Saturday, June 29, 2013

Theoretically Speaking....Sometimes We Get Bruised

On the argument I've made many, many times, that our germ phobia is making us sicker, a doctor I know told a group at a Q&A session this week that in LDC's (Less Developed Countries) they don't get the bacteria H-Pylori, which sometimes causes ulcers in people who have it. But in MDC's (More Developed Countries) like the U.S., lots of people carry this germ and some people get sick from it. Hmmmmmmm.

Twice lately I have accidentally smashed the loaf of bread on the way home from the grocery store. And both of those loaves, within a few days, were covered with mold. Why do bruises on bread allow spores to multiply? And how is it that I've been shopping for food all these many years, and only now have smashed the loaves? Weird.

I realized something this week. For lo these many years I believed that someone can only hurt one if their actions are unexpected. This week, watching both the Supreme Court and the slug of a governor that my state has elected THREE TIMES, they did exactly what I thought they would do, based on their actions since I've been aware of their presence on earth. And I was sad. Is it my hippie idealism, thinking the world might someday become a better place, that sometimes a person might actually do the right thing, that leads to disappointment? Why does it continue to lead to disappointment instead of cynicism, and the belief that people will never do the right thing, even when they are being watched carefully?

I was saddened by something else this week. Proof that the standing of the United States in the world is still as diminished by the current president as it was by the previous one. I do not see Edward Snowden, "the NSA (National Security Administration) leaker" as a traitor. I'm glad he exposed the activities of the NSA, and the extent of it, to the press. I don't think he should need to be seeking asylum in another country because he is not a criminal. But it was sad to me that none of the countries where he has traveled since leaving home, would agree to extradite him. I remembered the welcome that candidate Obama got when he traveled the world, and now these places see a man who has continued spying on US citizens, used drones to kill thousands of innocent civilians and black sites. He has lost his credibility on the world stage, and has taken away the standing in the world that we were so proud to achieve after the arrogance of the previous administration.

And...a couple of environmental points. First, a few years back we were all told not to throw old medicines in the trash or flush them down the toilet, but to take them to a pharmacy for "proper disposal." I asked myself then what the pharmacy would do with them. Stay with me....when I was a grad student in Environmental Policy I wanted to do my research on landfills. I wasn't able to finish that program, but I am still fascinated by landfill science. Fortunately, my next-door neighbor and good friend was once an administrator for a waste company, and she has filled me in on what happens to the trash we put n our landfills. She told me that the thing that breakdown in landfills eventually breaks down to a pond so toxic that it can't break down anymore, and is a powerful, deadly toxin. When I interviewed some landfill operators in those grad school days, they told me all the ways a landfill owner has to protect the ground water from those toxins, and I promise you, the safest thing we can do with our used medicines is put them in a landfill. Flushing them is bad, bad, bad. And once drugs have lost their potency, I'm still not sure what a pharmacy is going to do differently...can anyone tell me?

Lastly, I've talked a lot about what I call ECG's (evil corporate giants) that try to sell us all their GMO (genetically modified organisms) crops. When the wind takes some of those seeds to an organic farmer's crops, he can no longer be certified organic, so the organic farmer is the big loser because he will always lose a lawsuit against an ECG that has very deep pockets and lots of political connections. Many Americans, and many European countries are passionately against GMO crops being used for food when we don't really know the long term effects of all this "messing" with nature. My husband once worked for one of the worst ECG's, and he takes a very different view of, at least that particular company. Now, in the south western US states there is a huge heat wave/drought happening. We were hearing this past week about the record temperatures predicted for this weekend, and talking about global warming. He made one excellent point for which I must give him credit. As the earth gets hotter, and fresh water becomes more and ore scarce, we will need crops modified for drought resistance. And warmer weather makes insect problems much worse. So it is possible that seeds that can handle insecticides will be necessary. I'm still not completely sold, but his point did give me pause. I know there are drought resistant versions of most of the plants that we use as food crops, and that monoculture farming makes bugs have to work harder for their meals. But can anyone looking at the very visible evidence of a warming climate dispute that we must find new ways to grow food? And soon!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

On Super Moon Sunday

I was outside around 5:30 this morning, and the moon was indeed huge and glorious. It had awakened me and Abigail and caused her to insist that I get up and go out. But, as often when seasons change, I become reflective, and the beginning of summer this year was no different. I have always been fiercely independent. While my husband will ask for a back scratch, I will grab a comb, scissors, or an 'official' back scratcher when I have an itch. I have a few really close friends that I've known for many years, but I don't make very many new, close friends. I am "friendly" with co-workers, but find the notion of making people at work close friends a bit dodgy. So, what level of grade school am I still in that makes my feelings hurt sometimes that I'm not included in the workplace "cliques?" Independence has its costs, and at what age do we, or I, realize and embrace that rather than bemoaning it? I guess it is a question of self acceptance, as in, when do we achieve that? Or am I WAY behind other people of my age?

Speaking of summer, I keep seeing fragrances for sale as both colognes and room fresheners that are called "Linen this" and "Linen That." I love linen as a fabric, apart from the fact that it develops wrinkles between taking it off the ironing board and hanging it up, let alone wearing it! But I've never noticed a particular fragrance to this rough cotton fabric. Nothing rainy, or "crisp," or anything. I guess these fragrance names come from the same people who make sunflower fragrances. Sunflowers are my favorite flower-love them.  I've sniffed them wild, and sniffed them in flower sections of super markets, and I've sniffed the ones that people who know me send me when they send me flowers for whatever reason. They don't really have a fragrance. When I smell rose perfume it smells like a rose. Where does this idea of sunflower linen come from?

There is a commercial about a certain company that provides security systems for homes. The gentleman in the commercial is telling the story of the day his home was robbed, and how he arrived at home after he got the call, and the security company had already called the police quickly enough that they caught the robber coming out. Then he says how "lucky" he is to have this system. Lucky? I can tell you, he CHOSE to have this system installed in his home, and he pays them a monthly fee for monitoring. He also pays an extra monthly fee for having the privilege of the police being on call by the monitoring call center. What does "luck" have to do with any of that?

I have been among the many Americans who have accepted the arguments for Asian medicine, and the notion that it has worked for thousands of years longer than "Western" medicine, and therefore should be included or integrated into the medicine we use to heal in this country. I still think Yoga is a good way to discipline one's body, and I've heard some good anecdotal things about acupuncture. But a few days ago I remembered the use of testicles and horns of endangered animals being ground up and used as "medicine" to provide virility to males, and I suddenly experienced a real distaste for Asian medical traditions. Not only do I question the idea that virility comes from the testicles or ivory horns of macho animals, I cannot accept that  everything that is continued because it is "traditional" is good or valid, and this is why we must QUESTION EVERYTHING that we are told about such things. If there is a cost that is too large, or great harm comes from any type of tradition, it should be easily dropped. Asian medicine that uses parts of endangered animals and causes poachers to believe that destroying these animals is okay because of the money they can make doing it, then it is just plain wrong. Wrong.

As an environmentalist I have heard much about the wasting of water, in particular, when we send streams of water running down the concrete jungle. I can understand that when that water goes into sewer systems, it is essentially gone. But when water stays on the concrete until it evaporates, does it not return to the hydrologic cycle? Water is a non-renewable resource and should never be wasted. I'm not a fan of watering lawns, or planting grasses (such as St. Augustine in Texas...not native or drought resistant, much water is used just to keep it green when native grasses would do better here...) but big picture, can we be more realistic about what we choose to worry or fuss about?

And while we are on the subject of science, I made a brash claim to some friends a few days ago that I was going to scientifically prove with this post that dogs are smarter than cats. A few looked at me with furrowed brows, but I've been surprised that no one sent me hate mail or death threats. People can be so entrenched as "dog people" or "cat people." But this is not about my opinion, it is about science; in particular, evolution. Cats were only domesticated around four-thousand years ago. Dogs have been domesticated for around thirty-thousand years or more, so time is definitely on the side of dogs evolving to be more "human friendly" than cats. But the stand-offishness of cats has been occasionally used to prove that cats are smarter-not as deferential or "emotionally needy." But evolution is about organisms adapting to their environments in order to survive and pass on genes to a new generation. (Excuse me for anthropomorphising a bit here,) but there had to be a first "social, non-fearful" wolf that noticed how well they could eat when they hung around the encampments of early man.  guess we wasted food even then! Will we ever learn?) So, perhaps this wolf-couple was discussing this, and the alpha female said to her mate, "You know, if we befriend them, perhaps I can have our pups here, and they'll be safe?" And she was right. Once that was settled, and these friendly canis lupus' were on the way to becoming canis familiaris, a relationship of trust was built with the humans. And then when the humans were threatened, the canines guarded the camp, and the humans realized that these beasts had something to offer in exchange for being fed and housed with the human community. Cats still, though there are exceptions, haven't realized this. They get those benefits, but they look at their human benefactors at times with some disdain, as if they are entitled to this food and housing, clean water and the scooping of their waste. I've heard some folks refer to a cat's independence as proof of their intelligence. But I disagree (I know, opinions are not science,) I believe it is a sign of two things: 1. After four thousand years, they still don't "get us." And, 2. They don't understand that humans are the beings who won the dominance game. Dogs were prescient enough to catch on that we were going to win the survival game, and they signed on to let the dominant creatures take care of them. Cats aren't there yet, and whether anyone believes that my observations are scientific enough or not, well, you are probably right. I'm not a scientist, but this is my argument, and I'm standing by it.

Well, not really standing by it. I'm not sure why I decided to stir up this hornet's nest. The truth is that cats and dogs have different ways of dealing with humans, and I'm not certain that one way or the other really means that one is smarter than the other. We've all known people who are extremely intelligent but have very poor social skills, or they lack "social intelligence," as in, they aren't very good at picking up social cues. Dogs are very good at reading human faces, and figuring out what we want from them. This deference sometimes costs them dearly-their easy trust of us, hard-wired into their DNA for about thirty-five thousand years, as some humans do unimaginably cruel things to dogs. But the diffidence that cats have for us is also well earned. I personally remember some boys I went to school with bragging about doing horrible things to cats, and thinking such stories were quite funny. So, why should they trust us, and fawn over us? I've shared my life with both cats and dogs, and currently reside with one of each. We have to work much harder to have a relationship with the cat than we do with the dog, but I, in truth, don't believe one is smarter than the other. They are different, as are we all. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Of Kudzu, Bath Salts and Zebra Mussels

We live in an apartment complex that boasts a saltwater pool. According to the signs, this allows them to use fewer chemicals to keep the pool sanitary, and the saltwater is better for our skin and hair. I'm also a girl who enjoys a nice, soaking bath. A dear friend recently gave me some lovely bath salts from Grand Turk Island, which make for a very relaxing soak. My question is, when I leave the tub, or we get out of the pool, is the water level diminished? Does all that salt make us retain water?

Can someone explain to me the toilet paper commercial I heard this week which claimed that "you use four times less...? Is that 1/4 as much? What does that mean?

My husband loves to watch the Do It Yourself channel "crash" shows. These are programs in which the TV stars stake out home improvement stores, find someone who has an ugly yard, bathroom or kitchen, and then the contractor/TV star goes to that home and redoes which ever room that particular one works on. My question...well, I guess I have two:
1. Where do they find all these beautiful people? None of these contractors look like normal people-they are all gorgeous, buff, charming and funny.
2. Sometimes when the contractors are talking to prospective crashees, they are often told, "Ohhhh, my yard is full of dead plants...." Well, if your yard is full of dead plants, why don't you pull them? The chances of meeting one of these guys at your local home improvement store is pretty slim, so instead of complaining about your yard-CLEAN IT!
Uh-oh...I just thought of a third question: The contractors often talk about doing these redecorations in a 'sustainable' or 'eco-friendly' way. But then they use woods such as "Brazilian Redwood." Is that sustainable? Is it okay with the Brazilians?

I have a question that most women MAY be able to relate to. We've all had jeans that come out of the dryer kind of tight, and then through the day they loosen up and can become a bit baggy. But why doesn't the waist band stretch out like the legs and bottom? Aren't they made of the same material?

There is a columnist that I enjoy named Dan Savage. He was the guest on Stephen Colbert's "Colbert Report" last week, and he made a comment that suddenly made me very confused as  to why so many republicans are upset about President Obama's "Affordable Care Act." As Mr. Savage pointed out, the original plan was devised by a conservative think tank called "The Heritage Foundation," and it was actually intended to force people to buy health insurance from their buddies, the insurance companies. Which is exactly what it turned out to be. I'm thinking it's only anathema to the right because Obama did it. If Romney had been elected president, and he had implemented the plan, the right would have been happy about it. And perhaps the left would have been as angry as they should be now that the real winners are big insurance, possibly the uninsured who get the government subsidies, and for everyone else, having health insurance through our companies means less and less.

Lastly, a couple of science questions. In watching some programs this week about what it would take to give humans a new planet to live on when we've damaged earth beyond repair, one theorist claimed that all we need to make Mars amenable to human life is start putting plants there. He said that the two things required for the advancement of life are liquid water and plants. Yes, these two things gave rise to the life we see on earth; the water gave rise to single celled life that evolved into plants, which then gave off the oxygen we needed to arise from the oceans. But why do we assume that it would take that very same chemical equation to create life elsewhere?

If this one is repetitive, I apologize, but I always get upset when humans talk about "invasive species." There is certainly no animal on earth that is more invasive than we are, and we tend to destroy everything we touch with our greed and shortsightedness. We are the only species that has adapted to survive in every single climate, and on every single continent. So the ability to travel from one ecosystem to another, create a niche, and out-compete whomever is already living there. It is what life does-it finds a place to survive and reproduce, and takes its place there. In my humble opinion, there is no such thing as an "invasive species." 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Code Words and Bogey Men

I heard a worker say these very words at Walmart yesterday, "I always never stop until it's done..." What was she trying to say, I ask, tongue firmly placed in cheek.

Can anyone tell me why, in police procedural television programming, the guy who snaps when a bad guy gets off, grabs a police officer's gun and shoots the criminal, they always have perfect aim? They never miss, they never hit an innocent bystander, their aim is always dead on.

I'm an animal lover, but mostly a dog person. I used to have only cats, but that was many years ago. I have a neighbor/friend who has cats, and occasionally when she goes out of town, I take care of them for her. I know that women who are pregnant are told not to scoop their cat's litter boxes because they can carry toxoplasmosis.  I have noticed from time to time that when I scoop the litter for my neighbor's cats, the smell is so strong that it makes my eyes water. I feel I should do as I've heard the people needed to do in Haiti to avoid the smell of rotting bodies, which was to smear a liberal amount of toothpaste under their noses. My question is, could these fumes be an actual cause for an actual syndrome that could be called "Crazy Cat Lady Syndrome?" We've all heard of the Crazy Cat Lady, with multiple cats and no human friends, but what if it's a real illness, and gases given off by cat urine is the cause?

I have a question that makes me kind of sad. It came to me after reading an article on "Hyperbole Post" talking about just anemic our economic recovery has been. In the United States of America, we have historically been an extremely innovative people. Our innovations used to create great wealth, and middle class status for most of our people. Now there is a huge division between rich and poor, with more people falling out of the middle class and into the caste of the "working poor." My question is; have we come to the end of our ability to innovate? When I was in grad school several years ago, I believed I saw the beginnings of new areas in which we could create new businesses, such as green energy and building. But the fossil energy companies spend billions (possibly an exaggeration) to tell us that green energy is too expensive and will never work. If a green energy company takes some risk and loses (Solyndra) it becomes a buzz word for blind optimism and stupidity. They don't want innovation, they want to continue with the status quo that makes them hundreds of billions (no exaggeration) of dollars per year. The new inventions that we see are on poorly produced commercials, and are mainly fodder for comedians...and the occasional humorous comment from someone like me. Is it too late for the next big invention, such as the automobile, to lift the American people up from poverty into the middle class?

What do we learn from every president's second term? Here I propose an answer to my question; we learn (once again) that the entrenched powers that be begin to all look alike when they stay in power. This is a big reason why I would be for a female candidate for president, but not Hillary Clinton. The two party system has blurred into a one, fuzzy, morphed party system in which the peace presidents act like war presidents, and giving up individual liberty for the sake of security against an enemy that we can never see coming. The two party system is broken and corrupt, and by the second term of any president, we begin to see that the idealistic language they used to get elected was just that; purty words.

Many of us eat out. A lot! We don't think about the conditions in which the food servers work, though there is a movement now, beginning with an excellent book called "Behind the Kitchen Door," that has contributed to the (hopefully) start of a conversation about how our wait staff is treated in their work places. Most of them are still paid a bit over two-dollars per hour salary, the alleged thought being that the difference between that and minimum wage will be made up by their tips. Their paychecks are taxed as if that is true, even when it isn't. Most of them do not get paid time off, even when they are sick. My question is this; why is this okay? Does it concern any of us that the people serving our food might be sick enough to stay home and not make the public, or their coworkers sick? Line cooks make a bit more per hour, but if the wait staff has to come to work sick, and makes the cooking staff sick, they could start an epidemic s just by not having this simple, basic rule applied to them; if you're sick, stay home. Don't make yourself worse, or anyone else sick. But if a person works for practically slave wages, with no paid sick time, taking a day off til the fever breaks is not possible.

There was some discussion this week of women in the work force after a couple of things happened. The first was a report that in a growing number of households, women are the only bread winner. In some of these homes, the men are stay home dads, and in some the woman is the only parent, and bread winner. The other was when representative Marsha Blackburn, R TN, stated that  "women don't want equal pay laws." I'm not sure which women she is talking to, but that's what she said. A libertarian friend of mine jumped into the conversation with the notion that laws aren't necessary if a woman is hired because of her qualifications, she should just demand equal pay or quit. I never would have guessed that my libertarian friends are living in such an ideal world, where employers pay fairly, based on qualifications, and they choose the person best qualified, no matter the race, gender or sexual orientation. The fact is that women still make .77 to the dollar as their male counterparts. When that was pointed out, my friend postulated that probably don't have the same education, length of service, etc. Another truth here would be that women are graduating from college at a higher rate than men, but these pay and promotion disparities still exist. But the big picture that came to me during this back and forth was that the man who was taking the side of the men in this conversation was advocating for the continuance of the "good ole boy" network...not what you know, but who you know, not how well trained you are, but longevity with the company. I suppose there is some bit of the "good ole boy network" in place at most work places, but is that how we want the country to go forward? Especially with more women as the only breadwinner in the household? In the study I referred to, those households were not doing so well..because the women make less than a male in the same job would make. I don't believe that unfettered, unregulated businesses will EVER make the "proper" choices on their own, and yes, there is apparently a need for some kind of laws to allow women who have families to support get the same pay as a man in the same position.

A nutrition question: how can we say that? I talk a great deal about health and nutrition, and my friends and I talk about these subjects a lot. There are groups of people now who say that we need to eat lots of whole grains, and some others who say that our dependence on grains is why we are so sick. The anti-grain folks say that our ancestors did not eat grains, and therefore we did not evolve with the ability to digest them properly. The consumption of grains apparently exploded when we began to develop agriculture, which lead to communities, cities and so on. So, how did our ancestors decide what to farm? Did they just go out and say, "Nah, we can't grow berries and melons, so lets farm grains?" It may be that they foraged when they first left the trees, hunting and gathering berries and other fruits because that's what they could reach from their new place on the ground. But growing melons takes work, so I'm not sure that early man ate that many melons. But I also doubt that they just went out, saw a wild grain and said to themselves, "Hmmm, maybe we can make this grow;" and then went out and created ways to make it dominate our diets. Even if grains have only been a major part of our diet for six-to-ten thousand years, how can they say grains weren't a part of human diets until "recently?"

I was born in 1957. I'm not sure if it is still true, but there was a time that my birth year held the record as the year more babies were born than in all of history combined. The birth rate in the United States is declining, and in 2012 the greatest decline was in children born to immigrant women. The so-called "baby boom" is what the children born between 1945 and 1963 is called-roughly the years between World War II ending and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. We are now in 2013, which means that at the end of this year, the last baby boomers will turn fifty. They are now at middle age, and will soon need bone density tests, their first screening colonoscopies, and will likely be on blood pressure meds, statins, and likely a number of other prescription medications.  My question is, how will our aging change the world? Will we actually have made a difference?

1. Saru Jayaraman is co-founder and director of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC-United) and author of Behind the Kitchen Door. She was featured on Moyers & Company in February 2013.

2. Marsha Wedgeworth Blackburn is the U.S. Representative for Tennessee's 7th congressional district

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Doctor Will See You Now

I have a question. Or two...well, more. Sorry! First of all, the History Channel now has "History 2." Why do they call it that, and not "The Conspiracy Theory Channel?" I've watched it a few times to help me fall asleep, even though the titles of the programs appealed to me, which might have meant that the programming would actually have kept me awake. But the narrators and the story lines seem to be full of inflammatory conspiracy theories,. and there is so much earnestness in the narration that if I weren't a natural skeptic, I might actually be convinced that there is "no other logical explanation" but that there were aliens landing on earth thousands of years ago, driving human history and evolution. Speaking of which, if there were advanced civilizations landing on earth thousands of years ago, why aren't they even more advanced now, and making themselves known?

Another TV question; I now have "National Geographic Wild" on for background noise as I write, and I just saw a commercial for "Fish Tank Kings." Do I really need to ask this one? How do guys making pretty fish tanks fit in with a channel supposedly devoted entirely to wildlife?

Secondly, aren't crackheads supposed to be skinny and emaciated? They are now saying that marijuana smokers tend to be thinner, which begs the question, how is that possible with the stereotype of getting the munchies and heading to Jack in the Box or the convenience store in the middle of the night for Ho-Ho's and Twinkies? Sorry, in case anyone reads the blog today...the first question is a reference to the mayor of Toronto being caught allegedly smoking crack with some alleged drug dealers. He's a hefty fellow; definitely not like the stereotype of crackheads.

There has been a lot of talk in the press lately about the persecution of whistleblowers. members of the media have been investigated by the FBI and the Department of Justice (DOJ) as "co-conspirators" for being given "leaks" by government employees. My question is, is it only liberals who consider "whistleblowing" a good thing? My impression of that word is someone who sees wrongdoing going on, unchecked, and tells someone who can get the story out or get something done about it. I'm not sure when it became a bad thing to do/be. In fact, can anyone tell me why we wouldn't want to keep people safe who report on the laws that the government doesn't want us to know it is breaking?

I have a really good doctor. I don't remember the last appointment I had with him that took less than an hour, and the first, oh, third, of the visits usually consist of political discussion, (he's a conservative/libertarian, as far as I can tell.) Of course, his profession is pretty political these days, and he knows I occasionally broach political topics on my blog. One of his other patients told me that if he ever retires, this patient would probably stop going to the doctor. And he has swayed me scientifically on some questions, for example regarding vaccines. But in conversations about The Affordable Care Act, he has made some really (in my opinion) important points. His primary point has been that the focus was far too deep on the uninsured. Which is true, and truly matters! We all pay more because of the uninsured, and those who have no insurance and go to the emergency room for basic healthcare, and then can't pay the bill, get very poor care. That's because the "emergency" part of the name "emergency room" really is correct. If you're shot, or having a heart attack, or break a bone, you need the emergency room. If you have a chronic illness, such as diabetes, joint pain, or something simple like a cold or persistent digestive problems, it is most definitely the WRONG place to go, and you will likely be given something for pain and sent home with the instruction to see a doctor or specialist. Then we all pay more for health care and health insurance because of that person's unpaid debt to the hospital. But my doctor says that not enough attention was paid to reducing the cost of health care by providing for competition, which he says could lower the cost of basic testing. The way it is now, we choose a primary care doctor or specialist in our neighborhoods, and they send us to a certain place to get tests done. If we could choose a less expensive place to get, say, a colonoscopy, X-ray or MRI, it could drive down the cost through competition. There have been a few stories recently comparing the prices of basic tests in certain cities. It seems that they are based on the city, and not on a reasonable charge for the test. Of course, business has to make a profit, so please don't accuse me of communism or socialism-I'm not!!! But in a true capitalist society, competition serves the consumer, and companies that choose to serve the consumer survive by greater volumes of business. I'm not an economist, but it makes sense to me!

Speaking of socialism and trendy movements, I have a question about Small Business Saturday and the locavore movement. This one came to me as I was driving to a chain store yesterday to get some trash bags and a bottle of wine. I drove past many, many chain stores, some selling basically the same stuff-whatever their specialties must be. And it struck me that all this commerce thru chains is very bad for capitalism. The reason is that all those stores, Target, Michael's, Hobby Lobby, Pier One, etc, etc, do not set their prices based on competition within the communities in which they reside. Prices and percent off sale prices and set by the corporation, not by the consumer. This is something that these giant corporations have lobbied very, very hard to do; squelch regulation that helps prevent monopolies. So they stop local stores from being able to compete, and then they don't even consider their close neighbors when setting those prices. So, Federal Trade Commission, Sherman Anti-trust legislation, congress, Mr. President, when do consumers get some help here?

I have seen many (I wish I had a way to emphasize how many without just typing the word "many" again) criticisms of the Chinese government's "one child policy." Now, a generation is defined as twenty years, and the Chinese policy went into effect in 1978. Theoretically, their population should have halved over just one generation, if I'm getting the math right (which is always an iffy proposition.) But it has not. And now there is a giant problem in China of too many men, and many of these men cannot find wives. This is going to create a real population crash in the near future. But I disagree with those who blame the one child policy for this. Normally the birth rates for girls and boys are roughly the same...well, actually a little higher for boys, because boys are slightly more likely to die in infancy. The problem in China is the appallingly antiquated notion that it is more honorable to have boys than girls. Girls are sometimes aborted, there have been stories of girls being abandoned to die, and there was a time, not terribly long ago when parents would give up their girl babies for adoption so that they could have one other baby that might be a boy. A cousin of mine was able to adopt her precious daughter from a Chinese orphanage about eight years ago for this reason. But didn't anyone in the government consider the cultural notion of the "betterness" (if it's not a word yet, TRADEMARK) of boys?

Lastly, I read an article this week by an awesome mom. Her name is Jackie Morgan MacDougall, and I saw her article on Huffington Post entitled "What I Finally Let My Daughter Do With Her Hair." Ms. MacDougall wrote that she grew up hating her hair, and when she had a daughter who had "perfect, shiny, black Asian hair" she was determined that her daughter would grow that hair long and proud. But her daughter wished a different statement, and wanted to cut her hair short, and perhaps even in a Mohawk. At first Mom said, "No way." But after thinking long and hard about it, and reading an article by Jada Pinkett Smith about HER daughter wanting to keep her hair short, and Pinkett-Smith's belief that girls and women are not allowed to own their bodies and their looks in this country, she decided that her daughter could wear her hair any way she chose. So Ms. MacDougall decided to allow her daughter to cut her hair short. As I read the article, I thought about Pinkett-Smith's comments about women not being allowed to own our bodies, even as young as seven-years old. We can't be fat, we can't be too skinny, we should have long hair, we should have curls, we should not need glasses, etc, etc. Girls are made fun of for being the slightest degree off from society's definition of "beauty." And it goes on and on, all the way to owning our uterus as adults. I've spoken before about how it always seems to be old, white men who make the laws, and the ignorant comments about rape and abortion. It is old, white men who make ultrasound laws for women in early pregnancy. Women are subject to abuse and mutilation, rape and death because we are not allowed to own our bodies, and the physical strength of men, and our having stood by and not used our voices for so long, allowing men to "run things" alone for so many years, we have somehow given up on our ability to control our destinies. It even goes down to not owning our looks; we look so fashion magazines to tell us how to dress, fix our make up, wear our hair, and what surgeries we should have in order to keep our looks longer. We let male doctors determine that, because we might get "moody" during menopause, we should take hormones that create greater risk of heart disease and certain cancers. I've seen articles and ads from the late 70s/early 80s, by male doctors, that actually said, straight up, that taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) would keep women "likable." We can't even own our own process of aging? And so, I am middle aged, and wear my hair super short, and spiked. I will never again have long hair or a bun. Nor will I buy clothes I don't like because they are "age appropriate." I'm not trying to look like I did as a teenager, I'm trying to be happy.
I have never taken HRT, and never will. If I'm moody, consider this: Perhaps it's not menopause making me moody. Perhaps I've lost caring if you think my mood is hormonal. Maybe it's you! Either way, it's MY HAIR! And my body. Oh-I need a question don't I? Okay. You got a problem with that?