Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Another Inconvenient Truth

File Under:  Life Is Not Burger King

Good news: This has nothing to do with Al Gore, global warming, or the invention of the Internet.  Nor does it involve a trip to Mordor if the above picture misled you.  Bad news:  I am going to tell you something you do not want to hear.  Are you ready for it?  Here it comes:
All marriages performed by or sanctioned through the state are illegal, and all the rights and responsibilities afforded by such marriages are baseless rendering them null and void.

Whoa ...that was a load off.  Are you still there?  You are?  Good.  Why would I spout such crazy talk, I mean that is crazy talk ...right?  Unfortunately, no it is not.  Marriage has three main problems in modern America.  The first problem is that marriage is, has, and always will be a ritualized religious ceremony between two or more individuals of like beliefs formalizing the permanent bonding of one or more males to one or more females in recognition of a covenant between the marrying parties, their church, and their deity(ies).  The second problem for marriage is that in America we have deemed it prudent in order to ensure the life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, and freedom of religion of ALL citizens that the church remain separate from the state.  Finally, churches are private, faith-based religious organizations incorporated under a codified set of rules and doctrine determined by the members of that organization, wherein membership of the organization is determined by acceptance of and compliance with the codified set of rules and doctrine.  What does that mean?

The state (government) should never have performed, endorsed, or sanctioned a religious ceremony, nor should the state ever have afforded rights and responsibilities to individuals who have participated in said religious ceremony based simply upon the fact that they have completed the rituals of said ceremony.  Moreover, marriage being by definition a religious ceremony is under the purview of the church; no state or federal body can redefine what an individual private organization determines to be a valid marriage according to its organizational bylaws.  If the government were to co-opt the institution of marriage for political purposes it would make Unconstitutional the bylaws of all faith-based private organizations that define marriage contrarily and end the long-upheld legal ideology that private organizations (i.e. clubs, churches  orders, leagues, associations, fraternities, etc.) had the right to be discriminatory in their membership practices.  In plain English:  the government cannot marry people, the government cannot confer upon married people rights and responsibilities, and the government cannot define or redefine what marriage is or is not.

The rights and responsibilities that married individuals enjoy should never have been afforded to them by virtue of being married.  Furthermore, legally binding services such as health and life insurance beneficiary status should never have been linked to marital status.  In reality, any two or more consenting individuals (regardless of gender or orientation) who have achieved a suitable state of mental and emotional maturity, as well as social responsibility should be allowed to enter into either a domestic partnership (separate legal entities enjoying shared legal benefits and limited legal liability) or a civil union (a single legal entity created via permanent partnership with shared benefits and full legal liability) bestowing upon them the majority of the rights/responsibilities currently given to married couples.  This is a real legal contract.  A contract that is more relevant to the rights and responsibilities it delegates, and more permanently binding in a court of law than any promise between two parties and their deity.

Proponents of same-sex marriage now would ask the government to give them immediately by law, what they will not strive to achieve by natural order: social validity.  However, de jure acceptance is no more real for LGBT couples now than de jure tolerance was for minorities decades ago.  Why?  Because you cannot regulate the minds and hearts of people, nor can you legislate the human condition.  The government is not here to force people upon society or society upon people; rather, its purpose is merely to preserve a place within society for law-abiding people.  The rest is up to us.  That is simply another inconvenient truth.

"Viðrar Vel Til Loftárása" by Sigur Rós from Ágætis byrjun released 1999 on Fat Cat/Smekkleysa

#BargainNinja: Ancient Secrets of the Ninja - Cookware

Someone posted the question: "[Which is better] KitchenAid or Paula Deen cookware?"

Well, in my experience it is more a question of: how well do you cook?  Like me for instance -- I tend to burn things.  Therefore, cheap aluminum or steel core cookware is not for me, as they do not distribute heat evenly or consistently.  If you are like me and find yourself using scouring pad/cloths (like steel wool) a lot, then you may want to either get a heavy stainless steel/copper set of cookware (as the the stainless steel can stand up to abrasion, and copper helps with heat distribution) or a serviceable non-stick aluminum cook set and some non-stick cooking spray.  However, be forewarned: non-stick coatings can degrade over time and once this starts to happen you are leaching toxic chemicals into your food.

This copper-clad bottom cook set by Revere is tops for the stove-top and new gourmands.    With proper care this is a cook set you could one day pass on to your children, as there are old Revere Ware cook sets still going strong after decades of faithful service.

On the other hand, if you don't burn things, you clean (dry and store) your cookware as soon as you are done using it, and you don't use scouring pads/cloths to clean then you can graduate to cast iron, ceramic, or glass cookware from makers like:  Lodge, Le Creuset, Corning Ware, and Pyrex are the best.  Products from the first 3 manufacturers are able to be used both in the oven and on the stove-top, and can go from heat to water without cracking/shattering.  Glass products, like those made by Pyrex, are heat sensitive and will crack or shatter if introduced to water that is significantly different than it in temperature and are not designed for stove-top cooking.  Corning Ware might be the most versatile of them all as it, along with Pyrex, is usually microwave safe.

Some of the best meals I have ever eaten, and I have eaten many meals, have been cooked in Le Creuset'ss enamel-coated cast iron cookware.

A final option are product's like Greepan's thermolon-coated cookware.  It purports to be "Green" (environmentally friendly) non-stick cookware that does not use harmful non-stick coatings like Teflon.  It allows for a more flexibility but still needs to be treated with kid-gloves when cooking and cleaning.  It should be noted that the aforementioned cast iron, ceramic, and glass cookware are already fairly "green," last nigh unto forever when taken care of, and are much cheaper to boot.

For what it is worth, I have witnessed first-hand the quality and longevity of the brands mentioned here with the exception of Greenpan.  Moreover, if a kitchen appliance is what you are looking for you cannot go wrong with KitchenAid.  Do not be swayed by designer cookware with some celebrity's name on it, unless it is a George Foreman grill -- those things work.  Good cookware can be a real lifelong investment or a real source of continual aggravation.  If you buy based upon features, quality and reputation and you will be a lot happier than if you buy based upon aesthetics and endorsements.  Hope this helps.

Friday, March 8, 2013

#BargainNinja: My First Time

Adventures In Couponing

All right, it wasn't quite like this, but it was close.

I just so happened to be running low on frozen entrees and supplements, and both were on sale at various places this week.  This was doubly fortuitous as I was also very anxious to get out there and apply my ninja strategery in the field.  I loaded up my loyalty cards with coupons, printed out a few more, checked all the sales flyers, made a list, check it twice (O.K., I half-checked it one time and wound up missing out on a $2.00 off deal) and then headed out into battle.  Here is a breakdown of what I got and how I made out:

Two-day Trip @ Rite Aid Pharmacy and Kroger Supermarket
$ 20.49 Nature Made Supplement Multi-Pack
$ 19.49 Nature Made Herbal Supplement
$ 18.79 Nature Made Nutritional Supplement
$ 17.49 Nature Made Dietary Supplement
$ 05.29 Nature Made Mineral Supplement
$ 40.00 Weight Watchers Smart Ones (20 x 1 @ 5/$10.00)
$ 06.18 Weight Watchers Smart Ones (2 x $3.09)
$ 02.50 Yoplait Greek Yogurt (2 x $1.25)
$ 130.23 Total retail price
$ 18.50 Nature Made BOGO 50% off savings
$ 10.50 Loyalty card savings
$ 10.10 Coupon savings (5 Coupons))
$ 10.50 eCoupon savings
$ 49.60 Total savings
38% off Total discount
$ 80.63 Final price
$ 10.00 additional loyalty card savings toward future purchase
+ 450.0 Nature Made wellnessREWARD$ points
$ 07.00 Nature Made coupon (redeemed for 500 wellnessREWARD$ points)
+ 0048.0 Fuel points (52 total; 52% to $0.10 off per gal of gas)

While I didn't exactly slay 'em where they stood by getting massive amounts of free stuff, I am nevertheless proud of this step towards being more frugal.  I even managed to net $0.10 off per gallon of gas at Exxon when I purchased a chest deep freezer on sale for $99.99.  That combined with the almost $50.00 bucks I saved will come in handy when I need to fill up the tank in a few days.  If you believe a penny saved is a penny earned, it will be like paying $21.40 to fill up a 20 gallon tank -- that's $1.07 per gallon!  That is nothing to shake a stick at for sure.  I am all-in-all pleased with the results, and look forward to improving my bargain hunting skills in future outings.  As far as first times go ...I've had worse.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

#BargainNinja: That's Not My Granddaddy's Bucket of Lard!

I have frequently posed the mostly unscientific question of how did my great-grandfather who on a daily basis probably consumed very high calorie, fat, and carbohydrate meals (some featuring foods cooked in lard) not only not die of a heart attack, stroke, or complications from diabetes, but live into his 90s to pass away peacefully with a hale mind and body.  The usual response is that: well back in those days they lived a simpler life and worked 16-hour days.  To a degree this makes a great deal of sense, although I would question how did working 16-hour days, in the conditions he did, for most of his life not destroy his physical body.  The truth of the matter is he beat the life expectancy of someone born circa the turn of the century by almost 6 decades.  In fact, he beat the life expectancy a child born in the last 10 years by more than 2 decades.

Saturated fats, Hydrogenated fatty-acids, BHA, and propyl gallate are all known carcinogens and/or contributors to obesity and coronary disease.  Definitely not my great-grandfather's tub o' lard.

In actuality the life expectancy for someone like him has risen 115%, since the era in which he was born.  If you reason that a marked shifting (for the better) in dietary habits has occurred in the last 20-25 years, you could also theorize that the rate at which the life expectancy has increased would have responded by beginning to rise sharply.  However, it has not.  From 1900-1981 the average net increase of life expectancy was 1.26% per year.  This rate no doubt was influenced by many factors including, but not limited to: societal climate, environment, occupational trends, economic trends, crime, periods of war/peace, advances in medicine and other technological  educational opportunities, and general increase in knowledge.  In contrast from 1990-2004 life expectancy has improved by a rate of only 0.3% per year.

This begs the very scientific question:  what the ham sandwich man?!  No doubt advances in science, technology, and healthcare of the early to mid-twentieth century helped.  And of course, migrating from the south to the north and the Civil Rights Movement significantly improved the life outlook of black males, as when you compare the same data for white males the early century increase was much less dramatic (+0.65% per year) and the latter day increase is actually greater (+0.04% per year).  Nevertheless, why has the improvement in life expectancy tapered off so sharply?  Has science and technology stagnated?  Are we not dieting and exercising hardcore enough?  Or is there something more nefarious afoot?

I checked my life expectancy, and it was an abysmal 56.69 years.  I'm on a diet of water and food that tastes like dirt and I am to die before I am 60, that's just peachy.  In fact, if I were to give up all sexual activity, stop driving, and start drinking again I could increase my life expectancy my a whopping 3.35 years.  A lifetime of boredom and drinking alone for 3.35 extra years of life -- that's a tough call.  What other factors would improve my chances?  If I mitigated teh stressors in my life, did more conditioning exercise, ate a more balanced diet, and got a good 7 hours of solid, restful sleep per night I could potentially live to see 70.  While it is well shy (by 5 years) of the best life expectancy, I would have just barely beaten (by 1 year) the average for males life myself born in the same year as me.

My maternal grandfather died in his 70s and my father's father died in his 60s, of cardiac arrest caused by kidney failure and massive heart attack respectively.  They were decades short of the mark for longevity set by their fathers.  To my mother's father's credit he had been on a decades long journey of health and wellness that included: not drinking, not smoking, and a low sodium diet.  He retired back to his childhood home, lived a simple agrarian life and walked about a mile or so every day.  My other grandfather, did not and failings of the inept medical establishment that allowed my maternal grandfather to develop such a serious condition unnoticed, those decisions he made no doubt gave him the extra years my dad's dad did not get.  There are similar decisions we can make to improve our chances as well:

  • Move - The vast majority of us have sedentary jobs and lead sedentary lives.  Moving enough to elevate your heart rate for 20 minutes per day can significantly improve your health and wellness.  Working up to an intense workout 3-5 times per week that includes calorie-burning by getting to your target heart rate for at least 15 minutes and muscle conditioning, well add years to your life.
  • Simplify - Stress is critical to the function of the body, and survival; but bad stress, especially when left unchecked, is a killer.  Cut out the unnecessary things or people in your life that induce this bad stress.  When unavoidable stressors like death, unemployment, or illness occur: be balanced in what you take upon yourself, recognize your signs of not coping well, and get help -- professional if needed.
  • Detoxify - Our world is much more polluted than our great-grandparents'.  Air pollution, water pollution, chemicals in our food, electromagnetic radiation (EMR), and tons of free-radicals bombard us from all sides.  Buying certified organic food, consuming more antioxidants (i.e. Vitamins A, C, E), purifying your water, and reducing your exposure to EMR (Cellular devices, Wi-Fi, relevision, radio, computer screens, microwaves, etc.) could all provide dramatic boosts to your health, wellness, and longevity.
  • Just Say: "No!" - Give yourself a real chance, say no to tobacco products, excessive drinking, the extra piece of cake, unnecessary drugs of any kind, and reckless behavior.  Whatever does not kill you immediately will gang up on you later in life to take you out long before your time.
Source: American Cancer Society

The truth is our lifestyle is killing us.  Science and technology are making strides in the quest to extend quality years of life and one day eradicate illness and death.  However, those efforts are stymied by what we do as individuals and a society  We need to get that life expectancy average climbing sharply again.  In order to do that we are going to have to make some personal commitments and social changes.  We have to put the kibosh on environmental pollution of all sources and start living simpler, more natural, and more active lives less saturated with technology.  In so doing we will create a society of individuals who remain vital and strong longer.  This is important not simply because vital, strong people live longer, but more importantly because vital, strong people advance civilization and lay the foundation for vital, strong, and long-lasting societies.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

#BargainNinja: Welcome Fellow Bargain Hunters!

This series is all about living healthy and living well ...on the cheap.  If you ferret out a hot deal, share it with me!  Don't forget to "Like" The Bargain Ninja on Facebook, and catch my Tweets @TheBargainNinja on Twitter.  See you around.  But you won't see me, because I am a ninja.  Unless it is Monday morning and I haven't had breakfast yet, then I am not so ninja-esque.