Category Archives: family

To Vaccinate, or Not to Vaccinate?

…that shouldn’t even BE a question.
Why? Because science.

Woooooow. Want to open up a topic for debate that will irritate both liberals AND conservatives across the board?

Vaccines.

Holy crap.

For those who have been living under a rock for the last twenty years, in 1998, British gastroenterologist Andrew Jeremy Wakefield and eleven of his colleagues published a study in the British medical journal The Lancet suggesting a link between the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine and the onset of autism and bowel disease in children. Questions regarding the validity of the study were raised when other doctors and scientists were unable to duplicate Wakefield’s results. Sixty-seven studies conducted between 1998 and 2010 (some of which can be found HERE; HERE; HERE; and HERE) found no correlation between the MMR (or any other) vaccine and the diagnosis of autism.

Other questions surrounding the validity of Wakefield’s claims came from investigative reporter Brian Deer of the Sunday Times, the UK’s most respected newspaper. Deer discovered that Wakefield’s entire study revolved around 12 anonymous children with “apparent brain disorders” admitted to the pediatric bowel unit at the Royal Free Hospital near London between July 1996 and February 1997.

[Please let me, The Blonde, stop right there. I’m a historian and thespian. I teach. My first idea in college, though, was to become a large animal vet, so I have a pretty solid background in science. General science, biology, honors and AP chemistry, honors Physics in high school; biology, marine biology, inorganic chem in college. Even I know that one should not publish a world-shattering study, with the potential to change lives quite literally around the world, based off less than a year’s worth of research on such a small sample. My teachers and professors would have kicked my butt for even suggesting that. But, I digress.]

Parents of eight of the 12 children blamed the MMR vaccine for their children’s diagnosis of both IBD and autism. (Many children with ASD also have GI issues. No one is exactly sure why, but it’s common. AutismSpeaks explains.) As hysteria went global thanks to the likes of Jenny McCarthy, who blamed the vaccine for her own son’s autism, Deer discovered that far from a scientific breakthrough, Wakefield had been approached in 1994 by lawyer Richard Barr, a lawyer of dubious intent looking to start a speculative class-action lawsuit against the manufacturers of the MMR vaccine. What was actually planned I can’t even begin to paraphrase, so I’ll let Deer himself explain.

Unlike expert witnesses, who give professional advice and opinions, Wakefield had negotiated an unprecedented contract with Barr, then aged 48, to conduct clinical and scientific research. The goal was to find evidence of what the two men claimed to be a “new syndrome”, intended to be the centerpiece of (later failed) litigation on behalf of an eventual 1,600 British families, recruited through media stories. This publicly undisclosed role for Wakefield created the grossest conflict of interest, and the exposure of it by Deer, in February 2004, led to public uproar in Britain, the retraction of the Lancet report’s conclusions section, and, from July 2007 to May 2010, the longest-ever professional misconduct hearing by the UK’s General Medical Council (GMC).

Barr [audio] paid the doctor with money from the UK legal aid fund: run by the government to give poorer people access to justice. Wakefield charged at the extraordinary rate of £150 an hour – billed through a company of his wife’s – eventually totaling, for generic work alone, what the UK Legal Services Commission, pressed by Deer under the freedom of information act, said was £435,643 (then about $750,000 US), plus expenses. These hourly fees – revealed in The Sunday Times in December 2006 – gave the doctor a direct personal, but undeclared, financial interest in his research claims: totaling more than eight times his reported annual salary and creating an incentive not only for him to launch the alarm, but to keep it going for as long as possible.” (Brian Deer’s Research)

 

It would be the shady deal heard ‘round the world.

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An Ode to Evil

Many of you, I’m sure, are familiar with Facebook’s daily “See Your Memories” posts, in which the algorithm dredges up whatever you posted on that particular date X amount of years prior, giving you the opportunity to re-post it, should you deem it worthy.

Last night, my youngest brother, Joe,  mentioned to me that it was twelve years ago on that date (January 12), that Resident Evil IV had just been released and we (myself, and my brothers Joe and Frank) had spent the entire afternoon after school watching Frank play. Watching this horror show (and it was a horror show on so many different levels) meant that none of us got our homework done, and we were all pretty sure that our teachers were not going to accept, “But getting past those chainsaw-wielding bitches was way harder than previously anticipated” as an excuse. So we did the next logical thing and prayed for a snow day.

The Biohazard gods answered those prayers.

So why do I bring this up?

Well, for one, RE7 is coming out in a few short weeks, and we’ll be doing the exact same thing: gathering to watch each other play, get slaughtered, offer advice at solving puzzles and what weaponry should be used where, reminding each other of past epic failures (oh, and they were indeed epic) and in a way, reliving a piece of our childhood. Resident Evil was the one thing we really bonded over in our teenage years. As we’ve become *cough* adults and our lives have pulled us in different directions, it’s good to know that a little bit of zombie obliteration will always bring us back together again.

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When Lions Trump Babies, You Know We’re Screwed

 

Imagine, if you will, your friendly neighborhood veterinarian. We’ll call her Dr. Farrell. Dr. Farrell loves dogs. She loves dogs so much, that she runs a dog-specific clinic. She especially loves puppies and mama-dogs, so she concentrates on them. She says she treats them for all types of diseases and testings and screenings to ensure their health, but she’s most concerned with the ones who are pregnant. She knows that the ones who are pregnant and have owners that want the puppies will be fine, so she tells those dogs to go somewhere else for their care. Dr. Farrell takes care of the dregs. She specifically sets up her clinics in areas that have a lot of poor, stray dogs. Dogs that don’t have owners, or have owners that don’t care about them. Dogs that aren’t spayed. Dogs that wouldn’t be able to take care of their puppies. So everyday, Dr. Farrell makes sure her clinic looks hip and inviting, with comfortable doggy beds, bones to gnaw on, fresh food and water. When a pregnant lady dog comes in, Dr. Farrell assures her that she doesn’t have to worry about half a dozen new mouths to feed. She’ll take care of the problem and send the dog on her way.

So Dr. Farrell forces open the dog’s cervix, and reaches in with some sort of suction device and a knife (curette) to cut the puppies apart and extract them from the womb. One of Dr. Farrell’s assistants will have to put all the pieces together again later to make sure all the puppy-tissue was gotten. Sometimes, if Dr. Farrell didn’t get to the dog early enough, she might burn the baby puppies to death with saline, or wait till the puppies are almost born, then as they’re coming through the mama dog’s birth canal, she’ll just stab them in the back of the skull with scissors. Whatever way she chooses, the puppies are dead and no longer the lady dog’s responsibility.

Running a clinic like this is hard though, and even though places like PETA give her a lot of money to keep the unwanted puppy population down, Dr. Farrell has found that she can get a lot of money by selling those puppy bodies to cosmetic companies. People get so angry when they hear that companies test their products on animals, but no one seems to care about the puppies that Dr. Farrell has killed. For whatever reason, they are blind to it. So Dr. Farrell is able to sell those bodies to Covergirl and Bath and Body Works, and they pay enough to buy Dr. Farrell a new car. All thanks to dismembered puppies.

 

Now, be serious. If an undercover journalist had come out in the last 10 days with videos proving that PETA was dismembering and selling unborn puppies or kittens, the country would be in an uproar (see: Cecil the Lion). Instead, an undercover journalish has undeniable evidence that abortion giant Planned Parenthood is selling the bodies of unborn children. More than that, they are line items. They are profit. They keep PP in the black. There is good evidence that many of these children are intact, which means PP is blatently ignoring the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban one way or another. As of this writing, three states (NH, AL, and LA) have cut off funding to Planned Parenthood, and several others have launched investigations.

As Americans – hell, as decent human beings, why are we even pretending that this is okay? What makes us think that it is okay to kill a child at any stage of his or her development? If one killed a panda in its mother’s pouch, he would be in as much legal trouble as if he killed the adult panda. Probably more. Why? Because a developing panda is still a panda. Why are animals protected, and not human babies? They are equally defenseless.

Planned Parenthood is beyond defending. Please, if you haven’t already, watch the videos or read the transcripts. (All of which can be found here.) Urge companies like Pepsi and Bath & Body Works to stop their donations, as others like Coca-Cola have already done. Write your members of Congress on the State and Federal level to defund them; you do not want your tax dollars supporting state-sanctioned murder.

Save the humans.

save-the-baby-humans-panda

 

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Teacup Children and the Socially Impaired

Since the mid 1980s, a trend has been developing that has me severely worried for my generation. Lately, that trend is coming to a head and I’m afraid that we as Millennials are not going to be able to handle the inevitable.

I couldn’t put my finger on the cause. It could have been one thing, or several. It could have started way back in 1974 when Timothy O’Bryan’s father slipped a cyanide-laced Pixie Stix into his Halloween bag, killing the child and frightening parents into thinking there were child-hating maniacs handing out candy for decades. (How many of you weren’t allowed to eat your candy until your parents checked it first?) Maybe it was when Mary Kellerman, aged 12, became the first victim of the Chicago Tylenol murders. Perhaps it was the Satanic daycare sex-abuse hysteria of the 1980s and 90s. Whatever it was, it led to the rise of “helicopter” parenting, the practice in which parents hover over their children to ensure the child never fails, is never allowed to fall, never allowed to take risks or experience pain.

These are the parents who won’t let their child ride a bike without knee pads, elbow pads, wrist guards, and a helmet.

They are the parents who made sure the monkey bars and the swings were removed from the playgrounds to reduce fall and choke hazards, and there isn’t dirt or grass under what remains, but several inches of recycled shredded rubber or mulch.

If their school system still uses traditional grades, and Johnny gets a poor grade on a test, Mom and Dad will be in the next day to negotiate a better one, or finding out why the teacher didn’t teach better.  Often, Mom or Dad will just do Johnny’s work to make sure it’s done right.

Afraid to let them out of their sights, parents schedule as many after-school activities as possible. From t-ball to soccer to dance, everyone gets a trophy just for existing. There is no concept of “winning” or “losing” and thus no chance to fail in a fairly safe environment. Where there is no chance to fail, there is no room to grow. No internal motivation is developed. Children learn to depend solely on external motivators, a trait which will not serve them well in the “real” world. One would think it ludacris for a parent to accompany her grown child to a job interview or complain to the dean of students about a test grade, but it happens.

An argument between friends or classmates is immediately sorted out by teachers or parents. Children don’t learn crucial social skills, and often any conflict is immediately labeled “bullying”. What children DO learn is to quickly manipulate the system to their advantage, crying “wolf” (or “bully”) to gain attention from adults.

This lack of social skills leads me to my other big worry: the millennial generation today doesn’t have any. For that, I can go back to 1992 and IBM. Most 20-somethings today could barely remember their home phone number then and were too busy memorizing their colors, numbers, and ABCs, but that was the year IBM introduced the first smartphone, nicknamed “Simon”. Since then, we’ve all gone downhill, and it’s been well-observed that most people under the age of 35 are lacking the basic skill to carry on a conversation. It’s difficult to sit through a dinner with someone who is constantly checking their phone for email, texts, Facebook, etc. Eye contact is impossible – many can’t maintain it. When our eyes are glued to a screen all day, we forget what real interpersonal contact is like.

I firmly believe this is what has given rise to the #YesEveryWoman and #ThatsWhatHeSaid, as well as videos in which people with hidden cameras walk around for hours and record the reactions and statements of others. As human beings, we have lost the ability to interact properly with each other. We have become so used to hiding behind a screen that we have become incapable of just being.

The world of social media means never hearing emotion. You read what is written without hearing the reflection or intent. How many conversations have spiraled out of control because something was misinterpreted? Have we become completely desensitized to others’ emotions and feelings? Has that lack of seeing and hearing someone’s reaction allowed for the rise of disrespect, whether real or imagined, between the sexes?

Not too long ago, what is now considered “catcalling” was thought of as a man getting his act together, taking the plunge, and saying hello to a lady. Sadly, today’s society is severely lacking in ladies and gentlemen equally, but unless your friends had sisters, sometimes randomly addressing an attractive stranger was the only way to meet someone. Often one ended up saying something incredibly stupid as he stumbled over himself in his nervousness, hoping that in the approximate 12 second window that he had to make a good impression that she would either be willing to continue the conversation or let him down gently.

To the men out there, you kinda stink at this these days. Women, you’re pretty bad at it yourself.

Men: The way to get a lady’s attention is NOT to make any blatant sexual comment. Just, no. Don’t even go there. Do not touch or follow a woman without her permission – that’s illegal. Say hello, or something funny, or compliment her.

Women: If a man, stranger or acquaintance, says hello or compliments you, it is polite to respond “hello” or “thank you”. If you don’t wish to converse, that’s all you need to say. “F*** you” is not appropriate. If you think you’re in danger, or if you’ve been grabbed or touched in any way, scream and call the police.

Everyone should have a few fall-back subjects to talk about that don’t involve television shows and Buzzfeed lists. Read a book or two. Have informed opinions on national politics and stay current with current events. Find a hobby. Start challenging yourself to put the phone away one day a week (or if that’s too much, one day a month) and dedicate that day to one of those things.

It’s time to put on our big kid underpants and learn to be big kids, without holding Mom and Dad’s hand or the equivalent – the smart phone. Let’s learn to be people, not robots.

free range

I highly recommend the article The Overprotected Kid for more on helicopter parenting, bubble wrapped kids, and how one community is trying to give kids a new chance at childhood.

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Stop! Don’t open. That door!

There’s a lot of lousy things going on in the world today. A laundry list of them. (Note to self, do laundry.) As I am very, very sick of turning on the TV and the radio and the interwebs and hearing about suicides, looting, race-baiting, rape, and the crucifixion of children, I’m going to my happy place.

Now is a good time to warn all of you that my happy place involves killing zombies. Lots and lots of zombies.

I discovered Resident Evil 2 when I was a sophomore in high school through a boyfriend, and in turn, I introduced it to my brothers. There isn’t a lot that a 16-year-old girl and two boys ages 13 and 10 can agree upon, but for the three of us, it was Resident Evil and the extremely unusual  and rather bloody crime fighting adventures of Chris, Jill, Claire, Leon, Ada, and the rest of the gang as they battled the evil Umbrella Corporation. Alright, maybe “crime fighting” is stretching things a bit, but Chris and Jill were RPD special ops, Leon was a cop, and the second game took place in a police station. Close enough.

I don’t know what it was about those games. We watched each other play like we might watch a movie – offering advice, shouting out warnings, and always ready with a clever insult when someone did something stupid, whether that be the character or the one controlling him. And oh, did we screw up. Or, better, tried to make each other screw up. Like the time I neglected to mention that licker that was going to burst through the two-way mirror, and I’m pretty sure the story about how I missed Birkin during the final battle with one of my precious rocket-launcher shots (you only get two) when I had the game set to “auto-aim” will be told at my funeral.

Then again, so too will we recall my brother frantically pointing at the gate and stammering “Use the bent-pin-door-opener-thingie!”

“The lock pick?”

“Yeah, the lock pick.”

Ah, the good old days. Today, it’s rare to get my brothers and me in the same room for more than five minutes at a time; our lives pull us in so many different directions. I’ll always look back with fondness though at the appreciation for a perfect headshot, the achievement of shaving a few seconds off a record time, the beating of the extra game with ‘Hunk” or “Tofu” (yes, that’s exactly what it sounds like. You race through the game as a giant block of tofu.)

Or when someone is in desperate need of a smile, you just look at them and say, “You were almost a Jill sandwich.”

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A Movie, a Centipede, and a Police Officer

… all walk into a bar…

I know, it does seem like the beginning of a joke. In retrospect, nearly a year later, the whole thing was funny. In honor of me having the entire house to myself for a few hours and the fact that I’m going on vacation for the next three weeks as of Thursday with very limited internet (unless I haul myself to a Starbucks or something. TBD.), I figured if I wasn’t going to be posting again until nearly September I could at least leave you with something amusing, and poke a great deal of fun at myself in the process.

The following tale is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

 

It isn’t often I get the house to myself in the evening, less often that I even desire it that way, because frankly, I don’t like being home alone. My cat isn’t exactly intimidating toward strangers; he is more the type demand attention than drive them away from the house. With this in mind, my plan was to order take-out (or take-in, as the case may be) and sack out on the couch with Netflix. All was going well until I got to the Netflix part and out of the corner of my eye I saw something skitter across the floor of the living room.

My glasses were exactly where they should be. That is, I don’t usually wear them at home unless I’m actively watching television, as I generally *know* where things are placed and my eyesight isn’t THAT bad. So they were on the table, next to the book I’d been reading while noshing down on boneless wings, bread sticks and diet coke. (Healthy, I know.) I couldn’t tell the size of the critter, or even if it was vegetable, animal, or mineral, though considering that it was moving, it was pretty safe rule out vegetable and mineral. I figured for mouse. We haven’t had many mice since we’ve had the cat, but at fifteen years old, he’s slowed down quite a bit and it was perfectly possible that one had slipped by him. I got up to check.

Was I ever glad I was wearing flip-flops.

It was not a mouse. I would have been definitely ok with a mouse. I actually like mice. This was smaller than a mouse, and had many more legs. Dozens more legs. In fact, the very name of this horrible being translates to “one hundred feet” and it sure as sugar looked like it. There was a bloody centipede making its way under my living room rug.

I did what any normal 29-year old woman would do. I screamed bloody murder. The monster was having a hard time getting under the padding of the rug, so I took a quick picture of it (because that’s what any sane person does when confronted by something that terrifies her, and I didn’t think anyone would believe me otherwise) before stomping madly on it. Fortunately, I killed it. As sure as I heard it go “Gak”, I killed it. I peeled back the rug’s padding to be sure. Yup! Dead. Then I fired off this text message to my mother, along with the picture:

“Do you know what that is? It’s the back-end of a giant (expletive deleted) millipede or centipede or whatever that I just killed IN OUR LIVINGROOM!”

Ok, maybe I wasn’t as calm as I’d thought. Still, I had won the day. Now I could sit back, choose a movie, and become one with the couch. This lasted a total of maybe ten minutes when another of the little things came across the floor and under the couch.

This time, there was no was I was getting off the couch. I texted my mother again, who was away on vacation, as though she’d be able to solve it from four hours away: “If the house is gone when you get back, it’s because I burned it down to ensure the thing and any relatives are dead, ’cause another (expletive deleted) just went under the couch.”

Even from hours away, moms will be moms: “Move the couch and chair and vacuum the rug.”

While this may have been a thinly veiled ploy to get me to clean up the livingroom, I rolled up my pj pants, put my flip-flops back on, took out the rocking chair, and did just that. I moved the armchair and vacuumed the rug under and behind it, moved the end table and did the same. I carried the decorative tree into the hall and hauled half the couch into the middle of the room and started vacuuming behind there. Still no centipede, but I figured it dove under the rug like its ill-fated companion on the other side. There were some blankets folded up on the floor. I went to shake them out, just in case…

…why is it “just in case” never ends well for anyone? The monstrous, hideous creature falls out. I jump and scream and drop the blanket, into which it promptly dives back in. (To make this even more mentally interesting, if it needs to be, it’s a leopard print Snuggie – you know, one of those blankets with sleeves.) I have a vacuum in one hand and I’m stomping pretty much aimlessly on the floor, because although I want desperately to kill the thing, I don’t know where it is and I don’t want to kill it IN the blanket.

At that precise moment, a police officer walks through my front door, looks at me and says, “What the hell?”

I wish to the gods that was the punchline to a joke, but it isn’t.

“There’s a centipede in the blanket,” I explained. “Do you seriously think I’d be vacuuming at 9:00 at night for any other reason?”

“I didn’t think you ever vacuumed at all,” he replied, taking out his flashlight.  “In the 26 years that I have known you, which is to say, my entire life, I think I can count on one hand the number of times I have seen you vacuum behind that couch. Shake the blanket out and get him.”

As soon as I did, the centipede fell out and was ground into paste on the hardwood floor. My brother the cop, having done his duty as an officer of the law and seen this terrible criminal -who went around terrorizing innocent women- brought to justice, make himself a sandwich and enjoyed his dinner break.

So much for my night in.

 

 

thankful spiders

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Thursday Night Funnies*

*Subject to change (literally) as soon as I think of something more witty. There aren’t a lot of synonyms for “joke” or “humor” that begin with “th” or “n”, oddly enough.

 

Anyway, in honor of my dear old Dad, who, as I previously mentioned was Head Bedtime Story Teller, and often times shied away from the likes of the Little Golden Books and Dr. Seuss in honor of E. A. Poe and Sherlock Holmes; I present the joke that has, on more than one occasion, been rated the funniest joke of modern times:

Sherlock and Dr. Watson Go Camping

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson decided to take a camping trip. After dinner, a bottle of wine, and some conversation, they settle in to sleep.

Some hours later, Holmes awoke and nudged his faithful friend. “Watson, look up at the sky and tell me what you see.”

Watson replied, “I see millions of stars.”

“And what does that tell you?” asked Holmes.

“Well, astronomically, it tells me there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. Theologically, I can see that God is all-powerful and we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, the skies are clear and it will be a beautiful day tomorrow.” He paused. “What does it tell you, Holmes?”

Holmes sighed. “Watson, you idiot. Somebody stole our tent.”

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Hail to the Chief

No, not the president. At least not the sitting one. Someday I’m sure I’ll write about my undying admiration for men the likes of Washington, Lincoln, Reagan, Generals Lee and Chamberlain, PM Churchill, and Bishop Sheen, but not today.

Today, I want to talk about my dad.

Tomorrow is his last day on The Job. It’s been a good job, considering it’s meant he’s been able to keep a roof over our heads and food in our stomachs. The medical bills have always been paid for: The Job is unionized and came with a most excellent insurance package. I’ll be the first to admit it was a tough job – long hours outside in all weather (I think the only time they ever called it off for weather was once during a hurricane and then again in the October Blizzard.) and “peak season” – black Friday through New Year’s we all knew just sucked. If Dad made it to the family Christmas Eve dinner it’s usually been a miracle of Christmas proportions in and of itself.

But he did it. For all the long, cold, wet, icy, snowy, sweaty, hot, humid, “insert weather conditions here” he stuck with it for thirty long years. The Job had nothing to do with what he went to school for. The man has multiple college degrees, including a Masters, he’s a Navy veteran, and he’s spent the last 30 years as a blue-collar package delivery man because it was a surefire way of making sure his family got taken care of. He was unemployed when I showed up and since babies are on the expensive side, he took what he could get.

So for all the dance recitals and baseball games missed (I practically forced him to take a personal day when I graduated from high school. I didn’t want to take the chance he’d get stuck at work and miss commencement.) For all the late hours you came home really too tired to do anything but eat dinner, take a shower, and go to bed, but stayed up and read us a bedtime story anyway (you’re never living down Henry the Duck and the cood fooking on the stove) or help us with homework or explain why politicians were making no sense and why a president had to ask what the definition of “is” is… thanks. Thanks for being a man of great character and integrity, and for always putting your family first.

Thanks for being a Dad, and not just a father.

Enjoy your retirement*.

 

 

*No one can hang around the house too long. Trust me. I highly recommend volunteering, or a golf membership, or a part-time job, or something, anything. Long experience has taught us that if you’re home and underfoot too long, your children may kill you. In a totally loving way. But seriously. Get out of the house every once in a while. ❤

family 2010

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