Thursday, September 23, 2010

A friend in need surely doesn't *need* a cigarette.

SMOKING KILLS. This message brought to you by London Heathrow Duty-Free.

A neighbor of ours stopped by the house yesterday because he needed a buck or two for cigarettes. My husband--the fine, upstanding man that he is--gave him a fiver to be paid back later.

While the gesture was very generous and very sweet, I disagree with it. Of all of the various everyday substance propensities that a person might have (mine are coffee and alcohol), the one that I support the least is nicotine.

Blech, it's just gross. It's unsexy, unattractive, and unhealthy.

My dad used to smoke. When he quit, he taught himself how to knit so he could keep his hands busy. When another friend of mine quit smoking, I used the same strategy and taught her how to knit. She turned out a beautiful scarf in two weeks!

I have friends who smoke. Do I consider them bad people? Nah. But I'd never spot them a pack of cigarettes. My money does not need to support that industry, nor support something I find disgusting.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Confused conceptions

Antonio Frederici's controversial ice cream advertisement (Image credit: BBC)

UK-based ice cream company Antonio Frederici (I'm not linking to their website because it automatically plays music; man, I hate websites that do that) has had some advertisements banned to coincide with the pope's recent visit to the UK.

The ad (above) depicts a pregnant nun eating ice cream, with the caption "Immaculately conceived."

I thought the ad was pretty funny until I saw the caption. It's one of my pet peeves that people mix up the terms "immaculate conception" and "conceived by the Holy Spirit."

(I can't really speak to how much of the following dogma I actually believe. This is what I was taught. Twelve years of Catholic school, and what do I have to show for it? Terminology.)

Mary is the Immaculate Conception. Mary said it herself in her apparition at Lourdes to Bernadette Soubirous. Mary was conceived without Original Sin. This is special because everyone else is born with Original Sin, or the stain on humanity from when Adam and Eve were tempted by a penis serpent to disobey God. Original Sin is washed away during baptism. Mary didn't have Original Sin because she's that special. To summarize, Mary is the Immaculate Conception, born without Original Sin.

Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Mary was a virgin and engaged to Joseph when she got pregnant with Jesus after the angel Gabriel announced it to her. Joseph was a fine, upstanding man and didn't leave his pregnant fiancée when some other angel appeared to him in a dream to explain that God did it. So Jesus was a virgin birth, conceived by the Holy Spirit.

Remember, kids: Mary is not Jesus. The immaculate conception is not conception by the Holy Spirit. Birth without Original Sin is not virgin birth.

With that in mind, let's look at that ad again.

The nun is pregnant, and she apparently has a craving for ice cream. OK, so she'd probably claim virgin birth, that no man was involved in the baby-making, and that the baby was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Referring to the nun, the caption, "Immaculately conceived" makes no sense.

However, this is an ice cream ad. Is it perfection in ice cream form? Is the ice cream so good that we can consider it immaculately conceived? Born without ice crystals? Yeah, possibly. If the caption is referring to the ice cream and not the baby bump, there should be a better way to indicate that.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Stuffed Nasturtium Leaves

stuffed nasturtium leaves
Stuffed Nasturtium Leaves!

Nasturtiums are sometimes considered weeds. They are quite prolific and get all over the place. Their flowers often make their way into salads as a vibrant and edible decoration. Their leaves are edible, too. The leaves and flowers have a peppery taste to them.

I made dolmas tonight! What I didn't know is that to make dolmas, first you stuff the leaves (usually grape leaves), then you steam them. This makes homemade a lot better than jarred or canned, as those premade dolmas are swimming in oil.

So when life gives you edible weeds like nasturtiums, make dolmas.

Stuffed Nasturtium Leaves

20 large nasturtium leaves (~4-5 inches in diameter)
1 cup of rice, yields 2 cups cooked (I used red rice; it looks like ground beef!)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped mint
1/4 cup pine nuts
6 cloves garlic, minced
juice of 2 limes
salt and pepper to taste

1. Rinse off your nasturtium leaves.

2. Cook the rice. Mix with the rest of the ingredients.

3. Place a generous spoonful or so of the rice stuffing in the middle of a leaf. Roll it into a little leaf burrito. Repeat until you have a batch of 10 little leaf burritos.

4. Place your little leaf burritos in a steamer basket. Steam for 5 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, repeat steps 3 and 4 for your second batch of 10 little leaf burritos.

6. Enjoy when cool enough to handle.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Good placebo, bad placebo

Sweet, isotonic crack makes me smile. How about you? (Image credit: NeilMed)

Last week in a post on DIY seasonal allergy treatments from Design*Sponge, I read about a legitimate treatment, a good placebo, and a bad placebo. Crash and burn, Design*Sponge. Crash and burn.

The post author Ashley begins by suggesting the neti pot. This saline nasal irrigation technique seems Ayurvedic in origin. Using the device gives you quite an intimate understanding of how the cavities in your face are all connected. It uses an isotonic saline solution to rinse out one's sinuses by gravity flow. Sounds disgusting, doesn't it? Well, it makes sense that if you gently rinse all the gunk out of your sinuses, the gunk won't be around to aggravate your allergies. NeilMed's website sites a ton of published research on the effectiveness of the sinus nasal irrigation, too. It also gets my personal endorsement.

Next, Ashley furthers the common thought that ingesting local honey can alleviate seasonal allergy symptoms. The thought is that ingesting the pollens in the local honey can immunize you against those same pollens that bother your upper respiratory system during blooming season. Well, there's only been one controlled clinical trial on honey and seasonal allergies [Pubmed abstract]:

RESULTS: Neither honey group [unfiltered local or filtered national] experienced relief from their symptoms in excess of that seen in the placebo group [honey-flavored corn syrup].

CONCLUSIONS: This study does not confirm the widely held belief that honey relieves the symptoms of allergic rhinoconjunctivitis.

In fact, there have been a few cases (1, 2, 3)where the ingestion of honey and/or pollen produced anaphylaxis, or a major allergic response. That's not good at all.

I doubt the effectiveness of local honey to alleviate seasonal allergy symptoms. I mean, unless you're snorting your local honey, you're probably not immunizing yourself against your local allergenic pollens. There are shots for that; ask your doctor. Although local honey might not do anything positive for your allergies, buying local honey supports local business, which is good.

Finally, Ashley has the gall to suggest homeopathic bullshit "remedies."

GAAAAAHHHHH!!!! The stupid! It makes my brain hurt!

Shame on you, Ashley. Shame on you, Design*Sponge.

Homeopathy hurts. Remember that, kids. Better yet, go read about Bonnie Blodgett's memoir on losing her sense of smell after taking some homeopathic drivel for her allergies [NPR]. Dude, she lost her sense of smell! Not cool!

In short, do use a neti pot. Do buy local honey to support local business. DO NOT resort to homeopathic bullshit!

Monday, September 13, 2010



The nice folks over at Episcopal Cafe have alerted me to the existence of a Geocentrism conference:

Galileo Was Wrong is a detailed and comprehensive treatment of the scientific evidence supporting Geocentrism, the academic belief that the Earth is immobile in the center of the universe. Garnering scientific information from physics, astrophysics, astronomy and other sciences, Galileo Was Wrong shows that the debate between Galileo and the Catholic Church was much more than a difference of opinion about the interpretation of Scripture.

Scientific evidence available to us within the last 100 years that was not available during Galileo's confrontation shows that the Church's position on the immobility of the Earth is not only scientifically supportable, but it is the most stable model of the universe and the one which best answers all the evidence we see in the cosmos.

"Galileo was wrong"?

Say WHAT?!

I thought I was reading something from The Onion, but no, it looks real. Very sad and very real. Like Jenny McCarthy.

Oh, but it gets better. There's merch! Didn't you always want a baby onesie with the words "Galileo was wrong" plastered all over it?

Screw that. I'd crash the conference wearing this Calamities of Nature t-shirt:

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Prends Gardasil à toi!

Cervical cancer is anything but warm and fuzzy. (Image credit: Giant Microbes)

A few years ago, Merck developed Gardasil, a vaccine against two strains human papillomavirus (HPV), or the virus that causes 70% of cervical cancers in women.

It's a vaccine against cancer! Brilliant!

Not so fast. HPV is a sexually transmitted disease. The CDC recommends the vaccine to girls aged 11-12, and girls and women aged 13-26. The vaccination course consists of three shots at $125 each, spaced out over six months.

NPR asks, "Should boys also get vaccinated for HPV?" DUH, YES. Although boys are cervically challenged, they're also carriers for HPV and should get vaccinated.

OK, so that's a total cost of almost $400 to vaccinate girls--and boys--as young as 11 years old against a sexually transmitted disease.

According to that NPR article, Dr. Doug Lowy, co-inventor of this vaccine, says that only 11% of girls get the full course of shots.

Why such a low vaccination rate? Come on, it's a vaccine against cancer!

Cost is one factor. Some of those greedy insurance companies out there may not cover much--if any--of the cost of the full vaccination course.

According to CNN, "Some parents aren't comfortable vaccinating young children against a virus they can only get from having sex."

Really? Let me repeat: IT'S A VACCINE AGAINST CANCER!

These parents would rather put their children at risk of cervical cancer than protect them against it. Would these same parents not be comfortable with an AIDS vaccine, either, because such a vaccine would obviously encourage needle sharing and sinful gay sex?

Ugh, the stupid makes my head hurt.

Topic via Jezebel.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Time for a drive-by baptism.

I think it's time for a good, ol'-fashioned watergun fight! (Image credit: Hasbro, Nerf)

Just about everyone and their mothers are against Florida evangelical church leader Terry Jones' plans to burn copies of the Quran on the anniversary of 9/11 [NPR].

According to the Religious News Service Blog, protesters include the Vatican, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Attorney General Eric Holder, and actress Angelina Jolie.

I am generally against book burning. I think book burners are assholes. Remember that scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, when the Nazis are burning books, and Indy goes to save his father's Grail Diary? Yeah. Evil jerks burn books.

I don't like defacing any kind of book, either. I mean, I make the occasional pencil notes in the margins, maybe add a post-it note, but that's about it. Heck, I got upset in high school when I lent a friend my copy of Le Petit Nicolas, and it came back frayed and dog-eared at the end of the school year.

I am especially respectful of reference books and sacred texts. You don't mess with that sort of knowledge.

Terry Jones is being an asshole with this 9/11 anniversary stunt. It accomplishes nothing, and it's horribly unethical. Spare the air, and love thy [Muslim] neighbor, Minister Asshole.

This calls for a water fight. Epic. Massive. Protesters should arm themselves with fire hoses, garden hoses, water guns, water balloons, a bucket brigade, and maybe a sprung fire hydrant as the infrastructure allows. How about a couple RC helicopters to drop water balloons? Let's get those protesting strippers from that Ohio church to shoot waterguns, too, and it'll all devolve into a wet t-shirt contest!

Think about it! It would be so perfect if everyone just cleaned out the shelves of their local big-box store and showed up to bombard Terry Jones and company. All those summer water toys are on clearance sale anyway, right? Wet the briquettes, take away their lighter fluid, and dump water on the bigots. Like a drive-by baptism.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Survival of the fittest, what?

Evolution Kills, a t-shirt by Jeph Jacques of Questionable Content

I am two degrees of separation away from a creationist homeopath who homeschools her children. Yesterday I was informed that this was a recent Facebook status of hers:

Just spent some time editing a secular science book for kids, and talking to them about what is Biblical . Now that we've covered up the evolution stuff, it is a great book :)

Are you freakin' kidding me? And why can't evolution be the work of God? And while you're at it, VACCINATE YOUR CHILDREN!

Seriously, sometimes I think there should be a special category of Darwin Awards for parents who manage to snuff out their own kids through incompetence.