Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Small Commercial Interruption...The Science of Cheating

By Marcie Barnes


Greetings friends - sorry I have been missing lately, but I have been busy! Apart from the lengthy essay I had to complete (see below post) ... I have been writing a book! Well, co-authoring one anyway. I invite you to visit the book's website, http://www.thescienceofcheating.com/ for more information.

Chris and I have put together what we think is a whole new way of looking at relationships and the number one relationship "problem": infidelity. With the help of several top industry experts, including Lucy L. Brown, Ph.D. - Department Neuroscience at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Timothy Ferriss - bestselling author of The 4-Hour Workweek, we have put together what we think is a fabulous tool for many to help put a horribly confusing and stressful time into perspective...and explains exactly what steps to take in order to improve the situation.

I also invite you to check out the details of "The Great Cheating Experiment" - we think this is really interesting stuff. Our goal is to continue this experiment into the future as we look at the patterns of cheating that may emerge culturally and across different genders, races, etc.

If you are in a committed relationship, you owe it to yourself to educate yourself on these issues, no matter how secure you feel in that relationship. We have found that there is rampant cheating in America...more than we ever thought in the beginning. We hope you will take the time to order our book and let us know what you think!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Flaws in an International Nutrition Icon: The USDA Food Pyramid


(This post is part of an assignment for the class I am taking, Global Impact of New Communication Technologies at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This is the abstract for and link to my final essay.)


By Marcie Barnes


Abstract

The familiar Food Guide Pyramid and the newer MyPyramid from the United States Department of Agriculture are widely used graphical representations of what the government agency deems to be appropriate proportions of different kinds of foods for the American public. These icons are used to educate people, including children, on what they should be eating. The International community and press also frequently reference this source. This paper examines the flaws in the old and new food pyramids by investigating scientific research, including that which the Pyramid’s critics use to back up their claims, and explores the reasons why the government agency is seemingly ignoring the science. In addition, this paper proposes a new “food continuum” as a better way to graphically represent the dietary needs of the human body in a way that is easy to understand for the unhealthiest segment of our population: the poor.


To read the paper in its entirety, click here.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Reaction: Virtually Real

(This post is part of an assignment for the class I am taking, Global Impact of New Communication Technologies at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This week, I will be posting reactions to my classmates' entries from last week -here is my example-)

By Marcie Barnes


Today's post is a reaction to classmate Cindy Anderson's entry titled "Virtually Real", from her blog "The Write Reason". Cindy focuses mainly on a website called Second Life (SL) which I had not heard of until she mentioned it in class. This is a 3D virtual reality website where people can join and create avatars (and pseudonyms if they like). A more detailed description is here. I chose to talk about this today because it has connections to all of the topics I've reacted to this week: online privacy, technology in the classroom, social networking, and defamatory postings.

Virtual reality and online privacy:
at the outset, it would seem that a virtual world would be a great way to have privacy. However, there are a growing number of corporate "sponsors" buying real estate in this world, and I wonder how information they have access to about the members (I.P. address, email address, etc.) In addition, there is something unhealthy about being too private. I think when you are able to put your name (and likeness) out there and stand for what you truly believe in, you are truly free. I am sure a lot of people are living there as themselves (to the extent that they can) for fun, but from what I've read, there's a lot of sneaky stuff going on there, too. And don't forget, your best friends are in your real world.


Virtual reality and technology in the classroom:
Well, I honestly hope this sort of virtual reality "game" would never be allowed in the classroom. As the Wikipedia article mentions, Second Life was created by and largely used by 3D artists, so I understand and appreciate the talent and creativity that has gone into this. So, I think kids who have an interest in art/graphics should most definitely get involved in this type of project. However, I fear that what Cindy says may be true - virtual reality may become the new Facebook or MySpace. This concerns me. At least on the current popular social networking sites, kids are using real pictures of themselves and I think for the most part trying to create a page that represents themselves and their interests. I just think virtual reality can be very very dangerous if not used in moderation, in all of its forms, and this about as pure a form as you can get.


Virtual realty and social networking: Another concern about using a virtual world as a social network would be the addictive quality of such a place. And even more frightening: add in the fact that real estate can be bought and sold (among other things) with real money. This is how the advertisers are making their presence known - by buying private islands and such. At least on MySpace it is free for anyone to use, there is a level playing field in that regard. I worry that people (teens included, they have their own Second Life) will run up credit cards after getting too deep into a world like this. And the fact that child pornography has somehow seeped into this world is doubly troubling.

Virtual reality and defamatory posting:
I read that some virtual police have been set up on Second Life in order to keep watch over the "gambling" activities. I wonder how long it will be before the police force grows to monitor other things. In any society, you're going to have crime. The Wikipedia article explains that "Chatting is used for public localized conversations between two or more avatars, and can be "heard" within 20 m. Avatars can also 'shout' ('audible' within 96 m). IM is used for private conversations, either between two avatars, or between the members of a group." So, if someone "shouts" something nasty about you in a virtual world, that could be considered defamatory slander. I wonder if the Second Life website records these "chats" and "shouts"? Or would it be up to the witnesses to say they "heard" it...and would they care, in a virtual world?
Very interesting stuff.

I am thinking about signing up to learn more, but my inner graphic artist is telling me I'd be one to get addicted. Stay away, Marcie!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Reaction: Individual privacy in an online world

(This post is part of an assignment for the class I am taking, Global Impact of New Communication Technologies at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This week, I will be posting reactions to my classmates' entries from last week -here is my example-)

By Marcie Barnes

Today's post is a reaction to classmate Josh Voorhees' entry titled "Individual privacy in an online world", from his blog "A Newspaper with Infinite Bureaus". In it, Josh makes a lot of great points concerning online privacy, including the very true statement that" it is almost impossible to navigate the Internet while leaving no digital footprint behind."

I think I am careful on the Internet. But there are always going to be people out their bound and determined to fulfill their goals - usually motivated by greed - who may essentially "rip you off". I also probably place too much trust in corporations to keep the information I do provide safe. Google probably has the most information about me, since I use them for a lot of business, personal, and educational purposes. I tend to trust Google - but they are, if anyone - today's Big Brother, and are big in the business of marketing, so don't doubt their intentions. And another way we leave ourselves vulnerable is in the increasing usage of public wireless networks. I found these tips from Microsoft on keeping yourself safe in a wireless environment; but the fact is: the public hotspots we are using more frequently are not secure, so please remember: never enter a credit card number or other sensitive information unless you are on a secure (preferably non-wireless) network!

Even when you don't give out your information, or are told it will be kept private, be very wary. As an example, the Yahoo! email address I use was set up, at first, for the purpose of entering on websites that require an email address. I only do this when the site promises not to share my information. Lo and behold, within a few months the spam was coming in at regular intervals. Perhaps this is due to "bad" spiders (similar to a crawler) which scour the Internet looking for email addresses published on pages to steal. This is why you are probably starting to see people publishing their addresses like this: "marcie0305(at)yahoo.com" in an attempt to try and fool them. But I am sure they will not be fooled for long.

I've also noticed that my Yahoo! page is showing me ads tailored to my geography (distance learning from the UNC system and NC State, for example) but I wonder if they also know I am a student and are targeting these ads at me for that reason? (Insert twilight zone music here.) Another site I visit for fun sometimes, Braingle.com, often shows me banner ads that say something like "Hey Raleigh! Get your ringtones here!" Now, I know I have never given any information to Braingle, but I gather that they are reading my I.P. address in order to glean my location. There is some concern from privacy advocates about this, of course. In the spirit of privacy, I will tell you that there are ways to surf anonymously, if you do a little looking around...

Finally, I can't help but to comment on Josh's #4 fear: "Big Brother" in which he says: "Imagine if your potential health insurance provider had access to your credit card bills and could tell how often you ate fast food, drank at a bar, or bought cigarettes, this information could then be used to set your premiums and deductibles." They do always ask about alcohol and cigarettes in the questionnaires, don't they? I think it's a stretch to think that our banks would invade our privacy like that (they'd lose a lot of customers). But I would like to see those insurance questionnaires include more comprehensive inquiries into your health factor, perhaps like the life expectancy calculator I wrote about here. That said, I do think it's possible that insurance companies may look for what you put out there - on social networks, possibly some of the sites you visit…hmmmm, gotta be careful what I purchase with that new Nationwide Visa!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Reaction: Classroom Access to Technology: Reason to Pause?

(This post is part of an assignment for the class I am taking, Global Impact of New Communication Technologies at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This week, I will be posting reactions to my classmates' entries from last week -here is my example-)

By Marcie Barnes

Today I am reacting to my classmate Amanda Toler's post called "Classroom Access to Technology: Reason to Pause?" from her blog, Global Criss Cross. I am interested in this topic, of course, because I too have a son (who will be entering the public school system in the next few years). Her concern about students' access to technology is certainly a valid one, considering the considerable expense of new technology and the rapid rate at which technology moves.

I was especially interested in the existence of "detractors of technology use in the U.S. classroom", especially in light of my last post which warns against spending too much time in front of a computer. These detractors "continue to question if the educational benefits of technology are worth the price". My opinion is this: I think that the money should be spent in the upper grade levels (high school) where students are preparing for future success in college and/or the working world. There is little doubt that technology will be part of the endeavors of the majority of the students. I think giving younger children exposure to technology is also paramount, but it need not be the latest-greatest computer sitting on their desks. I was happy to see a lone keyboard in my son's two-year old room, because I think that will help him familiarize himself with the layout of the keys. I know he will have access to a "real" computer where he can perform tasks in preschool (and at home), and I would be happy to see the same when he gets to kindergarten, as long as the tasks remain age-appropriate. Perhaps in middle school he should begin using the internet as a research tool, but again, no bells and whistles needed.

I ran across this page from the NEA (National Education Association) which includes their positions on Technology and Education. I would like to highlight the last one: "Students should also be taught the appropriate and safe use of technology". Although this statement is vague, hopefully that would be to include the health issues that can arise, the dangers of anonymity online, and even productivity strategies in a technology-driven world. Check out this post from author Timothy Ferriss about how marijuana smokers were more productive than those dealing with normal office distraction in a 2005 study! As important as technology is, I want to make sure our kids get the message that it's not healthy to be dependent upon it.

Amanda gives some excellent solutions that could help get more technology in the classrooms and in the most appropriate areas. I wanted to mention a charity I am very familiar with, donorschoose.org. This is wonderful charity that allows educators to post "projects" when they are in need of funding for a particular need. Then, donors can go in and choose the projects they want to fund. In this way, parents, other relatives, and even strangers can get involved in helping fund in areas where the government funding is lacking. It's like giving a little dose of private school into the public ones. Pretty cool!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Reaction: Online Social Networking Problems

(This post is part of an assignment for the class I am taking, Global Impact of New Communication Technologies at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This week, I will be posting reactions to my classmates' entries from last week -here is my example-)

By Marcie Barnes

Today I am reacting to a post on my classmate Joe Recomendes' blog titled "Ramifications of Social Networking". Joe's blog is dedicated to talking about issues related to social networking online, and therefore his assignment from last week focuses on online social networking sites, particularly Facebook and MySpace. I am familiar with MySpace and can understand how it can be an addictive form of communication for our youth. When I was young, meeting someone new often was followed up by a lookup in the school yearbook. Now, kids can view profile pages that have a theme, possibly a multitude of pictures (and videos), and a list of that person's "friends" - hence the network. I use the term "friends" loosely, because I have heard that many people just try to get as many "friends" on their list as possible, even if they don't really know them. And even then, an online friend is never really a "real" friend. Furthermore, the addictive quality of these sites can lead to health problems associated with spending too much time in front of a computer (more later).

Why is an online friend not a true friend? I won't go so far as calling it a sixth sense, but we humans (and other animals) truly do send of signals to each other that cause us to trust, distrust, like, dislike, etc. Body language is a big part of this. Some people get along with certain kinds of people, it's not an issue of good vs. bad. So, let's say you befriend someone over a connection to a favorite movie or song and your online friendship goes swell for several months. Most of what you have formed about this person is really in your head. Eventually, you decide to meet. The new "friend" is still going to be shiny and new for awhile, everything will seem peachy. However, odds are, if you end up in a situation where you are now (finally) spending real time together, minus the adrenaline (and other hormones that compel you to make connections with other humans) of the initial excitement, that person is going to become annoying when the differences between your perception of them and the real them become clear. It's easy to form a meaningful "connection" with someone (akin to having a celebrity crush) that can become addictive and obsessive in and of itself. And frankly, it's dangerous when this happens with someone you actually have access to. I'll just reference Lisa Marie Nowak as an example, (the astronaut who became obsessed with another fellow astronaut), but I could probably find hundreds more references. Erin Hicks explains this phenomenon very well in her article, "Not love: fallin’ in limerance Part 1". It goes beyond security issues. Be very careful with online communities and communications, and keep your friends close in the real world.

As for health concerns, we all know about the obvious computer-related ailments, such as carpel-tunnel syndrome, back pain, and eye strain. But there's more: concerns about being near a wireless network (low-level radiation) too much, possible blood clots, sleep problems, headaches, and poor attention span (as if teenagers need help with that!) Along the same lines as what I said in my essay about Global Nutrition Communication Issues regarding how we evolved eating "organic" foods, we also evolved walking the land, breathing clean air and getting lots of sunshine. Lacking in these vital human needs, I believe, can cause a myriad of health problems that likely start with general sickness and depression. Thanks, Joe - I think the issues you discuss are very important for today's youth, and more.

Dr. Puja Kazmierczak of the Chiropractic Wellness Studio in Morrisville, NC offered this information and advice: "Sitting is to our spine as sugar is to our teeth ... they both decay the crucial structures of our body over time. In addition, the position that we sit in at our computers, using our keyboards and mouse is the major reason for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in our society not to mention symptomotology that imitates CS. [Also,] simple changes in posture can be devastating for the neurological health of our bodies, as headaches, neck and shoulder pains and subsequent other compensatory pains further down our spines, begin to become evident. Over time people may also experience vertigo, balance disturbances and numbness in their hands. There are simple changes we can make at our work stations…and consider replacing that work chair with a Swiss exercise ball! It's an excellent change for your body's neurology and subsequent health!"

On that note, I am going for a walk!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Reaction: Who's Liable for Defamatory Postings?

(This post is part of an assignment for the class I am taking, Global Impact of New Communication Technologies at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This week, I will be posting reactions to my classmates' entries from last week -here is my example-)

By Marcie Barnes

My classmate,
David Shabazz, wrote a very interesting piece last week titled "Who's Liable for Defamatory Postings?" I chose to write about this one first because I was quite intrigued by the question. Is there really a debate about this? Really? If someone spray-paints some defamatory statements about me on a wall, do I go after Duron for making the paint, and sue the owner of the wall for supplying the canvas?

As David wrote about, this question first arose with Cubby, Inc. v. CompuServe (1991) - I agree with the general outcome - that CompuServe was not liable because they were identified as more of a distributor than a publisher. Which means that they were just supplying a means of communication and were basically ignorant to what was going on. However, the second case David mentions, Stratton Oakmont v. Prodigy Services case (1995), makes the subject even more interesting. Prodigy lost this one, because they were considered more of a publisher.
Why? Editorial control. So, because they essentially had moderators and some automatic controls of what was posted, they became responsible for the content. Hmmmm...

In turn, Section 230 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was created to protect distributors and publishers alike: "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider." Sounds to me like another way to say only the speaker is responsible for his words. Simple enough. However, David raises an interesting point: "
The interpretation by the courts should be one where we strike a balance between having freedom to express ideas freely and being responsible for the content of potentially harmful messages." So, if I own a wall that someone spray-painted a defamatory message on, is it my responsibility to remove it to lessen the impact of it staying up for a longer period of time?

I am often on the fence when it comes to issues like this, and I can hear David's frustration with online entities that essentially do nothing. My take on it is this: of course the author of the defamatory comments is liable, and I think the entity that provided the "canvas" does have a responsibility to provide a safe and honest place for people to speak, I think they should make rules and make those rules clear, I think they have every right to enforce those rules. But I don't think they are liable, perhaps unless being found guilty of being blatantly irresponsible. The California Supreme Court agreed with me last year, and I agree with this quote from the ruling: "Subjecting Internet service providers and users to defamation liability would tend to chill online speech," As a blogger and forum moderator, I appreciate the protection. But I'm not sure blanket protection is wise, either. What do you think?

Friday, November 2, 2007

Global Issues in Nutrition Communication: Focus on Food Labeling

(This post is part of an assignment for the class I am taking, Global Impact of New Communication Technologies at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Below is an essay about the issues I've identified within the sphere of nutrition communication, followed by my fears, recommended solutions, and resources on the subject.)

By Marcie Barnes

Why are educated people - in even the most industrialized countries of the world - so ignorant and uninformed about nutrition? Cultural influence no doubt plays a huge role, but food product marketing and labeling also make it confusing for consumers to decipher what is truly healthy. The major problem I see with ignorance about nutrition, especially here in America, is confusing information and blatant misinformation in food marketing and on the products themselves. I am going to address the latter today: issues with food labeling.

The purpose of the nutrition label is to inform consumers about what is in the food they eat and offer an easy design format that gives a straightforward listing of the ingredients, vitamins, minerals, etc. But did you know that the FDA determines what should and should not appear on the label? For example, Vitamins A and C are the only ones required to be listed on the nutrition label, unless the manufacturer is making a claim about a particular vitamin. That’s right, according to the
FDA's website, these are the only vitamins allowed on the label (unless a claim is made.)

As for marketing claims on the front of the package: there are a myriad of things that can be confusing or misleading about those. The most annoying claim to me is the use of phrases such as “made with whole grains”. Just about everyone has read and heard that whole grains are much healthier than refined ones, but did you know these claims can be made even if there is the tiniest amount of whole grain in the product? The product can be full of refined white flour and the marketers can make this claim by adding a smidge of whole grain. (For more information about this and other confusing marketing terms, see “
The Loopholes of Food Labeling” by Tanya Jolliffe.)

Finally, I have become increasingly concerned about the dated nutrition information I keep finding. Just one example is that
new (and old) research suggests that consuming saturated fats and cholesterol isn’t necessarily what causes high cholesterol and subsequent heart-related conditions (or obesity). However, sites like the Mayo Clinic and countless others constantly tell readers to avoid eating saturated fats and cholesterol. We know that saturated fats from fish are good, so why do they keep talking about saturated fats in a blanket sense?

Please keep reading below about my top five fears related to this issue, and a few of the things I suggest that could help solve the problem.

Five Fears:


- Growing consumer trust in companies that are selling to them and in government regulation and guidelines.
- Technically false and misleading marketing claims on packaging.
- Outdated labeling requirements and nutrition information coming from trusted sources.
- Missing information on labels.
- Consumer dependency on labels and packaged foods: a tendency to think it’s healthy because it is labeled, when it's likely that the opposite is true.

Possible Solutions:

- More consumer education about eating organically (and locally). The use of the term “conventional” in description of what I call “mainstream” food forces consumers to believe that organic is the odd way to eat. When in fact, humans evolved eating off of the land: free of pesticides, preservatives, artificial colors, additives, scientifically derived ingredients (ex: corn syrup), extra hormones, and possible genetic mutations, just to name a few. Shopping in the organic grocery store is much easier for me, because I know I’m not going to find things like corn syrup on the ingredient label. Also, as more people choose organic, the “mainstream” marketers are getting the message that savvy consumers don’t want their junk. For more on why to choose organic,
read this.

- Educate yourself and your children not to take marketing claims at face value. Another example of this is the “zero trans fats” claim. There is a threshold at which manufacturers are allowed to make this claim (.5 grams or less), so, the product may not truly be free of trans-fats. Combine this with unrealistic serving/portion sizes, and it’s easy to trick the consumer into eating the trans-fats they are trying to avoid. A good example of this: sorry folks, Girl Scout cookies.

- More movement towards a more comprehensive nutrition label. I am sure that real estate could be a problem with the manufacturers, but I would like to see every component of a prepared food listed. At the least, manufacturers should be required to post that information on their web site, or even a on the USDA's website so it is centrally located. I often have a hard time find comprehensive nutrition information about products I am curious about, even online. The
USDA Nutrition Database does contain comprehensive nutrition information on a lot of mainstream products, but unfortunately, only a handful of prepared organic products are included.

Web Resources:

http://www.inspection.gc.ca/english/fssa/labeti/guide/toce.shtml - The 2003 Guide to Food Labelling and Advertising from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency: The current Canadian food label is considered to be the gold standard across the globe. This is the guide that details what exactly should be on a food label. A great resource for excellence in food labeling.

http://www.ifama.org/conferences/2003Conference/papers/thorCOMM.pdf - Communicating Nutritional Information to the Global Consumer: Adapting to Shifting Consumer Attitudes toward Nutrition: This paper focuses mainly on problems with food labels in relation to serving size, but in the process gives a lot of helpful information about food labels and regulation in different parts of the world.

http://ific.org/foodinsight/2007/ja/globalfoodlabelfi407.cfm - Global Consumer Perceptions and Use of Nutrition Information on Food Labels - this is an excellent article that looks specifically about consumer use, understanding, and perceptions of food labels and claims in the US, Canada, and Europe.

http://www2.acnielsen.com/reports/documents/2005_eu_labeling.pdf - The Nutrition-Conscious Global Shopper / Consumer Attitudes Towards Nutritional Labels on Food Packaging in Europe: This market report from ACNielsen is another excellent resource for investigating the usage and understanding of food labels across the globe. Particularly of interest was the inclusion of cultural/geographical trends.

http://www.labelmyfood.org.uk/forum/ - Label My Food forum: this British message board is aimed at getting more people educated on exactly what they are eating through food labeling, caters to people in a "dietary minority" to include vegetarians and people with allergies.

http://www.consumersunion.org/blogs/nimf/ - Not in My Food Blog: This informative blog, part of the Consumer's Union affiliated with Consumer Reports, reports on what is going on with food-related legislation and asks readers to get involved by writing their local decision-maker (among other things.) An important one-stop source for news regarding what's going on in Washington when it's related to what we eat.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Vegetarians Safe From Cancer?

By Marcie Barnes

I was listening to a report on my local news station tonight titled "
Obesity, body fat linked to cancer", I was happy to hear a local dietitian (Patty Cepull, registered dietitian Rex Cancer Center) quoted as saying "I don't think I've ever had a person that was a vegetarian come in with cancer". That's a pretty profound statement. My diet has always leaned in the vegetarian direction, and quite frankly, the more research I do, the more I lean.

Processed meats, which I wrote about briefly here, are singled out as foods to avoid in the report. Interestingly, the CBS News report headline reads: "
Obesity Nears Smoking As Cause Of Cancer" - I've been saying this since the tobacco advertising ban in the 90s: If they are going to ban Joe Camel, they should ban Ronald McDonald. In related news, Nickelodeon seems to be making an effort to align themselves with advertisers who are trying to improve the state of our childrens' diets. I am very careful about the advertising my child is exposed to. When we were buying Halloween candy this weekend, my son pointed at the bag and said "what's that?" I was proud.

Basically, we've become a nation that has fallen victim to the power of large corporations and their marketing dollars. We, for the most part, eat what they tell us to. Sure, everyone makes their own choices, but the healthy choices have become fewer and further between. And children really aren't educated enough to make good choices, they need our help most.

Feed your kids a healthy dinner tonight (and every night) and go easy on the candy. Teach them a healthy way of eating and help them live a long, happy life. Oh, and do the same for yourself! For information on feeding a vegetarian menu to your kid(s) - see here, and for some awesome vegan lunchbox recipes, check out the Vegan Lunchbox!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Great Cold Medicine Alternatives

By Marcie Barnes

It's been in the news a lot lately, some OTC children's cold medicines have been voluntarily recalled by their manufacturers. What to do? There are a lot of great natural remedies that can help your child (and you) when sick. I found a good article about it here, and here are some of my favorites:

Honey - excellent for treating a sore throat (try it!) or a cough. Also has natural antibiotic qualities, and is also excellent for wound healing. (Note: not recommended for infants, because it is not pasteurized. However, it is the raw honey that contains the most healing quality. Get some from a local beekeeper if you can for maximum quality.) There are so many sweet things about honey - including all the antioxidants - for more, check out the Honey Association.

Saline Drops - A safe, effective method of breaking up a stuffy nose. Widely available. Read more here.

Emergen-C - This powder poured into a glass of fresh water supplies more than a mega-dose of vitamin C, it also has lots of essential minerals - and I swear by it for curbing sickness in adults. I usually take at least two packets when I start to feel sick, and so far, my symptoms have never gotten worse. My dad told me about this, and it's available in lots of places including Target and WalMart. I found this kids formula here, but I usually just give my son a few swigs of mine...

More great tips are here, and don't forget preventative measures such as probiotics - try kefir as an inexpensive alternative to yogurt or pill-form probiotics.

I made "honey ice cream" for my son tonight by mixing unsweetened kefir with some fresh raw honey, freezing it for about 20 minutes - and then mixing it into a nice slush :).

Please post your favorite natural cold remedies as well!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Holy Sow! There are More Pigs in North Carolina than People!

By Marcie Barnes

No joke, folks, there are ten million hogs in NC and only nine million people (insert shocked face here). I mean, I knew there were a lot of hog farms in NC, particularly Eastern NC, but I had no clue that the pig population had surpassed the human population in my state.

As much as I agree with anyone's right to eat what they like, I say that's too much pork fat! I was enlightened to this fact by a wonderful post from Elise Bauer of Simply Recipes (photo credit goes to her as well). In this post, she visits a "traditional" farm where pigs are raised the old-fashioned way and explores the issues behind the trend of 'hog confinement' farming, and the huge benefits of "traditional" farming. There has got to be something unhealthy about eating meat that was raised in such an unhealthy manner as confinement farming, where each building holds anywhere from 1000 to 3000 pigs, crowded together, bred to eat, get fat, and be slaughtered. And these types of farms can be bad for the environment as well.

There's a lot to be said about traditional farming, which after all, is the way we ate for hundreds (if not thousands) of years - food raised in the earth and fertilized (or fed) the way the food evolved. I often disagree with non-organic produce being called "conventional" - the meaning of the word conventional reflects a traditional way of doing things, and that's what organic is. I say spend your money on organic and humanely raised food, and show the (meat) markets that you wish to spend your money on food that is healthier for you.

For more, here is the Wikipedia article that explores the topic of 'Intensive Pig Farming'. Also see my post about why I think pork (or whatever you eat a lot of) is acceptable to you.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Action Day - A Short Wrap-Up

By Marcie Barnes

It's Blog Action Day and I'm a little late posting, so I thought I'd give you a rundown of some of the blog posts I found today that I enjoyed:


1) Moolanomy.com's Little things you can do to save money and our planet - This is a great list of 40 things you can do to help the environment. Surely you can find a few if not ten or more things to implement in your own life on this list!


2) Lifehack.org's You the Consumer - This is a great explanation of how we consumers truly are consuming the earth. I am fast becoming of the opinion that humans will be the cause of their own demise, and this is echoed in the quote from Pogo: "We have met the enemy and he is us". In addition, I think I finally found the origin of "Nothing to excess" in this article - one of my most favorite sayings.

3) Thetaoofmakingmoney.com's State Of The Nation - Check this out for a more humorous view via a video clip featuring Will Farrell aka George W. Bush.


4) Last but not Least: GAIAM.com's 5 Eco-Friendly Kids' Activities - Don't forget to get the kids involved! Getting outside in the clean air and hands in the dirt are great ways to keep healthy and happy, and can help save the Earth, too!

Friday, October 12, 2007

What Filters You? (A Perspective from the NC State Fair)

By Marcie Barnes

(This post is part of an assignment for the class I am taking, Global Impact of New Communication Technologies at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I will be looking into some issues related to Web Filtering and Censorship.)

I was thinking about the concept of web filtering on a really large scale today, and it occurred to me that the Internet is really just a virtual reflection of the world. I understand that most do not have Internet access globally, but in terms of information - you can get your hands on virtually any subject out there, if you are truly "unfiltered". In the real world, perhaps this is what those who seek "enlightenment" are truly looking for, an unfiltered existence.

Let me explain: I was at the N.C. State Fair today and I was closely observing the people I saw there. it is by no means a stretch to say that more than 50% of the people I saw there were overweight or obese. With the N.C. obesity rate at 24%, I am probably not too far off. Now, it may be true that obese/overweight people are attracted to the fair because of the food there, but I think people come to the fair for other reasons than the food (I don't like it that much myself, more on that later) - I would say the attendees of the fair are a good sampling of the N.C. population, especially since many are drawn out from rural areas for the agricultural events & exhibits. What I think is, that most people have been 'filtered' via the food choices put before them to choose and enjoy things that are truly unhealthy for them (in N.C., and America at large). As a near-vegetarian, I found it extremely difficult to find anything to eat at the fair that came remotely close to my normal diet (which I enjoy, and crave, just in the same way other folks crave and enjoy unhealthy fare.)

Don't get me wrong, I can put away some Al's Fries or Funnel Cake like the best of them, but quite frankly the portion sizes are ridiculous to me. Only a few bites or so of either and I'm pretty much satisfied. I believe part of this may be genetic disposition, sure, but for the most part it's obvious that we are "bred" to like the foods around us and what are parents fed us as children. I have more recently "trained" myself to crave healthier foods as as I get older and I am sitting behind a desk more often than ever before, which means, I adjusted my filter for food.

Another thing that occurred to me while there: people in several other countries eat dogs. Why do we find this practice so disturbing? How is it any different from us eating pigs or (sacred) cows? As I watched the Painting Pig pick up a paint brush and swab the canvas I thought "My dog can't do that. Maybe we should be serving up corn dogs made of actual dog and taking the pigs home for pets." (Pigs are also utilized as drug-sniffers in some jurisdictions, for the record.) You see, our "American filter" tells us it's OK to eat pork and keep dogs as pets, while this may be disturbing to someone across the globe who has a different filter in place.

In many ways, people are stuck in the same circumstances: eating the same food, wearing the same makeup, whatever it may be. Take a look at the filters in your life, I bet it could do you good to try and circumvent some of them, look beyond them, and even apply some new ones. Our children certainly need some new filters, can you help?

Web Filtering: A Human Rights Violation?

By Marcie Barnes

(This post is part of an assignment for the class I am taking, Global Impact of New Communication Technologies at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I will be looking into some issues related to Web Filtering and Censorship.)


My last post got me thinking more about all the web filters out there and the debate as to whether they are constitutional. A lot of companies use web filtering software to limit what their employees have access to, it is common for parents to filter the web for their children, and even public libraries keep certain kinds of sites off-limits. This article from PC Magazine explains web filters well (but turns into sort of a product review towards the end.) And this piece from C|Net gives a good explanation of web filters and your children.

I found a blog that focuses on "protecting yourself against human predators roaming the Internet", and this post which nicely summarizes the debate - which basically involves how much filtering the government should be doing (in the case of children). I don't have as much of a problem with companies filtering the Internet, because I think it's fair for them to ask their employees to stay on work-related sites while at work. As for the library, that's a tough call. In theory, I would want the library to provide the Internet unfiltered, but since people of all ages use the library, I don't have a problem with porn filters. But what about blocking social websites such as myspace? Is that limiting access or simply preventing virtual socializing in the library? The government has weighed in on this already. What do you think?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Google: Too Much Power?

By Marcie Barnes

(This post is part of an assignment for the class I am taking, Global Impact of New Communication Technologies at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I will be looking into some issues related to Web Filtering and Censorship.)

This week in class we have been discussing the concepts of web filtering and censorship. Censorship has always been a topic of interest to me. As much as I agree with any company's right to include or exclude whatever products or services they choose, I do think there is an ethical consideration for any business to consider carefully to whom they market and how. As I have mentioned previously, a great deal of motivation behind my creating this blog comes from the firm belief that a lot of companies are sorely lacking in ethical considerations when it comes to marketing claims and the audiences to which they market.

When looking at a company like Google, which has not only become the leading search engine in the world but is also rapidly adding services to their menu and has become the place of choice for a variety of web services (including the platform this blog is written on, Blogger), I can't help but think: is it right for one single company to effectively hold the torch for such a huge and impactful phenomena such as the Internet?

Apparently I am not the only one with this question in mind. One well-known site, GoogleWatch.org, chronicles other publications questioning Google's authority such as Is Google God? And this past spring, Microsoft itself was trying to take a stance against a Google-opoly, as it has been called. (Oh the irony).

I also had some personal experiences recently that bolstered my concern. I launched a pay-per-click campaign with Google, and after awhile many of the keywords I included (I decide what keywords would trigger my ad to view, or so I thought) were suspended. The reason given was that Google's logarithm (used to determine relevance) was suspending them. Alternatively, I had the option to give them (in some cases) three times more money and they would turn my keywords back on. Pfft.

Also, last year's decision by Google to comply with the Chinese Government's Internet blocking campaign by setting up a filtered search engine for China has met with much criticism from the human rights arena.

I don't dispute the usefulness of Google and their services, and undoubtedly the talent of the people working there, I just worry anytime one company has such a hold on such a new and powerful technology, and the power to dictate the direction of it.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Fun Facts on Teenwire.com?

By Marcie Barnes

(This post is part of an assignment for the class I am taking, Global Impact of New Communication Technologies at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I will be posting articles about things I read on my classmates' blogs, and talking about how they relate to health, if possible!)


I was perusing my classmate Tragi Griggs blog, Save It today and was somewhat amused by her 'worst pick' from October 8: Planned Parenthood’s teen web site Teenwire. I say 'amused' because of the articles from the site that she cited: "what is the proper way to feel my girlfriends boobs" and “Does swallowing sperm make you fat?” Hm, interesting reading, sure, but I wonder if their website may benefit from sectioning some of the content to age-appropriate readers? I actually thought the site had a lot of useful information for teens, and granted the two above referenced articles were based on questions submitted by readers, but as a parent I would like to see this site control the readership by age, perhaps?

I realize that kids have a lot of questions and they are best left answered by knowledgeable adults than from "the grapevine", and of course it would be nice if more
knowledgeable adults were involved with kids to answer such questions, I just have a hard time with the younger teens being exposed to these kinds of articles (and not really being mature enough to handle the information). Teens run the range from 12ish to 20ish (and beyond, perhaps) - there is such a huge gap in the maturity level to consider, here.

Another striking tidbit from Traci's post: "
Planned Parenthood is the nation’s largest abortion provider. (Stats from Concerned Women For America.)" - wow. Although I largely agree with any human's right to make their own choices, I am disturbed by the numbers, and I wonder how much quality education in this arena is really lacking. Traci is clearly trying to affect change through education.

Have I made a hot topic yet? What do you think?


Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Cool Global Breast Cancer Graphic

By Marcie Barnes

(This post is part of an assignment for the class I am taking, Global Impact of New Communication Technologies at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I will be posting articles about things I read on my classmates' blogs, and talking about how they relate to health, if possible!)


Thanks to my classmate

Monday, October 8, 2007

What is Facebook Suicide?

By Marcie Barnes

(This post is part of an assignment for the class I am taking, Global Impact of New Communication Technologies at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I will be posting articles about things I read on my classmates' blogs, and talking about how they relate to health, if possible!)

I was perusing my classmate Joe's blog: Joereco’s Weblog and found this entry on Facebook Suicide. I have never been to facebook, and I am now keenly aware that I need to stay away! I am no stranger to Internet addiction and the dangers of forming bonds with people in an online forum. Although this seems to be the wave of the future, the article referenced in Joe's post from Fox news does a great job of giving an example of how online addiction can be harmful to your most important real-life relationships.

I am proud of Stephanie, who as the article describes, recognized the pain and betrayal her boyfriend felt by her relationships with virtual people (some from her real past) and deactivated her facebook account. Addicts can easily become so engrossed in the endorphins and other "feel good" aspects of their drug of choice that they completely deny the pain they are causing people who love them. If it's hurting someone else, stop.

(For more information on Internet Addiction here's a resource: http://psychcentral.com/netaddiction/)

Best and Worst Nutrition Sites: Part Five

By Marcie Barnes

(This post is part of an assignment for the class I am taking, Global Impact of New Communication Technologies at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I will be posting the best and worst websites I find on nutritional information related to my research project, as described here: http://feedingblackmail.blogspot.com/2007/09/cheap-food-or-expensive-organic-is.html.)

Today's Best

The Soil Association (UK)'s Get the Facts Page

After quite a lot of researching the topic of whether organic produce is more nutritious than conventional, I found a wonderful resource for the latest research on this subject. The page starts right in with the facts - organic produce is shown to have more minerals and more vitamin C as well as more protective antioxidants (phytonutrients). These statements are backed up with further explanation about the nutrients and links to the research itself. Great stuff!

Today's Worst

Health-and-Fitness Blog

Basically, I spent a lot of time on this blog trying to figure out how to navigate. There is only one post on the homepage and in order to find more I had to look in the archive or use a menu that seems to include the five most recent posts. I also was turned off by the Google ads being presented to me at the very top of the page. There is, however, a really cool tool in the navigation that translates the blog into different languages, I'll have to check that out!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Best and Worst Nutrition Sites: Part Four

By Marcie Barnes

(This post is part of an assignment for the class I am taking, Global Impact of New Communication Technologies at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I will be posting the best and worst websites I find on nutritional information related to my research project, as described here http://feedingblackmail.blogspot.com/2007/09/cheap-food-or-expensive-organic-is.html.)

Today's Best

USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference


I have been using this very extensive database for years, since my pregnancy when I was obsessive about getting lots of good nutrition. I recently found out that this is the same resource used by the Department of Food Science at North Carolina State University - and therefore probably a lot of other higher education institutions around the country (and world.) This is a very large database which finely details the nutritional content of virtually any food, to include some brand name products and processed foods. I have never seen this site down, it has always been very responsive, and I trust that the data is accurate.

Today's Worst

MedJournal Watch Blog

All I can tell about this Blog's author is that he is a "free-lance medical writer." I was kind of hoping to give him a break because English is his second language, or something :/ I have been following this blog via an RSS feed for the past week, and there have been two headlines that I quite frankly did not understand at all: "Yet pregnant women target of weight loss hysteria" and "Painstaking characters less struck by Alzheimer's" - huh? After reading the articles themselves I was able to ascertain what he was trying to convey - but overall, confusion! I do like the overall content of the blog though.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Best and Worst Nutrition Sites : Part Three

By Marcie Barnes

(This post is part of an assignment for the class I am taking, Global Impact of New Communication Technologies at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I will be posting the best and worst websites I find on nutritional information related to my research project, as described here http://feedingblackmail.blogspot.com/2007/09/cheap-food-or-expensive-organic-is.html.)

Today's Best

Wikipedia's Article on Organic Food

Although many Wikipedia entries are controversial in their objectivity, I find this one to be thorough, well thought out and concise. It gives a very well-rounded explanation of what organic food is, including how organic farming benefits the environment, legal definitions, and nutritional value. There are also criticisms of organic foods which are discussed in an intelligent way here, which is important to giving a well-rounded scope.

Today's Worst

Nubella.com's Balanced Eating Blog

This blog was disappointing to me because it was more of a diary of the author and the foods she ate from day to day, rather than a source of information (I was led to this blog by the title - Balanced Eating). There are lots of recipes and interesting experiences written about here, but not enough true information on healthy eating for me. I would like to see the author interject more of an opinion, balanced with other points of view on the subject of nutrition. The diary approach is fine, for a more limited readership.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Best and Worst Nutrition Sites: Part Two

By Marcie Barnes

(This post is part of an assignment for the class I am taking, Global Impact of New Communication Technologies at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I will be posting the best and worst websites I find on nutritional information related to my research project, as described here: http://feedingblackmail.blogspot.com/2007/09/cheap-food-or-expensive-organic-is.html.)

Today's Best

Medical News Today's: Organic foods in relation to nutrition and health key facts

This article is found on Medical News Today – described as “The number one ranked (Google and Yahoo!) website for medical news. Independent, authoritative and unbiased news from thousands of sources around the globe, divided into over 100 therapy areas (disease/condition categories).” - I had never heard of this resource before, even after doing a voluminous amount of 'medical research' during my pregnancy. If this article is representative of the rest of the site, I am very impressed. It spells out the nine reasons why organic food is more nutritious and healthy, and cites over 60 additional articles and studies to bolster the opinion.

Today's Worst

About.com's Nutrition Entry

Part of the about.com network, About's sitelet on Nutrition has a blog-style setup on the front page, which I was not expecting. In addition, many of the articles contain polls which are set up in a strange format - a bulleted list of choices for me to click on to vote. I had to click on one in order to confirm that it was truly a poll. Typically, about.com pages can be a useful source of information when looking for references, but this makes it appear to be just another place to read articles about the subject. I did find after a while that if I click through in the navigation, I was taken to the familiar bulleted lists of resources on different topics, as I was looking for. But I honestly had to visit the page twice to figure that out! As much as I like blogs, I don't like the confusing combination offered here.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Best and Worst Nutrition Sites: Part One

By Marcie Barnes


(This post is part of an assignment for the class I am taking, Global Impact of New Communication Technologies at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I will be posting the best and worst websites I find on nutritional information related to my research project, as described here.)

Today's Best

Consumer Reports' Section on Organic

Titled When it pays to buy organic. This sitelet is extremely useful and objective, and comes from a very trusted source, Consumer Reports. I think because they are funded by their readerships and not by advertisers, they are easily the most unbiased source of reliable information for consumers. In the organic report, there is a plethora of useful information including why organic is better for your health (and the controversy surrounding that claim), how to pick and choose which organic foods to buy, how to educate yourself on food labeling in the organic arena, and an interactive quiz on Organic I.Q.

Today's Worst

Thatsfit.com

Part of the AOL network, That's Fit is a blog I still read almost on a daily basis - but I have to serve up some honest criticism of the disorder that is often apparent to me. This blog has a total of 18 authors contributing posts, and it seems to me that some of them could use some editorial assistance, or even a simple spell-check! Often, I notice that two different bloggers will blog about the same subject, and I've never seen one of the authors respond to any comments on any post. Not that this is a requirement, but it's annoying when the post ends with a question - doesn't that indicate a dialogue is forthcoming? In addition, one of the features I was following, Recipe Rehab was supposed to be a weekly feature that has not been updated since a Fourth of July post. Anyway, there are some great redeeming qualities to this blog, including my favorite feature, Life Fit With Laura Lewis.