What Is An FDA Black Box Warning And Why Must We All Learn The Answer?

What is a black box warning?

Are you familiar with the therm “black box warning?’ If not, you may be thinking it has something to do with airplane black boxes, the ubiquitous indestructible flight recorders found on every plane, and the data provided to investigators after a tragedy. Now, cars are even fitted with black boxes by insurance companies, which monitor and assess a driver’s habits and driving style, which is then used to determine the driver’s insurance premiums, and so maybe the warnings are notices provided to drivers to start driving slower or more carefully.

Black Box Flight Recorder. Image Credit: Wikipedia Flight Recorder Entry License by CC 2.0

Black Box Flight Recorder. Image Credit: Wikipedia Flight Recorder Entry License by CC 2.0

But that’s not it at all. Black box warnings are something else entirely, and only share a name with those other sorts of black boxes most of us are familiar with. In fact, black box warnings are such a dreadfully serious matter that each and every American citizen should know the answer as to what they are, and be well familiar with why black box warnings are no laughing matter. Sadly, however, most people I’ve spoken with have never heard the term used in the manner in which I will describe below, though it’s far more important to know about than airplane or car black boxes ever will be.

Uloric Black Box Warning

Uloric Black Box Warning

Actually, Black Box Warnings, or simply Boxed Warnings, are notices placed on the inserts of some prescription drugs in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration, or FDA. The name comes from the fact that such warnings are literally text within a black border, or box. A black box warning is a serious matter; it means that the FDA has determined, through medical studies, or adverse reaction reporting, or both, that a prescription drug carries well-defined risk of significant or deadly adverse effects. A black box warning can be for an individual drug or an entire class of drugs. Some drugs actually come to market with a black box warning already included as part of the product description, if pre-market data indicates it’s necessary.

FDA Logo

FDA Logo

There are no black box warning for OTC (over the counter) drugs, medical procedures and surgeries, specific medical modalities such as chiropractic care, therapeutic massage, acupuncture, or even non-surgery medical devices like orthotics shoe inserts, eyeglasses, or hearing aids. A black box warning may only be found in a prescription drug’s insert literature, the folded up little notice slightly thicker than tissue paper with nearly-microscopic writing patients usually throw away when opening prescription medicine they picked up at the pharmacy. The black box warning may also appear on a prescription drug pill bottle label.

How do these warnings help patients?

While generally safe and effective, some prescription drugs are not without their side effects. These negative experiences associated with use of a drug range from mild to severe; the more hazardous potentially causing disability, birth defects in offspring, or even death of the patient. Black box warnings are only used when the potential adverse effects of a prescription drug may be severe enough to fall into one of these three categories.

The FDA Adverse Event Reporting System, or FAERS, is a database used by medical professionals to log post-market adverse side effects for drugs. This system was only available to physicians, however, it’s been made public, and patients may now search its results on their own. The issue with this system is that it’s under-utilized; there may be a widespread issue of medical professionals under-reporting, or failing to recognize, adverse effects. These adverse events are logged for all proscription drugs, not only those with boxed warnings, however, such side effects are initially identified through the FAERS system.

Use of this system is voluntary, and doctors, nurses, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, drug manufacturers and consumers can all submit reports. If you have experienced an adverse reaction to any pharmaceutical drug, you may submit a report by clicking on this link: https://www.fda.gov/about-fda/medical-product-safety-information/medwatch-forms-fda-safety-reporting

In 1979, black box warning were first introduced to the American medical scene. Black box warnings are regarded as advisories for patients, doctors, and pharmacists, and were never intended to be interpreted as absolute contraindications, but rather as serious considerations when prescribing. So, a doctor might prescribe a drug with a black box warning to an at-risk population, if they feel that the benefits outweigh the risks. Of course, patients should be proactive, and can request an alternative.

Without reading through the literature included in the package, or noting the warning on the pill bottle, patients may not be aware of the risk to their safety. Oftentimes, doctors do not sufficiently explain risks to patients; while informed consent is one oft he cornerstones of modern medicine, this lack of communication between doctor and patient persists and is widespread. Therefore, do not expect your caregiver to sufficiently explain black box warnings, or even notify you of their placement on a drug they prescribe.

black box warning

black box warning

What are some examples of a boxed warning?

It’s really not so difficult to find examples. This article should only serve as a basic starting point for your own investigation. Therefore, only three examples are included, though far many more might be found within a few minutes of searching on Google. Such a search might be a good idea; knowing which drugs might present serious issues to consumers is probably knowledge in a class all its own, more relevant and important than most of what we spend our days learning.

Fluoroquinolones antibiotics, widely prescribed in our modern era, include pharmaceuticals such as ciprofloxacin, brand name Cipro®, and levofloxacin, branded as Levaquin®, and others usually ending with the suffix xacin. Believe it or not, these drugs, while effective at fighting some bacteria, may also increase the risk of tendinitis and tendon rupture. And that warning applies to patients of all ages, not just the elderly. In the event of tendon rupture, quite often the only solution is surgery. Pain, swelling, or inflammation may precede rupture, and are valid reasons for a patient to discontinue use of such drugs. There are also other black box warnings for this same class of drugs; research on your own to discover what they are.

Another black box warning all Americans should know about regards antidepressants and the risk these drugs present in raising rates of suicide risk among children, adolescents, and young adults under the age of 24. Use of antidepressants nearly doubles the risk of suicide among patients within these age groups. While controversial because some medical professionals feel this might keep necessary drugs from patients who might benefit, the FDA determined that the warning was indeed necessary. Just because a doctor feels the risk is acceptable for a patient does not mean that the patient, or caregiver, will necessarily agree.

A third example of a black box warning concerns “birth control” pills to prevent conception in women of childbearing age. Combination oral contraceptives for women which combine estrogen and progestin, such as Alesse®, Yaz®, Zarah®, Ocella®, and others, should never be used by women who smoke tobacco products. The packaging black box warning indicates that women over 35 should not use these products if they smoke, as there is an increased risk of serious cardiovascular side effects. Women who are older, smoke more cigarettes each day, or both, are at an even higher risk. Like all the other black box warnings, this is essential to know.

If a loved one is prescribed a drug with a black box warning, what can I do?

If you are responsible for another family member’s medical care because they are under-age and you’re their legal guardian, via power of attorney, or you’re a legal health care proxy, ultimately, you can make the decision for a prescriber to find an alternative drug. However, if you do not fall into any of these classes, all that you are legally permitted to do is make suggestions and inform your loved one of the risks. Ultimately, it’s their choice, in these instances. If you are prescribed a drug with a black box warning, you have the legal right to ask questions, or request that an alternative be provided by your prescribing medical professional. It’s OK to challenge such recommendations for drug prescriptions; don’t worry about being “noncompliant.” It may just save your life or the life of someone you love, or prevent lifelong disability.

According to the website drugwatch.com, there have been 61 black box warnings for drugs approved in the time span between 2001 and 2010. It’s your right, as a patient, to know about these hazards that certain pharmaceutical drugs may present to you, or those whose health care you are entrusted to protect, such as your children, or those you’ve been legally tasked with protecting, such as an aging parent or relative with cognitive issues. Read the literature. Search online. Use the FAERS database. Although you haven’t been to medical school, as long as you are able to read, you should do so. And then, write down your list of pertinent questions and be sure to ask them.

If the answers you receive remain unsatisfactory, refuse the drug and ask for another. It’s within your rights to do so, and exercising your will in this instance is nothing short of necessary. If your prescribing medical professional will not comply, scoffs at your request, or otherwise fails to recognize your rights to say no to a potentially hazardous drug, it’s definitely time to shop for a suitable replacement caregiver. Don’t be shamed into conceding; it may be a matter of life and death. In hospital or hospice settings, where that may not be possible, try your best to work with the prescriber to arrive at a solution that works best for you or your loved one, even if it takes ample persistence. As Americans, we do have medical rights, but without exercising such rights, we lose them by default.

Schedule a massage on demand with Mountainside On-Site Massage Therapy today. Our skilled, hand-chosen LMTs will be at your door faster than it would take you to read a few more articles, providing in-home couples massage, massage for an individual, as well as specialty services for specific populations like prenatal and postnatal moms, as well as geriatric patients.

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Couples Massage and Yoga Class: A Better Date Than Dinner and a Movie

Face it. Dating can really suck. And, it can suck the life right out of you, too. Not only is it expensive, but it can also be really stressful.

That seems really strange, doesn’t it? But of course, you’re both going to feel really uncomfortable, thinking about how the other person is feeling about meeting you. And, that isn’t only the case for the first date. Until two people begin to really feel comfortable in each other’s presence, this is going to be the rule, and not the exception. The best idea is to simply be yourself. As trite as it sounds, it’s the best way for you to let the other person know what you’re really like.

Yoga Class. Image Credit: License by CC from WestChester U

Yoga Class. Image Credit: License by CC from WestChester U

So what are some dating ideas that can actually foster mutual trust and ease both of your feelings of stress about dating? Perhaps a movie and dinner is not the ideal date, after all. True, we all want to eat and everyone loves quality entertainment, but if that’s all the person you’re seeing wants, maybe it’s time to change things up a little bit. Find other activities to engage in. Find things to do, places to go, that you both feel are fun and exciting. Maybe consider a yoga class together, or a session of in-home couples massage. If they keep suggesting dinner and promptly dash away afterwards with a different lame excuse every time, you just might be dating a “meal hound”, seeing you only because they want a free dinner or lunch.

Movie Theatre. Image Credit: Sam Howzit by CC License.

Movie Theatre. Image Credit: Sam Howzit by CC License.

Massage is intrinsically relaxing. Unwinding next to one another is a great way to break down barriers. The same is true for a yoga class. Those who heal together, feel less stressed together. And, less stress leads to an easier time seeking closeness. A movie really isn’t about healing, or growing close. Neither is dinner. During a movie, you could hold hands, and during dinner you may talk. But both are somewhat awkward situations. Holding hands with someone you don’t know too well can seem weird. And, the classic dinner conversation between two people who aren’t very familiar with one another can feel like a job interview gone wrong.

We all want to make a favorable first impression. At the same time, if we try too hard, it comes off as insincere, and our true selves remain shrouded in a too-well-maintained veneer of falseness. It goes without saying that in the initial phase of dating, we will all be on our best behavior. In fact, any guy or girl acting terribly on the first few dates is a red flag; insults, lack of self-control, mean-spiritedness, excessive drinking., and extreme negativity are but a few such signs. While it’s best to be genuine, if your date seems like a genuinely antisocial person, it shows they can’t even manage to be respectful with a relative stranger. And, that’s a very bad sign.

Drunk Girl. Image Credit: License by CC 2.0, Ekkun

Drunk Girl. Image Credit: License by CC 2.0, Ekkun

To make matters worse, there have been a number of women exposed in recent years who serially date men, often dozens at a time, simply in order to get free meals and entertainment. No one wants to be led on; during the first dates and phone conversations, we all try to gauge how interested the other person is. We don’t want to appear to not be interested, but at the same time, we don’t want to seem desperate or head-over-heels over someone we just met. So, most men and women play it cool, and don’t really express how they feel…at first. This is probably a good idea; showing an interest in someone too intensely and too soon could spell disaster and scare them away. You don’t want to seem obsessive. But be forewarned: Playing it too cool can lead the other person to think you aren’t interested at all, and you may ruin your chances in this way as well. Be balanced; it’s really the only way.

And, of course, it’s not only women who lead men on. Men can do the same, whether dating men or women. Both sexes can appear to be interested, whether straight or gay, when really all they want is a free meal or sex. In today’s straight dating world, it isn’t always the man who pays, and there are some men who will chow down on a date’s dime, feigning interest merely to get some free steak. This is about as disgusting as it gets; using another person so that you can save on your food bills is heinous.

So how do you know when you’re being used? Follow your intuition. Don’t be paranoid, either. Keeping your guard up isn’t the greatest way to learn whether you’re getting along with someone, and presents a really unwelcoming vibe to others. So, be open, but not too open. Be polite, but don’t be a total phony, either. And when it comes to dating, if your date is only interested in eating meals together and then rushes away, your curiosity may be rightly piqued, especially if it happens again and again.

If your date keeps telling you that they have nothing else planned, or that their other plans fell through and they’re now available to hang out, and that’s the only time they are interested in seeing you, that’s really bad. After a while, your time together should be part of their plans. However, some people are just very busy with work, a social life, and other responsibilities and obligations. Again, don’t be too concerned if the person you’re dating is often busy. But if they constantly break plans with you, get caught in lies about what they’re doing, or something just doesn’t seem right, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate.

Try to vary what you do with your new love interest. And be clear about your intentions from the outset. Likewise, don’t read too much into indicators. If a dating partner tells you she is only interested in making new friends, and nothing more, as she’s just come out of a five year hell of a relationship, respect that. In time, she may change her mind, but don’t force things. It’s best to be realistic about where you stand, as well as what the other person’s intentions are.

Portobello Burger. Image by Credit-License-By CC 2.0 PaleoCiettio

Portobello Burger. Image by Credit-License-By CC 2.0 PaleoCiettio

Dating is complex. It should be an exiting adventure, not a boring routine. If you keep going back to the old standby, the movie and dinner, it’s time to start working on your creativity. There are so many more options that allow for more interaction and meaningful engagement that are less stressful than grilling one another over a plate of grilled eggplant and vegan portobello burgers.

Posted in Conscious Relationships, Couples Massage | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

49 Ways To Heal A Damaged Relationship: A Guide To Restoring Closeness With Your Partner

Nothing is sadder than a failing relationship, like a once blooming bouquet of bright red roses, now withered and dying. While that’s true of any relationship between any two people, it’s especially disheartening when it’s between a husband and wife, or any other romantically involved couple. Recalling how sweet it was, how close you both felt, how much you were both so enthused can bring tears to even the most stoic person’s eyes. Unlike flowers, relationships can be restored to their former majesty. An unhealthy relationship can create ill health in so many ways, from eating disorders to anxiety and PTSD, it’s instrumental that we try our hardest to keep our relationships positive and bright.

In our throwaway world, inherited from the Boomer Generation of the 1950s, for a long while, relationships were no different. But just as this is no solution for plastic or other waste, it is certainly out of place in the realm of living people. Why not try to restore the relationship, keeping with the more contemporary values of recycling and restoring, rather than tossing someone you love away, like an old pair of socks with too many holes to mend? Easy divorce is always an option; signs obnoxiously advertise how cheap it is to kick your loved one to the curb. And if two people are unmarried, it’s even easier. Without ties to bind, breaking up is always an easy choice.

While there may be times that two people have irreconcilable differences, such as physical or emotional abuse, cheating and lying, and substance and alcohol abuse, or drastic change over time, in many more cases, there is usually a way to fix things, when there’s a will. If the two of you have determined that the relationship is worth saving, know that there are many ways to go about doing this. In my article, I shall address twenty two methods of going about restoring a failing relationship. Feel free to use this list as a guide; pick and choose only those ideas that the two of you find appealing. Every couple is different with different dynamics, so no one solution will fit everyone.

1. Professional Counseling.

There are many psychologists and therapists out there specializing in relationships. This is the tried-and-true method that has been around for quite some time, and depending upon many factors, it might just help. If you both feel comfortable with the therapist, that is key. Also, the therapist’s personal style and school of thought matter. There are therapists who believe in the tenets of Structuralism, Cognitivism, Functionalism, Psychoanalysis, Behaviourism, Gestalt Psychology, Humanistic Psychology, Phenomenological Psychology, Family systems psychology, Transpersonal psychology, Process Psychology, and about thrity four other major schools of thought. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_psychological_schools) Research with your partner before diving in. If it doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not going to help much. Don’t be afraid to shop for a therapist you, and your partner, both like and trust.

2. Group Therapy.

This is not for the introverted. Phenomenological counseling specializes in talking out problems with your loved one, often in a group setting. One such method is called “dialogue”, championed by theoretic physicist, Dr. David Bohm. There is to be no judgement, just honest assessment of one’s own feelings and reactions. Other group participants may query you on what you’re saying, and so some may find this a bit trying on their personal boundaries. However, for others, the group may be the perfect crucible for dealing with what ails a flagging relationship.

3. Forgiveness Through Faith.

Start going to temple again with your loved one. If you never went together, maybe it’s a good place to start. Your church, synagogue, or other place of worship is a great place to get in touch with important Spiritual values, including forgiveness, loving-kindness, and understanding, tools that will help you no matter what your religion. In fact, the very existence of these common values among the world’s faiths prove that faith itself is a Higher Path, a Way to Greater Good. In truth, you need not go to religious service to embody these Virtues. You can read Spiritual or religious texts together, at home. Even a secular humanist can value human goodness. It need not be framed within a religious context.

4. Religious Counseling.

If you are, in fact, religious, there are yet more faith-based options. Your place of worship, or even a worship center you’re not affiliated with, usually has appointments available with the priests, rabbis, ministers, and monks. Even lay persons. You may bring your issues before this impartial counsel, and receive answers rooted in your own religious values. This is especially helpful if you and your partner are not quite comfortable with secular values, or are already part of a religious community. Of course, personal comfort is essential, so a good fit with the religious counselor is essential.

5. Spiritual Counseling.

These counselors are not affiliated with any specific faith, yet keep their sessions squarely placed within a framework of shared Spiritual values. This is especially helpful if you are non-religious, or if you and your partner have an aversion to organized religion, despite your shared religiosity. A Spiritual Counselor will likely have a holistic viewpoint, and the non-denominational supportive therapy will focus on your individual growth, as well as growth as a couple. This only differs from religious counseling in that no specific set of religious beliefs plays a role, though the underlying values of truth, kindness, and trust are still foremost.

6. Do “Special” Activities You Once Enjoyed Together, Again.

Go to the boardwalk. Shop at the Mall. Check out the bookstore. Visit the arcade. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you’re doing it together. True, people change with time, and you, or your partner, may no longer enjoy the same activities, but it isn’t impossible to find things you will both still enjoy. Lose yourself in the activity. Whether it’s target practice with a bow and arrow or visiting an art museum, the key is to do it together. Also, it may bring back feelings of the past, evoking the love you once felt for one another.

7. Set Aside Time To Cuddle.

Affection is important. Remember when your relationship was new, you would spend hours on the couch just embracing? Sex isn’t even the idea here; holding one another close is. Find a cozy spot, be it your living room or den, or a secluded patch of grass under a tree, and embrace. It doesn’t matter if you speak or are silent. The idea is to put your arms around your partner. You can gaze into one another’s eyes, or look up at the sky. Or watch TV or listen to music. What matters is the physical closeness.

8. Set Aside Time To Talk. And Listen.

About what, you may wonder? Anything, really. The idea is to practice talking and conversing without arguing or judging. And, most importantly, listening. Don’t play with your phone. Don’t keep thinking about your work or creative projects. If you do, talk about them. The conversation can go in any direction, as long as you are attentive and open.

9. Go Out To Eat. Or Get Takeout.

Probably, one of the things we’ve all done during the initial phase of our relationships was sharing a meal in a restaurant. Of course, you can order in as well. Spend time being considerate and choose menu items you both enjoy. Savor the meal, as well as one another’s company. Eating brings people closer. Try to compromise on where to go, possible taking turns at different places if you cannot agree on one destination. And, eating at home is always fun. Sweatpants or leggings and a tee shirt are always in style.

Romance. Image Credit: Toffee Makey

Romance. Image Credit: Toffee Makey

10. Spend Time In Nature.

Natural settings are intrinsically healing. Whether it’s at the park or in the woods, by the brook or at the beach, natural settings are restorative. Friluftsliv is the Nordic concept of spending quality time in nature. A remote location, deep in the woods on a hike, or up a local mountain, is ideal. The world tends to fall away. Nothing is left but the two of you. And all the flora and fauna native to wherever you are. If you’re by the sea, there’s the crashing of the waves, and salty smell of sea air. Immerse yourself in your senses. Feel the sun. Listen to the birds. become one with your environment.

11. Write To Each Other.

While e-mails are more impersonal than writing letters and cards by hand, it’s a definite option. Let go. Release your feelings into the page or screen. Sometimes it’s easier expressing oneself indirectly, and a lot more can be said. This can foster closeness perhaps better than any other mode of communication. You have time to write, review, and re-write. It’s not quite the same as a live conversation. There’s a lot more deliberateness involved; you can really focus on saying what you really mean.

Anger Face. Image Credit: R.L. Hyde

Anger Face. Image Credit: R.L. Hyde

12. Work on Identifying People Tearing You Apart.

Sometimes it’s your “bestie” that is the cause of all your trouble. Is someone constantly practicing subtle manipulation, getting you to feel mistrust for your loved one? Find the person in your life who has hidden horns, a secret malice toward your relationship. Why? Perhaps they’re jaded,envious, or who knows what else. It’s not your problem. It’s theirs. Oftentimes, people pose as our friends and secretly work toward our ruin. Talking honestly about the influence of others can degrade such harmful influences. You may need to distance yourself from such individuals, once identified. That’s actually a good thing. Think carefully about what other have said about your partner, about your relationship. Again, it may be subtle, and you may have to really be honest with yourself to see that a friend is really a foe in disguise.

13. Work on Identifying Issues Tearing You Apart.

What’s the problem here? Why are you no longer so close? You may think about this on your own or with your partner. If seeking help from an outsider, you may even ask them for their input. It may be that work stress is just too much. It may be that the kids are having problems at school, and that is taking all of your attention. Think. And them think some more. If you talk with your partner, you may arrive at solutions that benefit you both.

14. Play Truth Or Dare.

This sounds silly, but remember how much fun it was when you were eleven? Forcing truthfulness never works, but encouraging your partner to be more honest, by making it a game –and leaving a out in the form of a dare– can be a refreshing change for you both. Remember, levity is a good thing, when it comes to relating to others, especially someone you spend a great deal of time with.

15. Talk About Boundaries That Have Been Breached.

We all have boundaries. And, oftentimes, we aren’t even aware of when we overstep someone else’s boundaries, even those closest to us. So, spend some time dedicated to this topic, whether alone, in a group therapy session,or with your counselor. The dividends pay off well. We all need boundaries to keep our sense of self, and it’s often difficult to articulate this in the day-to-day friend. And, brining your issues to a friend or family member can help you “vent”, but does nothing to solve the problem, and can lead to resentment.

16. Get Drunk Or Smoke Weed Together (Where It’s Legal)

Getting outside our everyday mind is important. And of course, I am not condoning breaking the law, whether religious or civil. But if you can share a special evening in altered sates together, it may be instrumental to your relationship’s recovery. It’s important to take the time to take a break from the grind of life and acquire a different perspective together. Dispense with the logical and linear mind and welcome the warm,fuzzy, intuitive sense that comes with mind alterants. Of course, don’t overdo it. You don’t want to drink so much that you don’t know where you are, but some alcohol can be a good form of “social glue.” Certainly, if you have kids, make sure you have a sitter, or that they’re fast asleep.

17. Spend Time In Silence Together.

So far, it’s been all about talking. And, talking some more. But in truth, there is a beauty in silence that cannot be ignored, though it’s often overlooked. Find activities that you both enjoy that can be done in silence together. Some of those activities may be from this list, but that’s not a requirement.

Messy Living Room. Image Credit: Nicholas Sanguinetti

Messy Living Room. Image Credit: Nicholas Sanguinetti

18. Clean Up Together.

Cleaning up is cathartic, and is one way many of us find solace when truly bothered emotionally. You can talk and clean or talk and remain in silence. When you’re done, you can see your accomplishment, something meaningful that you both did together. Living in squalor is harmful; likewise, living in a messy, disorganized environment can be taxing. At the very least, you will have transformed your shared living space into a more accommodating and welcoming place for you both.

19. Go For A Walk.

You can walk in the forest. You can walk in your neighborhood. Either way, walking is transformative. And, you can walk and talk, or just walk together admiring the woodlands, admiring the neighbors’ homes, even. It’s like this: When we walk, we leave our emotional baggage along the way. If we had eyes to see it, we’d be able to turn around’, look back, and see a trail of broken dreams, shattered feelings, and issues of all types scattered about the trail or road. Give walking together a try and feel the results; this is not exaggeration, not in the least.

Lettuce Heads in Garden. Image Credit: Mike Hunter

Lettuce Heads in Garden. Image Credit: Mike Hunter

20. Plant A Garden Together.

OK; not everyone likes getting elbows-deep in the soil, but planting a garden is rewarding. Not only will you both get fresh veggies and fruits all season long, but watching the garden grow, tending to it together, and finally reaping the harvest is one of the most rewarding shared experiences. You don’t necessarily need a green thumb or have grown up on a farm; even urbanites can hoe a small plot in their yard, or even on their terrace in containers. After some time, you will feel renewed. Working in a garden just does that, for some reason.

21. Cook A Meal Or Bake Together

We all eat together as couples, probably since our very first dates.  It’s the most common activity most engage in together, when a relationship is brand new.  But what about preparing a meal or dessert together? There’s nothing like sharing in the task of cooking or baking, activities usually assumed by only one of the two people in a relationship. The two of you can feel a unique sense of accomplishment once it’s done. The best part? The two of you can share that meal with good conversation, or eat that chocolate layer cake with broad smiles that say, “We did this together!”

22. Go On Vacation.

Aruba. Bahama. Jamaica. You get the idea. Plan a vacation and have a good time. Extricating yourselves from your daily lives can be a great gift to you both, personally, and as a couple. You may find that the issue is the context that your relationship is embedded within, rather than the relationship, itself. And, taking a break from everything is never a bad thing. In fact, you will return to your usual lives with a renewed vigor and enthusiasm.

23. Spend A Day Away.

You need not plan a week or ten day trip to get away. Find a cool Air-BNB or just spend an entire day, from early morning, until late in the evening, at the shore. It’s not that you’re trying to escape your problems; it’s more like you’re trying to give your relationship a chance to re-blossom outside of the stress of your everyday lives. Make plans or just wing it. Just be sure that you spend the entire day, and perhaps one night, away from your lives. Just like when you return from vacation, you will see all things with fresh eyes.

24.Play A Board Game.

It could be Monopoly or Careers. Or, you could choose a game designed specifically to bring people together, such as Match Mate, TableTopics: Date Night, Over the line, Taboo, Hoopla, Monogamy, Hanabi, Codenames Duet, Fog of love, or Talk Flirt Dare. These games are designed to let you have fun, while learning and discovering important truths about one another, and yourselves.

25. Get An In-Home Couples Massage.

Rejuvenating together is tops. It’s always transformative receiving a massage, but when it’s done holding hands with your loved one, it’s just magical. You’ll feel more comfortable than ever for one thing. And besides, you can schedule an in-home massage session with a mobile company, so that it’s just the two of you (and the therapists, of course.) Couples Massage is usually performed side-by-side, so you can find satori with the one you love right there with you. If massage is something you enjoy, but feel too shy or inhibited, this can be especially helpful. Somatic stress accumulates in your body; that’s how we all store anxiety and every other negative emotion. Eliminating this together is amazing.

26. Get a Couples Facial Together.

Facials beautify, and can be uber-relaxing. If you thought a massage was calming, just wait until you have your face and scalp massaged. And then slathered with a luscious masque. You’ll both be feeling like new, and looking like new, too. If you enjoy doing this solo, there’s no reason why it won’t be even more fun with someone you love right there. This can be done at home, or at the spa. Just remember to take a few selfies with your loved one, so you can goof off and remember how much fun it was to have your faces painted green.

27. Play Video Games.

Bust out the old Nintendo and play some Super Mario. Or, go down in the den and play the kids’ modern video game system. Video games are a lot of fun, and by now, everyone under sixty played them when they were young. So, fire up the old video game system and shoot up some asteroids, or chomp away on some power pellets, navigating PacMan through the maze. If you don’t usually play video games, you’ll be shocked at how much fun they still are. You can also visit a local arcade and do this; it’s really up to you and your partner.

28. Exercise Together.

Exercise is a part of modern life, and with good reason. The cardiovascular benefits, as well as mental, emotional, and physical gains are undeniable. It isn’t just about fighting a bulging waistline; people today exercise just because it’s a healthy and balanced activity that brings wellness, and makes you feel good. You can do weightlifting, Pilates, aerobics, or whatever you both enjoy.

29. Meditate Together.

Finding that still center is about as important as anything in life, probably the most important activity we’ll ever engage in. Doing this with someone you care about next to you will only bring you closer. Whether you do sitting meditation, or lying on your back in Savasana (corpse position), meditating will bring you both more composure, more inner peace, and less stress. Of course, you’ll still have to deal with whatever’s stressing you, but you won’t be subjectively feeling so stressed any more.

30. Do Yoga Together.

Yoga isn’t about posting selfies showing how well you can do a headstand or how much you can bend like a pretzel. Even if your partner is more advanced than you, it’s a great activity to engage in with your partner. Like meditation, for some reason, yoga poses bring peace of mind, emotions, and even Soul. And, your body gets more supple, and you feel better. Again, it isn’t about how far you can stretch, but simply that you take the time to do the asanas. It’s a Spiritual practice that goes back far into history, and it works.

31. Pray Together.

If you’re religious, go for it. It’s been said that a family that prays together, stays together. Nothing could be more true. Whether you pray to God in the form of an avatar like Lord Krishna, or pray for help from an intermediary like a saint, or pray to the formless Creator that is beyond conception, you are both focusing your energy on positive change, calling on Higher consciousness, however you conceive of it. You’re also giving thanks, and taking the time to enumerate all you have and appreciate it all, can help you find perspective, at the very least.

32. Hang Out With Friends.

Chilling in a group can be a lot of fun. But it can bring its own challenges. Be careful of those wishing your relationship harm, whether consciously or otherwise. Being around others, we’re usually on our best behavior. Of course, we don’t treat our partner precisely the same way as when we’re alone. Hanging out in a group setting can be interesting; couples who “get it” can model good relationship behaviors. Likewise, couples who are sour in public show us the horrors of just how we never want to be, especially around other people. This experience can be truly educative.

33. Hang Out With Extended Family.

We all have issues with our in-laws. It’s a basic fact of life. But it’s important that we share some of our time with them, especially our parents, and our partner’s parents, if those relationships mean anything to us. As stated above, we all, necessarily, act slightly, or greatly, different, depending upon who we’re in the company of. Take the time to do the family thing. You’ll see your partner in their native context that they were raised in, and you’ll give them some time to spend with their other loved ones. Don’t be greedy; you need to share your partner with the people in their life.

34. Take Peyote Together In The Desert.

Find a shaman or member of a Native American Church that allows outsiders to participate in *legal* mind expanding sacraments, such as Ayahuasca or Peyote. This is an experience that has been studied since the 1950s, and can bring insights like no other. Do not take street drugs. And, of course, be sure you have a guide that knows the territory, and can frame the experience in a positive Spiritual light. The lessons you learn may surpass everything else you’ve yet encountered in life, if those who have participated in such rituals are to be believed. If this appeals to you, read up on the topic. Such experiences are usually not “fun” in the usual sense, but are Earth-shattering and transformative all the same.

35. Listen To Music Together. And dance.

Whether it’s a live show and you have front row seats, or a rock concert and you’re in the nosebleed section of the upper deck of a stadium, sharing in the experience of listening to music together can be a lot of fun. Or, if EDM is your thing, find a club with a pounding sound system and dance the night away. Music stirs the soul like nothing else; nearly any person you ask would agree. Spend time listening to good music that you both enjoy. And, it need not be live shows; you can listen to the radio together or your favorite live-stream.

36. Take a Class and Learn Together.

What’s less fun than school? Of course, not everyone hates school, so some would answer that nothing is less fun than taking classes. Learning is interesting, and when you learn with someone you are involved with, it becomes a shared experience like no other. Take a class together. Learn a new skill. Explore some topic that both of you find exciting, otherwise one of you might feel bored, and that’s never a good thing.

37. Join A Common Interest Group

Whether your thing is mycology or sculpting, photography or knitting, there has to be an overlap with what your loved one finds interesting as well. There are groups all over, and can easily be found online. Choose something that you both love, possibly an interest that brought the two of you together, if there was one. And then go. Attend meetings. Get involved.

38 Volunteer. Help Others In Need.

Charity is noble and reminds us of what’s important in life. Are the two of you involved in any way right now that helps others? Maybe both of you need to put your bickering or small differences aside, and help people with real issues. What do you both care about? Women’s issues? Domestic violence? Homelessness? Helping students excel? You can join a nonprofit and donate your time. Or, you could even form your own organization and tackle the problem in the way that both of you find matters most.

39. Hold Hands.

Remember way back when? The probability is, you and your partner once held hands a lot. Now that things aren’t going so great, probably not. Make an effort. Hold hands deliberately. It isn’t shocking that you don’t do this anymore,if you feel negativity toward one another. When someone has hurt or offended us, or we’re not feeling close, shirking away is a natural response. So, it makes sense that you don’t hold hands and just pull away.

40. Be Generous and Share.

Having spring rolls and a great Chinese takeout dinner? Great! Your loved one finished her spring rolls. You guys ordered 12, because you like them so much. You’ve eaten slowly and have three left. Do you offer your spouse one of yours? It’s up to you. But generosity goes a long way toward showing you care.

41. Do Little Things That Show You Care.

Whether it’s helping with the laundry or keeping the kids our of your partner’s hair when they have take-home work, your consideration goes a long way toward letting them know they matter to you. If they just shoveled the driveway, make hot chocolate. If your partner is working late and you have to go to sleep to be up early the next day, leave a little note along with a care package of cookies and fruit.

42. Show Appreciation.

If your husband cleaned out the garage, let him know how much it will help the family not to stumble and fall when getting seltzer late at night. Let them know that the little things they do are appreciated. Don’t be patronizing, be sincere. Just say how you feel and really mean it. If your partner cooks an amazing meal, let them know how good the food tastes.

43. Offer A Listening Ear.

Let’s say your spouse arrives home from work deflated and dejected. They don’t immediately open up but you can tell they need someone to listen. You could just eat dinner and get to bed, or you could try breaching the subject. Sometimes it takes a little gentle prodding, but that may be what they really want. No one wants to dump on others. When your significant other realizes that it’s OK to speak about what’s up, they often will. Don’t force it, though.

44. When They’re Sick, Care For Them.

No one likes being ill. But when you’re sick, being ignored by your partner sends a clear message that no one cares. So, show a little love! Make some hot tea, bring them breakfast in bed. Check up on them, even if it’s a quick thirty second call home from the office.

45. Stop Fibbing.

Do you find yourself, or your partner, lying all the time? (Big lies or small fibs both count!) If either, or both, is true, that’s a very bad indicator of the state of the situation. A relationship is built on mutual trust, and even small fibs can destroy that trust. Stop the lying. Right now. Become aware of when, where, and why you are prevaricating. This requires self knowledge, but it’s imperative. If it’s your partner doing the lying, there’s very little you can do. If you can keep calm, gently tell them that you know it’s not the truth. But a lack of honesty can be a real deal-breaker.

46. Learn To Say You’re Sorry.

If you’ve offended your partner, you must sincerely let them know you regret it and don’t wish to hurt them again in the future. If you apologize insincerely, that is, say you’re sorry but just keep doing the same thing over and over again, that’s not going to work. Your partner needs to do the same. But how do they know they need to? That brings us to the next item on the list. The key is really feeling regret for hurting the one you love. If you just spout, “I’m sorry” over and over again it sends the clear message that you don’t really care very much.

47. Be Clear About When Your Boundaries Are Being Crossed.

We all have boundaries. That’s normal. But not explaining to your partner when they’ve transgressed your boundaries makes for a bad situation, especially if you decide to let it slide over and over, and then suddenly assert your boundaries. It’s best to gently explain what they’ve done to hurt or offend you. If your partner continues to overstep your clearly established boundaries, or makes insincere apologies, that’s not going to work. The same goes for you; their boundaries are just as important to maintain.

48. No Manipulation, Head-Games, Or Blaming The Victim.

Are you and your partner straightforward with each other? Or do one, or both, of you play games to score points? If you identify narcissistic traits in yourself, your partner, or both of you, it’s time to rethink the relationship. Such emotional and mental abuse can wreak havoc on even the strongest of people. If it’s you doing the manipulating, there’s one word for you: Stop. If it’s both of you, it’s time to have a sit-down and maturely discuss the matter. If it’s just your partner, it may be difficult to bring the matter to their attention, especially if they’re in the habit of blaming you when it’s really them. These all fall under the category of narcissistic abuse, and it’s a serious matter and may require outside intervention or counseling. This can also be a real deal-breaker, just cause for separation and an abrupt end to the relationship. This can be a real hazard to children, if present, as they are seeing incredibly destructive behaviors modeled. Beware.

49. Do Stuff Together With Your Kids.

Most of the above ideas can be done with the participation of your children. While it is ESSENTIAL to have time alone, it’s also important to consciously spend time with your children. That can be with extended family, or just the two of you, with friends on a fishing trip or in a temple or church for service. Your kids are a big part of the equation, if you have any together. Of course, tripping on mushrooms, or getting intoxicated, are activities strictly reserved for times when the kids are away, but even massage can be a family affair, as Pediatric Massage Therapists are trained to work on kids and adolescents.

Hopefully, this list has provided you with some ideas that you and your partner find appealing. If it hasn’t, I can guarantee you that you’re not trying very hard to resolve your relationship issues, or perhaps, the issues you face are beyond fixing. Share this list with your loved one. Figure out exactly what you want to do, and set aside time to do them. Overworking is a hazard in itself; when it comes to relationships, it’s a destroyer. Remember, you attempts to grow closer and resolve issues are are only as good as the effort, and intention, that you bring to the relationship. If finding closeness truly matters to you, you’ll take the necessary steps, do the work, have fun, and find a common ground once again.

Authored By D. Alban. (C) Copyright 2019 D Alban, All Rights Reserved.

Posted in Alternative Health, Conscious Relationships, Couples Massage, Personal Growth | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Why Rep. AOC’s Plea to Grow Yucca, Not “Colonialist Cauliflower” in Bronx Green-Spaces Should Be Reconsidered

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), often referred to affectionately by her fans (and detractors alike) as “AOC”, is always advocating for social change and the betterment of society. Of course, not everyone might agree with her solutions to identified issues, but having a discussion is a vital start for any change.

And, while some of her efforts are based in solid research on legitimate issues, recently, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez made an informal video as she strolled her Congressional District, live-narrating into her cell phone about colonialism and cauliflower.


nrkbeta Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez @ SXSW 2019 New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Image Credit: Ståle Grut / NRKbeta

New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Image Credit: Ståle Grut / NRKbeta

“…when someone says that it’s ‘too hard’ to do a green space that grows Yucca instead of, I don’t know, cauliflower or something — what you’re doing is that you’re taking a colonial approach to environmentalism…” were Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s exact words.

She further explains that social causes work best when relevant, framed within a cultural context. While environmental awareness is essential, and bringing fresh green food choices to urban “Food Deserts” commendable, this statement does not reflect an idea set based in fact.

The All-Nite Images A Day In New York-8th November 2014 Bronx: New Roots Community Garden Image Credit: otto yamamoto

Bronx: New Roots Community Garden
Image Credit: otto yamamoto

Most readers don’t know much about growing yucca. Or even what yucca is, exactly. So, let’s start there. Yucca is a root, also known as Cassava. This is where Tapioca comes from. Manihot esculenta is also referred to as manioc, yuca, macaxeira, mandioca, and aipim.

Cassava seems to originate in west-central Brazil, and has been eaten as a staple food crop by Native Americans for generations, its use stretching back into the distant past, thousands and thousands of years.

"Cassava" Image Credit: Farkomer

Image Credit: Farkomer

Now, it is true that the conquering Spaniards shunned Cassava (and maize) as lacking substantial nutrition. Even so, the colonial-era occupiers established cassava plantations and worldwide trade that brought Yucca to Africa, by Portuguese traders, in the sixteenth century, and shortly thereafter, into Asia as well, where it is extensively cultivated to this day. Of course, to think that cassava and colonialism have nothing in common is to ignore history.

However, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is not an agricultural specialist, and none of this is obvious or straightforward. Without some investigating, none of us would be aware of this. Presently, Nigeria is the world’s largest producer, annually growing more than 250 million tons of the root. Cassava is a tropical plant, drought-tolerant and able to thrive on even relatively poorer soils.

Freshly Cut Cassava Root Manihot esculenta, Euphorbiaceae Image Credit: Ikhlasul Amal

Freshly Cut Cassava Root
Manihot esculenta, Euphorbiaceae
Image Credit: Ikhlasul Amal

Yucca leaves are high in protein and antioxidants, its root mostly starch. According to WikiPedia, Cassava is a, “…highly-productive crop when considering food calories produced per unit land area, per unit of time.

Significantly higher than other staple crops, cassava can produce food calories at rates exceeding 250 kcal/hectare/day, as compared with 176 for rice, 110 for wheat and 200 for maize.”

Why not grow cassava in the Bronx, and throughout NYC and its surrounding NJ suburbs, then? It’s not quite that it’s “too hard”, as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez suggests.

The plant requires about eight months of warm weather, and even in our best years, the New York City region falls miserably short on required warm-weather days. (https://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs_maes.pdf) Further, while some varieties of yucca are indeed frost tolerant, heavy frosts will damage most.

Then, there’s cauliflower.

'Green Italian Cauliflower" Image Credit: Ben Dalton

‘Green Italian (Romanesco) Cauliflower”
(This variety is all about crazy fractals!) Image Credit: Ben Dalton

I remember as a child liking it far more than broccoli, considering it a tastier, albeit paler, version of the well-disdained vegetable. (In fact, cauliflower now comes in a rainbow of colors, all high in phytochemical antioxidants!) Brassica oleracea, as it’s known, is a member of the genus, Brassica.

Brassica oleracea has been bred into a number of veggies we all know and love (or hate), including broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, collard greens, and kale. According to Pliny the Elder, a Roman naturalist living in the first century, cauliflower was the most tasty cabbage-type plant.

Image Credit: Cherster Santos

Image Credit: Cherster Santos

Ibn al-‘Awwam and Ibn al-Baitarhails, noted botanists hailing from the Arabic world, in the thirteenth century wrote that cauliflower’s origin was the island-kingdom of Cypress. Strangely, for a vegetable considered so tasty and fine, cauliflower only made its way into French cuisine in the 1600s, and later moved into Italy, and India in the early 1800s.

"Cauliflower" Image Credit: WordRidden

Image Credit: WordRidden

Isothiocyanates and glucosinolates, other phytochemicals, are currently being investigated for efficacy in fighting disease. Cauliflower is also high in potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin C, Magnesium, and has a high amount of protein as well.

Would anyone suggest that collard greens are not a legitimate cultural food of oppressed peoples? Collards are a close cousin of cauliflower, and neither plant seems to have any recorded history of being involved in mass farming on plantations, while cassava was farmed extensively in Spanish colonies and traded worldwide.

Collards Image Credit: Steven Jackson Photography

Image Credit: Steven Jackson Photography

Perhaps its the delicate nature of collards and cauliflower that kept these plants from becoming high-profit options for plantations and agricultural trade ventures? It seems likely.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez should reconsider her position on yucca, cauliflower, and Bronx green spaces, although it seems, in all fairness, that she was only musing aloud. Is collard greens a “colonialist” food?

I think (we can all agree that) African-Americans have owned this plant, and really made it their own, culturally, regardless of whether it was first introduced to the diet of slave ancestors by their oppressors. The same is true of cauliflower and the peoples of the Indian subcontinent. Could we say that Aloo Gobi, the famed Indian Cauliflower and potato recipe, is colonialist?

"Aloo Gobi" Image Credit: Monali.mishra

“Aloo Gobi”
Image Credit: Monali.mishra

And, what of Nigerian yucca farming in the present day? Although wildly successfully, is this enterprise tainted by a history of colonialism? What about the scrumptious Nigerian Cassava Fufu? By now, it seems obvious that our history as humans is more intertwined than any of us realize. Much of that history is marred with oppression of one group by another, both within nations, and internationally.

Victoria Island, Lagos, Nigeria

Victoria Island, Lagos, Nigeria Image Credit: Wiki-pedia CC 2.0

In the process, a great deal of cultural sharing took place. Some of it was voluntary. Some was forced. However, it’s a part of our heritage, as ethnic peoples, and we embrace our foods, even when those foods were brought to us by conquerors. As stated above, it’s the author’s heartfelt opinion that it’s more how we react to oppression than anything else.

In culture after culture, around the globe, all peoples have a portion of their diet that has been introduced by “outsiders.” Truly making these plants our own, with our own local spices and recipes, is a way of owning our own histories, and fighting oppression and cultural destruction.

So, grow cassava if you want to. Grow cauliflower if you want to. Eat and enjoy your culture! Just remember, cassava plants aren’t going to do too well in New York City. And, no vegetable is “Colonialist”, but rather a part of many oppressed cultures’ diverse culinary identities, worldwide. We could argue that cotton and tobacco and sugar cane are Colonialist plants, but then, few people grow these in their community gardens, either.



Authored by D Alban. Copyright 2019 D Alban, H Miller. All Rights Reserved.

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Posted in Alternative Health, Alternative Health Remedies, At-Home Massage Articles, Bigotry and Health, Current Events in NYC, Diet and Health, Disease Prevention Through Lifestyle Choices, Evidence-Based Health Care, Health and the Environment, Health Studies, Nutrition and Health, Personal Growth | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

GrandMama and Tradition Had It Right: Empirical Evidence Suggests Increased Fertility From A Full-Fat Diet

As a therapist working with the post-natal population, I encounter many women who had only recently been pregnant, seeking help in their postpartum recovery. Traveling to my patients’ homes exclusively, it’s far from shocking that I also frequently encounter these postpartum clients’ parents. Oftentimes, parents will travel from wherever they live to stay with their daughter, her husband, and the new baby, helping out in too many ways to enumerate, likely I don’t even know the full extent of their much-appreciated help.

Most people hailing from intact traditional cultures retain this practice; even some Americans with little remaining of their ethnic heritage keep faithful to the idea that the postnatal woman’s parents should travel and stay over for a while, responsibilities and obligations permitting. Sometimes, the Mom and Dad of both the husband and wife trek all the way from India to assist. Having eight extra hands around to help is never going to be a bad thing!

Trent McBride Jaipur Woman

Grandparents and parents, even sometimes sisters and cousins, may all come to help with the new baby. Image Credit: Trent McBride,  “Jaipur Woman.”

I’ve noticed that many of the elders, from both the US and abroad, have a different view regarding fat than most of us younger people, whether we originally hail from New York or Bombay. We have been taught for generations thateating * fat is bad, and that low-fat is good. Anyone else remember any of their great-aunts or great-grandparents calling a little belly fat “healthy?”

While obesity and grossly morbidly overweight conditions are surely not good for the cardiovascular system and far more, research supports the idea espoused by elders of Indian, European, Black, Chinese cultures, and likely many other cultures as well, that a full-fat diet is not necessarily verboten in all circumstances, and may actually increase fertility. Traditionally-oriented elders further often believe that such a diet is necessary and ideal before, during, and after pregnancy when breastfeeding.

Kolin Feeding by PaXYEE

Breastfeeding is not a hit or miss endeavor. Lactation Counselors know this well. Image Credit:  PaXYEE

In fact, it’s true that having insufficient sources of fat will leave a breastfeeding mother without enough fat reserves, in some instances. This is widely known among lactation consultants, and is not some hidden arcane fact.

Of course, the primacy of every woman’s concern is what will be best for getting pregnant, having a healthy pregnancy, and then breastfeeding with ease, if that’s what she’ll be choosing to do after the baby’s born. Besides this, many women go to the gym, practice yoga, and make it a habit of eating a deliberately healthy diet, with at least one aim having to do with keeping a slimmer figure. But what does this mean in practice?

Harvard medical researcher Jorge E. Chavarro, undertook a study that was published in the November 2017 Obstetrics & Gynecology journal, that had surprising results,that “… Increasing adherence to a “fertility diet” pattern was associated with a lower risk of ovulatory disorder infertility…” Chavarro was studying the effect of following a “fertility diet” (“…characterized by a lower intake of trans fat with a simultaneous greater intake of monounsaturated fat; a lower intake of animal protein with greater vegetable protein intake; a higher intake of high-fiber, low-glycemic carbohydrates; greater preference for high-fat dairy products; higher nonheme iron intake; and higher frequency of multivitamin use…”) while women (specifically nurses in this study) were attempting to conceive.

Of course, this is not an excuse to gorge until one is ill: “….”We also found, consistent with earlier reports from this cohort, that increased body weight is related to a higher risk of infertility due to ovulation disorders…” Obesity is still to be avoided at all costs, as it’s possible to have too much of a “good thing”, in this case.

Tony Alter "Sounds Like A Truck"

Obesity is not the same as getting enough healthy fats. In other words, don’t overdo it! Image Credit: Tony Alter

While Chavarro states that “….clearly more research needs to be done before recommendations can be made for women”, the results of the study of nearly 19,000 women are clear: Eating a low-fat diet (two or more serving of low-fat dairy per week, in this study) correlated with an 85% higher risk of problems with ovulation. And to further cement the trend, women consuming one or more servings of full-fat dairy products daily had a 27% better chance of having healthy ovulation than women eating full-fat dairy foods less frequently.

The study did not track other specific types of fat besides dairy consumption and trans-fat (as well as animal fat, however inadvertently, as that’s always included with animal protein, which was tracked)avoidance; that is, we do not know whether any other kinds of “healthy” plant-based fats might also have this positive effect on ovulation. We therefore do not know whether this is exclusive to certain types of fats found in abundance in dairy products, or if certain plant-based fats may fill the same role. (Flax oil? Hemp seeds? Almond butter?) This is important, as many women now experience dairy sensitivity and thus avoid all dairy products.

"Cheese" by Rebecca Siegel

These are just a few varieties of cheese.Image Credit:  Rebecca Siegel

And so it turns out that our traditions handed down through centuries and millennia based on observation and adjustment of practice are, as would be expected in survival-oriented matters, sound and well-supported by scientifically collected and reviewed data sets. While it is also true that Grandma may want to fatten you up a bit too much, as long as she’s offering you more ghee, more paneer, and more milk, and not trans-fats, you’re set. Mother plying you with the cheese grater and an ever-growing mound of Parmesan tumbling from all directions of the Sunday pasta dish? It’s all gravy, or more accurately “cheesy” gravy!


Pasta with Tomato Sauce and Grated Parmesan Can Help you Conceive? Cheese lovers note. Image Credit: Cousin Anna

How do I know? Can I really be so sure? Think about it: When was the last time Grandmother offered you a nice homemade dish made with trans fats, perhaps Ghee Paratha without the ghee, and margarine in its place? A beautiful piping-hot apple pie made from fresh apples, real grated cinnamon and…partially hydrogenated vegetable oil? It hasn’t happened yet.

image credit: Steven Labinski

Image Credit redit: Steven Labinski
Pictured here is twenty-five percent of the famous television jingle, “Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet.” We made this traditional apple pie from the Grandma’s Cookbook recipe in TexasCooking.com.
Hot coffee served in a Texas Fiesta ware mug is optional.

Posted in Alternative Health, Alternative Health Remedies, At-Home Massage Articles, Child Health, Diet and Health, Disease Prevention Through Lifestyle Choices, Evidence-Based Health Care, Health Studies, Nutrition and Health, Post-Natal Massage, Pre-Natal Massage, Pregnancy and Health | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Apple Cider Vinegar and “Alkalizing” the Body: Why An Acid Can Never Raise Body pH


A colloquial term for “bunk”, “junk science”, and generally unfounded, unproven ideas that we encounter in digital “print” (an oxymoron in past for sure, not so today) all the time. Sometimes, we find the phrase “woo-woo.” littering a blog entry or respected article; of course, this is non-standard, non-traditional usage and definition of the word, but by now many of us know what it means when an author brings out this larky (yet powerful) phrase, “It’s just woo”: It’s a clear signal that an author or blogger or news-writer is no proponent of pseudo-science, and will in no way entertain ludicrous, unsound concepts. It shows that the author respects Evidence-Based Medicine, as situated plainly as a class far  above junk science. It further suggests what’s been labeled “woo” is laughable, embarrassing even.



Is the term appropriate, ever? Is the idea of “alkalizing” the body with Apple Cider Vinegar appropriately filed under the big “WWW”, the Woebegone Woo Wackiness folder? Personally, I do not use the term “woo” in this manner, and have no such folder in my mind, or on my laptop, or anywhere else; it’s just not a very useful way of looking at things, and may be more limiting than helpful.

Of course, some notions that may be labeled as “woo” by the many may later turn out to be scientifically supported later; it’s probably not the most open-minded or intelligent way to proceed when encountering new ideas and concepts; merely mentally filing unproven theories as “theorems” and “postulations” and “possible explanations” is certainly enough, without imposing biased prejudgments on any new concepts outside our own usual idea-set and experience.

Possibly, this term came into usage in this manner drawing from its original usage; as people were “wooed” by those hawking dubious health cures, or at least it may have seemed that way in the eyes of third parties, watching the “cures” bought and sold.  Perhaps some were wooed by slick sales pitches, but time has told that many traditional  cures of various cultures , as well as contemporary alternative health remedies, do have scientifically-sound reasons for working. People just didn’t know; they did have the empirical evidence, though, gained from experience and casual observation.

If many ill patients “got better”, a substance was deemed “good.” If the treatment did nothing to improve a patient’s condition, or harmed, it was “bad.” Very simple. Over many generations, this feedback loop provides a lot of data, however invisible or inaccessible. In any case, only those “cures” that had at least a marginal rate of success survived the passage of time over the centuries and millenia. However, even if a cure “worked” (as in, “cured” the patient), both patients and healers working with”medicine” from traditional cultures in the past, may have entertained false ideas and attributed a rationale for its success that was totally askew. The two are (obviously) not mutually exclusive.

Aple Cider Vinegar image credit: jeepersmedia Improved at NJMAssages.com/articles

Apple Cider Vinegar
image credit: jeepersmedia

It’s not difficult finding people on-line stating that Apple Cider Vinegar acts to alkalize the body, raising internal pH, something many claim is an amazing thing, positively affecting health in a plethora of observable ways. But we’ve all studied chemistry in middle school high school, and again at university, and most of us can remember that vinegar is a weak acid. Perhaps some will even recall pH of vinegar is about 3 – 5.

Acids acidify.

So how can ingesting an acidic substance ever result in an increase in the body’s pH? Does this make sense to a logical mind?

To answer the first question, of course acidic substances lower pH of any liquid medium, and our bodies are about 70% water. Does it make sense that an acid can actually RAISE pH? No; it does not.   Most websites trying to suggest such never actually get to the supporting argumentation, merely stating that the “digestive process” for apple cider vinegar actually *raises* pH in the body, unlike other vinegars sourced from other ingredients.

One argument Internet users may stumble upon states that the body can dispense with releasing tons of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, as ACV “fills in”. Firstly, it’s not a strong acid like HCl, and secondly, even if it were more acidic (like lemon juice at at pH of 2), that means the acid usually released in the stomach to digest food and then be excreted, would remain in the body, but  alkaline bile would still be released to counter the lowered pH of the stomach contents, regardless of whether the acid was exogenous or not. The end result? A net loss of alkaline ions and retaining of acidic ones, clearly not a way to raise the pH of anything.

So, we’re left with what seems like a clear understanding: Apple Cider Vinegar cannot raise the PH of the body. Ever. This is basic chemistry.

However, living beings are complex biochemically; we are not the equivalent to a breathing glass of water and the underlying reactions that the body performs when we ingest vinegar are numerous. And so, the puzzle is not quite so simple as it may initially seem…

A letter to the editor, a case report appearing in Nephron, describes a patient consuming over eight ounces a day of Apple Cider Vinegar (the same as two-thirds the volume of a can of soda). Actually, a can of soda also has a relatively low pH: Coke Classic has a pH of 2.5 due to the addition of phosphoric acid for flavor. It’s not from the “metal in the can” or anything like that; the glass-bottled variety of the popular soft drink is equally low in pH. And of course, it’s not just Coke, but rather most brands of soda.

Drink Coke Ad. Restored On Brick Wall Image Credit: Donald Lee Pardue Image Improved at NJMassages.COM Uneding Health Quest Article August 2018

Drink Coke Ad. Restored On Brick Wall
Image Credit: Donald Lee Pardue

Apple Cider Vinegar isn’t the world’s strongest acid and doesn’t have the lowest pH of everything we drink or eat, but is strong enough to have left children, and sensitive adults, with harmful esophageal burns when imbibed (in its undiluted form), usually for its “health benefits.”

The metabolism of acetate from, the acetic acid in vinegar (standardized in Italian Balsamic Vinegar to be 8+% acetic acid) releases a good amount of bicarbonate into the bloodstream, which itself possesses a high pH, without depleting body stores of other positive ions used for internal pH neutralization and buffering. The result is “…massive bicarbonate excretion.” upon ingestion of ACV, to cite the Nephron journal article appearing in 1998 entitled, “Hypokalemia, Hyperreninemia and Osteoporosis in a Patient Ingesting Large Amounts of Cider Vinegar.” (Karl Lhotta, Gunther Hofle, Rudolf Gasser, and Gerd Finkenstedt, Department of Internal Medicine, Innsbruck University Hospital, Innsbruck, Austria)

Therefore, vinegar of ALL varieties, and not just ACV, all being comprised of a significant proportion of acetic acid, can actually create a net pH change that is less significant (in terms of depletion of positive ions) than would be the case with other acids, at least in small amounts.

Other studies with animal organs suggest heart tissue, as well as diaphragm tissue, will create some CO2 locally after higher levels of exposure to acetic acid, however CO2 is acidic, unlike bicarbonate, which is basic.

Kidney patients needing to raise body pH rely on baking soda with its high pH and proven track record as an innocuous means of raising the body’s pH with ease and few side effects, a few ingredient we all eat all the time anyway. In fact, studies suggest that daily ingestion of sodium bicarbonate can help kidney patients with metabolic acidosis avoid the need for dialysis. The study was published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology by  Dr. Ione De BritoAshurst and her colleagues from the Department of Renal Medicine and Transplantation from William Harvey Research Institute Barts, as well as the London NHS Trust.

The body prevents acidosis on consumption of large amounts of (any type of) acidic food or drink by leaching calcium carbonate from bone, if need be, as well as exchange with sodium and potassium ions. Thus, consuming too much vinegar can definitely lead to osteoporosis, as the body seeks to buffer pH beyond the amount that acetate conversion to bicarbonate could permit. This can even happen with over-consumption of your favorite soft drink or even antioxidant-rich tea! Bad news: Coffee has a low pH as well. Realistically, we have more to fear, in terms of body acidification, from our habits of what we drink and how frequently.

Kaya Doing a- pH Test by Terren

Kaya Doing a pH Test
Image Credit: Terren Va

If actively seeking to raise the body’s pH, it seems one should avoid foods with a low pH, and favor those with a high value, simply. But maybe it’s not quite so simple. Some acids, in minute amounts, namely acetic acid in vinegar, its chief acidic substance, can be buffered in ways other than leaching precious bone ions. The key here seems to be the amount of acid consumed, as well as the type.

Bicarbonate that starts out as acetate begins with acetate being hydrolyzed to carbon dioxide and water, over time. A hydrogen ion completes the task, finishing the conversion into bicarbonate. According to an article entitled “Critical Care Pearl: Metabolic Acidosis” (Victoria Weston, MD; Kevin Bajer, ParmD, Randy Orr, MD), this reaction occurs mainly in the liver, however, the pancreas also releases bicarbonate as well.

In conclusion, we cannot find evidence that Apple Cider Vinegar raises body pH. That is (seemingly) impossible. Interestingly, however, the novel mechanism for adjustment of pH back to neutral, when concerning moderate amounts of acetate, doesn’t deplete bone as other acids (possibly) would, potentially making it a useful addition, in small quantities, to an alkaline-forming diet.

Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena

Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena

And, this is true for ALL vinegar, especially those types high in acetic acid, like Balsamic Vinegar from Modena, Italy, a standardized product guaranteeing highest levels of acetic acid.  However, this variety of (Protected Designation of Origin) vinegar is generally not used in the same manner as apple cider vinegar by health enthusiasts; the anecdotal accounts suggest apple cider vinegar is what people use for “alkalizing” and more.

It’s within the realm of possibility that vinegar, and Apple Cider Vinegar specifically, holds other promising health benefits generally not acknowledged beyond the (largely) untrue claim of having the ability to “alkalize”; this shall be explored in a later article on this topic in Unending Health Quest.

Authored by Dee Alban, Copyright 2018 H Miller, D Alban.

Unending Health Quest sponsor: Mobile Massage by Mountainside Onsite Massage

Posted in Alternative Health, Alternative Health Remedies, Child Health, Disease Prevention Through Lifestyle Choices, Evidence-Based Health Care, Health and the Environment, Health Studies, Personal Growth, Pseudoscience | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When Is Hate(ful-Sounding) Speech Acceptable By Media Professionals? An Inquiry Into Tweets by New York Times Editor Sarah Jeong of #CancelWhitePeople Fame

Recently, the blogs, social networks, and message boards on the Internets have been all abuzz with frantic news reports that the newly appointed New York Times editorial board member, Sarah Jeong, had published messages on the Twitter social media platform some years ago that many have found to be indistinguishable from the trite canards of hate speech.

Surely, even speech at its most hateful and disgusting deserves protection under the First Amendment, and Ms. Jeong certainly had every right in the world to publish her views, as uncompassionate-seeming, judgmental-looking, and narrow-minded-feeling as they were, and are. I think Ms. Jeong truly meant well, I really do, even if the outcome was less-than-good.

However, when we look more carefully at the content of the Tweets in question, I find that although I support Sarah Jeong’s every right to speak, think, and act freely, precisely as !she! chooses, I cannot help but feel that perhaps such disrespectful, hateful, and damaging public messages are mutually exclusive with Ms. Jeong’s newly appointed position working as editor charged with technology topics at the Times.

It’s time Ms.Jeong distances herself from her statements; by this I do not mean the content, but rather the means of conveying such content, the actual language; no need to renounce her dedication to fighting for those who could use some help.

And of course, many congratulations, to Ms. Jeong, truly! Her new position means many will be challenging her because of her views and how she chose to express them publicly; hopefully Sarah Jeong will think of these as opportunities to demonstrate her caring character and strong moral fiber. How we respond to others is important; it shows a lot.

I am not a cruel person and so do not wish to see Ms. Jeong fired or demoted, necessarily even, and certainly not end up homeless or permanently ostracized from the news industry! However, some accountability is in order. Merely acknowledging that this was not the best way to communicate her ideas is probably not enough.

Ms. Jeong states that, “…these comments were not aimed at a general audience…”, however, even with context, the content of the tweets does nothing to help the reader understand whom the precise target of the tweets was; the language is far too vague and inclusive, the groups too overarchingly broad. An apology is in order, for sure. While Ms. Jeong states she “regrets” her statements, one may easily regret an error that calls one’s reputation into question, without being truly sorry to the parties harmed by such error.

Think of all those included in the group: White people who are poor along with those who are wealthy, the disenfranchised as well as well-connected, boys, girls, Grandmas, Grandpas, cousins, sisters, brothers, everyone. No one should have to contend with an editor of a well-respected newspaper wanting any group of people, their own or any other, “cancelled”.

It’s just wrong. An effective writer is clear; a good editor seeks clarity in all she edits. Surely, clarity of intent, as well as clarity of meaning, are both on sabbatical in the instance of these tweets.

Of course, these messages were tweeted out a few years ago, and Sarah Jeong was not yet an NYT editor. From all appearances, Sarah is a woman deeply concerned with contemporary social issues in America, and freely identifies with those less fortunate.

At the time, her tweets numbered a few among a far wider field of such mean-sounding tweets, from all sides. My feeling is that we should all cut her some slack, and permit Jeong the opportunity to distance herself from her more youthfully angsty, rebellious sentiment and statements.

As long as such online messages are following the rules of the private system they were posted to, however, we must do our best to ascertain the meaning of all this and grow as a society together, as well as consider the unspoken implications of these mean-spirited-sounding posts, as such are now (a permanent) part of the online fabric of our collective meaning and expression. As for Twitter, it seems that Sarah Jeong’s posts shall stand. Forever.

That’s fine. Twitter can enforce their rules as they see fit. It is a private space after all. Odd how free-market people with views more to the Right speak exasperatedly about enacting government control over private online space; this paradox confounds, surely; this runs counter to everything such people usually claim to want for a future.

Now that we’re stuck with Ms. Jeong’s words, let’s delve deeper still. Sarah Jeong is Asian-American, and she has provided hateful messages she’s received online over the years, from people attacking her (perceived) sexuality, attacking her race, attacking her national origin, all because of her stated political views.

While all this is truly heinous, I wonder whether she ever experienced such terribly alienating bias in real life, or offline, if you will, outside of any politically charged context, for instance at Harvard, where she received her education. Sarah is a “…woman of color”, as she rightfully describes herself, and identifies with the narratives of other women of color, like Hispanic and Black women. That is truly noble.

Even so, I do believe that Sarah Jeong has likely experienced racism because of her appearance and gender in real life like she clearly has online. But online, it’s likely far worse. People online, on all sides, generally have no regard for those with opposing (or different) ideas, and forget they’re talking with other living, breathing beings.

Everyone objectifies.

Hiding behind a screen, many feel emboldened to dump on others. At least in face-to-face interactions, we would hope all sides respect one another’s person-hood enough to listen and keep from hurtful, destructive language.

Are these not considered biased tweets simply because these comments are directed at Whites, as opposed to a marginalized group such as American Blacks? Or, because Ms. Jeong is an Asian-American, a Woman of Color? Some claim that racism against White folks is an impossibility, considering the long-standing power differential between Whites and other groups, as well as our unique history of race relations here in the United States.

To this fallacious argument, I reply that racism and bias exist worldwide, sometimes among two or more groups totally ignorant of the four hundred (plus) year drama yet unfolding between White and Black people here in America, always with their own unique and complex histories.

Any time any person hates another because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, perceived gender, nation of origin, or ethnicity, it’s bias, plain and simple. Trying to deconstruct the issue and re-frame it any other way is disingenuous and counter-productive to our seeking of actual Truth and Understanding.

In fact, there is great confusion because some of the more recognizable Power Brokers on Earth are White people. However, at such levels of world power we find Middle Easterners, Asians, Europeans, Americans of diverse background, and people inhabiting lands flung far and wide across the globe. It’s far from a White Man’s club; that’s merely a meme.

The country with the largest growing number of new Forbes billionaires is not America, but rather China, a communist state experimenting (quite successfully, apparently!) with free markets. Just another lazy meme.

Clearly, the notion that “Whites” oppress(ed) “Blacks” (or even Asians), does not take into account that there are many, many more disenfranchised White people than White folks at the top. And, many more White people had nothing at all to do with slavery or even segregation, having arrived at Ellis Island from Europe dirt poor and settling in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, nearly literally, or then moving out West and North, spreading slowly.

Could such people have been racist? Certainly, though most would not be in any position of individual power to yield much sway in oppressing anyone, and aside from those (relatively) few joining organized groups that had sprung up here and there across the country, using questionable, and often violent and unlawful methods to oppress, these majority poor Whites had no means of oppressing anyone, White, Black, or any color. But of course, some were racist, either way.

These White Europeans may have even experienced real and serious racism at the hands of other Whites. The largest mass lynching in the United States was not against African-Americans, but rather Sicilians. This happened in Louisiana in 1890, after a murder of a police superintendent, and a mob took care of the rest.

Is this what the Sicilian-American Mob was formed for, defense of Sicilians from lynch mobs (in addition to smuggling Canadian Prohibition whiskey a few decades later, of course)? Sicilians experienced many other terrible episodes of racism at the hands of other whites in the South in the 1890s. Are we to somehow compartmentalize this in our minds when we consider racism against Black people in the South? Or how Native Americans were treated at the time, in the same place?

Ironically, some White people can recount experiencing racism on car trips with the family to Florida through the Deep South, where dark-skinned Italians, Portuguese, Spaniards, and other Southern Europeans had to worry about hate and vitriol directed against their own families, back in the 60s and prior!

Living in urban areas back up North, people (pretty much) learned to coexist. This was proven by the higher numbers of inter-racial babies born over time. It isn’t just an illusion or nice-sounding words; this is what happened over the generations. Racism still exists; racism will always exist as long as people choose to entertain such vile feelings and ideas.

While Eddie Murphy’s 1980s’ SNL skit about the ever-present White culture he discovers (while cosmetically adjusted to appear White, as well as learning how to “walk White” with a stiff butt) that’s like a wonderful 24/7 party hidden from Black people, is surely genius comedy, truly hilarious, hinting at many areas we should all take a better look at while making us laugh, there is, in my experience, little cohesiveness among White folks merely because of skin color.

Ethnicity, religion, national origin, yes; if a person who’s Macedonian-Italian is going for a job at a place run by Macedonian or Italian people, surely it’s a foot in the door. But if he’s Irish or Scottish? It’s doubtful. The cultures are not one and the same; there is no monolithic “White culture”, just as there’s no single Black culture.

If the owner of a newspaper is a native of Portugal and I greet her with, “Komu eshta?” and ramble on in her tongue with the ease of a native speaker, I know I’m good (at least getting to the next phase of hiring)! Of course, this is all assuming I’m qualified for the position; I think any wise business owner would rather have a qualified Black, Indian, Asian, Native American, Jewish, Muslim, or White person performing the duties of the job best, rather than simply going with a candidate who can only claim that they’re the best choice for the job because their last name is similar to that of the business owner. That’s just dumb.

And of course, there’s Classism, something most people with Leftist ideologies should definitely know all about. The Upper Class and Upper Middle Class White folks have little to do with Working Class or Struggling Poor White people faring even worse, in terms of how these groups socialize and interact.

Just because both happen to be “white” doesn’t mean very much, in reality. People inhabit different social spheres, even those of the same race, national origin, or faith. Possibly, their only interaction would be between a donor to a nonprofit and the recipients helped by the foundation, if the nonprofit focused on human aid. And of course, such aid is truly color blind, so this proves nothing. Or, possibly encountering a working class white while being served in some capacity, as there are yet many service jobs available for all.

“Whiteness” is not a culture; the distinct Black cultures in America, from Southern to Louisiana Creole (…”Colonists referred to themselves and enslaved Black people who were native-born as creole” – Wikipedia “Louisiana Creole” entry), to Northeast Urban, evolved in specific sets of harsh and unforgiving circumstances; White people did not arrive here as slaves, as the few Black people who survived the terrible cross-ocean journey, did. While death was harsh, survival was harsher, though survive and thrive many Black people did, in time.


Ghandi Image Credit & Copyright: NEO11

Image Credit & Copyright: NEO11

Mahatma Ghandi quelled the bias of Muslims by Hindus, the bias of Hindus by Muslims, by uniting all of India for a time, now so many decades ago, under his banner of nonviolent resistance referred to as Satyagraha, roughly translated from Hindi as “Soul Force.”

In retrospect, it seems unbelievable that any one person could accomplish anything like this. Are we to believe, as some avid social justice advocates in America claim, that such bias is qualitatively different than bias between other groups elsewhere in the world, or even within the borders of the US? True, every case of bias has its own unique history, but who are we to grade and compare which are legitimate cases of bias, and which are not, using our own concepts and history as a measuring rod of authenticity?

Bias is bias, simply.

Somehow, because of the history of the former American institution of slavery, some feel that only our own American narrative of less-than-stellar race relations is “real” racism, and certainly only when perpetrated by White people against Black people, a seriously ethnocentric view devoid of heart and soul, or any real analysis.

And, unlike the social awareness movement that swept the US in the 1960s and early 70s, American Indians are nowhere to be found, to any significant degree, in any of these present-day social justice crusades by those on the Left. This group, the peoples indigenous to our Lands, were also heavily marginalized, and over time have fared comparatively poorly, in many instances. Many modern-day thinkers on the Left talk about racism and forget all about the plight of the American Natives and Canadian First Peoples.

Whether groups experience social conflict over race, religion, sexual orientation, or other perceived differences makes little difference, really. It all hurts; it all causes real pain and crippling emotional and mental distress, and eventually real physical sickness as well.

Of course, there may be (members of) a group in power oppressing another group; there may be deeply ingrained racist attitudes (among some) even though institutional racism has been (largely) quashed by Rule of Law. Certainly, there are still significant issues Black people face, that may fall under the category of institutional racism, such as some disparities in prison sentencing for drugs (which may be argued as Classist as well), quality of health care, and more.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t grow up hearing about stories of oppression from my Dad’s friends, how “Driving While Black” was a serious offense in Los Angeles even in the 1990s (well before Rodney King). But those stories are about unspoken, unwritten bias, quite different than hearing other stories about performing in the Deep South as a Black musician during segregation times, right before its close when racism was perhaps at its ugliest. That was truly institutional racism, while the first example is just a product of deeply ingrained racism that just won’t go away; not at all the same.

However, on an *individual* basis, a member of the oppressed group may act and speak with bias (including violence and hate) against a member of the group that includes the (perceived) oppressors, even though such members of the oppressor group (race/religion/etc.) have nothing at all to do with this longstanding situation, even remotely. Clearly, this is just another lame example of stereotyping blindly. Love is blind, we’re told, but stereotyping blinds us. Not quite the same thing.

Vox writer Zack Beauchamp argues that “#CancelWhitePeople”, and other disturbing messages by Jueng on Twitter, are part of a different lexicon, a vernacular particular to the marginalized groups that Jeong, and the Left at large, seek to represent ( undeniably with good cause). These are socially-aware people; they are seeking to make change, however discarding Positivity and Mutual Understanding, and what are we all to work with in building bridges? (This goes for the Right as well.)

People embracing such Left-leaning ideas feel that in no way was Jeong calling for physical violence against White Americans, and also seem to believe that if one is not part of this activist sub-culture, then one (absolutely) won’t “get” the true meaning behind the message; it’s easily misunderstood, only something that certain individuals and groups (“in the know”) will rightly recognize as NOT violent hate speech, but rather just dramatic expression. This doesn’t sound egalitarian, and further seems a situation of ambiguity ripe for confusion, anything but a clear way of conveying meaning beyond the in-group.

The target of these attacks, namely White people, is in no way privy to such understanding, unless already involved with Leftist ideas of using violent language to imply nonviolent change, according to Mr. Beauchamp’s explanation.

Keeping this discussion presently confined to the topic of this one hashtag, #CancelWhitePeople, this one statement only, and a serious issue remains. “Cancel white people” may be a hash-tag on Twitter, but it’s also an imperative sentence (command), one of the four basic types of sentences.

It’s a complete thought, with a subject (implied as “you”, the reader, the person being addressed and requested to “take action”), and a verb predicating action against the group being objectified, namely White people. “Cancel” is actually a word derived from the Latin verb “cancellare“, which passed down to us after first maturing into the Old French “canceller”. It’s meaning is clear: cancel means to end something, to finish it finally, to make it “history”. Clear enough, no?

This is undeniably a call to violent action (or materially indistinguishable from such) and not merely protest and acceptable resistance; if Martin Shkreli was found to be endangering lives because some unhinged person might have taken him seriously for his wacky online comments about desiring a hair from Senator Clinton to prove she wasn’t a space alien, when such statements were clearly framed as part of a longstanding one-man comedy routine, entertaining or not, his actions were dangerous and irresponsible enough to warrant his bail being revoked at the time, merely because he joked around in a decidedly uncouth and irresponsible manner. Someone could have been hurt by his keyboard diarrhea, the US Federal Judge assigned to his case quickly decided.

What if a reader of Sarah Jeong’s tweets isn’t part of her exclusive anti-establishment sub-culture, yet identifies with the underlying message? What if that person has violent tendencies…and what if that same hypothetical individual this message resonates with suffers from untreated, un-medicated, !significant! mental health issues? “Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.—43.8 million, or 18.5%—experiences mental illness in a given year.” -NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Health Statistics)

Could someone wrongly misunderstand that these Tweets are not a call to actual violence, even if the tweets are actually not intended as such, as Ms. Jeong claims? Is it really a stretch to assume that a (admittedly quite small) percentage of Twitter users, and now readers of news stories and consumers of video news reports, may not understand the humor in this, and an even smaller subset of mentally ill people may take this command literally, as a suggested course of violent action and become radicalized against their own fellow Citizens?

It is my personal hope that Sarah Jeong further addresses this issue forthright; biased individuals publicly displaying such sentiment have no place in New York City’s, and the world’s, most respected periodical, especially when they do not understand the power of words to incite all manner of responses. I don’t care, particularly, that her diatribe was about White people. It would be just as sordid and outside the bounds of acceptability were she to write #CancelItalians, #CancelLatinas, #CancelJews, #CancelEskimos, or any other group of people, (presently) marginalized or not.

Such (seemingly?) violent catch phrases have no place on a public forum, where anyone could read this and decide to take action, putting ideas into motion, but we’re stuck with them. If it had been #OvercomeWhitePeople or #RiseAboveWhitePeople, I’d be all for her bravery in standing up to her perceived bully; I’d be right behind her noble efforts at enacting social change for identified issues she wants to help improve in our world.

As long as such messages are determined to fall within the rules of the private computer system they were posted to, however, there is little anyone can do beyond comment on the matter and try to elucidate the quandary.

What about if Ms. Jeong absolutely loves the verb “cancel”, and could not do without its use? #CancelRacism or even #CancelWhiteRacism are two fitting hashtags, neither stinking of pukish vitriol or jaw-grinding rage. As a professional writer, we cannot pretend that such an accomplished wordsmith does not understand the fineness of distinction between various phrases. And, to feign such ignorance is insensible, insincere even.

But let’s be honest: Sarah Jeong did not invent this hash-tag. Did she?

It’s just a phrase people have been using to communicate their desire to end what they see as rampant inequality and White favoritism in all matters. Are all the readers out there even familiar with how Twitter works? Apparently, studies show that the Facebook set doesn’t venture onto Twitter as often as younger people. A hash-tag looks like this: “#equality,” and it’s a way of searching for messages that Twitterers included so that others can later easily find the messages when interested in searching on that particular topic. It’s like a (voluntary) filing system for tweets. OK?

Let’s suppose that no one takes such directives literally, and we all understand it’s just a hash-tag, a way of organizing and later retrieving tweets. OK. Let’s further suppose that there is no hazard or physical threat to White children, elderly White folks, or other White Americans. Would such tweets be acceptable, then? In the context of her OTHER tweets about White people, there is clearly a pattern of behavior that suggests (potential)  ill will toward White people, and not merely a desire to help encourage social change.

Can we accept hate in any form? That is the question today; whether directed at Blacks, Whites, Mexicans, or members of any other group, the clear answer – no – should be staring us all in the face, boldly beckoning us to consider the matter even more carefully. After all, this is an exercise in Being Americans, and we all have our say, our own unique perspective worth sharing…as long as such sharing is done respectfully, of course.

Is hate speech healthy?

Certainly, most readers already know the answer: Of course hate speech is unhealthy; unrest in communities causes stress to individuals and families, and hate speech is a surefire way to stir up resentment and fear in any targeted community, group, nation, or demographic.

Then, there’s the stress of being a victim of such an attack directly, as well as the doubtless real stress of merely witnessing such as a third party, watching others being attacked and marginalized in such a crude and uncivilized manner. It’s enough to raise pulses and set emotions on edge; to ignore why White people, or any other people in support of White folks, consider this language retrograde and out-of-sync, is to ignore the language and words in question.

Racism, sexism, genderism, ageism, ableism, bias in any form of speech or online written commentary or “humor/satire” pollutes and degrades our social fabric. Hate speech also takes a valued message of needed societal self-examination and trashes it, replacing cool analysis and warm compassion with cold, dark, raging hatred.

In fact, these nasty biases cause undue stress and suffering, and erode our sense of community; America is a melting pot if nothing else; argue that this metaphor misses the mark and America’s a more pluralistic “salad bowl” instead, a better description of the sociological scene in American society today, and such inflammatory, hurtful, and insensitive speech still has no place at all. Either way one chooses to look at the world and America, hate speech has NO place.

Can written hateful diatribes merely get shrugged off as slightly insensitive jokes? Is it that easy to be a biased individual and then pretend one is actually not, leaning on your own race, ethnicity, or gender identity, to name but a few ways writers may hide from their own disturbing shared musings?

The Times is claiming that Ms. Jeong’s comments were, in fact, satirical responses to bias directed at HER by such groups, “counter-trolling” if you will, to borrow from Ms. Jeung. But does this claim stand the test of real scrutiny? Claiming that these were just “mocking the tone” of *true* oppressors is lame, and could conceivably be used as an excuse to spout hatred, as long as it wasn’t done first, anywhere, any time.

Let’s consider what else Sarah Jeong had to say: “While it was intended as satire, I deeply regret that I mimicked the language of my harassers.” What, I wonder, was satirical about trash talking men, police officers, White people? When did police officers ever troll Ms. Jeung and use similar language? I can assure the reader that this NEVER happened, yet there are those tweets, all the same, here for us all to contemplate.

Does anyone even recall the definition of satire? Well, here’s a refresher: Satire is the use of “humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices.” The word first passed into the language in the sixteenth century, from French, and earlier the Latin, “satura“, meaning “poetic medley”, usually referring to a poem focusing on then-contemporary vices or hard-headedness.

A bevy of bluntly anti-law enforcement tweets: “f*** the police” , “cops were s*** even before broken windows policing”, and more, as well as other “literary gems” of (the former limit of) 140 character Twitter brevity directed unapologetically against men, such as: “kill more men”.

Perhaps the idea of irony is lost on me; it definitely isn’t due to a lack of sincere will to try to understand where the humor lies in such tweets. How are these statements ironic, exactly? And why are so many on the Left all about censorship of everyone else but those sharing their own views? That’s not really the definition of a Liberal!

Jerry Seinfeld is a Master of the Art of Comedy, and a good amount of his material requires us all to strip ourselves of any dumb pride, or even a sense of anger at ANY subject being targeted by Mr. Seinfeld in his past show with the same name: His jokes were witty and brilliant commentary and social record of many quirky aspects of 1990s American life in New York City. Everyone was fair game. EVERYONE. No “Sacred Cows” Here. Still, there was a real innocence and respect to it all; there was never an intent to hurt anyone, just playfully make us laugh ’til our sides split.

Recently, I made a crude joke (in private company) in quite poor taste. I was speaking regarding what I feel some media activists would likely wish as a fate for Mr. Seinfeld; honestly, I stated that it seems some of those seeking politically correct speech for all might imagine the King of Comedy (here and now so dubbed) to suffer the same fate as the World’s Most Famous Jewish Man of All Time, the “Other” King (with an even bigger audience than Mr. Seinfeld, now in re-runs for over 2000 years)!

Yikes. A Truly Tasteless Joke. Juvenile and puerile. Rude, even.

The person whom I told it to wasn’t fazed; he turned out to be an Atheist. How ironic. Either way, he didn’t find it particularly funny.

Still, I apologized for this immediately after saying such, as it just didn’t seem right. Jews and Christians are living people, and people of sometimes great faith, and there was just something inherently disrespectful in what I so casually stated for the sake of a laugh. I was only trying to make a somewhat (greatly) exaggerated comparison; I considered a future social climate so cold that comedians are afraid to make jokes. So I made an extra-bold one myself, and in the process I think I disrespected too many, even though this was not told publicly. Well, now it has been, but with an explanation.

But was my joke at all hateful? Do I say I hate Jews? Christians? Jesus? Comedians, even? Is it ever even implied? Clearly, the answer is a definite NO. I was just proving a point, in a colorful (and far-less-than-politically-correct) manner, using a comparison that fits the idea. However, many will find this joke disrespectful, as religious matters, and faith itself even, are respected topics in polite society, and daring to say something that compares a stand-up comedian to the Christian Messiah probably borders on insanity, at least by 12th century Church standards.

Even so, as tasteless as my own joke was, I did not call for violence against anyone, nor make blanket condemnations against any group. If anything, I’ve elevated Jerry Seinfeld to the level of “comedy gawd”. (How’s that for pressure to live up to a GOLD standard next season, Mr. Seinfeld?! lol Just kidding; JS never fails to deliver!)

Today, we can still be faithful without taking ourselves nearly so seriously, thankfully! Still, I felt that saying this was somehow disrespectful to Christians , as well as Jews (but not Mr. Seinfeld, personally). In future, I likely will not joke around in this way. It can be too hurtful, and my intention wasn’t to hurt, disrespect, or diminish anyone’s faith in any way.

Some people literally do call for violence against others as a (misguided) means of solving problems; it isn’t beyond conception that we may one day have a future where people are afraid to perform comedy live for fear of offending someone and inciting violence or being screamed down for doing performance art. Let’s hope not. No; let’s *pray* not. (Atheists can send good vibes!) Society should never come to that point.

Perhaps that’s the highest mark of an artist, having hordes coming with (virtual Internet) torches to persecute that individual for creating so freely, with such abandon and trueness? Can we accept that Ms. Jeong is a brilliant satirist, a comedian of epic proportions, and all of this controversy is in response to her unbridled genius?

Perhaps some of the material featured on the show Seinfeld might not have been so well-received had it been produced in the last few years instead of decades ago; perhaps there would have been zero issues, regardless when it was made, because the show was always just so very funny and interesting.

The social mores of the 1990s were without a doubt, somewhat different than today, and what’s labeled hateful now was often just plain funny in yesteryear. True, comedians were freely more controversial and surely not at all concerned with hurting feelings, but at least these pent-up emotions had a positive shared outlet, a healthy way of being addressed without hate.

Wait. Go back. The 1990s as “yesteryear”? Yes; it’s happened; the 1990s are now just a vague and distant memory like the 1890s, fuzzy images cemented together into a cohesive Time Frame by our memories and TV shows and Kodak photo prints in the closet, carefully arranged in neat albums with floral print covers, not quite so garish and gaudy as those (even  older) photo albums from the 70s, or as vibrantly green, orange, or yellow, for that matter. In time, things change.

In any case, Jerry Seinfeld is a stand-up comic, clearly on stage (or a stage set or now even in incredibly cool cars) to entertain us, to make us laugh and get into the present moment, to be real. For this, I am incredibly grateful to Mr. Seinfeld; humor is the mark of a mirthful soul and levity can take a serious issue and render it more palatable and agreeable. Plus, it’s just great (and healthy, considering the bent of this article journal, this should be particularly important to our subscribers) to laugh and laugh and feel good doing so.

We know Seinfeld was created with the viewer’s laughter and giddiness in mind, first and foremost, and can in no way be taken as Jerry Seinfeld’s personal opinions on *anything*. Like the comedian says, it’s a show about nothing. Seinfeld pokes fun at everything and everyone, and manages to get us to reflect deeply on life, in the hilarious process.

If you’re a Seinfeld viewer, perhaps you wonder whether his character’s love for breakfast cereals was a true-to-life characteristic of Mr. Seinfeld at the time of his show’s debut and subsequent successful run? I’m guessing yes. Anyone who’s a fan and knows for sure, or even Mr. Seinfeld himself, please kindly reply and let us all know; finding out for sure would finally put the matter to rest in all of our minds, finally and forever.

The same cannot be said for Ms. Jeong’s tweets. She is not a comedian, and thus we cannot possibly place her comments in such a light, even if we try. Plus, they’re just not that funny.

Of course, I am not suggesting that Ms. Jeong (literally) wants to hang White people out to dry like the wash before the clothes dryer and modern appliances  arrived on the American scene, but we really should consider whether such talk, and use of such harsh-sounding hash-tags and language online), ever brings people together, or just creates more divisiveness and discord, more hatred and less understanding, for all people on ALL sides.

And of course, as stated, that was just a recycled hash-tag, not even a product of her own mind. But what of the other tweets? We should all be thinking more about using language to reach out to those who think differently than ourselves, especially writers and editors, but really all of us.

And finally, to answer the question posed in the title of this piece: In my most sincere estimation, the answer to “When Is Hate(ful-Sounding) Speech Acceptable By A Media Professional?” is that it’s sometimes acceptable, sometimes not. In this situation, NYT has decided it’s acceptable, just something from Sarah Jeong’s past, not any indicator that Sarah hates anyone. Of course, the controversy continues, as not everyone seems to agree. (Edit: Added this conclusion August 8th, 2018)

(Apologies for an UNFINISHED, pre-spell checked, unedited version of this article that was accidentally published August 5rth, 2018,  without images!  I’ve since decided to stick with the single image of Ghandi, which had been posted as well.
For me, serious writing is a process of writing and re-writing, adding and subtracting, arriving closer and closer to a point of objectivity, so of course many modifications were made! This piece grew and grew, and changed and morphed into its present form with time. Even this disclaimer changed and evolved. 🙂
Also, as a side-note: I CAN type, really I can, but now it’s not a secret that I mistype practically as many words as I type correctly; I don’t care, really; this way, I type super-fast!  It works for me.)

* * * * *

August 24, 2018

We are quite lucky to have Mr. Seinfeld’s wise words on matters related to those discussed in the above article in the recent New York Times piece entitled “Jerry Seinfeld Says Jokes Are Not Real Life” published August 15, 2018.  Please enjoy the below exceprt from this most interesting and important interview by Dan Amira with Mr. Seinfeld:

“You’ve been outspoken about stand-up audiences being too sensitive and politically correct these days. Have you ever apologized for a joke?

No. Jokes are not real. People assume that when you say something that you believe it. It’s purely comedic invention. You know, I do this whole bit about Pop-Tarts and how much I love them. I don’t love Pop-Tarts. It’s just funny. It’s funny to say it, so I say it.”

Worlds of thanks to Mr. Seinfeld for his much-welcomed, heartfelt and intelligent words on the topic. And so, we now know that when it comes to breakfast foods and Jerry Seinfeld’s  real-life likes, the character “Jerry” on Seinfeld was just that: a character created by a comedian to make us laugh (and reflect).

Sadly, I missed seeing Jerry Seinfeld perform at the Concord when I was younger, though I did see Howie Mandel live doing  his “Bobby” character-voice from the cartoon series, Bobby’s World. What Mr. Seinfeld says makes perfect sense; if Bobby enjoyed stewed peas and mashed fruits, that does not mean the comedian behind the laughter felt the same. Of course, concerning more sensitive matters than diet (though that’s getting to be yet another area it’s best not to approach with flexitarians, vegans, paleos, raw foodists, and so many more complex ways to eat food), it’s still the same. Comedy is not politics.

Authored by: !!!!*&%[email protected]#b. Unending Health Quest article index brought to you by Mountainside On-site Massage Therapy.

Posted in Alternative Health, Bigotry and Health, Current Events in NJ, Current Events in NYC, Disease Prevention Through Lifestyle Choices, Evidence-Based Health Care, Health and the Environment, Health Studies, Heroin Crisis, Personal Growth, Stopping Kids Bullying | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Vaccine Religious Exemptions & Tests Of Faith: Querying the US Constitutional Bounds of Protected Rights

Vaccines. A current debate. But alas, a debate not at all the focus of this particular piece. In fact, as most other readers may have postulated by the title, you are likely considering that the central idea this article shall concern will be religious exemptions for vaccines and US Constitutional Law. In fact, this is so; vaccines are a part of modern life in most nations, and those families seeking religious exemptions in the US draw from the world’s numerous faiths as well.

Cholera Vaccine. by Lars Kristian Fleming

Cholera Vaccine.
Image Credit: Lars Kristian Fleming

In New York State, parents wishing to have their children forego the customary vaccinations because of religious belief must undergo a “Sincerity Test” in order to be eligible for vaccine exemption. While it is merely an urban legend and longstanding American cultural myth that there was ever a legalized, clearly delineated (or even stated) separation of Church and State in the US Constitution and associated rules and laws, there is in fact a protection of adherents to all faiths, whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Jainist, Hindu, or even Satanist.

That protection is the First Amendment to the United States Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

In no clearer language could the torch-bearers of American Sentiment and Rule of Law have been clearer in their intentions; the people of the Nation shall be respected, when it concerns the free practice of their various (not enumerated or limited) faiths. In fact, this article focuses squarely on constitutional law and Sincerity Tests, rather than than the merits or hazards of childhood vaccines; sorry to disappoint if you were expecting something more dramatic, perhaps a paper taking a stronger stance, one way or the other?

The Constitution Protets US Citizens' Rights. Image Credit: sarowen

The Constitution Protects US Citizens’ Rights.
Image Credit: sarowen

In no way shall the author attempt to undertake this quite different task; that’s for a different writer, a different journal piece. Perhaps the same writer, a different time, even? Perhaps not. Either way, it’s outside the scope of this piece.

The stark question remains, whether we love and trust vaccines or loathe and regard the lot of them as poison: Can a municipality, state, or Federal authority administer a “test of faith?” Whether lawful and legal or not, certainly most of us do not definitively know the answer, one way or the other. A first objection might be that even if there are no such enumerated or granted or assumed powers, such powers may exist in time of National Emergency.

In fact, this is likely true. Let’s use a 1962 scenario: If there were bombers from QuintreNooNoon about to hit our coastal cities (yes; a deliberately outmoded notion cited), Civil Defense would demand citizens stay at home, get to shelters, or evacuate right away. Unless the church or temple was also a designated shelter, which many may in fact be, going to such Places of Divinity might be against the law at such times.

Bombers Were the Bane of 1960s Calmness in the USA.

Bombers Were the Bane of 1960s Calmness in the USA.

But faiths are not dumb; from Jews and Christians to Buddhists and secular humanists and other adherents to non-deified faith in rationality and the progress of thinking humanity, there is no religion that does not intelligently allow the breaking of one rule to follow a more important one. And in this case that Most Essential Rule is keeping everyone alive and safe.

Such measures as Civil Defense actions are clearly and undeniably for the safety of the citizens, and have no political tone or context. Such edicts directed at the American public would almost certainly restrict how people might practice their faith, at least temporarily. However, there is no test involved, and when the risk is real and undeniable, it seems all faiths allow for putting Life of the People first, and for the State to intervene in people’s daily lives and matters that are usually forbidden territory. Of course, in this instance all Americans of ALL faiths are dealt with in the same manner, another key legal protection we are all granted under the 14th Amendment: “Equal protection under the law for all Citizens.”

Air Raid Tunnels Protected People During WW II. Image Credit: DiscDan

Air Raid Tunnels Protected People During WW II.
Image Credit: DiscDan

Of course, the focus of this article, religious vaccination exemption tests for parents of young children, is a quite different issue, and must be considered distinctly. Could vaccinations be ordered by the Health Department in the event of a National Crisis, such as a fast-spreading pandemic for which there might exist a provably effective, affordable vaccine that could easily be developed and deployed? Surely, any sane individual would consider anything otherwise as a betrayal of the health and future of the people.

However, under ordinary circumstances, when there is no Declaration of War, pandemic, or other crisis, either natural disaster or calamity or due to people’s actions or errors, one rightly questions whether New York State is overstepping its bounds, transgressing the sacred, protected boundaries established by the US Constitution, in ordering a religious test for any matter, public or private.

This debate could have arisen over any State-mandated citizen action, not necessarily vaccines. That this issue arose around an already hotly debated subject may, in fact, shield the truly onerous nature of such Faith Tests from non-obfuscated public view by the masses.


Needles Aren’t the Issue.
Image Credit: Dr.-Partha-Sarathi-Sahana

If it were the case that an un-vaccinated child endangers the entire population of students by remaining unvaccinated, then this would also be within the government’s purview to demand certain actions of its Citizens, trying to accommodate religious need, but ultimately caving to a more vital need: Keeping the population safe and healthy. However, this situation has not obtained; possibly if large pockets of urban citizens stop vaccinating one day, perhaps that might generate such an issue under certain circumstances. Historically, this has not yet happened in any identifiable and significant manner.

We are not at the point, with regard to any vaccination for any disease, where non-vaccination would have socially destabilizing effects or endanger Americans. And, even if we were, NYS’s claim of a right to a religious test still seems outside of the boundaries established as rightly those of the Citizens that are to be protected, not to be trod upon by other Citizens, people of foreign lands, states, municipalities, unions, groups, or even the Federal Government itself, in all its different auspices and contacts with each Citizen.

Even having religious authorities step in as a sort of mediator to establish who passes a religious test seems still too cozy an arrangement; surely the State is then relying on religious authority as to whether a supposed adherent to such faith is actually faithful. The State is still administering a religious test by proxy. And, even if we were to deny this fact, the state is still carrying out administrative decisions based on a religious test, regardless of its origin.

Obelisk at Vatican by Dennis Jarvis

Obelisk at Vatican by
Dennis Jarvis

Is this practice, in any clear way, at odds with the First Amendment? How might these tests interfere with a citizen’s right to freely practice their religion? To assess the ways in which such Faith Tests might violate citizens’ rights, we must think more deeply, and consider various scenarios in which these religious examinations may do so.

Would every rabbi or minister, even of the same exact denomination, agree as to what precisely constitutes a faithful individual? Faith is a highly personal aspect of who we all are, and having to establish and definitively prove  that our faith is sincere, consistent with doctrine, and actually the true reason to choose not to vaccinate our kids, is both ludicrous, and outside the bounds of what is ethical or even sensible. But, most importantly with respect to this discussion,  does this rise to the level of keeping someone from practicing their faith?

Merely having to submit to a Faith Test as the definite outcome of choosing to file for a religious exemption for kids’ vaccinations neutralizes citizens’ rights to practice their faith without evaluation or scrutiny. When did the State get in the business of deciding who is TRULY religious; can a wrong decision hamper a person’s rights to practice their faith freely?

It’s far beyond the purview of the State of New York, the State of Vermont, in fact any US state, to establish a religious test, or even work with an established religion to get their assessment of a Citizen’s level of faithfulness. Should it be Pass/Fail? A letter grade? Default to the precision of a numerical percentage of valid faith? Is this not the place of the Creator, in most religious cosmologies?  Isn’t this the harshest judging of all, having to submit to our fellow man for the delivery of a verdict of whether we are religious enough?

Vaccination is not the primary issue in my thinking; the denial of parents’ rights to practice their faith as they see fit, without challenge by the state, in fact, is.

Do there even exist legitimate grounds for rejection of vaccines based on faith? Jehovah’s Witnesses believe only in praying over a sick person. Catholics may have moral issue with the use of vaccines produced with human fetal tissue. Though not a faith exactly, secular humanism is a way of life; the rational secular humanist may be concerned because she’s read that vaccines are not thoroughly tested, and have many known, reported, and documented potential side-effects.

What about the Satanist? How does their faith fit in? One can only guess. Perhaps they feel that the body of evidence suggests that a developing infant, toddler, and small child have a higher chance of negative impact, and delaying the vaccines would lead to a stronger, more robust child, and weakness is against their law? Who knows.

"Satanism FAIL" Image Credit: Ted Majo

“Satanism FAIL”
Image Credit: Ted Majo

And what about the great many people who practice yoga and meditation daily, eat an organic vegan (Sattvic) diet, and consider themselves, “Spiritual”, but essentially practice (an often) non-deified Buddhist or Hindu-derived way of life,  or even newcomers to such faiths, those who were born adherents to other religious or no religions at all? Are these group likely to be marginalized because their lives do not fit any of the pre-defined boxes quite so well as more traditionally-oriented Citizens?

What about those parents, who are less educated, and by life’s circumstances (and often poverty and struggle), could not stay close with their respective Churches, Synagogues, and Temples, or even secular schools, for that matter? What about those who believe (as many Jews, Catholics, and Hindus I know do), that personal worship is best, and that organized religious is not quite their thing?

NYC Rabbi. Image Credit: Thomas Hawk

NYC Rabbi.
Image Credit: Thomas Hawkt

Some people did not have the time to learn to read, even with a strong will to do so; it’s a sad truth, but it does happen that kids have to endure gripping poverty, often taking care of younger (or even older disabled) siblings, moving from shelter to shelter, and are in such a high state of constant anxiety that all but the most basic learning is dampened, as would be expected when focus is scattered.

Such Americans with backgrounds that are not quite so rosy might still have Strong Faith, truly as close to the Book (whichever book) and live that Truth each day, but may have trouble articulating those Ideas and Feelings to a Sincerity Tester. Such people may have the most beautifully brilliant, perfect faith of all, however solely the dominion of their own memory and Divinity. Aren’t we punishing them, limiting their choices, based on their past? Does it not seem out of place to judge, even? And does not this example demonstrate that such tests are essentially junk?

To be quite clear, it isn’t really anyone’s business, at all, in what ways we are religious. Such questions by the state should be a relic of our not-so-distant past. Religious tests in the United States of America should go the way of Literacy Tests and other misused tools that should never have been.

If you’re arguing that it’s all for the Public Good, then of course we need a direct order based on an emergency, not an established procedure for handling religious tests of any nature. Dispensing rights is not the place of any of the states of the Union. Of course, NYS is trying to maintain that applicants are sincere and forthright, but in the process of doing so, the state breaks laws that are more central to the core thinking of what, exactly, America is all about, at its best, in its truest form.

"Sadhu in Nepal." Image Credit: Kiril Rusev

A sadhu at Pashupatinath, Kathmandu, Nepal
Image Credit: Kiril Rusev

Maybe the State of New York could have a “Morality Exemption?”, rather than a religious one?

Then, parents or guardians could object based on principles, whether drawn from religious faith, life experience, personal research, just a parental hunch, or all of the above. It would be legal, after all, and New York State is presently seeking to make everything more inclusive and non-preferential, so it makes more sense than the present system, which penalizes both followers of organized religions, as well as “spiritual” Americans not affiliated with any specific faith, yet still strongly moral individuals. At the very least, such an exemption would be a legal and lawful test, without treading on the Constitution in any manner. If the reader is thinking this is silly legalism, it is not. Spend some time daydreaming of the implications and slippery slope we’ve been living with.

Now, the above ideas are based on my own mentation and practice of philosophical inquiry into a matter of public interest, considering morality as well as the Color of Law in American culture and tradition. However, I’m not a Constitutional expert, nor a member of the Bar Association, but rather merely a concerned citizen with a mind and heart, an uninvolved bystander observing the fray, if you will.

 Matt Wade

The Stately Supreme Court
Image Credit: Matt Wade

But if we consider the words of Supreme Court Justices on this matter, voices many seek to hear when looking for guidance, we learn that states do, in fact, hold police powers over the people with regard to vaccination. This was established clearly in Jacobson v. Massachusetts way back in 1905.

However, does that ruling provide the right to administer or grade Faith Tests, or even receive such services and results, from religious authorities, concerning a Citizen?   Definitely, the answer is, not in any sense. Do any of the Justices in the ruling mention Faith Tests, even?  Apparently, no, this was not the issue at hand at the turn of the twentieth century. Nor have such topics as Faith Tests been addressed in Supreme Court cases focusing solely on this one single (significant!)  issue, a particularly relevant footnote in the evolving vaccine debate and discussion in America today.

Authored by D Alban.

(C) 2018 Unending Health Quest, H Miller, D Alban

Unending Health Quest brought to you by Mountainside Onsite Massage.

Posted in Alternative Health, Child Health, Current Events in NJ, Current Events in NYC, Disease Prevention Through Lifestyle Choices, Evidence-Based Health Care, Health Studies, Vaccination Debate | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Robots Are Coming! The Robots Are Coming! Massage Therapy By Robots A Reality Right Now!

The robots are coming! The robots are coming!

Car Assembly Line Robot.

Car Assembly Line Robot.

Wait, what? When we think of robots, we conjure images of everything from 1980s Detroit  automobile assembly-line behemoths that looked little like most of our collective associations and imagery of robots, to ASIMO, the famed bipedal humanoid robot debuted at the Expo 2005, which is precisely what most of us imagine when the term is spoken or read. In fact, a robot is simply a machine programmed by a computer to perform a series of tasks; it need not resemble a person in any way!

Rather, most robots on Earth today usually assumes the form most appropriate to their specific machine function. (Again, consider those unmoving, legless robots back in Detroit, still in use to this day…and still fixed in that one spot!) And, robots can be massively large to unbelievably small; nanobots, impossibly tiny robots that are not science fiction but rather science fact, already ex-

Sophia Robot Speaks At The United Nations.

Sophia Robot Speaks At The United Nations.

ist and have been proposed for many, many uses over diverse fields of endeavor.

Robots are fast becoming ubiquitous in the workplace; now these machine-helpers are finding their way into modern leisure activities. In The recent Wall Street Journal piece by Natasha Khan entitled, “Your Next Robot Encounter: Dinner, Drinks, and a Massage” featured in the WSJ Business section, the author details how “cobots”, or collaborative robots, are now helping at bars, as well as providing massage.

While the labor-intensive and hazard-fraught task of scaling a wall of spirits to find that choice bottle demanded by a knowing patron was gladly assumed by a cobot, and other ‘bots have also been programmed to easily drain a bottle of wine without disturbing the cork, two tasks that are menial and repetitive, to say the least, Kahn’s article also delves into the use of robots to provide medical massage.

Universal Robots, one of the firms contributing technology to most commercially available cobots, releases its programming code as open source; for those unfamiliar with the term, this means that the purchaser, if possessing such skills, can re-program the bot to suit their needs. In contrast, most software is not open source, but already compiled, and sometimes even encrypted, to keep the licensee from altering the programming. Even if not encrypted or complied, unless expressly permitted to do so, programming code cannot be altered, by the terms of the licensing agreement.

Robot Massage (Prototype MSG5000)

Robot Massage Prototype MSG5000
Note motor control board on front for easy replacement, as boards overheated easily on older RevA versions. Also note “HIYKUARSRIJGS” manufacturer name. (Transliteration of Xumedian)

AiTreat, affiliated with Nanyang Technological University, has successfully programmed robots to provide Chinese acupressure massage. According to the article, the bots are, “…warmed to 100 degrees Fahrenheit to mimic human hands…” Here’s where a first legitimate concern arises. Chinese acupressure massage is part of a larger meta-system of Chinese Medicine, which acknowledges the existence of “Chi”, or universal energy concentrated in living organisms. It isn’t merely heat, or even infrared radiation; human hands may emit a range of light emissions, and even vibration, but again Chi is none of those things. Chi, itself, is considered something else entirely, thought it may produce those secondary effects cited above.

Massage Chairs already exist. If we want to be technically correct, these are programmed massage robots, already at your corner town hair salon for decades, now. And, from what I’ve heard from clients, such machines cannot compare to a massage performed by a skilled therapist. Even if we were to ignore the existence of “chi”, as it’s presently not scientifically accepted in the Western world, there are other reasons why a massage bot may try, but will always ultimately fail, at simulating a human massage therapist.

Massage Chairs Were The First Massage Robots.

Massage Chairs Were The First Massage Robots.

Massage Therapy is an act of empathy; better therapists know this and live it every session. It’s an act of the heart, truly, as therapists’ hands can actually affect positive change in a patient. We say this about so many disciplines, but with massage it’s a palpable truth. Massage is an intrinsically human activity, like walking or breathing or eating. Even a robot with advanced AI and not simple IF-THEN logic, cannot compare to a session delivered by a live person. Face it; a robot doesn’t really care about the patient; modern-day robots aren’t even self-aware to any degree.

No doubt, a part of the healing is having a person willful and consciously helping another; this simple act somehow brings both therapist and client an element of healing that can’t be simulated by a bot, much less an uncaring or uninspired Massage Therapist. That caring is somehow, in itself, intrinsically healing, and if absent, makes for a therapist that may be technically proficient, but lacks any real personal massage style or “heart.”

Reading cues about how the patient is responding requires skills that a human will always excel over a robot in. Always. Likewise, a Master Massage Therapist will use her hands, forearms, and elbows, propelled by body weight and gravity, combining knowledge, experience, and intuition, to deliver a session that can transform a person, no exaggeration.

Human Hand by Paolo Garcia's Mom.

Human Hand by Paolo Garcia’s Mom.

Fine hands that do massage well are often attached to empathic, sensitive individuals; when working on clients, empathic therapists care about the outcome, and put every fibre of their being into the session. Does this matter? I definitely can say my own experience makes it clear that this is significant and worthy for others to seriously consider.

A massage session includes a “Spiritual” component, which again, cannot be quantified. Energy Work, which may be described as framed within a Spiritual, Religious, or even non-religious context, is an attempt to define and delineate this “extra” component of what is happening when a massage is administered. According to such ideas, much like the Asian concept of Chi (and Prana in India), there is an energy that exists within and between living things, much like George Lucas’ idea of “The Force” in Star Wars.

Circuit Board

Circuit Board

Can a robot possess intuition? Scientists say that our nerves in our stomachs and intestines are part of both our immune system, as well as our conscious perception of how we experience situations and reality. We “get a stomach ache” when stressed or feeling wary; we experience life through not just our analytical mind, but also our senses, as well as our emotions, driven by the endocrine system.

Having decades of experience programming using everything from low-level languages like Microsoft BASIC to highest-level assembly language, the modern, mindfully created PHP and more, I can emphatically state that no machine, at this point, can possibly emulate all that goes into human intuition, or human empathy and caring, and I further propose that such elements are part and parcel of a serious Massage Therapist.

Nor can a skilled therapist’s hand motions and shape and form be easily simulated; shall masterful therapists be concerned that a company may be mining their style for ripping and loading into their new bot line?! Will master therapists have bot programs with their signature style? Believe it or not, these are questions I’ve asked myself for years, having a longstanding interest in AI and robotics.

Transformer Robot

Transformer Robot

Without a glove attached to tens of thousands of sensors, and artificial robotic hands of mechanical fineness the world has not yet seen, there’s no way a robot can match a therapist’s soft-yet-hard hands. None. When massage is happening, our hands are molding to the shape they need to be, changing by the minute. So, more tech won’t solve the issue in any real way.

Perhaps Massage Therapists and musicians are two groups of professionals that will be hardest to replicate with robotics; both involve the analytical mind, emotion, experience, and intuition, all somehow connected to the hands that must be more dynamic, flexible, and adaptive than in any other discipline.

"Sad Anastasia" by NesMi Yana. True, Anastasia was not a LMT or sad about being overworked or squeezed out of her job, bit it fits.

“Sad Anastasia” by NesMi Yana. True, Anastasia was not a LMT or sad about being overworked or squeezed out of her job, but it fits.

Finally, Massage Therapists are often underpaid and overworked. As small spas fell to megalithic chains, and therapists often took a steep reduction in pay, this underrepresented group just had to stand tall and bear it. Massage Therapists do not have worker’s unions; most are female part-timers or contractors and do not receive health benefits (ironically, as LMTs are health care professionals), nor other often unappreciated “perks” of almost any other occupation. Many do no possess other skills or advanced degrees, and a diploma from a Massage trade school, as well as their State License, is what keeps them, and their children, alive.

Of course, these large chain owners would likely love to replace their frail human workers who get sprained wrists all the time and have their daughter’s dance recitals and Girl Scouts meetings to attend with reliable bots that are never tardy or call out sick, only rust or get dusty, nothing some paint or a damp towel can’t remedy. Expect a gradual social conditioning to help us accept robots taking our jobs; cobots will be “cool”; human-provided services will be tagged “awkward.” and something to “AVOID”.

True, maybe there is a moment of awkwardness when a Massage Therapist greets a client, but this just because we are all just human beings playing our roles, healthily respecting one another’s boundaries and personhood. Yes; being thrown into a situation where a therapist is helping someone with a longstanding injury can be a lot, emotionally, but it wouldn’t make sense any other way. That awkwardness is part of being human; I’d feel weird going to an LMT that isn’t respectful of my boundaries, or has no boundaries of their own. Assertiveness is key in life, and a big part of assertiveness is not only maintaining one’s own boundaries, but also respecting the boundaries of others, as well.

Eventually, we all must think about whether legal protections must be drafted to shield professionals from encroaching robotics in the workplace. Massage Therapists, in most states, must possess a license, as well as CPR and First Aid training. Of course, robots will have none of these credentials, just the (rather simple) programming included in their logic and memory. Even future massage robots with robust AI and more articulated hands will not truly be an equivalent to human Massage Therapists. Chances are, massage robots will complete in the already-crowded massage therapist market presently consisting solely of human therapists.

Massage Associations, including ABMP, AMTA, and others, must advocate now to protect the rights of Massage Therapists, a group of skilled, schooled, and tested workers, so that a “massage” may only be performed by a Massage Therapist, and their valued skill remains perceived as such: Something that is an intrinsically human social healing activity, done by humans, and for humans*. *as well as other living beings, of course

Authored by D Alban, (C) Dee Alban, 2018

Posted in Alternative Health, At-Home Massage Articles, Massage and Culture, Massage and Empathy, Massage and Health, Massage and Technology, Therapeutic Massage and Society | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Oils, Syntax, AND/OR Food Labeling: The Era of Thinking All Food Oil Is Identical is Over

Do you read food labels? And if so, do you even know what you’re reading? Certainly, I mean no offense to the reader; it’s just that many pre-packaged foods we buy at the supermarket contain ingredients with strange-sounding multi-syllabic names that sound more appropriate in a lab setting, which most people have never heard uttered before, though fairly commonly used as food ingredients in processed foods.

A Consumer's Dictionary of Food Additives by Ruth Winter, M.S.

Essential reading, kids. A Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives by Ruth Winter, M.S.

Whether you recognize every ingredient or not, reading labels is an essential step in self-empowerment and control of one’s diet. So, start on your next trip to the store or keep up the good habit! Slowly, as you learn the foreign language of the American food label, all the jargon will be deciphered and you’ll understand what every ingredient is and where it comes from. Mandatory reading is A Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives by Ruth Winter, M.S.

I noticed something rather peculiar about our US labeling laws that I’ve meant to write about for years and years, literally. In fact, I’d like to see the laws changed, if possible. By now, if you’re not curious whether this is just a teaser or there’s some potentially hazardous practice when it concerns food labeling, you should be.

In fact, this is not a teaser or an attempt to garner views by sensationalism. And, the changes I propose could save lives, or at the very least, help us all to be more informed food product consumers. What I find so disturbing is this: All labels, for all sorts of food products, have an ingredient list –so far, so good — however,  some labels are ambiguous about precisely which oils are used in creation of that particular item.

Comparison of Dietary Fats Image Credit: Wikipedia.Org

Comparison of Dietary Fats. Notice, all differ significantly.
Image Credit: Wikipedia.Org
from Wikipedia

Particularly, we find the phrase “and/or” indicating that the food item may made with any of the oils listed sequentially as a sub-list within the ingredient list, either singly or in combination. How confusing!

Food Label With AND/OR Logic.

Food Label With AND/OR Logic.

In the era when food labeling became mandatory, far less was known about human nutrition. As it turns out, not all oils are the same nutritionally, and have vastly different lipid molecule profiles and effects on health.

Oil isn’t just a food lubricant or generic term; different types of vegetable oil contain different aromatics, as well as potential allergic compounds. Shouldn’t the consumer know exactly what she is about to purchase and ultimately consume?

Allergens are common; this is acknowledged fact. Having precise labeling makes more sense, in that a consumer always knows exactly what’s in a particular product. There is no room for ambiguity here; consumers should know exactly what they’re eating.

The Waning Days of Summer image credit: Robert Cross

The Waning Days of Summer.
image credit: Robert Cross
Fields of gold under Norwegian skies, as the days are getting noticeably shorter. Where has the time gone? Image Credit: David Cross

There are also numerous studied benefits attributable to certain oils; if a consumer buys a food product for its nutriceutical qualities, shouldn’t they be sure that the oil conferring any health benefits is actually contained in the product?

And, with the focus on health and longevity and epi-genetic data that suggests lifestyle change could affect DNA expression positively, many more people are assuming conscious mindful control of their nutritional habits, not just dieting to shed pounds or trim the tummy, as was the case for the last century, but actually eating more healthily by making more informed food choices for themselves and their families. This is certainly an aspect of our emerging wellness-oriented culture.

Palm Oil Production Image Credit: Hodag

Palm Oil Production.
Image Credit: Hodag

So for many, knowing precisely which oil they’re eating is just as important as whether the grain used in the product is derived from oats, corn, or wheat.  Further, some actively avoid certain oils, such as canola, corn, or even palm oil. Some avoid these ingredients because of the ethics involved in harvesting and de-forestation, as is the case with palm oil.

Other people claim that canola oil is unhealthy; this is their right, and if it’s based in science, why not? Actually, we can pick and choose what we eat even based on our capricious whims; again, that’s our right, after all.

And, there’s cost. Some oils are just cheaper than others; another fact we can’t avoid in this discussion. Is it fair to the consumer to be “baited and switched”, loading up in the cheap oil, say palm oil,  while avoiding the finer, more expensive oil in the ingredient list, for example olive oil? Surely, this hasn’t been found to be the case, but then consider that  no one is checking. Of course, as is, companies can be unclear and dupe the consumer.

Olive Oil image credit: You as A Machine

Extra Virgin Olive Oil, the Elixir of Life, Claim Many.
image credit: You as A Machine

Finally, there is a more serious issue: Each oil has a different profile of different types of lipids, such as Omega-6 and Omega-9, to name but two of far many more. How could the percentages of saturated and unsaturated fats always be accurate on a product label that uses the sentential connective “OR”, provided that there are variable blends of oil used with different percentages of saturated and unsaturated fats?

Certainly, the result of a change in oil constituency would mean that a truly scientifically accurate label must necessarily change to reflect the different amounts of fats in each oil, as no two oils are identical in this regard.

What next? Maybe a move to petition a change in the law. Food labels should never contain the OR logical function, as a recipe may contain a set of alternative ingredients, but not a food label. Labels should always consist of a list of ingredients that is static, in set amounts, at least until a product improvement or change.

Syntax is crucial; the way we choose to set rules for our food labeling actually determines a lot about how informed consumers will be, and ultimately how much control we all have over our food choices. And, presently, the FDA law permits consumers to be in the dark on a very important part of their food, the choice of cooking oil used by the manufacturer.

Authored by D Alban. Copyright 2018 D ALBAN, H MILLER (NJMassages.Com/Articles)

Posted in Alternative Health, Alternative Health Remedies, At-Home Massage Articles, Child Health, Diet and Health, Disease Prevention Through Lifestyle Choices, Evidence-Based Health Care, Health and the Environment, Health Studies, Nutrition and Health, Pregnancy and Health | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment