Tuesday, July 28, 2009

At what age are you an 'adult'?

When do you officially become an adult in the U.S.A.?

If you're talking about voting, or enlisting in the military, you're old enough to make that decision at 18. If you're talking about consenting to have sex, all it takes is being 16. But if you're talking about taking a drink legally, you have to be 21.

This inconsistency in our definition of "adulthood" has long bothered opponents of the law that raised the legal drinking age to 21.

And now, one of the leading proponents of the law, whose testimony helped legislators decide to pass it on July 17, 1984 (when Reagan was prez), is having second thoughts, according to a story in the Los Angeles Times . Apparently, psychiatrist Dr. Morris Chafetz is now advocating lowering the legal age back to 18.

"Legal age 21 has not worked," Chafetz was quoted as saying by the L.A. Times piece. "To be sure, drunk driving fatalities are lower now than they were in 1982. But they are lower in all age groups. And they have declined just as much in Canada, where the age is 18 or 19, as they have in the United States."

One group that is actively pushing for a lower drinking age is Choose Responsibility. "Alcohol is a reality in the lives of young Americans. It cannot be denied, ignored, or legislated away" says the group's Website.

Though there are certainly valid arguments (and supporting data) on both sides of the issue, I think it's time to take a serious look at the alarming pattens of alcohol and substance abuse among our younger generations. I saw a very powerful documentary at the Delray Beach Film Festival called The Spitting Game, about the rampant "hooking up" culture among college students today. This behavior is largely fueled by binge drinking and extreme drunkedness. Here's a link to the movie trailer. (Please, please see the movie if you get a chance -- especially if you have kids in that age range -- it will scare the bejeezus out of you, believe me!)

Could we possibly teach more responsibility and have more resources devoted to substance-abuse problems if we lowered the legal age and taxed it appropiately? That is something to consider, at the very least.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Nudity in the news

Reuters recently posted this fun little story on the Top 5 destinations for Nude Vacationing. Here they are, with my personal takes on each:

What: World Naked Bike Ride (worldwide, June and July
): Riders, advocating cycling over driving, often paint messages on their bodies.
What I say: I'm all for lobbying for ways to help the environment (and bike riding certainly qualifies!), but riding a bicycle with nothing between your nether parts and the bike seat? Yuk! (Can you say "sweaty and smelly"?!)

What: World Record Skinny Dip (across North America, July): This event, hosted by the American Association for Nude Recreation, had more 12,000 participants last year, qualifying it for a Guinness Book category.
What I say: Go for it! There's nothing more refreshing (or, in some special cases, sexier!) than submerging your unclothed body in a cool body of water. And if an event like this can help get Americans over their prudishness regarding the naked body, all the better!

Nude Beach Olympics, (Australia, January): The games celebrate Maslin Beach’s place as the country's first official nude beach.
What I say: Nude beach, good. Nude Olympics? Questionable. When you're engaging in any activity that makes you sweat and bounce around like that, I think some clothing is preferable -- if only as a sweat-sopping measure!

What: Running of the Nudes, (Spain, July): PETA hosts this event in Pamplona to protest the cruelty of bullfighting—runners, though mostly naked, don bull horns.
What I say: Let me get this straight: A bunch of macho, testosterone-fueled men are going to heed a message delivered by nude women jiggling past them? Yeah, right!

What: Burning Man (Nevada, August and September): 50,000 people come together in the Black Rock Desert to create art and then ceremoniously burn it down, with free-spirited participants often stripping down.
What I say: Well, it's to be expected as part of the whole experiece. After all, wild, hedonistic revelries often are accompanied by stripping of clothing and other uninhibited behavior.

Oh, and by the way: Where the heck is Fantasy Fest on this list? I mean, that 10-day revelry of all things fantastic takes nudism and naughtiness to new heights!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Watch this: 'Drop Dead Diva'

The Lifetime Television channel recently introduced the new series Drop Dead Diva, which airs original episodes at 9 p.m. Sundays.

I caught the pilot a week ago, and then watched the second episode on a rerun last night (hey, we're talking about a cable station -- so that means multiple viewing or DVR-ing opportunities every week!)

Drop Dead Diva is a very touching, witty and insightful program that examines looksism in our shallow, beauty-obsessed society. It stars zaftig actress Brooke Elliot as Jane Bingum, a brilliant lawyer who is "possessed" by the spirit of a dead model named Deb (Brooke D'Orsay). Actually, both women occupy Jane's body. (It's a bit confusing and requires a serious suspension of disbelief, but bear with me here): The comely but vapid Deb now inhabits Jane's body -- with all of her personality and memories intact, but with Jane's sensibilities and brains.
Suddenly, Deb has to deal with the "horrors" of being plus-sized: not liking what she sees in the mirror, being ignored in singles bars, and having sly put-downs and barbs hurled her way from her wicked, but pretty, rival in the office. Oh, and (coincidence alert!), Deb's grieving fiance, Grayson (Jackson Hurst), is now a junior member of the law firm -- but of course he has no idea his darling is alive but sporting a new, heftier form!

Phew! Did you get all that? Don't worry -- it's not at all hard to follow once you start watching it.

Of course, it's not perfect. Some of the acting is only so-so -- but Elliott is spot-on as a woman with two personalities! -- and it sometimes relies too much on cliched depictions of being overweight (must Jane really crave donuts to the point of distraction?) or pretty (does her BFF Stacy (April Bowlby) really have to be a dumb blonde?). Still, it's a very rewardable hour in front of the tube -- and you won't even feel like a boob for enjoying it!

The show has apparently hit a big nerve with American viewers, as its premiere garnered blockbuster ratings for Lifetime (by cable standards, at least!). So, that bodes well for the series' longevity.

Long may Deb-- er Jane -- er, Deb -- live!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Building sandcastles out of worry

As if we don't have enough to worry about, just trying to enjoy life here in South Florida (the traffic! the cost of living! the unemployment! the crowds! the heat index! the sun exposure!), now comes news that another danger might be lurking as you spend a relaxing day at the beach: in the SAND!!

A recent story in the San Diego Times Union talks about the health risks from contaminated sand found on many beaches. Apparently, people who play in the sand -- building sandcastles, being buried, etc. -- run a slightly higher risk of coming down with diarrhea and other ailments associated with the kind of fecal contaminants that were found in sand sampled for the study.

Says the story: "The report's authors ... think it's important to caution people about the bird droppings, urban runoff, sewage and other contaminants that pollute sand. 'Take care to use a hand sanitizer or wash hands after playing in the sand,' said Tim Wade, an epidemiologist with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency who helped write the study."


Of course, this might all be making a sand-mountain out of a molehill. I mean, isn't the water polluted enough already? And you don't see many people shunning the beach because of that. So what's a little more contamination among beach-going friends? Plus, I suspect that here in South Florida -- in the summer, at least -- the sand gets hot enough to burn off (or kill off) any nasty stuff. (It sure burns off the bottoms of your feet!)

So go ahead and enjoy your day at the beach!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Twitter, reconsidered

Just a couple of months ago, I was skeptical about the whole Twitter thing ("Am I twit for not tweeting?", April 29). While I had set up an account on this and other social media sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn, I personally was not a frequent user of said sites.

Citing a recent study that estimated the "drop-out" rate for Twitter at about 60 percent, I argued that nothing beats face-to-face contact.

But then, when I became an Examiner, I officially joined the ranks of people trying to make a few bucks producing online content. Everything I read about promoting myself indicated that I must utilize these social media sites to build awareness, and hence readership. (You're reading my Examiner stuff, right? Right?) Rather than fighting "them," I decided to join them!

So, now, I'm diving into Twitter, and Facebook, and even LinkedIn, building contact bases, and trying to become a valued member of each of these communities (without wasting a lot of time on the more "frivolous" activities). And actually, it's kind of fun!

Don't get me wrong; there's nothing more valuable than time spent in person with friends and loved ones. After all, you can't hug someone through your computer, nor truly share a smile, a laugh, a knowing look (and no, those emoticons and acronyms -- LOL, BRB, etc. -- are not an adequate substitute!).

But perhaps its time to acknowledge that the Internet serves as a complement to our social interactions, rather than a competition for them. Look at it as having it both ways: face time, plus interface time!

Note: If you're a Twitter novice, it may seem a bit daunting at first. But it's not so bad once you get the hang of it. Here are a couple of articles from a fellow Examiner that I found helpful:


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Update: My right breast, revisited


I just returned from a six-month follow-up mammogram -- which was prescribed in January, after I had a second set of images taken when doctors found some calcifications in my right breast during my routine screening last November. (Blog entries "Update: My right breast" Jan. 17, and "Gulp, and whoa!" Nov. 8). The radiologist wanted to see whether there were any significant changes since the January session. But, apparently, everything looked good today -- i.e., no change. So, I got the OK to proceed with my regular yearly screening in six months or so.

Back in November, the doctor had originally wanted to perform a biopsy after seeing the irregularities on those images; but I fought that idea, and they agreed to let me go for a second opinion (hence the January tests).

For these last two sets of tests, I used another provider -- a Woman's Health Center -- and I must admit I like it there much better. They seem to "get it." They take the time to allay your fears, answer any questions, etc.

So, I'll be using them for my mammos from now on.

And in the meantime, I'll continue to do the things I started doing back in November, such as keeping up my exercise and healthy lifestyle, plus staying on my regimen of vitamin and herb pills -- based on research about which natural supplements seem to be beneficial for breast health. These include a super-antioxidant formula (vitamins A, C, E, B-2, B-6 and several minerals); vitamin D (which helps the body metabolize calcium); cat's claw; and cranberry (which as a bonus also helps with fluid retention and kidney health).

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Update: I'm over the hump

OK, I'll say it: I had a harder time getting over Matthew than I first admitted. Though my "head" realized that the breakup was for the best (he truly wasn't right for me), my "heart" was much more reluctant to go there.

I've had some sleepless nights, some lonely days, and I've bent friends' and family members' ears off talking about it, ad nauseum -- him, us, the breakup, etc. -- the way we women do, when trying to process feelings and change in our lives. I've gone out to social events and even on a few dates, but many times found myself just "going though the motions," as it were.

I really struggled during the Fourth of July weekend, because last year by comparison was such a fun time -- Matt and I were totally into each other. This year, my mom and stepdad came for a very low-key visit, so that provided a bit of a distraction; but still, I felt an overwhelming sadness and melancholy all weekend long.

But, just a couple of days ago, in the middle of the night, while I was in that hazy zone of half-sleeping/half-waking, something clicked in my head/heart. I'm no longer obsessed with thinking about what he's doing (and who he's doing it with!), or wondering "what if" ... he were different? I were different? We hadn't had that final argument? Blah, blah, blah ....

I finally let him go! Yay!

Now, I'm actually looking forward to getting out there, being active, making social plans -- and meeting new fellas! I really DO believe that Mr. Right is just around the corner. And' I'm ready for him!!!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Sunscreen smarts

Have you heard about the latest report from the Environmental Working Group that ranks 1,581 sunscreen products by efficacy and safety?

The bad news: Many of the most popular and affordable products had a dismal rating based on their lack of real protection or their inclusion of harmful ingredients such as oxybenzone. Of the 482 sunscreens tested, brands that rank in the "dangerous to use" category include most of the Coppertone products, as well as generic products from drugstores such as Walgreen's and CVS. Even my favorite brand, the Neutrogena Ultra-Sheer Dry Touch line, ranks in the middling range (mostly because it contains oxybenzone).

Yikes! So what's an outdoor lover to do? The best-rated products are, naturally, by far the most expensive. I'm going to buy some of these products -- such as the Badger SPF 30 -- for the most sensitive places on my body (e.g. face and chest), and continue using my favorite products for the rest of my body!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Go Fourth and enjoy!

Happy Independence Day!

Wherever you are, I wish you a day filled with love, laughter, fun, relaxation, pleasure, and peace.

I also hope you take some time to think about and be thankful for the blessings we enjoy as Americans -- from our inalienable rights to our bountiful freedoms. It's a flawed country, to be sure, but I for one think I'm pretty lucky to call it my home!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Update: I refused to be a victim

Hard to believe that it's been four weeks since my house was burgled as I slept in my bed. The thief stole my 37-inch Vizio LCD TV and my new Samsung Eternity cell phone -- plus, of course, my peace of mind.

The police told me it was probably a pro, and the chances of catching him (her?) are slim until he makes a mistake or gets caught (both unlikely). However, I vowed not to let this latest blow get me down. After all, you can't walk around in life as a victim, for that's what you become!

So, I did what any sensible person would do: I beefed up security on the house, went back to using my old phone, and have been using the TV from my bedroom in place of the missing LCD set.

And you know what, things have been okay. Slowly, I've recovered my sense of equilibrium and security. I'm cautious, of course, but I feel perfectly comfortable in the house. My old phone works just fine; I hardly even miss Eternity. And, best of all, I just had a brand new, 40-inch Toshiba LCD TV given to me! It's even better than the other one! I'm watching the Wimbledon tennis tournament on it right now -- in glorious, high-definition, large-screen color!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

How we're losing in the Sizing Game

Did you ever walk into a store expecting to buy a new outfit, or blouse, or pair of pants, in a size 12 (your "normal" size) -- and walk out, proudly clutching a size 8 garment?

Guess what: You've been snookered by the strategy of lowering sizes that clothing manufacturers have been using on us for years. In a society of ever-widening girths, clothing sizes are ever-shrinking. It's a psychological "game" -- and we're the losers. According to a great story I found on DivineCaroline:

"SizeUSA, a national survey that digitally analyzed thousands of Americans, found that the average size of an American woman is no longer a 35-inch bust, a 27-inch waist, and 37.5-inch hip -- the industry’s standard size 8. Now the average American woman is more like a size 14."

And the clothing companies aren't even consistent in their number-crunching. We've all seen it: One label's size 10 is another's size 6 is another's size 2. (What's next, NEGATIVE size 2??)

While this game might make us feel temporarily better about ourselves, it doesn't help our society face its obesity problem -- and it sure doesn't make it easy (or quick or convenient) to go clothes shopping!

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