Off the cuff rant: Kombucha

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Eww eww eww. Why does this Kombucha stuff remind me of the bacterial soup that occurs when you leave tea sitting out in the sun for too long? Oh. Because it is. It’s tea gone off.

I know that we potentially lack good bacteria in our system because we kill off too many and live in a very sterile society. But, why would you chose to drink something that sounds REALLY unhealthy and has not been show to do much good but may do harm? First, with people passing around a “starter” bacterial colony, how does it not get contaminating with other bacteria? Also, how do you know this stuff is not toxic? Is someone culturing and identifying the species every so often so you can be assured you aren’t drinking fecal coliform? Can our bodies handle a big dose of bacteria?

A HUGE red flag is the marketing. The above article notes it is an elixir for digestion, cancer and hair loss. It’s also noted to improve liver function and stimulate the immune system. One substance can’t do all that. To claim such is a hallmark of snake oil salesmen.

There has not been a human trial to test this stuff. Would you take a drug that has not been thoroughly tested on people? I wouldn’t. I also wouldn’t drink from the roadside mountain spring (don’t you know raccoons poop in it?), but lots of people do because it’s “natural”. Go eat some dirt (or worse). It’s natural, too. So is radon and tobacco, being infested with parasites and getting malaria. All natural. See how well nature provides for man?

The Mayo Clinic tells you to avoid it.
The CDC notes severe illness has been associated with use of Kombucha. This is not definitive. But, where is the evidence that it does anything good?

I’ve done a quick harms vs benefits assessment at this stage. I’ve decided against Kombucha.

I’m not going to spend a whole lot of time looking at sites advertising this stuff because I’m not going to drink it and I would advise others not to imbibe dirty tea either. At best, it’s worthless. At worst, it can do harm. How about just a balanced diet and exercise? Too boring?

Kids at the Funeral

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Last month, my Grandma died. She was 94. We were very close. Even in her 80s, she would travel with my Dad to our house for visits and events. When she was in a nursing home, we visited her when we were in town and my young daughter, aged 6, would cavort around the nursing home saying ‘Hi’ to everyone and decorating Great-Grandmas room with pictures and decorations.

When she died, it was not a question between my husband and I that the kids would attend the funeral. It was their first funeral – the first time someone they were close to (their Great-Grandmother) had died. My older daughter, aged 11, expressed some nervousness. The little one had a nervous tummy on the trip there – always a sign she is apprehensive.

I prepared them for what they would see at the funeral home – telling them where the casket would be, that it would be open and that Great-Grandma would likely not look like they were used to seeing her. They didn’t have to go up to see if they didn’t want to. I went through what we would do there, how long we would stay and how they should act. I reminded them that this is a quiet place but they should be prepared to be greeted by relatives they didn’t remember and so they should try to be polite. There would be no running or playing.

Funerals and weddings are the way our spread-out families get together these days so the evening was a family reunion of sorts. My parents were thrilled to see their precious grandkids, dressed all pretty. Big hugs all around. The kids, surprisingly, did not hesitate to go to the casket. They were not disturbed. Then they sat down with us. It must have been boring for them but they paid attention and were cordial with visitors. The elder smiled at those amazed at how grown-up she was, the younger tolerated with a smile Aunt Sarah pinching her cheeks. To pass the time, they discovered mints in my purse, made a trip to the water cooler and drew pictures in a notebook. All the time, being quiet and respectful.

I was amazed that none of my other cousins with small children brought theirs along but chose to leave them with babysitters. This felt wrong on many levels. Mostly, it seemed disrespectful to Grandma. One remarked that her son was more interested in doing something with his friends. The point about this occasion was lost. Unknown to them, we are a nonreligious family. The kids don’t go to church. But, I could not imagine them missing this event, regardless of the religious tone. There are some things you are obligated to do.

The next day, they went to the church, the cemetery and then the dinner afterward. The younger was Miss Social Butterfly (and got pinched out of sheer cuteness again by Aunt Sarah). From my parents to my second cousins, I received compliments about how wonderful they looked and behaved. It seems as if good behavior from children shocked people. I was extraordinarily proud as they tried to follow along with the church service and did not fidget once.

It’s not that hard to model good behavior for children. You have to start early, keep firm rules and reward them. Rewards of praise and hugs are typically enough. They understand that.

My children now know what it’s like to attend a funeral and a church service. They were also exposed to the religious-themed language and ritual that in which we are rarely involved. I would say this was a critical learning event in their lives that they will remember for MANY reasons. Also, I learned how valuable this was as a social ritual for our immediate and extended families. Even though we are nonreligious, I felt no qualms that I decided to include my children in this important cultural event. It also meant a lot to others who were there to see respectful children who said a dignified goodbye to someone they loved.

The diplomatic perspective on the skeptical Popefest

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It’s been a few interesting days for the skeptical community’s Twitter and blogs. For the record, I was frequently appalled at the discussion. Some did a fine job of keeping a cool head (like Heidi Anderson) and others just held their tongue. Others (like Daniel Loxton) continued their well-played understated calm. That pleased me.

Expletive-filled tweets do not please me. Arrogance and ‘tude makes me grouchy.

Skepticism to me is about the process. We can get together as a group and do something for positive change via that process. But, let us remain civil.

I expect Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and PZ Myers to raise the banner of atheistic outrage and go forth. But, I wouldn’t expect the same from major skeptic groups. It’s as much about skepticism as it is about pop culture or sociology. It’s an issue for all of us. So, we are angry and we want the world to know.

I liked how Phil Plait put it all. I agree with his POV. Check it out.

Bad Astronomy blog: The Pope, the Church and Skepticism

This was a learning experience for all.

The tilted playing field

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I’ve been at a leadership training event for women for the past two days. It’s sent my mind off on various tangents – about being a leader in other movements (like the skeptical community), taking risks, and the validity of these psychological assessments that are the foundation of the class. Primarily, I couldn’t quite figure out if/why we still needed a Leadership academy for WOMEN exclusively. Shouldn’t we be owning equality rather than exclusivity?

Then, I heard a few things that answered that issue. Continue reading

Cryptozoological podcasts – a stinker and a gem

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It’s no secret I’m a bit of a cryptid junkie. In 1993, when I began fiddling around on the text-only Lynx browser, some of the topics I searched were “Bigfoot”, “Loch Ness Monster” and “Cryptozoology”. Now, one simply can’t keep up with all the various cryptid-themed blogs, podcasts, webpages and news stories. Bigfoot is truly Americana and cryptozoology is a pop culture novelty. There is good stuff, really good stuff and stuff that stinks like a supposed Skunk Ape.

I decided to be daring this Saturday AM and try out two new radio shows (downloadable as podcasts because I physically can not sit by my computer listening to live radio) about cryptids. I loaded up the iPod early and carried it throughout the day.

Both shows gave me a laugh but for completely different reasons. One’s a stinker; the other is a total GEM and qualifies as a MUST DOWNLOAD every week. Continue reading