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Gift Ideas: 5 Practical Presents that are Actually Useful

Looking for some interesting gift ideas? Sick of buying the traditional tie for dad and sweater for your nephew, and want to get them something they might actually have a use for? Look no further! Well, actually you should look further down the page. Below are five unique holiday gift ideas for that special someone that won't find their way into a box in the attic. Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner1. Give the gift of convenience. It is the year 2006, and yet you cannot fly around town on a hoverboard, jet pack, or even a flying car. Luckily, we do have robots to do menial household labor. I highly recommend the iRobot Roomba vacuum cleaner. You may be wondering: does it really work? Our experience with the Roomba has been very positive, so much so that we got one for my parents last Christmas. How is it practical? You just have to press a button, and it cleans the whole floor! Seriously. It takes longer than you might be able to do with a fancy Dyson vacuum, but you don't have to do anything! My mom loves it. To be fair, you do still have to empty it out when it is done and once in a while you might want to clean hair out of the brushes. But if you are lazy like me, it will do a much more thorough cleaning job, and you'll end up vacuuming twice as much. $149.99 at Amazon 2. Give the gift of health. Many of us suffer from health problems that could be improved by improving our diets. There is a lot of homeopathic quackery out there, but there's also a large and growing body of research on how to fight high blood pressure, cholesterol, and other common modern ailments. Unfortunately, the vitamin, supplement, and "natural " health food industry is largely unregulated. How can your dear mum be sure she is taking fish oil and not a mercury smoothie? Get her a subscription to ConsumerLab.com. How is it practical? I think this one is pretty obvious. Access to independent testing data on different brands can ensure you're getting what you're paying for. It might not seem like as much fun as a Big Mouth Billy Bass or a keyboard tie, but trust me, no one wants those things anyway. $27.99 for a one year subscription Kil-A-Watt 3. Give the gift of power. Not everyone is a tree hugger, but everyone likes to save money on their electric bills. You might be surprised which appliances and gadgets are sucking down the most power - or your recipient will, when you give them the Kill-a-Watt Electricity Usage Monitor. How is it practical? Just plug the thing you want to test right in and you'll be able to compare kilowatt-hours. It can also help justify buying that new flat panel monitor, air conditioner or other more efficient device. "Look honey, buying this new MacBook with the Core 2 Duo will actually save us money!" $24.99 at Amazon (and a little less from some of their "featured merchants.") Mind Hacks 4. Give the gift of brains. Publisher O'Reilly is well-known for their technical books and their fun "Hacks" series. Mind Hacks: Tips & Tools for Using Your Brain is a very entertaining book on how your brain works and why it works the way it does. The book is not just for nerds--it definitely does not read like a dry technical manual. It does adopt the hacker point of view, a combination of curiosity, cleverness, and an interest in real-world results. A similar book in the series (which I haven't read yet) is Mind Performance Hacks: Tips & Tools for Overclocking Your Brain. How is it practical? The chapters are, quick, light reads that give you practical insights and tricks, everything from improving memory performance to figuring out optical illusions. Everything is grounded in scientific research, and they cite actual sources! If you think your intended recipient will be put off by the title and format, you might want to consider Forty Studies that Changed Psychology: Explorations into the History of Psychological Research, which covers some of the same ground from a different perspective. $16.47 at Amazon Lego Ice Cube Tray 5. Give the gift of cool. Like most people, you are probably sick of boring old ice cube trays. Wait, you say you haven't given ice cube trays any thought in your entire life, and that my premise is specious? Once you've seen the Lego Ice Cube Tray and the Lego block-shaped ice cubes that it produces, you'll agree with me. This is the perfect gift for that certain someone. How is it practical? Well, how else are supposed to build a frozen scale model of Edinburgh Castle on the kitchen counter? Unfortunately, it looks like it is sold out until March! Not-nearly-as-cool but just as practical substitutes include the OXO Good Grips Ice Cube Tray and the ISI Orka Freeze and Press Ice Cube Tray, both with spill-reducing lids. $7.99 for the Lego tray (sold out) $3.99 for the Good Grips tray $9.95 for the Orka Freeze and Press Bonus gift idea! Finally, for those of you who need to the right gift for a godless, hedonistic liberal, The War on X-Mas Manual will no doubt fill their hearts with joy. If they are too far from the lord to truly know joy, then at least you know their hearts will be filled with secular blood as they pick up helpful tips on destroying your faith. How is it practical? Remember: whenever a minimum-wage cashier at a big box retail store says "happy holidays," Jesus cries a single tear. Better yet, if you can get the press covering a "war" against Christmas, they won't have as much time to report on the war in Iraq.

Natural Beauty and Dove

So, while trolling around the internet I found this video: [youtube]uT4dpFpiTgk[/youtube] The first thing to say about this video is that it is an advertisement.  I mean, it seems innocent at first.  They tell you that we have no perception of beauty because computers and make up artists and photography tricks, then they say that it's dove brand that wants you to know this.  Have you seen any of dove's advertisments in, say Cosmo or Red Book?  Okay, so now they are on a liberal viewpoint that says 'hey, we don't want to hide natural beauty by making every woman self concious because she has freckles or her hair doesn't do that "thing" that model's hair does.  But, they were just as bad as any other group of big business circus freaks. Not to say that I am not glad that they are aware of what they are doing to America and the rest of the world's youth.  Which is making a lot of girls who will never be happy with the type of body they have or the color of their skin or lips or eyes or hair, ect.  I am glad that they are taking a stand on it.  Good job, Dove.  They are even pushing it so far as to have women who are not impossibly thin as their models.  Making you the consumer feel that it's okay to have a big booty or some nice hour glass figure.  Atleast if their ads are sucessful. But not everyone is happy with Dove brands right now.  Follow me here, if you will.  Apparently these blond, blond women feel that Dove discriminated against them because no blond women were featured in a beauty ad.  Well, sorry that you were left out, ladies.  It sucks to be a racial minority.  A beauty racial minority.  Because blonds haven't been featured in every sexy ad since sexy ads were discovered by the ancient Norwegians long long ago. One of the quotes that I feel captures the feelings of this racial beauty minority group is the following: "Therefore, your reversed discrimination instantly makes you a hypocrite and abolishes any validity to your so called tolerant views on beauty." What do these blonds mean by this?  Do most blonds even know most of the words in this sentence?   Does this sentence even make sense in the context of the rest of this petition?  The world may never know. But, I digress.  I just wanted to give a shout out to Dove for having a campaign to make women feel like it's okay to be a normal looking woman.  I think this ad may save some suicidal teen's life one day.  Thank you Dove!

Nurse Practitioners…Groveling Every Step of the Way

For those who don't know, I am a student nurse practitioner (NP). This is the main reason as to why I am not able to post as much to support my husband's website. The other reason is partially due to the fact that nursing school has sucked the creativity out of me so much so to the point that the only creative juices I am able to produce are through the means of a power point presentation. But, I digress. The point of this article was for me to point out how hard NPs have it in the healthcare field. It does not start in practice, but rather, in school. Since I am in the Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) program, I am required to complete a total of 750 practicum hours before I graduate. Practicum is basically where I practice in a clinical setting (with real patients and real problems) as a student NP underneath the direction of another NP or MD. This amount of hours is fine with me since I am going to be working with other NPs and MDs who will consider me to be their colleague. Also, I will be making important life and health decisions with many families which requires much training. However, in the program that I am in, I have to find people who will be willing to precept/take me under their wing in this process. My practicum placements are totally made up by me in my free time between going to school full-time and working my 3 separate part-time jobs. This results in several rejections from people (because a student would decrease their productivity) and many calls and e-mails that are unanswered (they are too busy to call me back or they just don't have the time). I can understand why some NPs do not want to get back with me for one reason or the other, though. NPs are not paid extra to precept student NPs. So this means that their productivity decreases AND they are not paid extra. On the other hand, MDs are paid extra to precept physician assistants (PAs). PAs do essentially the same duties as an NP does. It's just a different discipline of thought when it comes down to it (medical vs. nursing). Okay. So now I'm a bright-eyed and bushy tailed NP in the world excited to conquer new things. I accept the first job that comes my way. A PA who has just graduated from a 2-year community college with an associate's degree (vs. me, who has graduated with BA and 2-years of masters training) has also just landed a job in my same place of work. This person, on average, is going to be making at least $20,000 more than I am based on the fact that 1) he/she was physician-trained and 2) this person is most likely male (I'm not even going to go there at this present time.). It's bad enough that NPs have been around for over 100 years and they're just starting to get recognized in 2006. Next year will officially only mark the 40th anniversary of PAs. Unfortunately, the reason that NPs are more recognized now, is not because MDs want to promote collegiality, but rather, because MDs want to specialize. They are willing to pass many of their regular patients on to NPs now in order to make more money for themselves in specialization. This is not the case for all MDs...but they all know who they are. It saddens me when a patient demands to see an MD. Then when he/she is told that the MD is unavailable, they'd rather settle for the PA than the NP. These patients freely admit that they would rather see a PA opposed to an NP just because of the name "physician" in "physician assistant." They claim that they have got to be the next best thing to doctors. Haven't us nurses paid our dues already? We're not in the old-school days of hospitals being places to go and die and the healthcare professionals they label as "nurses" are really the town prostitutes. Do your research. It's true. I just feel that for a profession that has been around for so many years, I don't feel I should fight for everything that I've already worked so damn hard for. It's just ridiculous.

I’m not fat – I have a disease!

Hooray! After 27 years of suffering through being Really Really Fat I have FINALLY been given the answer I was looking for - it is NOT my fault and my fatness is a disease with a name! No, it's not diabetes or hypothyroidism. Those have been around for many years and all Really Really Fat people have been tested for those at least twice in their lives. The new disease is Metabolic Syndrome. It's symptoms are:
  • Obesity (particularly around the waist)
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Insulin resistance
OMG I am so stoked. The Mayo Clinic says if I have any one of these symptoms, I'm totally in the running for Metabolic Syndrome. Now my obesity can be attributed to my high blood pressure and high cholesterol and not the other way around! This Syndrome was brought to my attention by the latest issue of Wired magazine, which usually just tells me about science I can't understand, technology I'll never be able to afford and biological & environmental achievements the government can never get behind. So why are they talking about my Fatness? Well, this new Metabolic Syndrome is a big hit with "Big Pharma" (and Wired loves to write about Big Pharma). Give a group of symptoms a fancy name and the pharmaceutical companies will find a miracle drug for it. Apparently the old name for Metabolic Syndrome - obesity - was just not.....selling. In the Wired article, they cite business owner and Kentuckian Karen Cunningham who gained weight after her pregnancy. She "couldn't shake the weight" and went to "various specialists" to tell her what was wrong. Apparently "lose weight and you won't feel like shit anymore" was NOT the answer she was looking for. Her answer was "Metabolic Syndrome."
The breakthrough came last December when her new endocrinologist diagnosed her with something called metabolic syndrome. She'd never heard of it. As she Googled to learn more, her chronic ailments – the weight, the high blood pressure, the lack of energy – started to make sense. They even seemed treatable. She's now on Glucophage and Avandia (which both regulate blood sugar) and has lost 20 pounds by cutting out carbohydrates. "Getting a diagnosis was a relief," Cunningham says. "I have hope now, whereas I didn't have any before."
Wow ok so you have....the beginnings of Type II diabetes and eat too much sugar and starch. That's pretty much what Dr. Robert Atkins was telling the world for 30 years before he died in 2003. Some people - not all people, but a good chunk of them - have bodies that just can't deal with insulin-raising carbs. Some are diabetic, some are just plain fat. People went berzerk over this claim. Doctors yelled and screamed, scientists wagged fingers. Me, I lost 90 lbs. But fuck all of that healthy eating stuff. I mean, "going on Atkins" means cutting our sugar and starch, eating more low-sugar fruits and veg, and eating whole grains. Yeah, and eating meat too (but not gobs of butter rolled in bacon smothered in cheese). Why should I have to eat like that if there's a PILL that will "cure" me of my new-found disease? You bet your sweet bippy there's a pill, too. Now that Atkins has died things have gotten awful skeevy on the "low carb" frontier. His company is pretty much a manufactured crap food warehouse now. Doctors and scientists are taking his ideas seriously now. But instead of having to claim he was right while he was alive and giving people the non-pharmaceutical way to fight your body's stupidity, they waited until he was dead so there'd be no one around to tell people "just stop eating sugar" so they could instead say "try this magic pill." The new pill is rimonabant. So far, human trials have shown that the only side effects are depression and anxiety. But those also happen to be side effects of being Really Really Fat. So what's the harm? It doesn't quite matter, because now Big Pharma has a disease and a pill to combat this disease. Without a disease, HMOs aren't likely to let you get the pill. And like any drug, doctors are going to be eventually pushed into prescribing it - to quell the pushy pharm reps and to quell their fatass patients who say "nothing I do works." I will come clean and say that while I did lose 90 lbs, I am still fat. I lost 90 and put back on 50 (truth be told, I was still fat after losing 90). Why? Well my body sucks. It's high maintenence. And I am too lazy to maintain it. It's my lot in life that I have a high maintenence body. Some do, some don't. I'm living proof that "get up off your butt and move" doesn't really mean the same for everyone. I could eat and move the same as someone else and probably still be fat. But I recognize the difference. I do have to watch what I eat and I do have to bust my ass. C'est la vie. I didn't gain weight because what I did didn't work for me. I gained weight because I stopped doing what worked for me. Duh. So now it seems that I have a choice. Get back on that high-intensity workout regimen again, or go with the "Metabolic Syndrome" wave and get a pill to fix me. I don't think I'm ready to give up the fight just yet. Maybe it's the Puritan in me that feels like I should be punishing myself for my "failing" instead of taking the insta-cure. The lack of serious side effects (such as bleeding from the eyes and exploding diarrhea) is pretty tempting if you consider some of the side effects of previous "fat" drugs like uh...speed and phen-phen. All you get is some depression (which, like I said, most of "us" already have). But the side effects of ass-kicking exercise are lack of depression and a good night's sleep. Perhaps some weight loss along the way. For now, I'll stick with that and not let myself be pigeonholed into some "disease" which has caused my "affliction." What would you do it you could take a pill and cure your "fat"? Would you do it? Would you even believe it could be possible? Check with me in 20 years, though. If I'm in my late 40's and still fat and single, perhaps I will have changed my mind.

Sex, Sex, Sex. Get over it.

Fellow interneters, imagine with me if you will: You are in a group, either that you know or you don't, it doesn't matter. The subject turns from something innocent about the upcoming elections to, dare I say it, sex. Not just 'hey, that's sexy' but 'oh my god, there is sex everywhere and my/someone's children could possibly hear about where babies really come from and now I am super offended'. Now, everyone is in a giant debate over their personal views of sex. Some are offended and leave, some yell and scream and don't listen to what anyone else has to say, and some never get their point across. . So, now you have this visual. Someone please tell me why it's such a hot topic? Personally, I think that we are way to hung up on it. We can't have our children finding out about sex! It's immoral. It's disgusting and dirty and better just not to think about. The question I pose to you is: Why are we still like this? If we just taught our children about sex, then it wouldn't be a big deal. I know it's cliche but knowledge is power. I feel like we shelter our children from way to much. Bike helmet obsessions, not allowing children to play outside alone, fear of generally everything and an overwhelming fear of our children seeing a naked breast, or godforbid, a penis; when are we going to stop bubble wrapping our children? Americans are afraid of sex. Why is that? Why is America so hung up on it's own fear of sexuality that we have to persecute Janet Jackson for a slip of a pasty covered nipple at the Superbowl for years to come? Why is that more important then any other topic, just about? If you want to have the American public's attention turned away from important matters, why just say something that involves children and sex. That'll start some new fires and leave your fraud/political mishap/whatever bad thing you were doing to die in peace with out the American public even knowing it was there. American priorities are in shambles. Who cares if there is nudity? Some people used to think that the human body was beautiful, not shameful. When did my vagina become shameful? Why are we teaching our children to fear their own bodies? It's not just Hollywood that teachs girls to hate their own bodies. It starts with their own mothers and fathers telling them about that special private area, you know, the one that's dirty and ugly and never to be looked at much less touched unnesessarily. Hmm... And so, this overwhelming fear of our own sexuality is spread like an insecure disease to our children in an unending cycle of self hatred and obsessive insecurity with the topic of sex or sexuality. How can we change this?