Saturday, August 11, 2018

Just Another Addiction.

Some of the more popular television shows being aired these days deal with addictions or extreme behavior disorders, such as hoarding, overeating, anorexia and drug addiction and intervention. These shows center on otherwise normal people who have become addicted to certain types of behavior or have taken their interests to extremes, which place themselves or others in danger. Each of these programs often show extreme behaviors exhibited in gruesome detail, which is shocking to some viewers, who may think this type of extreme behavior is a rarity and far from their own little world. The viewers learn that in each of these programs help is offered by professional mental health practitioners, but in many cases the people suffering from these behaviors deny the severity of their actions and refuse any kind of help. One can plainly see how much families and friends of these people are also suffering as a result of their loved one’s bizarre and extreme behavior disorders.
If people do not know anyone who suffers from drug or alcohol addiction, hoarding, eating disorders or other extreme behavior disorders, they may think that they themselves are not effected in any way. But they are wrong. Look at one important practice of every day life that is present in the daily routines of most people. Religion. Every day people can be observed or heard praying. They say grace before meals. They go to mass, church, temple or mosque once a week or more. We hear people preaching in public, whether we want to or not. Out cable TV channel lineup consists overwhelming of religious channels we didn’t order, but we must endure them as they are part of our program bundle. We usually don’t give these religious presences a second thought and accept them as a normal part of life.
But take a closer look at what can happen. The Twin Towers bombings of September 11 were carried out by Muslim extremists. Suicide bombings are an every day occurrence in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and other areas of the Middle East and Africa. The Taliban has been terrorizing Pakistanis and Afghans in an attempt to force them to adhere to their archaic beliefs. These terrorist attacks are all carried out in the name of Islam. Extremist groups like Al-Qaeda and Isis have vowed to destroy the West and replace the governments there with their own deranged form of Islam. They kill thousands of innocent people, among them peace loving Muslims, because they merely think or pray differently. Even in moderate Muslim countries there are groups trying to force their beliefs and practices on the rest of the population. Having lived in Malaysia for seven years I saw firsthand how the government forced their own brand of Islam on the population.
In Israel ultra-Orthodox Jews known as Haredi Jews, a minority in the country have in the past attacked school girls walking to school in a small city near Jerusalem. This sect of Jewish extremists believe in strict segregation of the sexes and they are determined to force their beliefs and practices on the majority of secular Jews, even if it involves attacks on police and other acts of violence against other Jews. Peace talks in the Middle East have been a failure because of religious extremists on both sides. Even in Judaism the different sects attack each other.
Now don’t feel smug because the above examples deal with Muslims and Jews. All we have to do is take a look at some political campaigns in the United States to see many examples of Christian extremists. In past campaigns and most recently in 2016 Conservative Republicans courted Christian evangelicals, who are in reality extremists. Even thrice married, adulterous, misogynist Donald Trump professed his Christian faith and promised to bring back supposedly outlawed Christian values to America. He and his supporters even invented the “War on Christmas”. The possibility that Americans may believe in a different faith is a mute point. They threaten war against those Muslim terrorists who are trying to force their beliefs on their own countrymen, while doing the same thing to their fellow Americans in the US. What hypocrites! They value freedom of religion as long as it is their religion. We all remember the fanatical Christian extremists of the Westboro Baptist church whose hateful rhetoric and practices of demonstrating at military funerals and funerals of gays or gay friendly people. There are only a few members, but they are trying to force their views on the rest of the country. There are many sects of the Christian religion in the West and they each think they are the one and only true Christian religion.
Religious extremism is not only attributed to the Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths. All religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism and many others have their extremist members. Even atheism has its extremist elements. There are a couple of big differences between religious extremists and those extremists mentioned in the first part of this post. Firstly religion is quite often considered to be a sacred cow (excuse the pun) and people are either afraid or unwilling to discuss religion in a public forum. Therefore many extreme religious practices or beliefs are ignored or tacitly accepted. People don’t want to criticize someone of their own faith, even though they are not in agreement. Secondly, a big difference is that drug addicts or hoarders and others exhibiting extreme behavior can and do receive treatment for their disorders. Religious extremists are just as sick and unbalanced as other addicts, but no one wants to recognize this. Religious extremists are just as dangerous or more dangerous than those addicted to drugs, alcohol or extreme behaviors. No one offers or even suggests mental health assistance. Because these people’s illnesses are a result of religious beliefs, no one wants to touch upon this subject. It is taboo. The latest intrusion of religion on the lives of the American people are so called religious liberty laws which are nothing more that an attempt to allow Christian religious fanatics to discriminate against gays and anyone who may be different from their idea of what an American is. It is normal for people to want to express a belief and practice a certain religion, but when those beliefs and practices endanger other people’s lives or infringe on other people’s freedoms, something must be done. We must recognize that religious addiction does exist and it must be treated.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Melania’s Parents Jump to the Head of the Line

It was just announced that the parents of Melania Trump have just been granted US Citizenship! Their attorney announced that the category under which they were eligible to become citizens was “confidential”! I guess being connected to Trump is a new category. This has raised some eyebrows since Trump has been railing against “chain migration” which is when recently naturalized citizens sponsor their parents and other family members to become US citizens. Chain migration has been used to reunite immigrant families for years.
It still is not clear how Melania received her green card and, if she received it illegally.It has been conjectured, that she first came here on a visitor’s visa but worked as a nude model. However the White House has said that Melania received her green card under a program that gives priority to those of “extraordinary ability”. Apparently being a nude model carries the same weight as a nuclear physicist! When this accusation first surfaced during the campaign Melania promised to give the details of her immigrant status, but she never did. Just like Trump’s promise to release his taxes! If she did receive her green card fraudulently she is ineligible to become a citizen and thus she is not able to sponsor any members of her family.
With Trump’s attacks on illegal immigrants and those obtaining legal status fraudulently, the act of granting Melania’s parents citizenship is extremely hypocritical. He has especially been fighting to stop chain migration and instead favored a merit system to obtain permanent residency and citizenship. Neither Melania nor her parents were covered under the EB-1 visa since they did not possess extraordinary skills or abilities. This action has the appearance of favoring white Europeans over brown and black skinned people from Africa and South America. It is a slap in the face to those people who have been patiently waiting and following the proper procedures in order to obtain either their green card or their citizenship. With Trump’s newly proposed policies of denying citizenship or green cards to anyone who has received any kind of public assistance, even Obamacare, or the Administration’s plan to take back the citizenship from those who may have lied on their applications, this action is particularly disgusting.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Isn't the Aging Brain Wonderful?


Now that I am getting older I realize that I have taken my body for granted all of these years. I now am aware of body parts I didn’t even know I had when I was younger. I didn’t know what the hell a prostate gland was when I was in my teens and twenties. But in the past few years after going to the bathroom more often, getting up in the middle of the night to pee and the loss of hydraulic pressure when going, I now know what a prostate is and what BPH is.
I never gave my knees much of a thought and after growing out of childhood asthma I never gave my lungs much thought either, as I bounded up flights of stairs. Now when I walk up a flight of stairs I feel as though I have climbed Mt. Everest as my asthma has returned in my old age. I never knew there were muscles in my back until now, when I am sorely reminded of that fact every single day. I didn’t know what my sinuses were until a few years ago, when I had teeth pulled, just to find out I had sinusitis. Now I have postal nasal drip 24/7! I never gave much thought to my bowels, as they worked whenever I wanted them to work. Now with IBS, my bowels have a mind of their own, which is usually in disagreement with my own mind. And of course my eyesight was perfect, being able to see far and near. Now after years of being glued to a microscope and the effects of aging, I either have to get longer arms or use those drug store magnifying glasses.
The one part of the human body that I never ever thought of and I think most people never think of is the brain. It has always worked, sometimes not as hard as I would have liked it to work, but it did work. As I find my other body parts are not working up to snuff, I am beginning to see my brain backfire. The other day I was having lunch with a couple of friends and mentioned that I had to stop and get milk on the way home. I stopped at 7-Eleven and got everything but the milk. Quite often I go to the store for only one specific item and return home without that item, but with many things I really didn’t want. I find many times that when people introduce someone to me I forget their names a few minutes later. I think actually I really didn’t want to know who they were in the first place. I find that I usually don’t forget big things or very important things, but the little things in life. I occasionally forget my phone, my watch, my wallet, my ATM card PIN number and the exact time I am supposed to meet someone . I think most of the time I am just not paying attention. I hope. I also, at times have a little trouble remembering what I had for dinner the preceding day. No big deal.
I guess being a little forgetful has to be accepted with the aging process, but what is odd is the things we remember. I can remember the names of every kid in my first grade class at Hamilton Street School. I can remember details of childhood birthday parties and what I received as birthday and Christmas presents. I can remember events from my childhood as if they happened yesterday. I can remember the details of shows like The Life of Riley, The Pinky Lee Show, The People’s Choice and Our Miss Brooks. They were on over 50 years ago! When it is very hot and humid I can remember sitting at home on a snow day and watching the snow fall from my living room window.
What also is strange is that I remember only the good and pleasant things. I had very severe asthma and other allergies growing up, but I have little memory of that. It is almost like these are selective memories that we consciously have no control over. Many times I will lie on the bed for a rest and daydream of playing tennis, doing gymnastics, climbing or running a race, yet there is no way in hell I could do that now. It’s another game our brain plays on us. I guess it is like the old saying, “The mind is willing, but the body is weak.” Even when I am at the gym there is a big difference in what I can envision doing and what I can actually do. So depressing .
I guessed most people see these changes when they retire or approach retirement age. I really didn’t feel that bad about it just beginning now, until I saw the results of the some research results from University College London, that brain function begins to decline at the age of 45. That means it has been happening for a long time and I didn’t even know it! Another cruel trick of the brain. Oh well. We have no choice, but to get old, but I think I will exercise my brain more, from now on. If I can remember.

Monday, July 30, 2018

How Can I lose Weight Fast?

Wikimedia Commons

How many people have Googled the question, “How can I lose weight fast ?” I am willing to bet that hundreds of thousands of people have. Well if you’re looking at this article for answers to that question , don’t be upset because you won’t find any answers here.
If you do a search for help in losing weight you will find hundreds of sites, mostly all useless. You will undoubtedly find results in sites such as “Wikihow”, “Ehow” and “Ezine” and if you look closely enough you will notice that the articles are almost exactly the same. Drink plenty of water, exercise, eat more fruit and vegetables, consume less fat and sugar and count your calories. This is information the average person would know, unless they have been living in a cave all of their life. Then you will find sites selling miracle diets or supplements, ranging from diet teas to exotic fruit from the jungles of the Amazon. Diet teas work great if you want to sit on the toilet all day and give up eating! Diet supplements usually are very expensive and consist of ingredients which have absolutely no effect on weight and can be very dangerous in many cases. Many of these miracle weight loss supplements raise your metabolism, which also raises your heart rate and blood pressure. Coffee is a much cheaper and safer alternative . You can also buy over the counter drugs that prevent fat from being absorbed by your digestive system. These work great as long as you don’t mind the occasional “accident” you have when you sneeze or cough, or when you thought “it” was going to be gas. If you take the these pills you should be very careful when you go out in public.
Aside from the supplements there are a number of alternative exercise techniques, like vibration plates that are supposed to shake the fat off you. Some of the advertising claim that you can burn 1000 calories in 15 minutes. None of the current research on these techniques have found any positive benefits for weight loss. I have known people who have tried the vibration plates and paid some hefty fees over a few months period. The only weight they lost was in their wallets!
Some sites advertise “body wrap” where they promise you can lose inches around your waist. Of course you do. The wrapping just moves the fat to another part of the body! If this doesn’t work maybe you can try electric muscle stimulation to shock the fat off your body. Once again all of the current research shows no evidence of any weight loss benefits. If you read any literature on the above techniques, you will find some extremely fine print at the bottom of brochures or customer testimonials, which say that success comes only when used in conjunction with proper diet and exercise.
The other sites you will run across will be legitimate sites which offer just that — proper diet and exercise. They offer advice on eating healthy, along with recipes and foods that will help you lose weight and keep it off. Other sites offer exercise programs and tips that will help you burn fat and lose weight in a healthy fashion. Of course there is always the tried and true methods offered by Weight Watchers. I have used that program and managed to lose quite a bit of weight over time. Of course it isn’t cheap. There are sites that advertise gyms or home exercise equipment to lose weight and keep in shape. Unlike weight loss miracles, supplements and the latest fat burning technologies, nutrition and exercise have been proven, over and over again to be effective for weight loss. Two very important factors for anyone who wants to lose weight are the proper motivation and emotional support from family and friends.
The bottom line is that for most of us, we are fat because we eat way too much of the wrong food and won’t get off our butts to do any exercise. We realize we are fat but we are too damn lazy to do anything about it except to waste our time looking for a miracle quick fix weight loss gimmick. There are really no excuses for anyone who wants to lose weight and is willing to try. It is not easy by any stretch of the imagination. The answer to the title question is very simple. Eat less, drink water and exercise more and don’t give up. You didn’t get fat overnight and you won’t lose the fat overnight, either!

Sunday, July 29, 2018

They Don't Make TV Shows Like That Anymore

Lately I have been seeing posts on Facebook with photos of old TV shows from the 50's, 60's and 70's, with the caption telling you to like if you remember it. I must admit that I remember all of these shows and become quite nostalgic when I look at the photos. I always "like" them and "share" the photos. So far I have seen "The Andy Griffith Show", "The Brady Bunch", "The Lucille Ball Show" and "Cheers".

Seeing these led me to reminisce about other old shows. Some of my favorites were "The Life of Riley", "Leave It to Beaver", "Father Knows Best" and "Our Miss Brooks" to name a few. There are many more TV shows that I and others around my age should remember. Not all are as old as the ones I just mentioned, but they are the ones I remember fondly.

When I think about watching these shows I think of a simpler time when I was younger than 12. I had nothing to worry about and nothing to fear, except for maybe not getting my homework done on time. I can remember sitting in front of the old black and white General Electric television in my living room and watching these shows with my parents and older brothers. The plots were simple, usually nothing more serious than getting a failing grade in school or not getting the chores around the house done. There was no sex. The parents slept in separate single beds and  heck I don't remember even seeing the parents' bedrooms until "The Dick Vandyke Show". There were no drugs, no swearing or profanity and no violence. The only gun play was in the westerns, but there was no gore or mass shootings. In all of these shows the neighbors were all friendly, well dressed and  well to do middle class people. They were nothing like my family, or the family of anyone else I knew.

None of these shows portrayed poor families, homeless people, handicapped people, Blacks, Asians or Hispanics. Everybody was white. No one was Catholic or Jewish and certainly not Muslim.  There were no gays or even people who could have been gay. Everybody seemed to be married or widowed. None of the mothers worked, even though the very young and  older women worked as either librarians or teachers. Even though these shows took place during the Cold War, there was no mention of it.  There was absolutely no mention of any social issues whatsoever. It was a perfect world of White Anglo-Saxon Protestant Americans, undoubtedly all Republican too.

We may look back and think about the old days, when everything was peaceful and simple, with no problems and no worries. In reality though these TV shows portrayed an America where everyone was hiding their heads in the sand. The plights of minorities, such as Blacks and Women were ignored and not talked about in public. Children were going hungry and being physically and sexually abused and there was a great deal of domestic violence that was ignored by everyone, including the authorities. There was gang violence, there were drugs , race riots and all manners of discrimination that was legitimized by looking the other way. Everything was perfect only if you were White. The only reason life was so simple was the fact we did not know about all of the suffering taking place, not only in our country, but in our own neighborhoods of our home towns.

I look back at my childhood and have warm memories and feelings when I think about these old TV shows. I wonder if , no I hope, that all people my age can look back at their childhood, when also thinking of old TV shows and feel the same warmth as I do.

Adam and Eve: The First Dysfunctional Family?


I grew up Catholic and attended Catholic schools through high school. So naturally I had to attend religion classes where the Bible was the central textbook authority. I can remember being taught about the Creation and the story of Adam and Eve, just like every other Christian, Muslim or Jew has been taught. We were taught that God created Adam from the dust of the earth and then created Eve from a rib taken from Adam. The Bible also teaches us that Adam and Eve had two sons, Cain and Abel. That was it. No questions asked, just believe it.

 Now that I am older and have completed my formal education and am still being educated in life, I have developed numerous questions. I actually think about these questions quite frequently. Years ago in biology class I learned that in order for the population to increase and be healthy, men and women must reproduce, as in the union of egg and sperm. I also learned that in order for humankind to flourish there must be diversity in the gene pool. This means that the offspring of closely related parents can and will be genetically defective.

 I have also learned through history and civics classes that in most cultures it is illegal to marry first cousins or siblings, even though this may be common in some parts of Appalachia or some third world countries. Marrying close family members is called incest and is considered immoral by all religions and societies, regardless of whether or not it is part of a country’s laws.

 This is where problems with the story of all humankind descending from Adam and Eve arise. According to the bible Adam and Eve had two sons, Cain and Abel. Some religious scholars say that the Adam and Eve had as many as many as 56 children (poor Eve). So did the rest of humanity come to be as a result of Cain and Abel fathering children with their mother, Eve or all 56 of these children fornicating with each other and their mother? Many hard core fundamentalists argue that somewhere in the Bible it mentions that Cain had a wife and could not have had an incestuous relationship with his mother, but where did he find his wife? Did he share her with Abel, his brother? And did they have children? Strict fundamentalists, wearing blinders, insist that the Bible is correct in saying Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel were the first family, and refuse to entertain any other ideas to the contrary.

 The stories of Creation and Adam and Eve are very confusing, unless you accept them blindly like many people do. I accepted the stories of the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus until I became old enough to question them and see the faults in these myths. Even though I knew they didn’t exist it was fun making believe. I think that instead of believing that Adam and Eve were incestuous and the Bible was promoting such a relationship, I would rather believe that the story is just another fun myth, which was used by the authors of the Bible to teach an illiterate and uneducated populace lessons of religion. Just like Santa Claus, making believe Adam and Eve was real can be fun and educational.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

The Myth of Saw Palmetto

     I have been taking saw palmetto for over 20 years.  I first started taking it when I read that it prevented prostate problems, including benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and prostate cancer.  Before I started taking the supplement, naturally I did some research on it to determine it's efficacy and safety.  At that timeI learned that it had been used for years in Europe to treat prostate problems.  Much of the research added that it is as effective as  prescribed medications, such as Avodart and Flomax.  If a Google search is done one can also see that saw palmetto can also reduce the size of the prostate gland which would reduce the annoying symptoms of BPH. 

    Now that I am 70 years old I am one of the millions of American men who suffer from the symptoms of BPH.  These include frequent nighttime trips to the bathroom, weak urinary stream, urgency and incomplete bladder emptying, among others.  Apparently saw palmetto didn't work, at least for me!  Each of the primary care physicians and urologists I have visited over the years knew I was taking saw palmetto, but never advised against it or even mentioned it. I continued taking it , I guess in the hopes one day I would begin to see a benefit.

   In the past couple of years as my nighttime trips to the bathroom became more frequent I began once again to research the efficacy of saw palmetto treatment for BPH.  As before I saw the same testimonials regarding how great the herb was for millions of sufferers.  But unlike before I discovered that there is actually very little scientific research to substantiate the claims that saw palmetto can be beneficial in the treatment of BPH or any other prostate conditions.  I came to doubt the claims of the relief of symptoms offered in reviews of prostate support supplements containing saw palmetto, which I read on prostate health forums and Amazon product review pages.  I found more and more people like me who found no benefit from taking the supplement.  So finally I decided to stop my daily regime of supplementing with saw palmetto and other prostate health supplements.  It has now been over 2 months since I have stopped the supplements and my condition has not changed a bit!  I'm not saying that saw palmetto may not help some men, but for me it is of no use.
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