Super Important: Most Supplements Don’t Contain ANY of the Listed Ingredients.

This isn’t remotely related to the topics I normally cover, but it’s something we need to spread the word about. I first heard about this back in 2015, but since the information hasn’t spread to the general public yet, I want to give it a signal boost. This is stuff you NEED to know so you can make informed choices.

 

Summary:

A study was conducted of a bunch of herbal supplements from big name drug stores like Target/Walgreens/GNC. Scientists tested the DNA of the pills and concluded that 4 out of 5 of the bottles contained ZERO traces of the ingredients listed. For example, a bottle of “Ginseng” would be tested and they’d find it full of random fillers like rice powder or asparagus (researchers also noted that wheat would be found in products advertised as “wheat free” — yikes!).

How is this possible? Well, it’s because there are laws in place that prevent the FDA from regulating supplements (see John Oliver sketch for more info). Normally, it would be illegal for food companies to participate in false advertising, but on the FDA’s website, it states very clearly that the FDA isn’t allowed to regulate the advertising of supplements. Scary, huh?

FDA

John Oliver presents a more entertaining version of what I’ve been discussing:

Now, I’ll admit that I’m a bit of a hypocrite. I still take a multi-vitamin every day, even though I really wonder if it’s a waste of money. And I know many people who have anecdotal evidence that their Fill-In-The-Blank has improved since taking XYZ. That’s fine–I’m not judging you or trying to tell you how to live your life. Just because many of these products are fraudulent, doesn’t mean you haven’t found a good one. But be careful out there and realize that you can’t always trust the label of those supplements you’re buying.

More links about this topic (Including the good news that GNC pledged to improve their standards and will even submit reports to the NY attorney general to prove it!):

OverAnalyzing Winnie the Pooh

Any other adults out there who still love Winnie the Pooh? I imagine there are quite a few who are still charmed by its timeless humor and wisdom. But you know what’s better than gushing about a dearly beloved book from your childhood??? Over-analyzing it ad naseum!!!!

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Or is that just me??? Nah, I’m pretty sure other people are into that too. Which is why I have dug up an old college paper I wrote about Winnie the Pooh. Below is my overview of some of the crazy theories scholars have come up with about Milne’s characters. Some of them are pretty far fetched. Enjoy!

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Taking a Magnifying Glass to Pooh’s Stuffing by Tahlia Merrill

Deep in The Hundred Acre Woods, A.A. Milne’s beloved characters welcome readers to their simple, enchanting world. For over 80 years, Winnie the Pooh and his friends have delighted both children and adult readers with their adventures. Milne’s books have become classics and, while most of us read them purely for enjoyment, there have been many scholars who have done considerable literary analysis on Milne’s work. What follows is an examination of several lenses scholars have used to interpret the inner meaning of the Winnie the Pooh books.

Benjamin Hoff’s bestselling book The Tao of Pooh and its sequel, The Te of Piglet are undoubtedly two of the most famous interpretations of Milne’s stories. Hoff uses all the characters in Winnie-the-Pooh and House at Pooh Corner as illustrations of Eastern philosophy. Winnie the Pooh, he argues, is the perfect example of a western Taoist. He embodies the concept of “wu-wei”, which means “not doing”, or a way of doing that is effortless because it goes with the flow of nature and does not fight against it.

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In The Tao of Pooh, Hoff calls wu-wei “The Pooh Way” because Pooh is has “the ability to enjoy the simple and the quiet, the natural and the plain. Along with this comes the ability to do things spontaneously and have them work, even if it appears odd to others at times. As Piglet put it in Winnie-the-Pooh, ‘Pooh hasn’t much Brain, but he never comes to any harm. He does silly things and they turn out right’” .

Piglet, on the other hand, represents the Taoist concept of virtue, which is believed to be attained by “sensitivity, modesty, and smallness”. In both books, the other animals in the Hundred Acre Woods represent the flawed philosophies of our world. Owl is portrayed as a Confusionist who accumulates knowledge for the sake of appearing wise, Rabbit makes life unnecessarily complicated by constantly working, and Eeyore twists everything in life into a complaint. Tigger is contrasted with Piglet because Piglet has achieved harmony with the world by working within his limitations, but Tigger’s downfall is that he claims he can do anything and does not acknowledge his limitations.

It’s not just the Taoists who have tried to claim Pooh as their own, but also Christians. C. J. L. Culpepper believes that Milne can be grouped with the great writers of Christian literature: Spenser, Bunyan, and Milton. He says that Winnie-the-Pooh contains a plethora of allegorical elements, starting with the very first chapter where Pooh climbs the honey tree. Culpepper places Pooh as an Adam figure:

He conceives a passion for removing and eating something he finds upon it (the tree). With increasing pride in his ability to snatch the spoils without assistance, much less with official permission to touch this certain product, he climbs nearly to the top of the tree and–falls!…having landed sorrowfully in a gorse-bush (East of Eden), betakes himself directly back to the forbidden food with renewed lust. This time he is significantly black from head to toe, and is pursued and tormented by “the wrong sort of bees“, little avengers which, in bring to my mind Christian devils…

If Pooh represents Adam, then Christopher Robin is an easy choice for the character representing God. Culpepper believes this is because Christopher Robin not only has a position as an authority figure in the stories, but he also has a sort of omnipresence that allows him to both teach and rescue with timing akin to divine Providence. And lastly, while Hoff’s analysis of Milne’s work results in the character of Eeyore being cast as the ultimate villain, Culpepper’s analysis does the exact opposite, making a case for the pessimistic donkey being the Christ-figure of The Hundred Acre Woods. Eeyore, Culpepper believes, is “the Lowly One, the Despised, Acquainted with Grief”, whose journey follows in the steps of the biblical Jesus. Eeyore not only follows the Golden Rule, but also acts as savior for several of the characters. He gives up his thistles to Tigger, tries to save Roo from the stream, breaks Tigger’s fall from a tree, and even gives a speech at a farewell party reminiscent of the Last Supper.

 

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The fall of Adam???

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The Last Supper????

Not all Pooh philosophy, however, centers on religion. In her article “Milne’s Pooh Books: The Benevolent Forest” Anita Wilson discusses The Hundred Acre Woods as a model for the Utopian ideal. In this imaginary world, Christopher Robin is able to play the adult and rules over the forest animals with benevolence. There is no need for law in this world, since Christopher’s authority stems from affirmation and friendship rather than enforcement. There is no death in Pooh and danger is manifested in the mildest of forms. The bees are a mere nuisance, the Heffalumps are imagined, and hunger is only felt as a rumbly tummy. “The animals do no mimic the everyday aspects of human life such as working and spending money; their existence is emancipated from such requirements…” (Wilson). The outside world is unavoidable, because it is part of growing up. It means Christopher Robin has to go to school and leave the forest behind him.  But as Milne says, “the Forest will always be there … and anybody who is Friendly with Bears can find it” . Pooh’s utopian lifestyle isn’t compatible with the grownup world because its purity and innocence are impossible to achieve in our corrupted world. While the highest level of a childhood ideal is not possible, the world would be a better place if people reminded themselves from time to time of those ideals.

Pooh has not just been evaluated on a purely philosophical level, but also on a psychological one. Elliott Gose looks at Winnie-the-Pooh through a Freudian lens, seeing all of the forest animals as extensions of Christopher Robin’s psyche. Gose suggests that there are two ways to view Pooh’s position in the forest—both as a protagonist containing all three aspects of Freud’s three-part diagram of self (Id, Ego, Superego) and, as a single facet of the diagram (the Id), with the other characters acting in the other roles. According to Freud, the Id contains a person’s subconscious appetites and drives. The super-ego is the conscious force that criticizes the Id and tries to suppress it, which can be a good thing if the Id’s impulses are harmful. The Ego is the conscious force that seeks to mediate between the other two halves, trying to find a balance. Gose sees Pooh as representative of the Id because the driving force behind most of his actions is an appetite for honey. By this appetite constantly getting Pooh into trouble, Milne shows that he needs to learn how to tame his appetite instead of letting it control him. When he gets stuck after eating too much, Rabbit acts as the scolding voice of the super-ego and Christopher Robin finds a middle ground by being supportive of Pooh, but insisting that he cannot eat anything for a week. Christopher Robin is never the star of the stories, but he is important because his “strengths are implicitly emphasized by contrast with the protagonists’ relative lack of competence.” At the end of the book, all of the animals are invited to Pooh’s celebration party. All parts of Christopher Robin’s self are accepted: “Gloomy Eeyore, aggressive Rabbit, expressive Roo, competent Kanga, pontifical Owl, anxious Piglet, and a basically self-confident Pooh”. This, Gose explains, shows that when every facet of a person is integrated with the others, you get a balanced and complex whole that is what makes personal growth possible.

As one of the most beloved and long-lasting authors of children’s literature, it’s only natural that Milne’s work has come under close scrutiny. Some scholars make more grandiose claims than others, but what is important to see is the deep impact that Pooh has made on his readers. While most of the analyses surveyed in this paper are not compatible with one another and some may take offense at scholars putting meaning behind Milne’s words that the author clearly did not intend, instead of letting them ruffle our feathers, perhaps we should take our cue from our mutual friend the good-natured bear and receive the Owls and Rabbits of our own world with the same easygoing acceptance as Winnie the Pooh.

Sources:

  • Hoff, Benjamin. The Tao of Pooh. London: Egmont, 2003.
  • Hoff, Benjamin. The Te of Piglet. London: Mandarin, 1993.
  • Culpepper, C. J.L. “O Felix Culpa! The Sacramental Meaning of Winnie-the-Pooh.” The Pooh Perplex: a Freshman Casebook. By Frederick C. Crews.
  • Wilson, Anita. “Milne’s Pooh Books: The Benevolent Forest.” Touchstones: Reflections on the Best in Children’s Literature. Ed. Perry Nodelman.
  • Gose, Elliott “Id, Ego, and Self.” Mere Creatures: A Study of Modern Fantasy Tales for Children. Ed. Children’s Literature Review. 

 

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When Pandemic Seeps Into Real Life…

Pandemic
You know you’ve been playing too much Pandemic when you have this conversation:
R: Did you check mail today?
Me: Oh, no, I really only had time for tidying up and making dinner today, so I totally forgot. I can do it tomorrow on my way to work though.
R: Well, I have to take out the trash tonight, which is right next to the mailboxes, so I’ll just grab it while I’m there.
Me: Wait! You won’t have enough actions.
R: Yeah, I will. It’s one to travel there, two to deposit the trash, three to grab mail, and four to travel back home.
Me: (shakes head): That region is contaminated, so it’ll take you an extra action to pick up the mail. So you’ll be able to travel there, but not get back. So unless you want to sleep outside tonight, I’ll just get mail on my first turn tomorrow.
R: Hmmm, well, normally I’d say it’s worth it, since my special power is “Sleep Anywhere”, but that zone has already been hit with the virus pretty bad, and I really don’t want to be scarred tomorrow morning…
Me: Oh, hang on! We have a helicopter. We’ll just use that to get you home safely. *High Fives*
In other news…
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2016 Resolutions

Last year, I talked about how I don’t like resolutions because, if you want to do something, why wait until January 1st to set a goal? In fact, my husband and I already set ourselves monthly goals. Sometimes it’s good to evaluate big picture stuff, though, and the start of a new year works just fine.

 

So, just to recap, these were my 2015 Resolutions:

 

1. Contribute $20/month to a cause I believe in (see previous post for my update on that)

 

2. Be more informed about local politics.

Result: I now give our monthly local community paper a thorough reading whenever it comes in the mail. I now know that our governor’s name is Greg Abbott. A few months ago when I saw picketing signs for “Say No to the PUD”, I knew they wanted to stop housing developments being built in Austin.

 

AustinPaper

Also, I’ve been listening to NPR during my commute. This definitely has made me more knowledgeable because it helped me win Scattergories with “Netanyahu” (president of Israel) as a World Leader whose name starts with N. Bam!

3. Read through Auto Repair for Dummies. Auto

Result: Ermmm, I kinda read through the book, but haven’t finished it yet. It has helped me diagnose several of my car problems this year. They were things I couldn’t fix on my own, but I think the mechanics respected me more because I knew what I was talking about.

2016 Resolutions

1. Experience Austin
In general, we’re pretty happy with our lives, but we discussed how we don’t feel like we’re taking full advantage of living in such a lively city. There’s so much to do here and we mostly stick to our favorite local hangout, Emerald Tavern and Games. So this year, we’re going to make an effort to visit a new location once a month. This can include restaurants, parks, or museums, but probably not friends’ houses.
And our first destination will be…
Zilker
2. Maintain friendships 
You know how it is after you graduate. If your out-of-town friends aren’t actively posting on facebook, they basically don’t exist in your life anymore. I made lots of deep friendships in high school and college that I’ve let drift indefinitely because keeping in touch is hard. Well, this year, I’m going to stop feeling guilty about it and set up a skype date with one friend every month…ummm, since it’s January 24th already, I might want to figure out who that first person should be…eek!

 

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Who will it be????

 

Following Up on My 2015 New Years Resolution ($20/Month to Causes I Care About)

Last year, I made a resolution to contribute $20 a month to a cause I cared about. Since I run a webzine that is fueled by donations, it only seemed right that I became the type of person who helps support things (people, artists, websites, services) that I care about.

Most of the time it felt AMAZING to send financial support to these places because I really felt proud to play a part in keeping them up and running. Putting $20 in a tip jar made me feel like I was some rich mogul throwing gold coins in the air. However, sometimes, I felt really depressed that I only had $20 to give. This mostly struck when I was contributing to my personal friends. $20 just seemed so paltry when I looked at how much they really needed to meet their goals. I kept telling myself, “Something is better than nothing”, but I kept wishing I could do more.

January: Beehives in Austin Schools Kickstarter

  • I’m a bit of a honey connoisseur (I actually have a honey log where I write down notes about all the different types I’ve tried) and my interest in honey has lead me to read a lot about colony collapse disorder. Increasing urban beekeeping is one way to stave off the damage CCD is causing.

February: International Elephant Foundation

  • One of my husband’s favorite ways to cheer me up is to send me gifs of baby elephants because they’re always falling down in super cute ways. So I decided to contribute to preserving real elephants in Africa.

 

March: Subbable: Crash Course

  • It’s one of the best educational Youtube shows out there right now, with channel topics ranging from economics to science.

April: Darths and Droids creator: https://www.patreon.com/dmmaus?ty=c

  • I’ve been reading Darths and Droids, a webcomic that uses screenshots of Star Wars and retells the story as if it were a DnD campaign. It is extremely well written and hilarious. It deserves some type of award for its brilliance, so the least I could do is find the Patreon page of one of its creators and contribute to it.

May: Wikipedia

  • I use Wikipedia a ton, and usually ignore their annual pledge drive because it seems impossible that such a big website could ever need financial assistance, but the truth is that I shouldn’t take any free service for granted, not even wikipedia.

June: Tom and Jan’s Medical Fund

  • Reason – A friend of mine (and previous coworker in California) broke his leg and was struggling to pay medical bills, so they asked their friends for help.

July: Valerie and Aaron’s medical fund

  • Another friend of mine injured his knee and was struggling to pay medical bills, so they started a fund for their friends to help out.

August: Write Jobs

  • I’ve gotten several great writing gigs through the postings on Write Jobs, so it only seemed fair to give something back to them by donating. Extra bonus = I realized they offer graphic design services in exchange for donations, so this year I hired them to do some work for Timeless Tales.

September: Joy and Ryan’s Australian Missionary Fund

  • Two of my friends are trying to move to Australia for missionary work, which of course is very expensive, so they’ve been fundraising this year.

October: Emerald Tavern Tip Jar

  • Gave an extra big Thank You to the hard working staff at our favorite hangout location.

November: Westmont College

  • Whenever my alma mater calls, I always try to respond, even if it’s only with a little bit of financial assistance. I always specify that the money must go to the arts, not the sports program.

December: Shut up and Sit Down

  • These British guys review board games. Unlike most board game reviews, which are overly long, poorly edited, and boringly straightforward, SUaSD goes the extra mile to ensure each of their videos is funny and informative.

If You Took the Zombies Out of “Dead of Winter”

Boring Background: I’m a board gamer and been thinking recently about how some games, especially co-op ones, remind me of real life. After all, isn’t daily life all about maximizing your resources and trying to get everything done before time runs out? So this lead me to:

If You Took the Zombies Out of “Dead of Winter”:

Dead of Winter

1. New theme = College Kids Sharing a House For a Year.

2. All the stuff about needing enough food every week stays the same. Most of the locations won’t change (in real life, you still need to go to the grocery store, gas station, library, etc.)–instead of weapons, you have textbooks.

3. You still have massive hoards outside your door. They’re just now called Visitors instead of zombies. They’re all at your house to party. Luckily, textbooks scare them away!

4. Instead of wounds and frostbite, you take hits to your energy and sanity. “Medicine” is now Coffee!

5. Instead of Biting a character….hmmm…maybe the guests traumatize the character so bad that the person “moves away”?

6. Instead of helpless survivors, you have babies (silly college kids should’ve used protection) and lazy friends/relatives who come to live with you.

7. Taking out the trash is still vitally important.

What’d I miss?

Bottom line: I suppose this little thought experiment just goes to show how much of an introvert I am ;-). I’m also pretty sure, this non-zombie Dead of Winter would basically be a board game version of The Sims.

Technically “Resolutions”…I guess

This was going to be a facebook status and then it got long, so I figured I’d just stick it on my blog.

As many of you know, R and I have a monthly meeting that we like to call “High Council”. It’s a time for us to check-in with each other about life. We cover finances, our relationship, chores, socializing, etc. The new year brought tons of new stuff to discuss, like whether to renew our lease and how to use our vacation time, so we kicked off 2015 with an “Annual Grand Summit”, as we’ve named it.

As a rule, I don’t make New Years Resolutions. If I have a goal, I don’t like waiting for January 1 to set it, and I don’t like have a deadline so far away. However, I did set some big pictures year-long goals for myself, which are basically the same thing as Resolutions…So here they are:

1. Become un-ignorant about local politics so I can have an educated opinion in the next election (anyone have any resources to help me?)

2. Become un-ignorant about my car by reading “Car Repair for Dummies” and practicing its teachings.

3. Donate $20/month to charity/nonprofit/artist. If I’m going to run a magazine that relies on donations, it only seems right to support other endeavors like mine.

4. Save for a downpayment on a condo. I really like renting our apartment and have no real desire to buy a house. It would just be too much money for more room than we need. However, I am aware that property is a wise investment, especially in Austin because the market value is almost guaranteed to increase in this city. If we wait, housing may become unaffordable. So we’re going to give it a shot. We’ll see.

5. Convince husband that we should get a kitty…possibly the most unrealistic of my goals.

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