diagnosis once our children grew out of the state-funded programs, thanks to our excellent private insurance.

Even without the additional challenges of parenting in a chaotic or violent household, when a low-income parent has to choose between staying home with his or her impulsive or aggressive child who can't get into a quality daycare because of behavior issues and medicating the child so the parent can earn a paycheck to keep the heat on and food on the table, the choice is pretty clear.

This WSJ blog post seems irresponsible to me, and is simply fear-mongering without either pinpointing the actual problem or suggesting possible solutions. Nor does it provide citation for some of its claims, such as the sharp rise in anti-psychotic drugs for infants and very young children. Some sort of citation might help us figure out if that is actually the case and if there is some reason for that rise. The NY Times article cited by the WSJ isn't much better, although you *can* at least see the actual problem isn't the medication of the toddlers, but the underlying reasons why parents might fall back on medication in the first place. The "analysis" by CCHR is not trustworthy at all and should not even be considered.

If you want to help families with children experiencing challenges that can often be managed in ways other than medicating, consider contributing to a local organization that provides services and support to low-income families with toddlers or to families with developmentally delayed children. Any pediatrician can give you a name. Also bug your state representatives, your US representatives, and your senators to encourage them to increase funding to these types of organization and to work to make it easier for families to do what is best for their children while working to keep them fed, housed, clothed, and healthy.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Racism or Sexism or Both?

Yahoo news reports that Marissa Alexander, a Florida woman, faces up to 20 years in prison for firing a warning shot into the ceiling of her home after being attacked and choked by her abusive husband, who was uninjured by the warning shot. George Zimmerman may face no prison time at all for stalking, shooting, and killing Trayvon Martin, due to Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law. Local NAACP President, Isaiah Rumlin, is quoted as saying, "The law is applied differently between African-Americans and whites who are involved in these types of cases." And this is probably true. However, I also suspect that "Stand Your Ground" law does not apply when it is spousal abuse that instigates an incident. Florida's history of anti-woman legislation leads me to believe this could be the case. While an intruder can be killed in self-defense once entering a victim's home in most states without penalty, abusive spouses must be protected from loss when their victims fight back, and victims who do fight back must be punished if they kill their abusers. Otherwise, the abusers' property rights might be infringed upon. I do not know that this is the case, but based on recent statements by prominent male legislators in regard to the similarity between women and livestock, the inability of women to make intelligent decisions about their bodies, and the insanity of women expecting to be equally paid for equal work outside the home, I suspect misogyny has something to do with it. It would be interesting, while still tragic, to hear of a similar case involving a female spousal abuser.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Some Ministers Are Assholes

Stephanie Zvan at Almost Diamonds has written a sad post about her grandfather's funeral describing the minister's use of his pulpit with captive audience to proselytize, and how it made her (and probably several others at the service) so uncomfortable and angry that she really just wanted to leave.

I have been fortunate in that most of the funerals I have attended did not include this type of thing. The one exception in my experience still brings steam from my ears and tears to my eyes, 27 years later.

When my best friend was killed in an car accident, two other friends and I drove 300 miles to her hometown to attend her funeral and extend our sympathy to her family. The small-town minister who officiated the service, and who did not even know her, proceeded to gas on and on about what a shame it was that my best friend had wasted her life and would be burning in hell for all eternity because she had left her family to live in the big city, in sin with her boyfriend. Her family said nothing. Perhaps they agreed - she had been estranged from them for a few years, but had visited on rare occasions, and, in fact, was killed while driving home from her most recent visit. They were always happy to take the money she sent from her "big-city" job. They had to have provided this asshole with that information. Adding insult to injury is the fact that her name was spelled incorrectly on her headstone. By her mother. But that's a whole other issue.

Had I been bolder then, and in my dreams now, I would have stood up and let that man have it, even though I didn't believe in heaven or hell. What right did he have to talk that way about my friend, who he had never even met. Shouldn't he have been comforting the grief-stricken? Instead, the most I could bring myself to do was to get up and leave. My other friends gave me the bad news that he continued in this vein to the end, and exhorted the remaining attendees to get right with GAWD so they would not suffer eternal damnation like my best friend. When we met with her family later, I was still upset, but managed to mumble something about her having been one of the best, kindest, most generous people I had ever known. I miss her still.

Some ministers are just assholes. I would say "thoughtless" assholes, but I truly believe he knew exactly what he was saying and had a specific purpose for saying it. How in the world could that have been any comfort to the family? How DARE he? I would love to think this was one of a handful of rare occurrences, but I suspect it may be all too common in certain sects. I still get upset when I think about it. My hands are shaking right now as I write. Asshole. Asshole.

In memory of Angela Denise Rainey, 5/29/67 - 4/21/88.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Why Did Dorothy Run Away?

At the end of the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy learns that there's no place like home and that if she wants to find happiness she'll look no further than "her own front yard." Admirable sentiments, I suppose, back in the 1930's. Not so impressive now, in my opinion. But why did Dorothy run away to begin with? And what will be the consequence for her having returned home?

In my faded memories of the movie, I had thought that Dorothy ran away because she wanted to get away from the restrictions and boredom of small farm life in Kansas. She tried to get Professor Marvel to take her with him to see all the "great heads of Europe." She sang of wanting to go "over the rainbow."

However, the real reason she ran away was to save Toto! Elvira Gulch was taking him to the sheriff to be destroyed because he bit her on the leg, but he escaped and Dorothy decided to run away before Mrs. Gulch returned for him.

When she "returns" home from her head-injury-induced fantasy visit to Oz, she is happy to be home and says she won't leave again. But what about poor Toto? The Wicked Witch of the West/Mrs. Gulch are destroyed in Dorothy's unconscious journey, but certainly not in real life. Poor Toto!

I say she should have kept running.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

More Obama Doesn't Get It

Let's now talk about the second part of the petition I wrote about earlier.

In God We Trust on our money should also be removed. It would be easy enough to phase it out with new printings/stampings. Our national motto was E Pluribus Unum, Out of Many, One. This motto specifies that though there are many different individuals here, we are all Americans, which is a noble, inclusive, admirable sentiment. In God We Trust cancels that out completely. Only god-believing individuals are Americans. Not so admirable, not at all inclusive, and certainly not noble.

And to address the issue of our "proud heritage*," E Pluribus Unum was established in 1782, by ACTUAL FOUNDING FATHERS! There's some heritage for ya'.

I have been at a loss for years in trying to understand how seemingly intelligent people cannot see how the pledge (even outside of its jingoistic, flag-worshiping ridiculousness) and the NEW (not based on our heritage, but on our darker period of communist-hunting and fear-mongering) motto are unrepresentative of Americans as a whole.

A motto is defined in three ways:
A brief statement used to express a principle, goal, or ideal.
A sentence, phrase, or word of appropriate character inscribed on or attached to an object.
A maxim adopted as a guide to one's conduct.

When an American does not worship one of the three gods named "God," (specifically the god of Abraham - of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) neither the pledge, nor the motto includes that American. Therefore is does NOT express an AMERICAN principle, goal, or ideal. It does not express the character of all Americans. It cannot be a governmental guide to conduct without establishing the religion of the god of Abraham in violation of the 1st amendment.

Obama's spokesperson is apparently one of the "it doesn't hurt you, so just shut up" god-believers, unable to see through his privilege that being told we are not Americans is hurtful and insulting to non-believers and believers in other gods than Abraham's.

Take it off. It's easy enough. Heritage has no bearing here, as the heritages of both the pledge and motto include no references to Abraham's god, nor any other god(s).

*Using the word heritage in this context, besides being inaccurate, is like calling something a "cultural" thing in order to defend it. Like genital mutilation, for example, or suttee, or allowing only rich, white men to vote. Cultural, sure, but no less barbaric. Part of some group's heritage, sure, but does that make them good things that need to be continued? Should we put this photo on our money to honor our heritage of slavery? Should unrepresentative cultural traditions be memorialized and honored publicly, every day, and in every monetary transaction performed, or should they be relegated to history books as things that we used to do, but then we became civilized. "It's our heritage" people might want to think about that.

(1st Picture from Wikipedia - Suttee)
(2nd photo from Old Picture of the Day)

Obama Doesn't Get It

Not too long ago, I signed a petition to ask for the 1954-added phrase "under God" to be removed from the pledge.

At the link, you can read the official White House response. They just don't get it. Yes, a person should be free to pray or sermonize or proselytize in the public square. People do it all the time. Yes, a student should be free to pray or sermonize or proselytize at school. Students do it all the time. Harassment or disruption of class is, and should be, prohibited, of course.

However, there are two problems with the pledge itself.

1) Mindless chanting of a "patriotic" statement of flag-worship that students are taught to recite without learning what it means is ridiculous. But, they can't teach the students what it means without violating the 1st amendment. Leaving the "under God" part in establishes religion, specifically the monotheism practiced by the majority in the US. There's no getting around that. Students who are Buddhist, students who are Hindu, students who are pagan, and students who worship no gods at all would have to be taught that their religion, or lack thereof, is wrong and that the monotheism promoted in the pledge is right.

2) Until schools stop requiring the mindless chanting of the pledge, children who either don't want to mindlessly chant ANY pledge or who don't want to mindlessly chant something that specifically goes against their religious beliefs or lack thereof are singled out for ridicule and harassment unless they ignore their discomfort, compromise their integrity, and just chant along. Great lesson for the kiddies. Shut up about it or be singled out. Kids LOVE that!

The White House response inserts this from Obama himself:
Not every mention of God in public is a breach to the wall of separation - context matters.
Well, yes. True that. But in the context of a public school classroom with students of many different backgrounds and worldviews, forced statements of flag-worship and monotheism-belief to a captive audience certainly seems to breach the wall of separation.

The White House spokesman writes, in regard to how "under God" in the pledge reflects our religious heritage:
We're proud of that heritage, and the strength it brings to our great country.
Fine, he can recite the pledge anywhere he wants when he doesn't have a captive audience of impressionable children with disparate backgrounds and belief systems.

As far as heritage goes, the pledge did not include any gods until fear of Communism made some influential Christians insist on adding it. So that argument is invalid and inaccurate. If people are so concerned with "heritage," we would be mindlessly chanting the original pledge from 1892:
I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
And we would be doing with our arms outstretched in the "Bellamy salute," which is identical to the Nazi salute. Great. Let's go back to that.

Better yet, let's just do away with the pledge in schools and leave it up to individuals and private groups to chant it if they want.
(PHOTO FROM WIKIPEDIA - Pledge of Allegiance)