Simmering Hope

Hope is the expectation that something outside of ourselves, something or someone external, is going to come to our rescue and we will live happily ever after. – Dr. Robert Anthony

Archive for March, 2008

Mar 18, 2008

Why making money on Ebay is just a dream

The above statement needs some clarifications: it’s true if you are a normal, naïve human being, trying to make some money because you were fooled by the ‘cash in the attic’ kind of ‘reality show’, not if you know how to cheat people on Ebay. Because there is a way to make money on Ebay, it’s called ‘running a scam’.

After my son was born, about 4 years ago, I decided to give it a try to Ebay selling, mostly because I had lots of items I knew I was not going to use again, due to him being our only child.
I was not a seasoned seller and I learned a trick or two just by necessity.
What I have found out pretty fast- the hard way- was that you have to verify the shipping cost before listing something.
This is my lame experience with one particular item: I bought it for $120 and sold it for $28. Not bad would you say, right? But hold on, there are a few fees to be paid:
– Ebay listing fee (percentage of the starting bid, paid regardless if you sell or not)
– Ebay final fee (percentage of the selling fee)
– PayPal fee
And if you are stupid and don’t check the shipping fee, you get burned as I did.
I wrongly estimated the shipping cost as being $12, when the actual one was $22.
After that mistake and all the fees, I made a net $12.
Now imagine how much money you make from something listed for $0.99.

Unless you are a Power Seller- more about this later- or you have expensive items, it’s not worth the time.
I did it because I was on maternity leave and I had time to burn. Plus, I was walking to the postal office very often and it helped me lose the extra pounds gained during pregnancy.

I was a buyer as well, and my experience was different. Some sellers were really greedy and charged a lot for shipping. For example, one time the shipping cost asked by the seller was $7.00 and the actual one was $0.60. It was something small that fit into a regular letter. I got pretty mad honestly speaking. I understand asking a dollar or two extra to cover your time going there, or the cost of the fuel, but over $6 seems to be excessive.

Fast forward to these days: lots of changes in the site’s rules, and as per John Donahoe, the company’s new chief executive, eBay is trying to be harder on sellers in order to make the experience of buyers better.
As I have mentioned above, there are sellers and sellers. Some of them, the rare decent ones, are going to suffer because of these changes, while the crooks will prevail as they normally do.
As a seller I found that by the time you are done paying seller fees (listing and final sale fees) and PayPal fees you are making less money than selling the item on a place such as craigslist.org or Amazon marketplace.

I have mentioned the ‘Power Sellers’, right? Ebay has become the heaven for ‘Power Sellers’ and as a consequence, the whole experience feels geared to them. The process for posting an item to sell is so lengthy now that it would only be worth doing if you do it often enough to use templates or some other system. Furthermore, Power Sellers seek out only items they believe will sell, so you’re starting to see lots of lowest-common denominator items available rather than unexpected items that an individual might decide to sell were it not so complex to post now.
Ebay has become ‘Extreme Shopping’ — only the fittest survive, and it is dominated by fraud. Years ago it was fun, but now the charm has gone away. The gray-market guys do flood the listings, and the listings aren’t organic anymore so you can’t really tell what the thing you’re getting is really like. Ebay’s policies and procedures lead off into the no-accountability zone, especially for trying to get refunds on items a buyer just bails on. Feeback must work both ways – there are some horrible buyers whose MO is keeping your item and demanding half their money back for some inventive complaint, using their impending feedback as extortion.
Ebay wanted to make it a better experience for buyers and it opened the can of worms.

These days I visit Ebay only as a buyer when looking for items I can’t find otherwise on the net. But definitely it’s not my first option, more like the last one.


Mar 13, 2008

Are Genetically Engineered Foods dangerous to your health?

Most people will have a New Year’s resolution related to losing weight, eating healthier, being more active, etc.
Wait a minute! Did I say ‘eat healthier’? Yes I did.
Now this is when we step into uncharted territory.
Why? Because all the health gurus are going to tell you that eating less fat, meat, and more vegetables and fruits will make you feel better and all together be healthier.
But somehow all is forgotten about engineered foods, found all around us.
I remember reading about the seeds irradiated in space by some Chinese scientists, seeds that eventually yielded bigger crops. At that point I am pretty sure that most people clapped their hands in ecstasy thinking about how easy would be to feed more population with less food basically.
But those seeds were genetically modified at that point.

Moving back to North America, in the USA, over 80% of all processed foods contain genetically engineered components.
You will say that it’s easy then to avoid them: steer clear of processed foods.
But the problem is that genetically engineered foods are found in everything we eat: rice, corn, wheat; in soybeans and soy products; vegetable oils, vegetables and fruits; dairy products including eggs; meat, chicken, pork and other animal products.

We don’t know what we are eating because nowhere on the label is anything mentioned about genetically engineered food.

We know that cows are treated with growth hormone (rbGH), which will affect the milk.
The milk from cows injected with bovine growth hormone has much higher levels of the hormone IGF-1 that risks breast, prostate, colon, lung and other cancers, and it has lower nutritional value.
I was talking the other day with our secretary and she said that back in time, when she grew up at a dairy farm, they drank the milk fresh from the cows, cows not injected with hormones. The milk was not supposed to be good for 10 days or a week, because it did not have any chemicals added. Now it’s a different story; they treat milk to increase the shelf life.
The treatment of poultry and animals with hormones and antibiotics is standard procedure these days, unfortunately and it costs lots extra to buy ‘organic’ meat coming from animals not treated.
But… what did they eat?
If they were fed animal by-products (they were not apparently, or so it’s the claim made by the organic growers) it still not clean meat. Of if they were fed corn or other grains coming from genetically engineered seeds…. we are back to square one.
Disease-resistant crops may promote human viruses and eating these products may produce toxins associated with Alzheimer’s, diabetes, allergies, kidney disease and cancer.

What people seem to fail to understand is that as soon as you genetically modify something, the long time effect of this modification is unknown.

FDA and other regulating bodies, in bed with the big agribusinesses, like to say that GM crops are the same with ordinary seeds, when in fact they are not.
Agribusiness giants like their money and I have serious doubts that they would cave in and accept how dangerous GM are. On the contrary, they funded studies to prove they are safe. Really?
How objective a testing funded by this industry could be?
The most probable scenario (not unknown to other industries like the pharmaceutical one for example) is that the study funded by agribusiness would fail to investigate the impacts of GM food on liver, kidney, gut function (studies on rats showed smaller than normal liver and kidney and bigger pancreas), on the immune and endocrine system, in blood composition (studies on rats showed a decrease on the white cell counts), would fail to present the effects on the unborn as well.

Furthermore, they would cook the books.
How could they cook the books?
By diluting the GM component of feeds used, limit the duration of feeding trials, keep sample sizes too low for statistical significance and ignore animal deaths and sickness.
And most important: hide the negative results.

I took an introductory genetic course, enough to make me understand the implications of genetically modified foods.
The picture is like this: you take a seed and genetically modify the DNA. That will trigger changes in the natural functioning of the resulting plant. The inserted gene can become truncated, fragmented, and different than the original design, expressing a new GM protein maybe different than the one intended, with characteristics that may be harmful, even if the industry claims that transgenes are destroyed by our digestive system.
In reality and contrary to industry claims, transgens are not destroyed by the digestive system and the surviving foreign DNA can be transported by blood to internal organs, may proliferate over time, and get into cells DNA, possibly causing chronic diseases.
Another aspect not to be ignored: Antibiotic Resister Marker (ARM) genes are attached to transgenes prior to insertion to allow cells to survive antibiotic applications. They potentially can cause antibiotic-resistant super-diseases and these is already fact not fiction (see my article on hospital superbugs).

To the industry claim that there are no harmful effects claim I would give the example of the L-Tryptophan epidemic. L-tryptophan, an essential amino acid, was identified as the cause of the 1989 epidemic of Eosinophilia Myalgia Syndrome [EMS] in country-wide litigation against Showa Denko K. K., a major Japanese petroleum corporation that manufactured and sold L-tryptophan in the U. S.
L-tryptophan was sold as a food supplement during the late 1980s to induce sleep “naturally,” because this amino acid produces serotonin in the brain, similar to the calming role of milk as a sleep inducer.
Showa Denko’s pills had several unique contaminants that were likely to be responsible for the epidemic. In addition to that, the manufacturer was genetically engineering bacteria to produce the L-tryptophan more economically. Genes had been inserted into bacteria’s DNA in order to produce high concentrations of several enzymes used in its production.
EMS is a painful and progressive, multi-system disease which causes permanent scarring and fibrosis to nerve and muscle tissues, continuing inflammation, and provokes a permanent change in the body’s immune system. EMS is a serious systemic illness characterized by elevations of white blood cells known as eosinophils and by severe muscle pain.

Probably there is an international conspiracy of big agribusiness to control the world food supply, therefore our moaning over the health hazards of GM food fall on deaf ears.
The worries are dismissed and the pink fluffy picture of big crops and happy farmers showed to us.
The giants who are currently controlling our future existence are: Monsanto, DuPont, Dow Agrisciences, Syngenta in Switzerland (from the merger of the agriculture divisions of Novartis and AstraZeneca) and – Germany-based Bayer CropScience AG (division of Bayer AG) with its Environmental Science and BioScience headquarters in France.
Just reading the names will get your skin to crawl.


Mar 12, 2008

How the spinmasters run the world

After I finished watching the movie ‘Wag the Dog’ I realized how thin and blurred is the line between politics, media and show business.
Many years after that I kept asking myself how many of the political events are master minded by the USA, UK and other big players and how many are genuine movements, and with every passing year I am losing more and more of my enthusiasm and belief in the innate good of people.

In ‘Wag the Dog’ the spin doctor Conrad Brean (Robert DeNiro) is called to the White House to disarm a sex scandal ready to erupt, scandal that will jeopardize the President’s bid for a second term. Conrad Brean knows how to manipulate politics, the press and most importantly, the American people.
Anticipating the reaction of the press, Brean creates a bigger story, something to deflect the attention from the president to something else. And that something else is a fake war with Albania.
Helped by Stanley Motss (Dustin Hoffman), a famed Hollywood producer, Brean assembles a crisis team that will orchestrate a global conflict.

Less than a month after the movie was released, President Bill Clinton was embroiled in a sex scandal arising from his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. Over the course of 1998 and early 1999, as the scandal dominated American politics, the US engaged in three military operations:
• Operation Desert Fox, a three-day bombing campaign in Iraq that took place as the U.S. House of Representatives debated articles of impeachment against Clinton
• Operation Infinite Reach, a pair of missile strikes against suspected terrorist targets in Sudan and Afghanistan three days after Clinton admitted in a nationally televised address that he had an inappropriate relationship with Lewinsky
• Operation Allied Force, a 78-day-long NATO bombing campaign against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia that began weeks after Clinton was acquitted in his Senate impeachment trial.
In a further coincidence, the missile strikes against Sudan and Afghanistan were announced by the White House moments before the beginning of a press conference in which Lewinsky was to give details of her appearance before Congress.
Critics, including Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, charged that the former operation was an attempt to distract attention from the Lewinsky scandal, and Serb state television went so far as to broadcast Wag The Dog in the midst of NATO attacks on Serbia.
Source: wikipedia

‘Canadian Bacon’, released in 1995, is another movie dealing with the same issue: start a war to divert the attention from the stringent domestic issues. In the movie, the problem with this plan is that, with the demise of the Soviet Union, there’s no one left to go to war with. But some brainstorming leads to an attempt to start a cold war with Canada (“everyone hates Canadians”), using media manipulation as the main tool to stoke the passions of the US public.

Going back to the previous article on Obama, Clinton and NAFTA, it looks like the reality imitates art, much more than vice versa. When having domestic trouble try to blame everybody around, but the true culprits.

I have to admit that when I found out that the USA was among the first nations to approve/accept/recognize Kosovo independence, one though revolved around the question ‘cui bono’? (to whose benefits) and I was looking for a political reason related to the current presidential nomination campaign, rather than a financial one.

Speaking of the political campaign, not that it matters to anybody but me, I have to say that I don’t like any of the candidates, regardless the political orientation.
I don’t particularly like Hilary Clinton. I had mixed feelings until she launched the rhetoric on how NAFTA should be redesigned, implying that basically Canada and Mexico suck the USA vitality.
Give me a freaking break!
I lost any consideration I might have had for her.

Mar 10, 2008

What TV Shows survived and how many have been axed- Update

This is the complete list of the TV shows.
I have published a shorter version about a month ago including only my favorite shows.
I tried as well to update the latest info I found on the net.

24
Season 7 postponed until January ’09.
30 Rock
Expected to shoot 5 new episodes to begin airing on April 10.
Aliens in America
Eight pre-strike episodes remain. No additional episodes expected for this season.
Back to You
Two pre-strike episodes remain. Future TBD
Battlestar Galactica
Returns April 4 with first half of 20-episode final season. Production on second half could start as early as March. Airdate for those TBD.
The Big Bang Theory
Expected to shoot 9 new episodes to begin airing on March 17.
Big Love
Expected to go into production on Season 3 in the spring. Airdate info is TBD.
Big Shots
Cancelled
Bionic Woman
Cancelled
Bones
Four pre-strike episodes are scheduled to begin airing April 14. Expected to shoot 2 additional episodes. Airdate for those is TBD.
Boston Legal
One pre-strike episode remains. Expected to shoot 8 additional episodes to air in April/May.
Brothers & Sisters
One pre-strike episode remains. Expected to shoot 5 additional episodes to air in April/May.
Burn Notice
Production on Season 2 expected to get under way in late April. New episodes could start airing as early as July.
Cane
No additional episodes expected this season. Future beyond that TBD.
Chuck
No new episodes until fall.
The Closer
Expected to kick off its fourth season this summer.
Cold Case
Expected to shoot 5 new episodes to begin airing on March 30.
Criminal Minds
Expected to shoot 7 new episodes to begin airing on April 2.
CSI
Expected to shoot 6 new episodes to begin airing on April 3.
CSI: Miami
Expected to shoot 8 new episodes to begin airing on March 24.
CSI: NY
Expected to shoot 7 new episodes to begin airing on April 7.
Desperate Housewives
Expected to shoot 7 new episodes to air in April/May.
Dirty Sexy Money
No new episodes until fall; three remaining pre-strike episodes will undergo some tweaking and kick off fall run.
ER
Expected to shoot 6 new episodes to begin airing on April 10.
Everybody Hates Chris
Twelve pre-strike episodes remain. No additional episodes expected for this season.
Friday Night Lights
No new episodes expected for this season, but will be back on air, due to the lobby of many fans.
The Game
Four pre-strike episodes remain. Expected to shoot 8 or 9 additional episodes to air in March/April/May.
Ghost Whisperer
Expected to shoot 6 new episodes to begin airing on April 4.
Girlfriends
No new episodes expected this season, although a special one-hour series finale is being discussed.
Gossip Girl
Expected to shoot 5 or 6 episodes to air in April/May.
Greek
Kicks off second half of Season 1 on March 24. Renewed for Season 2.
Grey’s Anatomy
Expected to shoot 5 new episodes to air in April/May
Heroes
No new episodes expected until fall.
House
Expected to shoot 4 to 6 new episodes to air in April/May.
How I Met Your Mother
Expected to shoot 9 new episodes to begin airing on March 17.
Jericho
Seven episodes remain. No additional episodes expected for this season. Rumor has it that it will be cancelled. Update March 25, 2008:It looks like this will be the last episod = series finale.
Journeyman
No new episodes expected. Ever. Good move! that was a stupid show and I did not like the actors either.
Las Vegas
Two pre-strike episodes remain, but no future for this show. It’s been cancelled.
Law & Order
Expected to shoot 5 additional episodes to air in spring.
Law & Order: CI
Expected to shoot an indeterminate number of episodes to air in spring.
Law & Order: SVU
Expected to shoot 5 new episodes to begin airing on April 15.
Life
No new episodes until fall.
Life Is Wild
No new episodes expected. Ever.
Lost
Six pre-strike episodes remain. Expected to shoot 5 additional episodes to air in April/May.
Medium
Six pre-strike episodes remain. Expected to shoot 7 additional episodes for this season.
Men in Trees
Eleven pre-strike episodes remain, the first of which airs Feb. 27. No additional episodes expected this season. Update: the show was axed. Good, I don’t like Anne Heche and the show was kind of stupid.
Moonlight
Expected to shoot 4 new episodes to begin airing on April 11 but it’s future is still uncertain. Keep your fingers crossed!!
My Name Is Earl
Expected to shoot 9 new episodes to begin airing on April 3.
NCIS
Expected to shoot 7 new episodes to begin airing on April 8.
The New Adventures of Old Christine
Seven pre-strike episodes remain. No additional episodes expected this season.
Nip/Tuck
Season 5 concludes Feb. 19. Production on the show’s eight-episode sixth season expected to start up this summer. Airdate TBD.
Numbers
Expected to shoot 6 new episodes to begin airing on April 4.
October Road
Four pre-strike episodes remain. Future beyond that TBD.
The Office
Expected to shoot 6 new episodes to begin airing on April 10.
One Tree Hill
Five pre-strike episodes remain. Expected to shoot 5 or 6 additional episodes to air in April/May.
Prison Break
Two pre-strike episodes remain. Update March 25, 2008: Fox has picked up a fourth season, ordering 22 episodes to resume in the fall.
Private Practice
No new episodes expected until fall.
Pushing Daisies
No new episodes until fall.
Reaper
Three pre-strike episodes remain. Expected to shoot 5 or 6 additional episodes to air in April/May.
The Riches
Seven-episode second season kicks off March 18.
Rules of Engagement
Expected to shoot 6 new episodes to begin airing on April 14.
Samantha Who?
Three pre-strike episodes remain. Expected to shoot an additional 3 episodes to air this spring, likely after Dancing with the Stars.
Saturday Night Live
Returns Feb. 23
Scrubs
Five pre-strike episodes remain and will begin airing on April 10. Up to four additional episodes may be shot
Shark
Expected to shoot 4 new episodes. Airdate TBD.
The Shield
Final season already shot. Airdate TBD.
Smallville
Four pre-strike episodes remain. Expected to shoot 5 additional episodes to air in April/May.
Supernatural
Two pre-strike episodes remain. Expected to shoot 4 or 5 additional episodes to air in April/May.
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
Four pre-strike episodes remain. Future beyond that TBD.
Two and a Half Men
Expected to shoot 9 new episodes to begin airing on March 17.
Ugly Betty
Expected to shoot 5 new episodes to air in April/May.
The Unit
No additional episodes expected this season. Future beyond that TBD.
Without a Trace
Expected to shoot 6 new episodes to begin airing on April 3.
Women’s Murder Club
No new episodes expected this season. Future beyond that TBD.


Mar 6, 2008

The male pregnancy hoax

By now, I guess lots of people had the chance to take a glimpse at the alleged pregnant man or at least read about this new urban legend.
Although I am not homophobic, I found the picture grotesque. Aside from that, my first reaction when I have read about it was somewhere along these lines ‘yep, and the pigs fly’, followed by ‘it’s a hoax’.
I just don’t believe it for many logical reasons.

First of all, even if the scientists are considering male pregnancy as theoretically possible, the risks associated with the pregnancy would outweigh any benefits.
Try to think about ectopic pregnancy in women, which are considered so hazardous (it’s the number one cause of first-trimester deaths) that they are normally terminated after an ultrasound confirming them.
A man, who would undergo such a risky procedure of having an embryo implanted into a part of his body, would face and run into the risk of hemorrhaging to death with the progress of the pregnancy

It was a case back in 2005, when a woman delivered at 33 weeks a baby that survived development outside the womb.
“We won’t see another case like this in my lifetime,” Dr. Victor Han, chairman of the division of neonatal-perinatal medicine at St. Joseph’s told the Medical Post.
“A case like this won’t happen in the lifetime of my colleagues either. Probably not even in Canada. It is so rare.”
So rare, in fact, there have only been four similar cases reported worldwide.
The baby did not have any amniotic fluid surrounding her, had dislocated hips and club feet and her skull was flattened due to the fact that she was squished beneath her mother’s liver and bowels during the pregnancy.

There are two artists behind the male pregnancy hoax: Virgil Wong and Lee Mingwei.
Go to Virgil’s website http://www.virgilwong.com/ and check for yourself.
He owns both the domain names: malepregnancy.com and genochoice.com, according to Alexa and even more, the site is described as being “Documentary on “the first human male to ever birth a baby from his own body.” [Contains fictitious information].” Moving on to the next website, “This is a fictitious web site,” reads a disclaimer on the GenoChoice home page, “created to be an exploration of a very likely scenario that may one day result from new advances in biotechnology and infertility treatments.”

People think that this is art and because beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, I must conclude that I may be blind with regards to this concept.

Controversial as it was or maybe just because of that, the site got an Alexa rank of 344,000, which is not bad at all.

In conclusion: the news trolls are having fun.


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