Stressed Out? Take Control.

. Sunday, August 30


In September, the Social Science and Medicine journal will contain the results of a long-term study that confirmed what we’ve all known – that it’s less stressful to actually be laid off from a job than it is to worry about losing a job. Worriers, those not knowing if they’ll have a job for the next year, reported poorer physical and mental health.

jobworriesgalloppollThe study, done in two phases between 1986 – 1989 and 1995 – 2005, concludes that this type of worry is not related to the present economy and it may mean that more people are struggling to cope with higher levels of stress while suffering adverse affects of the emotional turmoil as a result.

A Gallup Poll survey done during the last week of August shows that the level of concern for the possibility of cut hours, reduction of wages and reduction of benefits is much higher than the second phase of the study. While it may be splitting hairs, the question becomes one of whether the results of the study would be the same if done during the current economic depression as the poll suggests.

Watching the headlines during the week, the same sort of conflict of supposed facts is obvious. One will say that there are signs that the depression is easing, that consumer confidence is up and that there were fewer new unemployment claims. The next bunch of headlines say that what rose the month before dropped again and that more businesses are closing. Evidence itself, the conflicting news supports the results of the Gallop poll, that there is far more concern of uncertainty than ever before.

The next question becomes one of whether the “good news” is manufactured to manipulate the public into spending money on crap instead of necessities, despite the reality of the majority of people with very little money. In order to survive, most people are learning a very valuable lesson in delayed gratification.

If there is any hope to be found in today’s current state of affairs, it will be that the majority of the population regains control and breaks free of the “sheep” mentality that has plagued this country for the last century. There is power in numbers, and if the majority of people actually waited to purchase something until they had the money instead of relying on credit, equilibrium will return with the power of people at the top of the pecking order.

Aug 26, 2009: Ted Kennedy Dies

. Wednesday, August 26



Ted Kennedy died early this morning, the last of the Kennedy dynasty. Rest in peace, Senator. Rest in peace.

Wal-Mart Assistant Manager Beaten with Bat

. Sunday, August 23


George Freibott, an assistant manager at a New Haven, CT Wal-Mart store, decided to give a written reprimand last Monday to one of his workers for poor job performance, the second reprimand in a few days. The unnamed worker grabbed an aluminum baseball bat off the shelf and beat Freibott a dozen times, breaking an arm and leaving several bruises. The worker will be charged with first-degree assault and breach of peace, when they find him.

With 1.1 million on its payroll, Wal-Mart is the largest employer in the US, and is in the headlines often. In July, the behemoth decided to cut its list of covered prescription drugs included in the employee health plan to force employees to use $4 generic drugs instead.

Not long before that, the company implemented a point system; after 6 points, the employee is terminated, with no consideration given for circumstances of absences or alleged mistakes made on the job. The people hired by the company for the role of assistant manager are not trusted enough to even put together employee schedules or do time clock overrides. In effect, Wal-Mart is paying for the truism “you get what you pay for” yet again with assistant managers expected to put in 70 hours a week for little compensation.

Add this to the notoriously underpaid and overworked workforce who can be fired on the spot if the word “union” is even thought, and you have the recipe for disaster.

That Wal-Mart is such a large employer with the strength of solid financial reports in an unstable economy gives the corporation the “right” to write its own rules of engagement, and it does so without restraint. More than once, I’ve heard it said, “Sam Walton must be rolling in his grave.”

Apple vs AT&T vs Google re: iPhone App

. Saturday, August 22


This particularly long-time headliner of a story continues to saturate tech sites, blogs and newspapers as it becomes clear that it is the consumer that suffers when monopolies can’t seem to play well together.

GrandCentral came to be when it’s developers decided to offer a free phone number/voice mailbox – sans any telco – to the homeless, a great idea that allowed various services to communicate with the people that so needed their help. GrandCentral grew to become an online application that could fill many needs. One number that will ring all your phones, a central voice mail, a safe and private way to give out your phone number and make calls without the risk of your real number landing on the lists of telemarketers.

Google sucks up GrandCentral, adds in voice mail transcription and SMS and creates smartphone applications, knowing that there are quite a few people who use their smartphone much like they do their computer to stay connected while away from home.

Rating second in the field of numerous smartphones because of its lack of business savvy though quite strong in the general market, creating an iPhone Google Voice application was a logical move. That logical move has turned into a media mud-wrestling match that pits Apple against AT&T against Google to the point where the FCC has no choice but to become involved. How they figure to stop monopolies from monopolizing is now the question.

Apple says that it didn’t reject the Voice app outright, but is mulling it over due to privacy concerns. The Voice app will upload all the contacts on the iPhone to the Web version of the application, located on Google servers. This time, Apple and AT&T aren’t in cahoots, neither contacted the other to discuss the Voice app, but AT&T, it is revealed, is the only cell phone carrier that does not allow VoIP. Apple contends that allowing the iPhone Voice app will confuse us stupid users that will not be able to figure out what to do having two voice mail apps, SMS apps and phone calling capability.

In the end, Apple is cutting off its nose by not allowing this privacy-protecting service on users’ cherished iPhones. AT&T is now forced to reconsider its ban on VoIP, though the calls Voice makes to connect phone numbers happens over traditional phone lines and not VoIP. And, Google has bought sympathy and time to fix up their growing mountain of services that don’t work together.

Too big for their britches, I’d say. I want my iPhone to do what I want it to do, and that includes using Google Voice!

Life Makes Us Crazy

. Sunday, August 16


According to Stephen Ilardi, a psychologist at the University of Kansas and author of "The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression without Drugs" (DeCapo Press, 2009), our lifestyle is overflowing with risk factors for mental illness. Compared to cavemen, he suggests that our ‘modern life’ continually stress responses, which causes inflammation in certain parts of our brain.

“Like heart disease and insulin resistance, mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, depression, autism, anxiety and bipolar disorder have all been linked to inflammation. And the prevalence of many of these illnesses has increased in lockstep with modernization,” Ilardi said.

In order to treat depression without drugs, Ilardi says to:

  1. Balance Omegas – our current diet plots Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acids at 16:1 when they should be 1:1, a prime cause of a depressive response.
  2. Get more sleep – With the level of stress in our daily lives, it takes 8-10 hours at the least to rejuvenate.
  3. Seek social support – our self-esteem suffers, Ilardi says, because it is impossible to be the best at anything with 6.5 million people on the planet. So, narrow that down by finding a niche community.
  4. Say “no” to ruminating – focus is good, but fixation is not, and it becomes more common when we are alone, the usual state of being in developed countries.
  5. Take a walk – 90 minutes of exercise a week is equal to a steady dose of Zoloft.
  6. Get out in the sun – Vitamin D produced by being in the sun is an anti-inflamatory.
  7. Develop a world view – take the time to understand the world through religion, philosophy or science. The global point of view will ward of mental illness.

Image courtesy of

Inbox: The Fascist Threat?

. Thursday, August 13


OK people, this worries me. In my Inbox today was an email that said,

7 Ways We Can Fight Back Against the Rising Fascist Threat
Why the right-wing extremism must be stopped in its tracks or else we face the threat of outright violence and goon rule.

The loud and raucous “town hall” meetings have turned into the threat of Fascism for the future of our country, likened to the scare tactics used by playground bullies.

I haven’t been following the media circus around the Health Care Reform debate. All I know is that I am employed and without health care, and quite frankly, that scares the shit out of me. This ol’ clunker of a body has run smoothly so far, but just how long will my luck – and the laws of probability – hold out?

Am I looking for a handout? No. Am I selfish for molding my views on the subject of healthcare reform around my own situation? Perhaps.

But one thing I am for certain not doing is using illogical, emotional, extremist verbiage to push my point of view onto someone else, whether it be one person or every citizen in the grand United States of America.

What, doesn’t diplomacy work here at home? That there are such strong insults coming from both sides of the debate is a clear signal that much more work is needed before any laws are passed. Duh.

Talk with me, not at me. I will do the same.

‘Concealed Weapon’ Takes on New Meaning

. Sunday, August 9


Meet George Vera. This 25 year old, 500 pound Texan is so overweight that he was able to effectively hide a 9mm pistol in his rolls of fat.

He hid the 9mm, in fact, through a strip search and processing at his arrest, again at the city jail and yet again Harris County Jail where he was held on the charge of illegal sales of copied CDs. The officers never found that gun.

Finally, while taking a shower, Vera admitted having the gun. Then he was charged with the possession of a firearm in a correctional facility.

The gun was not loaded.

Immigration: Manipulation at its Best

. Thursday, August 6


It was back in the years of the beginning of the Industrial Revolution that discrimination against immigrants was born. Factory owners would recruit workers from other countries to work in their factories. Innocent, if you consider that the agrarian culture structure had not yet declined enough to warrant the mass exodus to cities that will come, and there was not enough of a labor pool in place to draw from.

Once capitalists invested in manufacturing machinery, the two other costs of production – labor and raw materials – become the dickering points that directly impact the bottom-line profit margin. In the end, it was far easier to reduce labor costs than get much of a break in raw materials, especially when immigrants would come to work for pennies on the dollar earned by the workers already manning the machines in the factories.

In order to control the labor force, industrialists would import far more people than actually needed and blatantly announced to existing workers that they will work more and accept less pay or they would lose their jobs to the immigrants, which were more than happy to accommodate.

Discrimination was born, raised and matured in the drive for higher profit margins.

This scenario is no different today than it was 100 or so years ago. In fact, the whole immigration system is set up as a means for employers to import cheap labor. Discrimination, along with the accompanying cultural stress, grows as the economy drops and reducing labor costs becomes paramount to a business to stay afloat.

“The jobs that [immigrants] take for the most part are the jobs that not many other populations are reading and willing to do — very taxing and very high-risk jobs, very low-paying and without many benefits,” said Dr. Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola, founding director of the Center for Reducing Health Disparities at the University of California-Davis Health System. Based on this argument, the good doctor believes it is important to increase immigrant access to education and health care for the 44.3 million people of Latin decent now living in the US.

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services' Texas Service Center in Dallas outlines the process. To bring an immigrant in to do a job, an employer has to prove that they couldn’t find an American suitable for the job and has to agree to pay the prevailing wage. The immigrant has to have the skills and ability to perform the job that Americans don’t or have an extraordinary ability. According to their numbers, there were 235,000 employer initiated immigrant applications submitted in 2007, 104,000 in 2008, and fewer than 36,000 so far this year.

So, you have the intellectuals saying that immigration has increased and needs attention and the government saying that immigration has significantly decreased. Both groups appear to have their heads stuck in the sand as neither considers the fact that employers don’t always follow the procedures or rules! There wouldn’t be massive immigration raids on factories resulting in huge deportations if they did.

Think about this before you start jumping up and down in rage over the immigration issue. The immigrants were manipulated into believing they could come to the US for a better life just as much as you were manipulated into believing that they came here to take your job.

Lay the blame on where it belongs: on the business owners greedily and myopically focused on only their profit margin.

Marines Cut Social Networking Access

. Tuesday, August 4


The US Marines have decided to block all social networking sites from its networks, effective immediately. The driving force behind the new ban is the fear of info leakage and the risk to operation and communications security. In contrast, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have an active presence on Twitter, the DoD is setting up a new site complete with social networking tools, and the Army allows access to Facebook on all its bases.

Now it all boils down to “mission critical need” whether the Marines will allow Web 2 access while continuing to offer its own brand of social networking within its networks.

Absent from the announcement to ban social networking is the consideration of the Marines themselves. The rules of war have changed over the years, it’s certainly not your daddy’s Army, and all the tech advances in communication has offered much more than just a pen and paper with which to write home. While it may be argued that constant communication with “home” is a distraction that soldiers can’t afford, so can you argue that the closer ties to “home” ease worry and therefore a much larger distraction.

Let’s consider those soldiers on the ground putting their asses on the line first and foremost. What do you say?

Mozart Pieces Found

. Sunday, August 2


On display in the Salzburg home of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart are two pieces of newly discovered music never seen before. As a violinist who spent many years struggling with Mozart, I can attest that these are indeed Mozart pieces. By the way they look, I won’t be trying these pieces any time soon either. He outdid himself with these two.

If the Shoe Fits…