H 41° L 39°
Cloudy | 13MPH

Both Sides of the Fence

A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!

Sex, ice cream, and major surgery

Aging, It's not easy

Have I got your attention?

The State of Wisconsin Board on Aging and Long Term Care certainly got mine in today's press release titled "What? Sex in a Nursing Home???

Read more

The sex offender you know

Fear, Kids

While the city is mulling more restrictive ordinances controlling where registered sex offenders can live, Wauwatosa's getting some attention as the home of Joseph Hallows and Mark Lubinsky.

Hallows, a disbarred lawyer who looks like every mother's nightmare of a sexual predator, is facing charges for recent and past sexual assault and more. Lubinsky, a pediatric geneticist, was sentenced to 18 months for possession of child pornography.

Lubinsky is not so scary, either in looks or, I think, actions. He's a slight man with an odd gait who always seemed a little uncomfortable. I have a nodding acquaintance with him from my years of attending ethics seminars at the Medical College of Wisconsin, where he talked with obvious concern about subjects like end of life rituals with families of dying patients.

While his access to children made him a greater potential threat than Hallows, who apparently got to kids mainly through their mothers, I'm willing to hazard that it's because Lubinsky knows right from wrong and feared going down the path to where child pornography can lead that he arranged to be "caught" downloading files.

But this isn't about trying to figure out why educated men, men who, despite their mug shots, are like the ones we are married or related to, work with, and live near, harm children or dream about having sex with them.

It's about reminding us that the creepy looking guys in the Family Watchdog are a very small percentage of the people who commit sexual crimes involving children. The ones on the map are easy to guard against, whether they're 500 feet or 5,000 feet away from your home or school.

Two things to keep in mind. All convicted offenders are not the same. A 17 year old boy who had consensual sex with a 15 year old girlfriend is not the same as someone who rapes infants. And a man who looks at child porn is not the same as someone who creates it.

Most important to remember is that, depending on whose statistics you read, 80-90% of child molestation is committed by someone the child knows, which means someone you know.  Someone who hasn't been convicted or even accused.

Strangers are at the very bottom of the list that includes:

-Day care workers
-Youth counselors
-Bus drivers
-Boy Scout Leaders
-Team Coaches

The three-latte trickle down theory

County Government, Taxes

The Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors passed a budget today that will continue to provide some basic and essential services for the people who need help the most.

It will also raise county taxes.

Read more

The majority: right or wrong?

County Government, Politics

Yesterday (November 6), someone told me that my county supervisor, Jim “Luigi” Schmidt, voted against restoring some budget cuts for human services because Tosans, unlike people in other districts, only care about no new taxes.

I contacted Luigi, who clarified the misperception and his position. People in his district, he said, will accept some tax increases for good reasons—just not as many as the majority of supervisors were willing to vote for. Thee percent is one thing. More than that is another. His moderate position reflects this understanding of the will of his constituents.

Read more

Objectivity? Consider the source

Aging, Beauty, Politics

Nearly everyone "frames" what they report, putting it in a particular context of belief that favors their own viewpoint.

For example, a tax that only affects the very rich sounds like a good idea for the rest of us when it's called "the estate tax." Call it the "death tax," however, and we're all against it because, well, it sounds like those taxes are going to hit the rest of us just like death will.

The big buzz around a new health science report published Nov. 7 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that suggests that Vitamin D may slow aging and prevent aging related diseases is a case study in framing.

“These results are exciting because they demonstrate for the first time that people who have higher levels of vitamin D may age more slowly than people with lower levels of vitamin D,” says team leader Brent Richards, an endocrinologist. “This could help explain how vitamin D has a protective effect on many age-related diseases, such as heart disease and cancer. What's interesting is that there's a huge body of evidence that shows sunshine ages your skin—but it also increases your vitamin D levels. So, like many times in medicine, we find there's a trade-off.”

Dozens of sources reported the study this weekend, and nearly all reports clearly come from the same original source, probably a wire service, and included the paragraph above. But however similar the words may be, the headlines make us see different meanings and implications.

The most neutral headline from a Google search came from France, where Food (Europe)  proclaimed:
Live longer with vitamin D, study says

Most reports from the US and England jumped on a weird take best exemplified by Fox News:
Women Who Spend Time in the Sun May Age More Slowly, Study Says. (No mention that the researchers are talking about 10-15 minutes only of direct sun exposure.)

The American missed a bet when they delivered this pitch:
Wanna live longer? Take vitamin D pills

Fortunately, the Times of India got the Wisconsin frame right:
Milk may provide aging benefits

Now you know why so many scientists hate the news media: they just can't avoid the sexy frame that distorts the facts.

However, I'm sure the Times of India, my new source for all information, is the absolutely objective and just plain. . .right. Here's another health story they report, this time from the Universities of Pittsburgh and California:

Curvy women are cleverer, too: study

Curvy women have been admired for their sensual figures. But, a new study has found that ladies with large hips and small waists are cleverer too, than those with apple-shaped bodies. In fact, according to international researchers, women with an hourglass figure are not only intelligent, they also give birth to brighter children, The Sunday Times reported in London on Sunday.

"The fat around fuller hips and thighs holds higher levels of omega3 fatty acids which are essential for the growth of the brain during pregnancy," the researchers were quoted as saying.

Sometimes, they just get it right!

All these blessings


What a difference a day makes.

Yesterday, the yard was a half acre of leaves burying long grass, my lawnmower was broken, and the storm windows--the big old heavy wooden ones--were still hanging in the garage. My resident staff had managed to de-glob the gutters, but otherwise have been busy attending to high school work (some of which seems to have involved chasing orbs around a haunted mansion downtown, but that's another story).

Read more

Oh, grow UP redux


I know I said I wasn't stupid enough to watch the Forty-somethings Behaving Badly show "Private Practice." Apparently, I have no more self-control than the denizens of Oceanside.

Tonight's segment was called "In Which Sam Gets Taken For a Ride." But as usual, it's the hapless viewer who gets caught up in traffic.

No surprise here, but Dr. Addison, the neonatal surgeon who now delivers babies in swimming pools, and Dr. Violet, the neurotic shrink (shrinking Violet?!), have decided to have no-strings, sport sex with inappropriate men who also happen to be partners in their practice (Dr. Pete, crunchy granola alternative medicine man, and Dr. Cooper, whose specialty seems to be having sex with women he meets on the Internet).

The contorted logic Addison and Vi use to justify these decisions make it clear why they are in a medical show and not a legal one.

Meanwhile, other women who had sex nine months earlier are having babies.

The first, an immense fertility goddess with three hyperactive sons and a giant sloth for a husband, placidly pops out her baby with barely a grunt. So far, so good. But when it turns out that the baby is not the girl she expected but another boy, she shifts gears.

"You shove that baby right back in there and bring out a girl," she hollars. And she means it.

I half expected the accommodating doctors in this boutique practice to do as she asked. After all, she might have whole racks of babies in there from which to choose. But alas. Instead, Vi summons her psychoanalytic skills to say there must be a reason she had a boy, and that's because the world needs more good men.

Looking at Giant Sloth, Fertility Goddess sneers. Thank goodness one woman here is in touch with reality.

Actually, there seem to be plenty of good men in this segment.  In the waiting room are dozens of cops, all of whom look like male models, waiting for the wife of a fallen brother to give birth.

In the swimming pool. While having a simultaneous nervous breakdown. And screaming really a lot.

One of the cops holds some promise for Addison, who does that little thing she does with parting her lips, making a mouth, and raising an eyebrow, which was adorable the first two or three hundred times but is growing just a teensy bit old. For a moment, we think she may come to her senses and choose a man who is psychologically sound enough to be a police officer. But that would be too healthy.

Meanwhile, Dr. Sam, who doesn't know nothing about birthing babies but has a cell phone and an ex-wife (Dr. Naomi) who does, is trying to bandage a gunshot wound and deliver a baby at gunpoint. He has been lured to a convenience store, making a house call for a stripper patient with a skin rash, which doesn't sound like a medical emergency to me, but this is California.

I'm not even going to try to explain that, but suffice it to say that the woman in labor shot the man, who is her baby dady; forced the stripper to call Sam; and whapped Sam upside the head with the gun to persuade him to deliver her baby.

Read more

Angelina Jolie, cockroaches, and murder by MySpace


Playing pretend can be confusing, even for cockroaches, computers and celebrities. Sometimes, for ordinary people, it can be deadly.
Researchers created teensy robots that look a little like Matchbox RVs, and found they could influence the behavior of real cockroaches. At least, they could once saturated with a little Eau de Cockroach to make them more alluring.

More interestingly, the cockroaches were able to override the comput-roach's programming 39% of the time, according to today's Journal Sentinel.

Meanwhile, Angelina Jolie, who has never been know for her modesty or demureness, told the press that her nudity in the new film sensation Beowulf made her blush. Nevermind that it's virtual nudity brought to us by Animatrix technology.  Somehow, it's more real than real nudity.

Perhaps that's because the animators fleshed Jolie out to make her more sensuous. The discovery of breast falsification can be embarrassing, as anyone who was exposed for fraud in the era of home-style bra stuffing can tell you.

As to glamming things up, I've read Beowulf, and I'm telling you, Grendel's dam (mother) did NOT look like Jolie. But I guess if I were the mother of a monster trolling the banquet halls, swamps, and movie theaters, I'd pick Jolie to be my avatar, too.

Those stories seem odd and amusing. But the next story of electronically-mediated pretend is much closer to experiences we can relate to. And it's stomach-turning.

One month ago, Megan Meier, a not-quite-14-year-old, hung herself in her parents' basement near St. Charles, Missouri, when Josh, a boy she'd met in MySpace, stopped courting her and started saying cruel things. At first, he said he didn't want to be friends because people told him she wasn't nice to her friends. Then the whole piranha subculture among teens smelled blood and swarmed in to finish her off.

Distraught, Megan told her mother, "They are posting bulletins (surveys) about me. Megan Meier is a s***. Megan Meier is fat." It can take a long time to learn to handle those killer words, especially if one of them is true: Megan was fat. (As to the "sl" word, it's apparently so lethal that this blog software won't permit it to be written.)

She also struggled with depression. And the adults who made up Josh, neighbors and parents of a former friend, knew that.

From the police report of Megan's ex-friend's mother's statement:

"(She) stated in the months leading up Meier's daughter's suicide, she instigated and monitored a 'my space' account which was created for the sole purpose of communicating with Meier's daughter.

"(She) said she, with the help of temporary employee named ------ constructed a profile of 'good looking' male on 'my space' in order to 'find out what Megan (Meier's daughter) was saying on-line' about her daughter. (She) explained the communication between the fake male profile and Megan was aimed at gaining Megan's confidence and finding out what Megan felt about her daughter and other people.

"(She) stated she, her daughter and (the temporary employee) all typed, read and monitored the communication between the fake male profile and Megan …..

"According to (her) 'somehow' other 'my space' users were able to access the fake male profile and Megan found out she had been duped. (She) stated she knew 'arguments' had broken out between Megan and others on 'my space.' (She) felt this incident contributed to Megan's suicide, but she did not feel 'as guilty' because at the funeral she found out 'Megan had tried to commit suicide before.'"

If we can only be accountable when we are ourselves, it's time to stop playing pretend. A little dose of authenticity, anyone?

Some things change, others don't


The wind is howling, bringing in what looks to be a small storm. Perhaps this will be the first white Thanksgiving in a long time.

This is the first night before Thanksgiving in even longer that I'm not manning the stove. No giblets simmering for tomorrow's turkey dressing. No pies scenting the house with the exotic and familiar smells of mace, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. No cranberries popping in the old copper bottomed pan my mother cooked them in before me.
Her good china will stay in the cupboard above my refrigerator this year. She bought it one place setting at a time, starting before I was born. I remember when she got the last piece, the gravy boat: I must have been 10.

Read more

You MUST be in harmony!!!

Food, It's not easy


Read more

Get real. . . then again, maybe, don’t


From today’s (November 29, 2007) New York Times:

 “Yunice Kotake, of San Bruno, California, recently purchased a Fisher-Price Knows Your Name Dora Cell Phone. . . But a few days later, (Kotake and her husband) returned the play phone to a local Toys ‘R’ Us. . .”

Read more

Page Tools