Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Wow, Cancer Really Sucks

While perusing the Internet the other day, I found this article, citing that within the next year, cancer will beat heart disease and become the number one killer.

I'm not at all surprised. I feel like every time you turn around, you hear about someone else getting cancer. I'm sure everyone can think of quite a few people they know who have cancer, survived it or passed away from it.

What boggles my mind is that so much money is being put into cancer research... why haven't we seen any big changes yet? I feel like I shouldn't be saying this, especially working for a healthcare magazine. Every day, I read about clinical trials for a new type of drug or scientists are trying something new to combat a certain kind of cancer. I guess little by little, we are making steps toward beating this monster.

But for a lot of people, it's a little too late... including my mother. For a disease that can be dated back to the time of Hippocrates, why don't we have a cure for this yet? I know this is probably just a bitter rant... but I still pose the question. How many more millions of people are going to have to die before they can get some help??? How many more mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, husbands, wives, children, friends, etc. will be taken away?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Book Review: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Working Less, Earning More

This newest edition to the Complete Idiot's Guide family is perfect for those who want to start their own business, people who work from home or anyone who wants to get the most out of their work. Filled with helpful tips, author Jeff Cohen lays out what you need to do to keep your life from being consumed by work.

Cohen's advice starts with creating a weekly to-do list including everything you do in a week, such as sleeping, working, going to the gym, etc., and recording how many hours you use to complete each task. Looking at what you do per week and how many hours it takes can help you realign and maximize your schedule.

Something helpful, especially from people who own their own bosses or work from home, is Cohen's section on self-motivation. He explains how certain distractions, such as the Internet and the phone, can interrupt your productivity. If you write out a daily to do list and allot a little bit of time for these things, and then completely shut down your Internet so it isn't a distraction, you'll get a lot more work done!

He also acknowledges why some people stay with their jobs even if they are unhappy in them. Cohen shows the reader how they can concur fears standing in the way, such as worrying about not being able to support your family and not making any more than their current salary.

Cohen covers everything, from how to become indispensable in your current work situation before looking for a new one to how to freelance and network. The book is filled with quizzes and exercises that help the readers see how they feel about their work-life balance. The links in the appendix are also especially helpful, especially to freelance writers! This book is paramount for anyone seeking happiness in their overall work life, and more time for their personal life.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Book Review: The Pocket Idiot's Guide to Wedding Etiquette

When I decided to start reviewing books, one of my coworkers (hi again, Tammy!) suggested I hit up the people at The Pocket Idiot's Guide to. The nice people there let me pick from an assortment of their newest books, and I settled on the Wedding Etiquette one.

Although I was never that girl who fantasized about her wedding, I have had a lot of questions lately about the "rules" of planning a wedding. Maybe it's all those wedding shows Gilmore, Ter and I watch, or maybe it's because I know I'll be going to a couple of my friends' weddings next year. I mean, I was already one of the best bridesmaids ever about two years ago (see pic). So I should know some stuff about weddings, right???

I did already know some of the things in the book, but a lot of my questions were answered. A chapter that was very informative (especially for any brides to be!) was the first one, which covered who traditionally pays for what... a tricky subject at times! For example, I didn't know the bride pays for the blood test for the marriage license (I didn't even know you had to get a blood test) and lodging for the bride's out-of-town attendants.

I learned a lot of random facts about the bridal party: for instance, it's appropriate for the father of the groom to be the best man, but not for the mother of the bride to be the matron of honor. Also, according to the book, bridesmaids and groomsmen should be asked to be in the wedding within the first few weeks after you get engaged. In the past, it was discouraged to have an uneven number of attendants, but now it is more accepted.

The book pretty much covers anything you've ever had questions about: food, place, flowers, pictures, music, dresses, invitations, presents, etc. There's also a chapter on pre-wedding events, such as the bridal shower and bachelor/bachelorette parties. Another helpful chapter talks about cultural differences at weddings, same-sex ceremonies and military weddings. Topics that I thought would be especially helpful for those planning a wedding include how to figure out a guest list and who to tip and how much they should get.

This book is helpful and a quick read for anyone planning or participating in a wedding. The information you want is easy to find, and the fun facts inside make it entertaining. For more information about the book, click here.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Book Review: Love Is a Mix Tape

I love music. Who doesn't, right? I like to think I'm openminded and have a vast array of musical tastes. What I like may not be "good" to some people (looking at you, music snobs!), but hey, I like what I like.

My favorite thing about music is how it can take you back to a time or place, a special memory. This happens to me all the time. For example, "I Need To Know" by Marc Anthony (I know, I am not displaying my good music tastes right off the bat with this pick) reminds me of 9th grade, inside jokes, my mom and football players (remember, Tanya?). Every time I hear "Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)" by Billy Joel (my all-time favorite performer), I remember being 5 and listening to it on a record player (!!) in the Gurleys' basement. Adam, Ryan and I would play with the speed on the record player to make Mr. William Joel sound like a chipmunk. Wham!'s "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" brings me right back to my 21st birthday, jamming out and dancing in Ter's car on the way to Applebee's. "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey (Steve Perry!!!) gives me a montage of bar memories.

The best way to bring back memories is a mix CD. Mix CDs chronicled pretty much every year of my life from freshman year of high school until today. I can pick up my "Spring 2006" mix CD and remember how I was feeling second semester of my junior year of college.

But long before the mix CD was the mix tape. Rolling Stone's Rob Sheffield pays homage to the gloriousness of this invention in his book Love Is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time.

Sheffield's book uses mix tape playlists to recreate time periods in his life, and mostly to tell the story of his time with his now deceased wife. Each chapter starts with the songs on the mix tape, which he references throughout the chapter. Filled with late '80s and early '90s pop culture references, this book is a pop culture lover's friend.
But even if you're not down with tunes from the times, you will like this book for Sheffield's writing alone. It's humorous and heartwrenching all at the same time. I laughed at the tales of his unconventional counsleors during his time at Catholic summer camp. My heart broke as he described the dismal days after his wife's passing. I was intrigued by his thoughts on Kurt Cobain's death and how it changed a culture, and entertained by his notion that he pictured himself and all girls he dated as part of a boy-girl synth-pop duo. But most of all, I loved how he describes his late wife Renee. He brings her fun, quirky spirit to life. He does such a good job describing her that I feel like I know her; she's someone who I'm sure everyone reading this book wishes they had a chance to know.

This is beautiful, well-written autobiography from a talented entertainment writer. I finished the book inspired and thinking about all the ways music has influenced me and has been interwoven into my life. I highly suggest picking this one up!
Love is a Mix Tape is a Crown Publishing book.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Book Review: My Husband's Sweethearts

In My Husband's Sweethearts by Bridget Asher, Lucy gets one blow after another: she finds out her husband has cheated on her with three different women during their 4-year marriage, and also Artie, 18 years Lucy's senior, is dying. One drunken night, Lucy decides all her husband's sweethearts should share her pain and come visit Artie before he dies. She takes his little black book and drunk dials some of his old flames... never expecting they may actually show up!

As the book goes on, Lucy learns more things about her husband that she never knew, and she forms almost a makeshift family with some of the sweethearts. A somewhat weird romantic twist happens, but I felt better about it later on in the book.

This was one of the best books I've read in a long time. Asher's characters are unique and lovable despite their flaws. My favorite might be Lucy's mom, who knows a thing or two about husbands (she's had a handful) and makes her dog wear a jock strap (no lie!).

Lucy says early on that her mother sews cliche phrases into pillows and how there are many less obvious lessons that should be displayed instead. Each chapter is named with phrases Lucy thinks should be emblazoned on a pillow, such as "Your Mother is a Woman You Don't Have to Become" and "Forgiveness Doesn't Wear a Rolex Knockoff." I thought this was cute and creative.

It's a quick read and I couldn't put this one down. It made me laugh and cry... and let's face it: I think that makes the perfect book.

For more about the book, check out this Web site.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Book Review: Falling off the Catwalk

One day, a colleague of mine (hi, Tammy!) sent me this press release, marveling at the release's title: "A 'Christian' Alcoholic Comes to Terms With His Gayness by Becoming an International Fashion Model in the Newly Released Memoir 'Falling Off the Catwalk.'" That was all I needed to see to know that I wanted to read this book.

Robert Reincke is in his late twenties, living in Southern California and working at Hewlett-Packard when he has a revelation: he wants to be a model. So he packs up and leaves for Europe, where he hops from Milan to Germany to Tokyo and back to Milan and then to Paris and Madrid and then back to Paris again all within a little over a year. Job after job, Robert learns how hard it is to stay in the modeling industry. While modeling, he also wrestles with drug use and his alcoholism and how it conflicts with his Christian believes, and also deals with his questions about his own sexuality.

Reincke's memoir gives the reader descriptions of tons of models, photographers and the many roommates he had during his time as a model. The reader also gets a taste of every city he's been in. Most importantly, the reader can get a sense of Reincke's personal journey that goes along with his journey through Europe.

For more information, check out Spunky Books.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Taxi Cab Confessions

I really enjoy traveling for my job. It's great to see new cities, I love being in hotels and I'm even getting a little less afraid of flying.

But I think one of my favorite parts of traveling is people watching and meeting some interesting characters. This weekend, I think I met the best one so far: my cab driver.

Some cab drivers don't really like to talk with their passengers, but mine didn't mind sharing personal things with me on our 30-minute drive from the airport to my hotel. For example, she, a grown woman, still sucks her thumb, which is the reason why she has a cleaning lady (?). She also told me about cab etiquette, and how some cabbies really enjoy splashing pedestrians on the sidewalk.

Most importantly, I learned a lot about love from my cab driver. Before picking me up, she just got back from tongue-ring shopping and lunch at Red Lobster with her boyfriend. They were still in the "courting stage" according to her, but he was making quite an effort. She told me that one night he came over to make her dinner, bring her roses and run her bathwater. I told her that was really sweet, and she shared with me that they dated before 15 years ago.

Me: "Oh, that's so cute! It must be fate! If you don't mind my asking, why didn't it work the first time?"

Cab driver: (laughing) "Oh, it was silly... I told him I was pregnant, but I wasn't!"

Me: ..... ??? .... ??? .... ?

Ah, the life of a traveler! :)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Oprah and Sarah Palin

First, I'll say that I don't consider myself an expert in politics at all. I've been trying to keep up with this year's election and have found it very interesting, but I definitely don't claim to know everything. I'll be upfront and say as of now, I'm planning on voting for Obama on Nov. 4.

Second, I'm not a big fan of Oprah. I know she's done some great things for charity, but it bothers me that one woman has so much control over millions of women in the U.S.

Both of those things being said, I am upset that Oprah will not have Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin on her show. I don't necessarily agree with all of Gov. Palin's views, but she is the first woman on a major party ticket since Geraldine Ferraro. If McCain is elected, she will be the first woman VP ever. On a show that targets women, this is a huge deal!

Oprah has had Obama on her show in January 2005 and October 2006. She has been vocal in her support for Obama and even said his Democratic National Convention speech made her "cry her eyelashes off." She also said her show is not a platform for any of the candidates, which is why she won't have Palin (a supposed "MILF"... I don't get that, but that's another blog post) on.

Despite the fact that we share the same candidate, I still think, even though she claims her show isn't a platform for any candidates, Oprah, sans eyelashes, is being biased. Shouldn't a newly publicized female figure in politics be spotlighted on a show for women? Even though Obama was on Oprah before he became a presidential candidate, he was highlighted on the show all the same.

Philadelphia Daily News columnist Jenice Armstrong supports Oprah's decision, saying O would rake Palin over the coals about her supporting abstinence only sex education, when her 17-year-old daughter is preggers. Armstrong also thinks Oprah may probe about allegations that Palin tried to ban certain books from the Wasilla, AK public library when Palin was mayor of the town.

I say, let Oprah probe and prod all she wants! I don't support abstinence only sex ed or banning books, but I still think Oprah's audience should see what Palin's about, good or bad.... just like they've seen (and heard) what Obama's about, whether that was in earlier show appearances or from Oprah's own mouth, on or off her show.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


So I originally wrote this for my "About Me" section of Facebook a couple months ago, realized it was way too long, saved it... and forgot about it. Might as well publish it here.... so this is me in a nutshell!...

First and foremost, I am a huge nerd, and I’m OK with that. I love words, editing, reading and everything that goes into the publishing/production process. Someday I’ll write a book, although I’m not sure about what. I’m a news hound and need to check out multiple news Web sites daily. I am obsessed with Facebook, MySpace and the Internet—really, it’s bad. I have a great job—I am very lucky to have a wonderful boss and awesome coworkers (love my talks with Kerri, Nicole W., Colleen, etc.). I am really starting to love traveling, and I am beginning to get over my fear of flying – yay!

I love my original nickname Mander (thanks, Teri-Ann) that has now become my primary name to many people. I love it so much that I try to insert it into whatever I can (“Everybody Loves Mander,” “Farmer Wants a Mander,” etc.).

I have been an official Philadelphia resident, living in a beautiful apartment in an awesome apartment complex with my so-so roommates Ter and Gilmore, since March 2008. I love being back in the city, and in a better section than Olney (yeahhh Roxborough!). There is so much to do in Philly. Although, I do admit, part of me misses the Lehigh Valley – never thought that would happen!

I enjoy doing things many 23-year-olds do, including getting dressed up and going out—always creates good stories to tell and rehash later! But I also enjoy a relaxing night in just as much—I’m fine watching a night of crappy reality TV (love the boob tube—again, it’s bad!) or movies (Bill Wine is my idol).

I also love music—I’ll listen to pretty much anything! I constantly have to be listening to music—at work, when I’m working out, driving or just hanging out in my room. My iPod was probably one of my most important purchases (along with my gorgeous car, Inky). Cover songs are the best!

Growing up has been interesting for me. I don’t feel 23, and I desperately miss La Salle. I am so excited for all my friends’ weddings and babies, but it always reminds me of how old, but also irresponsible, I am, haha. I’m still learning how to take care of myself—I can’t imagine how all you with husbands and babies do it! I really want to get a puppy, but even that sounds like too much of a responsibility.

I don’t enjoy drama in my personal life, though I feel like there’s always something going on in my friends’ and family member’s lives (really, I could write a soap opera). I really hate boy drama… I’m looking for a straightforward, kindhearted guy with a good sense of humor. If you’re out there, call me, haha!.... No, seriously….

I have been trying to “quit” soda on and off for many years. Right now I’m in an “off” period.
I am a big junk food addict—I love me some chicken fingers and fries… and chicken caesar salad. That might as well be junk food, for how many calories there are in it! Additionally, I’m attempting to become a cook… send me some simple recipes, please!

When I can, I will talk about or reference The Office or Friends, especially if a similar situation arises. I also enjoy talking about my cousins Gehrig, Sammy and Gavin, and the somewhat funny (or odd) wisdom of my little brother Brandon. I also tend to talk about celebrities like I know them—I’m obsessed with pop culture. I really need to do something productive with all this knowledge!

Other things I love: deep convos with Polly and Tanya, advice from Des, shopping with JM, girls’ nights with Becky and Nicole G., joking with my sister Emily, watching TV with Gilmore and Ter, and catching up with people from high school and college (message me and let me know what you’re up to!).

My mother is the most important person to me in the entire world. She is so amazing—so selfless, sweet, fun, supportive. She has been the best mother and the best friend I could ever ask for. My mom was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme (an aggressive type of brain cancer) in April 2007. She has changed very much over the past year, but I know her love for me (and mine for her) hasn’t. She has made me into the person I am today, and if I can be just half the person and mother she is “when I grow up,” then I’ve achieved my goal.

Overall, I’d like to think I am a kind, quirky person who is a good friend, daughter, sister, employee, etc. I strive to be the best I can be in all those areas. Also, I’m obviously long-winded. The End.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Ch-ch-ch-changes: My little brother's growing up!

So a few people have requested an update... I've been wanting to write for a few weeks now, but life has been crazy. A little over two weeks ago, my mom fainted one morning and was rushed to the ER. Turned out she just passed out because she had a vasovagal attack, where your blood doesn't get to the brain fast enough and you pass out. She was in the hospital for two days and they let her go.

On Thursday she was taken to the ER again because she was shaking and lethargic. They found out yesterday her port, which was installed so she could easily get chemotherapy, was infected. She also has a urinary infection, and there is bacteria in her blood. So the docs are pumping her with antibiotics until the infection's gone. They removed the port. She's expected to go home in a few days.

Needless to say, all of this has been very stressful on my family. I really deal with things differently every day. Some days I have a lot of hope and trust that the doctors and God will do all they can to help my mom. Other days I don't feel so confident about things. I try not to have a "woe is me" attitude, but it's hard sometimes. I don't think there is anything worse in the world than seeing the one person you love more than anybody in the hospital. I spent the whole day with her yesterday, and it was definitely a role reversal. I held her hand when the doctors and nurses poked and prodded her... something she used to do for me. It's all so surreal... sometimes I just pause and think, "This can't possibly be my life... this isn't happening to my mom, this isn't my family." But the truth is, no family, no person, is infallible to cancer.

But anyway.... throughout everything, my little brother Brandon always keeps us laughing. Those of you who don't know my brother are missing out... he's a real treat! (This picture is kind of old, but it's one of my favorites... I have it at my cube at work. He's 7 and picking the nose of a warthog statue at the Philadelphia Zoo. Priceless). He's always been quite the entertainer. He loves to crack horrible jokes, and when he was younger he used to treat my friends with renditions of pop songs. A few weeks ago, he gave me a 5-minute lecture on why it's better to be born a vampire than be turned into a vampire via being bitten. I paid attention for about 30 seconds.

Now he's a 13-year-old Guitar Hero-playing, Japanese-anime watching 8th grader... who just recently found out Santa Claus isn't real (Emily was the unfortunate bearer of bad news... but we couldn't have him going into 8th grade still believing... that's just setting him up to get stuffed into a locker). Despite him getting older, he hasn't gone through that "my older sisters are lame" phase yet. Every time I come home to visit, he greets me with a big hug. Last weekend he told me Emily and I are his role models. I absolutely adore him.

But lately I realized he's not a little boy anymore. This is hard for me to accept, because we have a 10-year age difference and I was always his second mom. I changed his diapers and watched Barney with him... I can remember him pretty well as a little boy. But now he's as tall as me (I've always known that, despite being the oldest, I would one day be the shortest Koehler kid). He also has a little peach fuzz growing above his upper lip. The boy who used to say "oy!!!" every time he heard a bad word from someone, or even on a movie or TV, is now cursing in front of me. Where does time go?

Recently he has become somewhat of a babe magnet... which is the hardest bit for me to comprehend. His biggest admirer is our new next-door neighbor Nancy, who is going into 6th grade. They hang out in our backyards and go in the pool. She calls him a lot.

Last weekend Emily told me that Nancy called one day. Brandon had left his cell phone in another room, so Emily ran to give it to him before it stopped ringing. He ignored her call. When Em told me that, I got upset. My brother will not be a douchebag to girls, I thought.

So the next time I saw him, we had a little talk. I told him to be upfront with girls about his feelings, and that it's horrible to blow them off. He listened to everything I said and assured me he had called Nancy back. I asked him if he liked liked her, and he said no... he only likes her as a friend.

Me: "Well, have you told her that?"

Brandon: "Yeah... twice! But she doesn't get it. She keeps asking me if I like her as a girlfriend."

Me: "Well, do you think you might start to like like her down the road?"

Brandon: "I don't think so. The older guy and younger girl thing never works out anyway. I mean, you've seen Saved by the Bell."

Me:"..... uh.... what are you talking about????"

Brandon: "You know... in Saved by the Bell: The College Years, Kelly likes her professor... but he ends up breaking her heart. It never works out to like an older guy."

Me: ".........."

Let this be a lesson for you, ladies.... courtesy of my 13-year-old brother and the creators of Saved by the Bell: The College Years.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Thoughts on Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

I think I jumped on the Jodi Picoult bandwagon last summer. I've read a few of her books, including The Tenth Circle., Vanishing Acts and Picture Perfect. I really enjoy what a great storyteller Picoult is -- she creates very real, interesting characters, and you always seem to learn something about a certain topic in her books, too. For instance, in her book Plain Truth, the reader learns pretty much all she ever wanted to about the Amish -- and then some.

But none of her books have affected me quite like Nineteen Minutes, the story of a school shooting and what this tragic event does to the lives of those involved. One of the reasons I think this book resonated with me so much is because school shootings is something very real for our generation -- and something that really affected me.

On April 20, 1999, the day of the Columbine High School massacre, I was at home sick. I remember being on the couch, watching MTV, when John Norris interrupted whatever mindless show I was watching to report on the shootings. I remember having an awful feeling in the pit of my stomach.

A couple hours later, I went on AIM and was chatting with my friends who were in school that day. There were all these rumors flying around about someone bringing in a gun to our school the next day.

Despite physically feeling better, I was extremely afraid of returning to school the next day because of all the rumors going around, so I faked sick for an additional day and stayed home again.

Nothing happened the next day at school, although I heard security was heightened. That night I admitted to my mom that I was scared to go back to school. And my mom, being the smart cookie she is, told me something I often need to remind myself. She said that you don't have control over these things, and you can't live your life in fear. "There is only one April 21, 1999 ever. You never get that day back. You need to live every day to the fullest." (The irony of her saying this isn't lost on me... I pray to God this is how she lived her life, and she is happy how she spent it, because she technically can't live her life to the fullest anymore).

Even though what she said helped me and I went back to school, I was still scared. Throughout 8th and 9th grade, we had quite a few bomb scares at Northampton High School. And every time, even though I knew they were happening because kids just wanted to get out of school early, in the back of my mind I would be wondering if something was really happening -- because, of course, a school shooting could happen anywhere.

My generation (we're being called the "millenials") has grown up in fear, with school shootings and 9/11. It's so horrible that a place that should conjure up images of safety and security, a school, can be a place of so much violence.

Even after I graduated, that feeling hasn't left me. It was May 2006. I was 21 and interning for East Penn Press. My boss Deb gave me the morning off, so I was watching TV (again, I know) when my sister called me. She said a student had brought in a gun to school, and they were evacuating. She couldn't get a hold of my mom or dad, so I had to come pick her up. I remember starting to shake as I drove less than 5 minutes away to our high school. All the kids were being held on the football field, and it took some convincing to let me take Emily home. (It helps when everyone knows that your mom's a teacher!)

Even with "increased security," a boy brought various weapons into school using a musical instrument case. He supposedly only wanted to hurt himself, and he is currently on probation.

Another great point Nineteen Minutes makes is that sometimes kids react this way because of being bullied in the past. The book also addresses the issue of popularity and unpopularity. I always wondered about this, too... what makes certain kids popular? Who decides that? Are they more popular because of the way they look, dress, talk? Because they play sports or have nice cars? What makes someone unpopular? Again, they way they look and dress? Maybe they are on the debate or chess team, maybe they actually like school. Maybe they don't want to drink. Sometimes I think about the way some of the "popular" kids in my high school treated the "unpopular" kids, and it makes me cringe. Thankfully, none of the treatment was on the same level as that in Nineteen Minutes... at least, as far as I know.

Anyway, the book is so wonderful -- beautifully written and sad, even though it can also be a bit corny at times. It's full of surprises, and really makes you wonder who the real "bad guy" is. I love how everything comes full circle at the end... watch out for a special scene with the shooter's dad teaching a college class. If you're a Picoult fan, and even if you're not, I recommend getting this book... I promise you, it won't be a boring read, and it will certainly make you think!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

US Scareways

Enough is enough, US Airways: You totally suck. First, you decide to charge $15 for the first checked bag ($25 for the second) and $2 for soda or WATER on your flights... things that should be complimentary, in my opinion!

Then, you decide not to offer movies on domestic flights anymore... something that calms and entertains people who don't like flying, like me.

And this is the last straw. Pressuring pilots to use less fuel is not in the best interest of your passengers' safety. I know the economy is bad, and that you'll be paying $2 million more in fuel costs this year, but this is not the answer!! I'm just waiting for a crash.

Our company books us on US Airways flights often, but I'm going to start request flying Southwest. Cheaper flights, fun and nice attendants, and no charge for checked bags or freakin' WATER yet.

Monday, July 14, 2008

A reliable source?

Here's another self-plagiarism blog from work. I'm interested to get your feedback... what do you think about using Wikipedia as a resource? Is it reliable?

Also, note the Bob O'Brien shout out, all you BOB fans! View the original post here.

Today I read an article from The San Francisco Chronicle on researchers' attempt to create an online library of human genetics on Wikipedia. There have already been 7,500 Wikipedia entries on different genes. The researchers are hoping the popular online encyclopedia will help form a collaboration among scientists.

When I read this, I had a flashback to college, around the time when Wikipedia became popular. I could hear Professor O'Brien's voice in my head: "Do not use Wikipedia as a source on any assignments."

For those of you unfamiliar with the Web site, anyone who signs up for an account can edit and add anything to an entry. This can cause inaccuracies, and can soil the reputability of the entry... hence the reason why my classmates and I weren't allowed to use it as a source in most of my college courses.

An example Professor O'Brien pointed out to my public relations class proves this point. In 2005, someone edited the Wikipedia entry on John Seigenthaler Sr., former assistant to Attorney General Robert Kennedy. This person added that Seigenthaler was at one point thought to be involved in the assassinations of Kennedy and his brother, JFK. A good friend of the Kennedys and a pallbearer at Robert Kennedy's funeral, Seigenthaler was outraged when this untrue tidbit was printed on the Web site and spoke out about the dangers of Wikipedia inaccuracy, calling his case "Internet character assassination."

According to The San Francisco Chronicle article, the researches acknowledge the "completely open and anonymous nature of Wikipedia." They even considered using another forum for their project, Citizendium, where users must provide their real names and field experts are asked to check articles for mistakes. However, Wikipedia was chosen for its popularity.

In my opinion, Wikipedia is a great source to find out quick, trivial information, such as who sang Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are" on the second season of American Idol (the answer's Ruben Studdard, by the way), but when it comes to using Wikipedia as a source for something scholarly, scientific and important such as a forum on human genetics, I might have to stick with Professor O'Brien.

What do you think about using Wikipedia as a forum for human genetics?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Oh, summer TV...

Ah, summer... BBQs, margaritas by the pool... and crappy television. We were just rejoicing about the return of our favorite TV shows (like The Office!!) after the writers' strike, and then our favorite shows went on summer vacay.

Summer TV is never good as TV during the rest of the year... as evidenced by some of this summer's offerings.

Now, I am no TV snob. Those of you who know me well know I watch more lowbrow reality TV shows than the average person. However, some of these shows are even below my standards... and that's pretty bad!

Today I read about this show on ABC called Wipeout, which basically is just a way for us to laugh at people falling and getting hurt. I mean, I know slapstick comedy can be funny, but really... this just seems sad. Says something about humanity, I think... or at least about the execs at ABC.

From USA Today: "The time-honored tradition of watching people falling down is always funny," says Wipeout host John Henson, a 20-year comic vet best known as host of E!'s Talk Soup. "And it's certainly that tradition that this show is following."

Another one that kind of looks interesting, but also crazy, is The Baby Borrowers. Five teenaged couples will be given babies, preschoolers, preteens, young teenagers and even senior citizens to promote one message --- teenage pregnancy is not cool. Hmmm... maybe those pregnancy pact gals should have volunteered for this show.

I do enjoy a cheesy dating reality show... or two (Rock of Love, Flavor of Love, I Love New York... need I go on?). But then my roommates and I found the cheesiest one of them all... Farmer Wants a Wife. A bunch of city chicks travel to the country to fall in love with farmer Matt. Yee-haw? Not so much.

OK, so Matt has a golden god tan and a pretty hot bod, but he is completely asexual. Just like all the other reality shows, the girls are crazy about Matt at first sight, even though he seems as boring as cow poop. I never get how all the girls on the dating reality shows "fall in love" with the guys so fast... it just doesn't work that way.

The absolute best part of this show is how Matt reveals to the girls who is going home. He doesn't give them a rose ala The Bachelor, a clock like Flav or a backstage pass like Bret Michaels (aka my boyfriend). In one episode, they actually watched an old lady stitch the girl who was going home's name into a blanket. Talk about anticipation!! The best was when Matt made the girls each put their hands into a different cow to see if she was pregnant; the girl whose cow wasn't preggers had to get packin'. After she cleaned the excrement off her hand, that is.

One more piece of summer TV junk, coming to you July 6: VH1's I Love Money, which features old VH1 reality stars (the nose-picking Mr. Boston, loogie-hocking Pumkin, lisp-y stripper Nibblz) doing pretty much anything for money. Wait, wasn't that what some of the girls were already doing when they were trying to get with Flav?

Yeah, who am I kidding.... I'm probably gonna watch that show.

Anyway, I hope this possible actors' strike doesn't amount to anything... watching these TV shows, even though some may be guilty pleasures, are serious hazards to my health.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Celebrity Effect on Healthcare

Note: This is an expanded version of a blog entry I wrote for our work blog. Yay self-plagiarism!)

For those of you who don't kn
ow, I write for a healthcare magazine. Every day at work, I spend a lot of time reading new healthcare articles, studies, etc. And something I've noticed is what an impact a celebrity diagnosis can have on healthcare.

It seems if a celebrity or her loved one is diagnosed with an illness, it tends to get a lot of ink or television exposure.

For example, Jenny McCarthy has been talking about autism--her son Evan has the disorder. She's even written a book, called Louder Than Words: A Mother's Journey in Healing Autism, about her experiences.

McCarthy believes a vaccination Evan received caused his autism, and she's been speaking out about vaccines. On June 4 she led, along with boyfriend Jim Carrey, the Green Our Vaccines march in Washington, DC.

It is wonderful McCarthy is taking a stand and starting a conversation about autism--especially because her celebrity gives her the ability to, while many other mothers do not have the fame, and therefore the power, to make their cause known. But stances celebrities take and things they say about a disease can have a major impact.

There hasn't been any research firmly proving certain vaccinations cause autism, and the questionable substance in the vaccines has been removed. McCarthy and Carey's rally called for "national health agencies to reassess mandatory vaccine schedules," according to Fox News. If this influences health agencies to do so, will children be missing out on necessary vaccines?

Right after I posted the blog entry at work, Tim Russert tragically and suddenly passed away. Even though his death of course devastated his family, who were all just on vacation in Europe celebrating his son's graduation, and all other Meet the Press fans, it may have done some good for the American people. My coworker found a story reporting physicians are seeing more middle-age patients coming in concerned about their heart health after Russert's death from cardiac arrest. Sounds like his tragedy has been a wake-up call for many people.

Lastly, the case that, to me, is the most important: Senator Ted Kennedy's recent brain cancer diagnosis. About a month ago, Sen. Kennedy discovered he had a malignant glioma. He has since had a successful surgery

After his diagnosis, I saw a massive amount of articles and information about brain cancer on the Internet. What is it, survival rates, how it affects a patient, new trials and therapies that are being tested.

This is all close to my heart -- for those of you who don't know, my mother was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, the most aggressive type of brain cancer, in spring 2007. (We're pictured below in my girl-mullet days. She swore to me it was not a mullet, but I beg to differ. Eeep!) It has been quite the rollercoaster ride for my family and I. My mom also had a very successful surgery (85-90% of her tumor was removed), last summer she had radiation treatments, and she is just finishing up a year-long round of chemo. Her tumor has not grown since the surgery; however, her quality of life has gone downhill. Post surgery, she was walking, cooking, even driving herself to her radiation appointments. Because of a few major setbacks, including a brain hemorrhage last August, she can no longer walk on her own or basically take care of herself. Her personality has changed too -- she is not the chatty mom I grew up with. Although she is always pleasant, I miss the mom I could talk to for hours. Obviously, this disease is extremely tragic and one that was previously not highlighted in the media. Brain cancer is rare, although gliomas are the most common type.

Back to Sen. Kennedy: I truly feel for him and his family -- I know what they are going through and how scary it is. However, I'm grateful his diagnosis brought about more publicity and public awareness of this horrible illness.

But my question is -- why is this what it takes to get brain cancer in the mainstream media? Why does it take a celeb's diagnosis to bring any disease "into the spotlight?" So many commonfolk suffer daily from a variety of serious ailments, and if they are rare, sometimes it takes a celeb to get the disease its "time to shine."
to remove the tumor, and is expected to start treatments shortly.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Finally... a blog!

Hey, all.... finally decided to start up one of these. As a writer, I probably should have had one a long time ago! Will probably be posting about what's in the news, pop culture/celeb stuff, movies, books, and just what's going on in my world. Happy blogging!