Sunday, September 30, 2007

Opinion Piece III

If you follow the news then you know that the toys in your house may contain a great deal of lead paint and that the pet food you serve to your dog or cat may have harmful chemicals in it. What you may not know is why this is the case or what we can do about it. The following essay is a "Visual Rhetoric" essay which attempts to explain this current leading news story. A "visual rhetoric" essay is one in which we were to use images as part of our story telling. Images can be a very important part of our communication.


More often than not, when you look at a product to see where it was made you’ll see “Made In China” on the label. It is a fact of our global economy that China has a massive manufacturing infrastructure and has dominated that segment of the global economy for several decades. The Chinese, with an artificially devalued yen, cheap labor, and a robust manufacturing infrastructure, supply much of the products we use every day and enjoy a massive trade surplus with the United States. Many of these products wouldn’t surprise us, like small plastic toys and low-end electronics. What may be surprising is to learn that China supplies many high end products, and even food products. China is a leading exporter of: rice, wheat, potatoes, corn, peanuts, tea, millet, and barley…apples, oilseeds, pork and fish (U.S. Dept. of State).

Because of the recent press around the safety of Chinese products, this issue has come to the forefront for both the American consumer, and the US government, whose many responsibilities include the protection of the consumer. Toys with lead paint are being recalled ( Tainted pet food products are killing dogs and cats (Barboza). A high-level Chinese official was executed for drug safety testing fraud (Schwartz) These and other occurrences (e.g., toothpaste, tires, mattresses, etc.) have made it clear that China does not have the legislative and enforcement infrastructure required to ensure that the products they ship are safe and meet minimum safety standards. In fact, it may be entirely possible that China does not want to have these safeguards in place, as it will raise the costs of goods exported from China and may erode their competitive advantage in the market place.

Recent figures place the trade surplus China enjoys with the United States at $24.97 billion in August 2007, the second-highest monthly level on record. (NY It is these enormous amounts of money that China necessarily wants to protect, and any change to the status quo would be viewed as potentially damaging to the Chinese economy.
In fact, the tainted pet food scare of several months ago potentially cost Chinese industry millions of dollars. Many brands of pet food products were found to have industrial chemicals in them and several dogs and cats were killed as a result. This, in itself, would be a terrifying prospect. However, the reality may be much worse. Many believe that these products were PURPOSEFULLY contaminated to bring them up to nutritional requirements.

Now, regulators with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are examining the possibility that melamine was intentionally mixed into the wheat gluten in China as a way to bolster the apparent protein content and to meet pet food requirements, according to a person briefed on the investigation (Barboza).

However, the cost to China is negligible when compared to the possible impact of the current Mattel recall. Potentially, billions of dollars worth of Mattel toys may contain high levels of lead paint, even though the use of lead-based paint has been outlawed for several years. In fact, since June 6, 2007 Mattel has recalled over $430 million – this compared to $130 million in recalls for ALL of 2006 (Ng). The total of all products withdrawn from American shelves so far this year is over $1 billion (Ng). What these figures don’t speak to is the dramatic health effects that these toys may have on American children. Lead is known to cause learning disabilities and birth defects – enough to where lead in paint was outlawed.

There are many different health effects associated with elevated blood lead levels. Young children under the age of six are especially vulnerable to lead's harmful health effects, because their brains and central nervous system are still being formed. For them, even very low levels of exposure can result in reduced IQ, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorders, behavioral problems, stunted growth, impaired hearing, and kidney damage. At high levels of exposure, a child may become mentally retarded, fall into a coma, and even die from lead poisoning (National Safety Council).
Although the Chinese government has taken several steps of late, many argue that these steps are just window-dressing – or an effort of damage control to the reputation of Chinese products. What is especially troublesome is that China does not acknowledge that there is a widespread problem.

China, while conceding that regulation needs to be improved, has insisted that most of its products are safe. The government takes seriously media reports questioning the safety of Chinese goods and has "begun enforcing a very strict examination and inspection procedure,'' President Hu Jintao said at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Sydney on Sept. 6. Hu said 99 percent of China's exports meet international quality standards (Ng).

Yet, 1% of potentially $300 billion in merchandise is still $3 billion in merchandise. Clearly, the Chinese are diminishing the magnitude of their problem. I would argue that China is neither motivated to enact significant changes, nor are they capable. China, although a massive and growing economic power, is still behind the rest of the industrial powers in many ways. They appear to be ill equipped to handle many of these regulatory pressures that countries like the US, England, Japan, etc. are able to enact with respect to consumer protection. In fact, it is becoming increasingly evident that the US government is no longer sure that the Chinese can regulate their products properly and some congressmen are starting to say we should do it for them. Rep. Mike Ferguson, R-N.J., reiterated that companies that manufacture their products in China will need to ensure they meet federal safety regulations. He adds, “If they don’t, I believe Congress must give federal regulators the authority to ensure that our kids’ toys won’t actually harm them” (

This regulation, whether done in China, or at home, will have the ultimate effect of forcing the American consumer to pay higher prices to get the products they crave. However, a silver lining of this may be a return to “Made in USA” purchasing. It is entirely conceivable that clever marketers will spin this current environment to something akin to: “Buy American, Buy Safe”. In fact, according to the Anholt Nation Brands Index, “China dropped to 37 out of 38 nations, ahead of Indonesia, in the second quarter in a ranking of how favorably consumers view a product based on its origin” (Ng). Will this lead to people buying less from China? Will this lead to more companies going to other manufacturing locations for their products? Ultimately, the consumer will have the final say as they always do.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Man Among Girls

I was a big deal last night - a really big deal. It seems as though the Girl Scouts really like it when men get involved and volunteer and as I received my troop leader pin last night, I was the only man up on stage. You see, I told Cassie if she wanted to join I would get involved too. I am a big fan of scouting and the ideals that it teaches, so I would do anything if she would join.
So it seems, I may have sold my soul....or at least, my free time.
I am now the troop leader for Troop 8459 Daisy Scouts. Cassie and 4 other girls (currently) are in my troop. I've taken their online overview training and hope to get more training soon, because I have no clue what's going on. I do know, however, that the principles of Girl Scouting are the same principles that I want Cassie and the rest of the kids to have, so I am completely on board. We are going to have some fun, as the learn the Girl Scout Law and Girl Scout Promise and while we do activities that attempt to reach one of the 4 goals of girl scouting:
*** Develop to their full potential.
*** Relate to others with increasing understanding, skill, and respect.
*** Develop a meaningful set of values to guide their actions and to provide for sound decision-making.
*** Contribute to the improvement of society.
Aren't those goals that we all have for our girls?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Opinion Piece II

The following essay was written for class as a review of the movie, "The Ad and The Ego". I don't recommend the movie, and you'll understand why if you read my essay.

The Ad and the Ego: Unconscious Mumbo Jumbo

I knew this movie was doomed when a commentator used the word unconscious when he meant subconscious – as in “advertising affects the unconscious mind”. The creators of “The Ad and The Ego” would have us believe that all of the world’s ills are caused by advertising and knowing this will remove the power that ads have over us. This is clearly an unfinished hypothesis and the authors do nothing to complete it. In fact, they offer no solutions, at all, other than espousing an unoriginal argument that power holders utilize advertising to bend us to their will and ultimately support their powerbase.

Unfortunately, the authors defend their position with sociologists that seem to be unable to communicate anything other than the rhetoric expected of those sitting on the “left” side of the spectrum. In fact, I would not be surprised if their argument would be silenced should an administration be in office that more aligned with their political ideology.

The above notwithstanding, there are aspects of a society that is constantly bombarded with sounds bites that last anywhere from fifteen to thirty seconds that we should look to address. Our “MVT-ized” culture seems to be unable to pay attention to anything for more than short periods. If something challenges us to think, we seem to be overpowered by it and quickly turn to something else. Our news is delivered without substance. We are told what to think without challenging it. We are numb to the constant barrage that we are under. However, the problem isn’t with “advertising” per se, rather a culture that demands immediate gratification and is largely unwilling to work for the things that we want. Any media delivered in a way that is counter to the “I want it with no effort” criteria is rejected. Advertisings fault? I don’t think so.

In fact, advertising takes advantage of knowing what we want and delivering it in a way that we’ll accept. It is SUPPOSED to generate a need response and cannot do this without making us first feel that we are missing something. Companies are SUPPOSED to sell products, creating markets for their products when needed. People in power are SUPPOSED to want to remain in power. However, this doesn’t mean that we need to be automatons, powerless to the onslaught of advertising as the creators of the movie seem to think we are. In fact, should more people come to the realization that we are powerful and that we do have the ability to filter what we see, control what we think, and determine what stimuli we allow into our bodies, our culture would grow by leaps and bounds.

Until we exercise this ability, and our bodies which are accustomed to sitting in front of the television, we’ll continue to respond to the emptiness that is delivered in short sound- and video-bites.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A Day Late And A Pound Short

Because I wanted to blog about Angie's birthday party yesterday, I did not blog my weekly fitness update. I thought I would do that today particularly because it was a tough weekend. Not only was the Goose very hard to turn down on Sunday, we had two birthday cakes this weekend, and one trip to Ruby Tuesday's for Angie's birthday on Friday. Lastly, since I needed to use my "time" at the gym on Saturday for clandestine shopping, I only worked out three times. My goal is to get to the gym a minimum of three times a week, but that fourth session of Saturday is important because I can stay a long time a get a killer workout in.

All told, however, I am mostly pleased with the week. Yes, I was out of range for my nutrition this past weekend, but I was really good during the week and didn't gain a pound. I didn't lose any weight, either, but given the week - I'll take it.

I worked out this morning and ate right yesterday, so I'm right back on track.


Monday, September 24, 2007

I've Been Living A Lie...

...several, in fact. I've been lying to my wife and kids for a while now, and it's taken a toll. I've not been sleeping real well and I feel like I'm physically falling apart. I can't do it anymore and I'm thankful that I don't have to. We celebrated Angie's 40th birthday last night with a monster surprise party and it was great, but I'm glad it's finally over.

About a month ago, Angie's friends and I started conspiring to pull this off. Carey helped secure the location and Jessie was the mechanism to get her there. There rest was mine. I catered the party with Mexican food from the Blue Goose (Angie's favorite restaurant). I ordered a bounce house to keep the many kids busy so the adults could have a good time. I had a trip to Sam's Club for drinks with Bob (Angie thought I was working out - even dumped water on my head to make it look like sweat). Dylan and I did the rest of the shopping while we were "hunting" before the party.

Almost everyone showed and everybody had a good time. The food was outstanding (enchiladas, fajitas, and quesadilla bar - made to order) and we even had a little entertainment as Justin wrote an original song for his mom and played it at the party. I don't think there was a dry eye in the place when he did.

Everything went real well and she got the 40th birthday surprise party that she had dreamed about. Me - I'm just glad its over. I've slept better already.


Friday, September 21, 2007

Happy Birthday, Sweetheart

Today is Angie's 40th birthday. I think she is handling it ok and why shouldn't she? She is as good looking today as she has ever been. She's as whole a person today as she ever has. I'm guessing she is happy and mostly content.

I just hope she knows what she means to me. I never imagined loving someone they way I love her. In fact, I never imagined another human being making me want to be more of a man - to be a better person. Angie does that to me.

They say that 40 is the new 30. I can see that. I can also see that 40 is just a 4 with a zero after it. I think that's how we should view this birthday - with childlike exuberance and happiness. And a deep desire for many more together.

I hope she does.



Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Opinion Piece

I'm taking a persuasive writing course this semester called Rhetoric. Although I don't feel like I'm learning a whole lot, writing assignements are interesting because we are forced to write about things that we wouldn't normally write about. Additionally, Angie always says that I write well, so I thought I'd post my essays as I get them back from my professor. They may not always make sense (as they will be out of context, especially the counter point type essays, but that's ok - I'll post anyway).

The following is an opinon piece in response to Peter J. Gomes' "Homophobic? Read Your Bible"...

The problem with Peter J. Gomes’ “Homophobic? Read Your Bible”, isn’t his disdain for fundamentalists who validate their prejudice and persecution of homosexuals using Scripture, it’s that his (Gomes’) arguments just don’t support his claims. Gomes puts forth a refutation of common arguments made by fundamentalist Christians when they “gay bash” (3) or otherwise demonstrate their “hatred” (1) for homosexuality. Additionally, he argues that either these fundamentalists are misapplying Scripture, picking which Scripture to follow in an a la carte fashion, or are otherwise ignorant.

While I do wholeheartedly agree that prejudice, hatred, violence and other acts against homosexuals are despicable, and I agree that fundamentalists do much of what Gomes states above, I also think it is no less important to recognize that many Christians view homosexuality as a sinful act, in the same way that ANY sexual activity outside of the vows of marriage is a sinful act.

Gomes’ argues that many fundamentalist Christians “appeal to the moral injunctions of the Bible” (4) as they oppose political and social equality for homosexuals. He then attempts to refute the common verses in the Bible cited as being anti-homosexual. What Gomes misses, is that these verses are defining a morality that Christians follow. As homosexual acts are defined as sinful, so is prostitution. He even goes so far as to state that “the moral teachings of Jesus are not concerned with [homosexuality]. (7) This is perhaps the most ignorant statement within the essay, and clearly shows that Gomes has little grasp on the contents of the Bible. Jesus’ teachings were about ALL morality, not just some of the more important sins, as Gomes seems to intimate. Sexual purity was just as important to Jesus as greed, violence, and other sins. However, Jesus’ application of His moral teaching is where the fundamentalist faction could stand to learn. Jesus loved all, even the sinner. He knew why He was on earth, and it wasn’t to save the sinless (they were already saved – even if there are none). He was here to save the sinner – the liar, the cheat, the murderer, the greedy, the philanderer and the homosexual alike.

Gomes’ essay continues with questionable logic and he eventually moves on to the topic of subjectivity in the interpretation of Scripture. He claims that, “The right to use the Bible, an exercise as old as the church itself, means that we confront our prejudices rather than merely confirm them”. (12) In this, I agree with him, however this statement does not change the fact that Christians believe homosexuality to be sinful.

In fact, his essay does not repudiate the status of homosexual behavior as sinful. And in this statement, we see the weakness of his argument. Because he cannot challenge the claim put forth in the Bible that any sexual activity outside of marriage is considered immoral, he instead focuses on the fundamentalist Christian movement - a movement that perhaps needs to apply a more Christ-like application of Scripture instead of a hateful one.

It is here that his essay finally gets it right – but not for the reasons he intends. He uses examples of fundamentalists using the bible to justify more heinous acts in history – slavery (17), segregation (18), misogyny (19) and, to according to his logic, homophobia (20). However, what he fails to bridge is that even though the actions of these fundamentalists is wrong, it is wrong in a similar way that homosexuality is wrong – it is sinful according to Scripture and Gomes’ essay never addresses that.

Gomes argues that fundamentalists are dangerous to homosexuals, and in this I agree – in fact, they are dangerous to everyone, because they often espouse a hatred that is neither Christian nor Scriptural. Remember, Jesus spent his time with sinners because He knew that the so called “religious” were most likely unable to give themselves to Him. However, that never made the behavior of the sinner acceptable to God.


Monday, September 17, 2007

296...I Wish I was Bowling

I'm actually very pleased with my 296. That's what I weighed in at this morning, and it means I basically lost a pound a day for the last week. Considering I've stayed on plan and worked out real hard this week, it is about where I expected. I hope I can keep it going. I haven't felt hungry or denied this last week, and I've enjoyed working out. I'm already seeing differences in my ability to walk longer distances. Angie and I went again this morning, so this week is off to a good start, as well.

I've decided to post my progress on my blog each Monday. I will post my weight and BMI, as well as my nutrition and exercise results from the week previous. Knowing that I'm going to share this will hopefully keep me motivated.

One additional update: I received my results from my lab work and my cholesterol is fine. In fact, I came it at 174. I wish that was more my weight...


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Work It Out

Angie and I worked out today and we are both feeling very positive. We've been supporting each other and motivating each other as we eat properly and get some exercise. We already have another date for tomorrow morning after we drop off Cassie at school.

It's a lot better doing this together than trying to go it alone. Even though she goes to the treadmill and I go to the elliptical - we may not say another word to each other as we work out - but I can look at her, and tell her with my eyes that she looks good all sweaty :)

It's been only a couple of days, but I did succumb to the temptation of getting on the scale. I had lost 2 pounds since Monday and that was very motivating. Add to that the workouts that the trainers put their teams through on "The Biggest Loser" and I was ready to kick butt today. I worked out for 40 minutes and burned 550 cals. I did legs and shoulders while Angie finished her hour on the treadmill.

The most important thing is that we are getting healthy. I'm sure as I work through the message series from church this fitness journey will become a spiritual journey. It has to, as this is the only way I'll be successful.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

We Shall Never Forget

I fear that in some way these are empty words. For some reason I am compelled to blog today as I have an overriding fear that as the anniversary of 9/11 passes, we'll go back to our routines and wait until next September to remember how we felt six years ago today.

I'm watching MSNBC as I type this. They are rebroadcasting their coverage from that terrible morning - unedited and without commentary. I can't believe the flood of emotions that take over as I watch it. Like other memorable moments in history that occur during our lives, I can remember that morning vividly. Many older people can tell you where they were and what they were doing when Kennedy was shot or when we landed on the moon. I remember the entire morning of September 11 like that.

I also remember the patriotism, brotherhood and charity that all Americans had following the attacks. I remember seeing American flags all over. I remember fund raisers for the families of fallen fire and police personnel. I remember speeches that were uplifting. I remember a prevailing sense of pride in being an American, and more specifically, of being from New York.

I remember these feelings so well that I miss them. Those feelings are gone, but for once a year and that is sad. We are still under attack - it is only a matter of time that some wacko that hates what we stand for will be successful in attacking us.

Perhaps we should remember how that feels BEFORE it happens because if there was any good that came from 9/11 it was the brotherhood that we all felt and acted upon.


Monday, September 10, 2007

Biggest Loser Wins

If you track my blog, you know that I have made a decision to change my lifestyle and get in shape. What you might not know, is that Angie made that decision a while ago, as part of her training for her 3-day walk to support Cancer research. Since Cassie started school, she's been at the Rowlett Community Centre working out - and she's looking good.

I told myself that when I started working from home with NetApp, I would use some of that extra time to work out. I haven't. Instead, I've used that time to sleep in - until today, that is.

Angie and I went and worked out after dropping Cassie at school. She did an hour on the treadmill, and I did 40 minutes on the elliptical and 20 minutes lifting weights. I worked up a pretty good sweat doing cardio (working off 500 calories), and took it relatively easy while I did chest, back and triceps.

It felt good going, and Angie and I really motivated each other. Having a workout buddy will help both of us on the days that one of us doesn't feel like going. In fact, we have agreed to bet who will lose 5% of their weight first (in my case, over 15 lbs). I'll track my progress on the blog. We don't know what to bet....anyone have any ideas?


Saturday, September 08, 2007

When Doves Cry

(I have that Prince song in my head and can't get it out!!!)

I recently heard someone say that a bad day spent hunting is better than a good day doing most other things. There is some truth to that. I don't have to be successful when I hunt to appreciate the activity. That being said, it is MUCH MORE FUN when the hunting is good - or at least action packed.

The dove season opened Saturday, Sept. 1 and I have hunted six times already. Most of my hunts were not very exciting. A couple of shots here and there, but no sustained action. Last year, I did a couple of guided (read: expensive) hunts and we would shoot a couple of boxes in a couple of hours; a box contains 25 shells. I haven't experienced anything like that this year - until today.

I spent the entire day in a large field that Dylan, his dad and I have hunted a couple of times this year. I started at 6:35am and had a couple of shots here and there till about 11:00am...I was alone by this point, so I decided to go get some lunch and to rehydrate. By the time I started hunting the field in earnest again it was 3:30am. I hadn't seen a dove in hours and was getting pretty bored.

However, at 4:00pm, something changed. All of a sudden I got flights of doves right towards me. First two, and another two, and another...then three, then four...I must have had 20 birds fly past me in a half hours time. Each were a perfect shot and I shot more than a box in this time, and finally harvested my first bird. If I was a good shot, I would have limited out (15 is a day's bag limit).

I've seen several sunrises, a couple of sunsets, and have thoroughly enjoyed nature and family, but that one bird beats 'em all!


Tuesday, September 04, 2007

3:10 To M.I. Station

I had my annual physical today, and the news is not good. It's not a surprise, either, but several key numbers are up. And it is time to take care of them. Either that, or I'm on an express train to a heart attack.

One number is cholesterol. Although I don't have the results back from this exam, my cholesterol has been creeping up for several years. 178 to 209 and who knows now. I won't be surprised if it comes back near 240, or so.

Another number is my blood pressure. I have always had good numbers here, except for the last two times it has been taken. 136 /98 today. Combine that with a 146 / 93 from my last check-up and my doctor is concerned.

The last number is probably the most important, as it is very likely the one responsible for my's my weight. I've blogged about my weight before and it is up, way up. In fact, I've gained 30 pounds from March alone, and at over 310 pounds it is time to do something about it.

I think I've been given enough warning...swollen legs, back pain, and a digestive system that is out of control. Clearly, the warning signs are there and if I don't change I'll be dead. Angie has joked about the way I eat (either how much, or how fast) and she has seen it. My heart is working overtime.

That being said, the doctor has given me a clean bill of health to start working out. He is a big supporter of working out and no so much of dieting. He rather seem me eat more fiber and more protein and less carbs and fat and work out. If I do this, he says I'm gonna be ok, and I believe him.

So - I am gonna track my weight and my working out on my blog - I think I might even post a couple of "before" pics, as well. If you don't see an update - ask me. It will help keep me motivated.


Monday, September 03, 2007

Christmas For Rednecks

That's what Dylan called it. The excitement of opening day for hunting in Texas caused me to wake up on my own before the alarm went off. Dylan uttered this phrase up as we drove to our dove hunting location in Royce City, TX. Aptly named, as the only fools up at 4:45AM were hunters and party animals.

This weekend has been spent out in the fields, on some private land (with Dylan, Marissa, me, their dad and their grandfather - good fun), and on public dove hunting lands (available to anyone willing to shell out for a $48 annual public hunting license).

We went out Saturday morning, and again Saturday afternoon. We went out Sunday afternoon, and again Monday morning. We'll likely finish up our disappointing opening weekend with one more afternoon hunt. Dylan and I have not bagged a single bird, so we are definitely looking to break the schneid.

Either way, it's been fun. I've seen sunrises, sunsets, and nature and have spent some quality time with two of my step-children. Can't ask for more than that.