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Rantings of a Crazed Soccer Mom
Monday, 22 August 2005
Ask Your Doctor About....

"I don’t want to run a marathon. I just want to go upstairs and give my grandson a bath.”

Remember that ad? A very nice fiftyish woman is happily playing with a two year old boy. She is free of pain because she takes Vioxx. This wonder drug has given her the ability to the simple things she enjoys doing.

Millions of people saw that commercial and asked their doctors about Vioxx. Merck, the pharmaceutical company that produced the drug, made lots of money.

Last year Merck withdrew Vioxx from the market because of links between taking Vioxx and an increase in heart disease and strokes. The Vioxx commercials disappared, to be replaced by commercials featuring lawyers asking “Have you or a loved one taken Vioxx and suffered these problems?”

Friday, the first of 4,000 law suits was decided. Texas widow Carol Ernst was awarded 250 million dollars for the wrongful death of her husband Robert, whose heart arhythmia was believed to be caused by taking Vioxx for eight months. The final amount of money Mrs. Ernst receives will be reduced to most likely a tenth of that award, but considering how many cases are out there waiting to be decided, it doesn’t bode well for Merck.

This is a very good thing.

The reason there are so many lawsuits claiming damage is because so many people took the drug. Why? It was advertised on television directly to consumers, who in turn asked their doctors to prescribe it. The results depended on the individual doctors, but a fair amount of physicians do write prescriptions for a particular drug when asked. And that’s what Vioxx was banking on.

But that strategy has come back to bite them in the butt.

I am hoping that all drug companies will take Merck’s legal troubles as a cue to completely re-think their advertising strategy. Despite the list of warnings, commercials for prescription drugs always make each one like some kind of magic elixir. Your cholesterol will go down, your heartburn will disappear, your bones will be stronger, your ugly yellow toe nails will grow in clear, your allergies will go away, you won’t get hot flashes, you won’t get pregnant, and of course, if you happen to be a man who needs a little help in the bedroom, you can get it up and keep it up and please that lovely woman of yours all night long. (in case of erections lasting four or more hours, seek immediate medical attention).

The truth is that these drugs can help but they can’t cure. They won’t work for every one who takes them. Plus they have side effects, some of which can be serious. (That toe nail drug can cause liver damage). The cost of advertising is included in the price of the drug, which just adds to the ever increasing cost of health care. The drug companies claim they are educating the consumer about certain health conditions, but who are they kidding? They’re in it to make money.

Perhaps the drug companies will decide that television advertising is not so great for business after all and go back to marketing exclusively to doctors. At the very least, we’ll be able to watch the news without the embarrassment of having to hear about erections lasting four hours.

Posted by judy5cents at 12:39 PM EDT
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Thursday, 18 August 2005
The Reviews Are In...
Since our beloved NewsWorld International channel bit the dust to make way for Al Gore’s Current TV, I’ve been scouring the web for reviews. I’ve found them.

Things don’t look good for this supposedly cutting edge sattelite channel.

Here’s what the critics are saying about Al’s attempt to re-invent television by broadcasting (and re-broadcasting and re-broadcasting and re-broadcasting) those seven minute documentaries called pods, aimed at 18 to 34 year olds:

Christopher Flickinger of Human Events Online:

“I’ve never seen a more mind-numbing television network than this one. Viewers could find more educational content on the back of a milk carton than they could by subjecting themselves to Current TV. “

Lena Berkowitz, Houston Chronicle

“On the first day of broadcasting, Current TV seemed a lot like a grown-up version of Sesame Street — without the Muppets.”

She goes on to note that the same pods were repeated dozens of times throughout the day.

Maureen Ryan of the Chicago Tribune:

“Ever have a teacher who tried way too hard to be ‘down’ with the kids? Who never knew that he was using out-of-date lingo or patronizing the intelligence of the people he wanted to befriend?

If you have a masochistic desire to spend hours with that kind of person, you could always tune into Current TV, a new cable channel that debuted in 20 million homes nationwide on Monday. (August 1, 2005)”

Heather Havrilesky of

“The hosts not only introduce each segment with inane, bubbly comments that make it sound far more fluffy and empty than it is, but they reappear after each segment to sum up their feelings about what happened. This is why we know that watching a pod about dating in Iran makes former Miss USA Shauntay Hinton realize 'how lucky I am to be free to do what the hell I wanna do! Yeah!'...As a result, tuning in to Current TV sometimes feels like going to see a moving documentary with a semiliterate preteen who insists on recasting the entire story in the shallowest of terms the second the credits start to roll."

I’ve watched snippets of Current TV since its debut (OK, I said earlier that I'd delete the channel, but I figure I should at least take a look to see if it improves) Here’s a few examples of cutting edge programming. After the birth of their daughter, a young couple discovers baby poop is smelly. Looking for real estate in New York, a young couple discovers that it’s outrageously expensive. After getting married, a young couple discovers they fight about money. After Paris Hilton’s Blackberry was stolen, Current TV staffer Jason Gunn discovers his phone number was posted on the web and he gets lots of weird phone calls.

After about two minutes of watching Current TV, I discover I want to watch something else.

My own opinion is that the Nothing Longer Than Seven Minutes format will kill this network. At best, Current TV provides something to watch during the three or four minutes of commercials showing on real television. If viewers are only clicking over and clicking back for three or four minutes at a time, they sure as hell aren’t going to stick around for the commercials. Not a good idea if you need to sell ad time to make money.

I’m predicting that Current TV will gone by September.

Posted by judy5cents at 11:24 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 18 August 2005 11:29 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 16 August 2005
What are the odds?
This past weekend my brother-in-law Steve won $100,000 in the Powerball Lottery. Not big money–my sister says it’s not enough to change their lives at all–but it’s better than a kick in the pants.

Now it just so happens that on that same weekend, I also bought tickets in the Powerball Lottery. I happened to be in South Carolina, which sponsors lottery games. North Carolina does not, although I understand the State Legislature is working on changing that.

I’m not a big fan of lotteries, but occasionally I will indulge in what I like to call my three dollar daydream. For the afternoon before the drawing, I know I have just as much chance of winning as anyone else does, and I can happily imagine all the things I’ll do with the money.

I always plan on giving a hefty chunk of it to charity, and to his credit, my brother-in-law says he'll do that too.

Steve bought ten tickets, so his odds of winning the $100,000 prize were ten out of 2,939,677. That’s .0000034%. Or to put it the other way round, it’s a 99.9999966% probability that he paid ten dollars for a worthless piece of paper.

Steve’s odds of winning the Powerball Grand Prize Jackpot were astronomical–ten out of 120,526,770. That was .000000008%.

So a person buying ten lottery tickets in the Powerball has a 99.999999992% chance of getting nothing (or sweet FA as my husband Nigel would put it).

It’s been said the lottery is a tax on stupid people. Or people who can’t do math. You don’t need a PhD in math to know that 99.999999992% is damn near 100% and that your chances of winning are about as good if you don’t buy a ticket.

But knowing that the odds are against them doesn’t stop people from buying tickets. I know my brother-in-law’s habit of spending five or ten dollars on the Powerball every other week is harmless and for him, it paid off. However, I’ve always believed lotteries are a sneaky way for the state to bring in money by promising people that they can win a hundred million dollars or more. Low income people are more inclined to spend money on lottery tickets and these are the people who can least afford it.

Anyway, now that I’ve gone over the odds of lotteries, I looked up the odds on other events.

The National Safety Council says that for a person born in 2002, the odds of dying from contact with poisonous snakes and lizards are 1 in 1,241,661. The odds of dying in a car accident or 1 in 228.

According to Gregory Baer, who wrote the book Life: The Odds And How To Improve Them, the odds of becoming president are 10 million to 1. The odds of writing a New York Times best seller are 220 to 1. (I find it hard to believe that I’m more likely to write a best seller than to die in a car accident) The odds of being hit by lightning are 567,000 to 1. The odds of getting away with murder are 2 to 1 against. The odds that you will be murdered are 18,000 to 1.

He also says that your odds of marrying a super model are 1 in 88,000. I’d say the odds improve significantly in your favor if you happen to be Rod Stewart.

I will leave you with the worst set of odds I found. If you are in your mid to late sixties and have smoked two packs a day since you were a teen-ager, your odds of developing lung cancer are one in seven. That’s 15%. But if you do get the disease, your chances of dying within five years are 85%.

Best bet--if you want to play the odds, skip the lottery, drive carefully and quit smoking. And forget about marrying a super model.

Posted by judy5cents at 8:03 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 16 August 2005 4:00 PM EDT
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Friday, 12 August 2005
Buddy, Can You Spare Some Time?

The Cape Fear Soccer Association is desperate to find a coach for my daughter’s soccer team. They need a volunteer and there aren’t any.

Yes I know. Why not me? Well, I just don’t want to do it. I don’t know anything about soccer and I’m not that patient with nine and ten year old girls. And I’m even less patient dealing with the complaints of the parents of nine and ten year old girls. It would be a disaster. I’m willing to help out at practice, but I am not qualified to coach. I believe I will do more harm than good.

So here we all are, wanting our children to participate in soccer and get all the benefits of competitive sports, but no one wants to do the work. We’re all waiting for Somebody Else to come forward.

I don’t know what happens if that Somebody Else never shows up. I expect our team will be disbanded. Hopefully the girls will go to other teams who have coaches and space for them. If not, I guess I’ll have to change my name of my blog to Rantings of a Crazed Former Soccer Mom.

I believe this situation is indicative of the attitudes of most Americans. We’re quite happy to reap the benefits of a volunteer’s efforts (in this case, coaching our daughters’ soccer team) but we’re not all that keen on volunteering ourselves.

Which brings me to the subject of our country’s all volunteer army. As citizens of this country, we are quite willing to accept the benefits provided by young men and women putting their lives on the line for our safety. We talk about how much we appreciate their sacrifice and put yellow ribbon magnets on our cars, but very few us are willing to go into the service ourselves, so recruiters are having a very difficult time meeting quotas.

I grew up during the Viet Nam era and always believed that the draft was evil and wrong. And I still do. But it also seems a bit selfish and arrogant on our part to assume that Somebody Else will make the sacrifices to protect our country.

We have it pretty easy in the U.S. Although I can’t see the draft ever being re-instated, it seems like more should be required of us, that we all sacrifice something for our country. I doubt if it will ever happen, but I’d like to see some kind of required community service when a person comes of age. Serve in the army, serve in the hospitals, serve in the schools, serve in the soup kitchens. Do something. Give back. Be that Somebody Else and do it.

As long as it’s not coaching nine and ten year old girls.

Posted by judy5cents at 10:07 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 10 August 2005
The Pottery Barn Rule
"You break it, you buy it."

I believe it was Colin Powell who cited the "Pottery Barn Rule" to the Bush administration as it was preparing to invade Iraq. No one listened of course.

Team Bush is listening now. Recent polls have shown that a majority of Americans do not support the war in Iraq and believe the troops should be brought home. We've broken Iraq and now we're just going to leave it in pieces on the ground.

Iraq was declared a sovereign nation more than a year ago, but the provisional government has yet to approve a constitution. The police force is woefully inadequate. Insurgents have infiltrated its ranks along with killing recruits as they wait in line to join up. The Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds can't agree among themselves and there's growing support for an repressive Islamic theocracy similar to Iran. Many of Iraq's precious antiquities dating back to the dawn of civilization were stolen and destroyed. There's still not enough clean water or power to supply the population.

Right now, American troops are about the only force keeping Iraq together. Once they leave, it will surely dissolve into civil war.

It wasn't like that when we got there.

I don't see any way out of this. If we stay, more American soldiers will die. If we leave, even more Iraqis will die, and the freedoms that we're so proud of ourselves for giving them will disappear in a repressive extremist regime.

Anyone got any ideas?

Posted by judy5cents at 2:41 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 11 August 2005 1:00 PM EDT
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Monday, 8 August 2005
Good-bye Peter Jennings

When Peter Jennings announced he had lung cancer back in April, I had a feeling he wouldn’t be back. But like everyone else, I didn’t expect him to go so quickly.

Of the three network news anchors, it was Jennings’ low key delivery I preferred. And as I look back on the last 20 years, whenever I remember any sort of major news events, it always has a Peter Jennings voiceover.

Who’d have thought back in 1985 that all three news anchors (Jennings, along with Tom Brokaw for NBC and Dan Rather of CBS) would be delivering the news well into the next century? And that they’d all leave the desk within a year of each other?

I don’t know who will replace Peter Jennings, and I don’t really care. As I’ve said before, I don’t like watching the American news networks, the coverage is too biased. Not liberal or conservative. Just catering to American tastes and interests.

I’m inclined to believe that whoever officially replaces Jennings will not be in the chair for twenty or thirty years. The era of the iconic news anchor is over. With so many news outlets, and so many choices, we can pick and choose who and what we watch. There’s no need for a father figure news anchor whom we’ve gradually grown to trust over the course of three generations. We’re not that patient and loyal any more.

I will adjust to this change, as I always have. But I sure will miss Peter Jennings.

Posted by judy5cents at 2:26 PM EDT
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Friday, 5 August 2005
Earlier this week, there was a special election held in the Second Congressional District of Ohio, where I once resided and voted. This district encompasses the East Side of Greater Cincinnati, including upscale suburbs like India Hill as well as the backwaters of Clermont County. The attitudes are conservative. The politics are Republican.

Former Republican Representative Rob Portman always garnered 70 percent of the vote in this district. The Republican Party never had to worry about the Second District. It was as solidly Republican as you could get. They could get this win blind-folded with two hands tied behind their backs.

Not so fast.

The Democratic candidate in this election was not your usual bleeding heart liberal. Paul Hackett, a lawyer from Indian Hill, was a gun-owning Marine who served in the Iraq War and he proved to be a formidable opponent for the Republican, Jean Schmidt, a conservative Republican from Loveland. Instead of Portman’s 70 percent, Schmidt had to squeak by with just 52 percent of the vote.

Okay, winning is winning, and coming close only counts in horse shoes and hand grenades. And it was an off year election. The turnout was light. The Republican party was divided over a bitterly fought primary in June. And darn those Democrats, they went and found themselves a candidate that would appeal to Republicans. The nerve of those people.

Even without the victory it proves that a heavily Republican district can be swayed by the right candidate. Maybe it’s just a fluke, but I think not. Political attitudes shift slowly. It took a long time for the Republicans to take over both houses of Congress, it will take just as long for the Democrats to regain that lost ground.

Anyway, now the Republicans know the Second District is not necessarily in the bag.

Posted by judy5cents at 7:20 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 5 August 2005 8:40 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 3 August 2005
Where Have All The Low Carbs Gone?

Atkins Nutrionals has gone belly up, filing for bankruptcy this week. The high protein/low carbohydrate craze is now officially over and we can all eat bread and pasta again.

Of course, we always could eat bread and pasta. For a while, we just chose not to.

Like nine percent of the country’s adult population, I followed the Atkins diet. In February of 2003, my husband told me about a co-worker who lost a whole lot of weight following Atkins. And it got rid of his gas too. Since I’d been suffering through noxious emissions for some time, I said “let’s go for it.”

So we resolved to follow the Atkins principals to the letter, which was like being told everything we knew about food was wrong. Meat is good. Bacon is good. Even pork rinds are good. Eat as much as you want. Instead you must limit the fruits and the vegetables.

And we did it. I started every morning with a large helping of sliced ham and melted cheese. I lived off Monterey Jack cheese as it had 0 carbs. For dinner, I painstakingly measured out the vegetables, heavy on the collard greens and cabbage. Carrots, onions, and green peppers were high in carbs, so we substituted squash and brocoli and green onions. Pasta, rice and potatoes were so carb laden that we avoided them like the plague.

The pounds disappeared. I lost five pounds the first week and kept right on losing. Eventually, I got down to 128, a weight I had not seen since I was under 30. During that time we feasted on meat. We’d go to Golden Coral and have two and three helpings of steak, with vegetables and nothing else. It was great. Feel full all the time and lose weight.

Looking back on it all, the Aktins Diet was a lot like making a deal with the devil (which is not to imply that Atkins Nutrionals is in any way Satanic, of course). You get what you want, but in the end you’re worse off than when you started. Because there’s a catch. That catch is you can never eat carbs again. You have to eat meat and cheese for the rest of your life.

No one can do that. It’s like eating in black and white. You miss the cake and the bread and the pasta. The problem is, once you start eating it again, you’re still in the habit of eating all that meat and fat as well. Carbs and fats together make you gain weight fast. Before you know it, you’ve gained back all the weight you lost and then some.

And that’s what happened to me.

I’m back with the tried and true Weight Watchers, of which I’m a lifetime member. They always take me back and they always have a sensible diet which works if you follow it. Unfortunately, it does require such pesky annoyances as portion control and exercise. But I’m back to having cereal with half a banana for breakfast again, which is a lot easier to take than the meat and cheese.

I know I can’t go back. But I sure wish I could.

Posted by judy5cents at 12:58 PM EDT
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Monday, 1 August 2005
I Want My ITV!
It's a sad day at our house. NewsWorld International (NWI), the sattelite channel which brought us the ITV news from London every night at 6:30 pm, is no more.

Early this morning NWI was replaced by the zippy Current Channel. This is a network that "shows young adults what's going on in their world in their own voice with a substantial portion of content created by viewers like you."

Viewers like me? I'm 49. I like getting a different country's perspective on the news. I don't especially want programs hosted by pretty young twenty-somethings telling me all about hip industrial style housing, or the best way to ask for a raise, or updates on the latest technical gadetry.

The worst part is that this new network is the brainchild of Al Gore, who's got about as much street cred with the 18 to 34 year old demographic as I do. I've always figured young people are out there enjoying their lives, working exciting jobs, going to clubs and hanging out with their pretty young friends. They don't have time to watch this lame excuse for programming, even if they do have a chance to create "a substantial portion of content."

To me this sounds like a glorified cable access show. It's an excellent chance for all those techno-nerds out there to show off their shakey home-made documentaries, but who in their right mind would want to watch it?

Only "America's Funniest Home Videos" has had any success with the format of viewers providing a substantial portion of the content.

NWI ran for eleven years. Millions of people throughout the world depended on it for the non-American viewpoint on various world events. In fact, there were a number of world news stories we'd never have known about had it not been for NWI.

Current will crash and burn. But I expect we'll never know, as we'll be deleting this channel from our favorite channel setup. But when it does goes belly up, I hope I hear about it.

Posted by judy5cents at 9:18 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 1 August 2005 1:02 PM EDT
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Friday, 29 July 2005
Come Here Often?

Hello web surfer. What brings you to my neck of cyberspace?

Don’t tell me–you want to know if CNN American Morning’s Soledad O’Brien is married to her co-anchor Miles O’Brien. (He isn’t. Her husband’s name is Brad Raymond.)

Or you might be looking for something about Natalie Holloway. I’m sure there’s some website that’s following the case of the missing eighteen year old in Aruba, but it’s not this one.

Yesterday, 18 people came here through some variation of the search criteria “soledad+o’brien+married+to+miles+o’brien.” Earlier this week someone did that search from NASA Headquarters in Houston, Texas. All I could think of was that there’s a shuttle mission going on right now and someone’s tying up the computers wanting to know about the pretty anchor on CNN. Shouldn't they all be monitoring sattelite photos for damage or something?

I’m often amazed at the search criteria that gets people from the Google search site to my blog. Someone in Poland did the search “barbara+jenna+bush+corporal+punishment.” I don’t know much about that, although I can tell you George Bush told Dr. Phil that his daughters were never spanked, just sent to their room. Sorry, but you're welcome to your fantasies.

There’s always been a problem of accidentally finding porn when you’re looking for something completely innocent. I’ve had many visitors with the opposite problem–looking for porn and finding me instead. Like some guy in Silver Spring, Maryland who was looking for “nude+photos+of+your+mom.” I find that search a bit confusing. Nude photos of whose mom? His? Mine? Yours? Perhaps he was looking for a website where you could submit nude pictures of your mom. A pretty sick sounding enterprise, but it just might take off.

I take offense at the “beloit+college+sucks" searcher from Minnesota. I haven’t been back in nearly 30 years but it didn’t suck, at least not very much. I have some very fond memories of my time there. I’m assuming some Beloit co-ed must have dumped him. Or perhaps he's a student there and just doesn't like the curriculum.

Anyway, I’m grateful for whatever brings you here. And I sure hope you come back soon.

Posted by judy5cents at 9:27 AM EDT
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