Monday, July 16, 2007

Should We Boycott Items "Made in China"?

UPDATE 10/03/11: Here is an interesting article by Paul Krugman of the New York Times on the trade situation with China: Holding China to Account

 Dirk Lammers, an Associate Press writer, beat me to it. In his excellent article about the abundance of "Made in China" items, he covered exactly what I hoped to write about: Can we avoid products made in China?

With all the recent news about recalls and the dangerous products and ingredients from China, I thought how can we avoid Chinese products? How difficult would it be?

I did my own experiment a few days ago. I went into the local dollar store, the ultimate challenge for avoiding Chinese products. Just as I suspected most of the items were made in China. Kitchen accessories, coffee mugs, toys, etc all from China. I spotted some NH postcards, thinking there could be no way these were made in China, and they weren't: they were made in Italy. A few products did say made in USA, but they were rare. Imagine the effect it would have on Wal-mart and the dollar stores if we banned imports from China.

China is already in an uproar over our ban of seafood. And the Philippines not only want to ban products from China, but are encouraging consumers to buy local products.

One good point made my Mr. Lammers is that even though an item or food product is made in the USA, the parts or ingredients could be made in China. What is even more frustrating is that the labels never tell. Having companies completely provide details of all their ingredient/part origins would be time consuming and confusing to the consumer. And who is to say that companies don't often switch where they get, say sugar, one month to buy it at a better price from another country the next month?

What about cars? Car companies often buy parts from other countries. [I went to the Chevrolet website and emailed them asking if all parts and the cars themselves are made in the USA. I will keep you posted.] So you could be proudly driving your USA, car, assembled in the USA, but the gas pump in it could be made in China.

It seems like we have little problems with our imports from other countries. Perhaps we should give incentives to companies who use all materials and get all products from the USA rather than ban China imports. Maybe a formal impact study could be done to see how it would effect our economy if we banned products from China.

Boycotts are difficult. I am currently boycotting because they sell materials that promote and advocate the brutal, cruel "sports" of dogfighting and cockfighting. I did a lot of shopping there. I just don't know if I could successfully boycott products from China, at least the ones that are labeled. I'd rather see China improve the quality and safety of their products. And our FDA needs to have a better checking system to prevent these items from even reaching our shelves.

So next time you go shopping, check the labels. You'd be amazed at how few Made in USA items exist.

UPDATE: Sorry, folks: an ad for importing products from China was appearing above my post. I removed it. Thanks for the heads up from jolovessnow. And yes, I do know who you are, and where you live! :-)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Junk Food Junkies: A New Fix

Last night I was yearning for some junk food. In particular, ice cream and potato chips. I walked to the local convenience store, and headed to the ice cream freezer. I saw Ben and Jerry's, usually my first choice, but didn't feel like going into that sugar coma. I saw Klondike bars, but not just any Klondike bars: they were Triple Chocolate. They were shaped the same square shape as the regular Klondike bar only they had chocolate-colored wrappers. I grabbed two: one for me and one for my junk food loving friend.
   I went over my friend's place with the ice cream. I unwrapped it and took a bite. OH. MY. GOD!!! My eyes rolled back into my head, or at least it felt like they did. This was so good, it was almost as good as you-know-what (at least what I can remember about that). I had an out of body experience. This was so good I wanted to smoke a cigarette afterwards, and I don't even smoke. I wanted to turn to my friend afterwards, who was also in this state of bliss, and say, "was it good for you?". I had to suppress moans. I wanted to buy a bucket load of these Klondike bars and give them to people doing heroin or crack or crystal meth or booze and I know for certain they would give up those things forever. For about an hour afterwards I had an afterglow of euphoria. I think I heard angels. Or maybe I was still moaning.

The ice cream had milk chocolate, white chocolate and dark chocolate sections. The top was coated with chocolate syrup. And the whole thing was covered with chocolate. Now, I've had all kinds of chocolate stuff and tried tons of ice cream flavors. This was the best of both I ever had. If I were on death row and had one last meal, I would ask for two of these. And I wouldn't share.

I believe we could achieve world peace with these. Attach little parachutes and drop them (quickly, so they don't melt too fast) over Iraq. People would put their guns down and take off their suicide belts and dance in the streets after eating these. They would embrace each other, Sunnis and Shiites and all the other groups I can't spell, and weep with joy.

I urge everyone: stop what you are doing and buy these. Bus drivers, pull over in front of a supermarket and bring your passengers in and buy these. Surgeons: put the scalpels down and buy these (sew up your patients first, please, and bring them with you, too). One request: just don't buy these in Nashua, NH. They're all mine.

Oh, and I also bought potato chips.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Chunky's Cinema - A Review

This past Sunday, I went with some friends to the new Chunky's Cinema and Pub that opened in Nashua, NH. The movie we went to see was Oceans 13 (Good movie, by the way. You can look up reviews here). I had been to the Haverhill Chunky's many years ago and liked the experience. But what would it be like now?

As we entered I was surprised by the comfy lounge area in the lobby. It had the kind of sofa and chairs you could sink in to and possibly fall asleep. Also in the lobby were massage chairs available for use for $1.00. I was tempted, but resisted, fearful I would later fall asleep during the movie.

We purchased our tickets ($5.50 for a 12:15pm movie) and were given an electronic gadget resembling those used in restaurants to alert you that your table is ready. The gadgets were to be used to quietly summon the waitstaff with the press of a button. Boy, I wished other restaurants had this so we wouldn't waste time craning our necks, playing Where's Waldo trying to flag the occasional disappearing waiter down.
We entered the theater/restaurant. There were long, rectangular shaped tables throughout and instead of the standard, cramped, way too narrow for us larger folks seats, there were black leather seats with headrests resembling the ones that were built for Cadillacs. The theater was sort of dark even before the movie started. We sat at a table, sitting closest to the screen at the front of the table. This is a casual type of place, we noticed, with plastic ware at each place setting individually wrapped. As we perused the menu, my friend Lee and I were amused by the names of the items, especially those from the Chamber of Sweets section with Harry Potter references, as we are big fans of HP. Prices for dinners range from $7.99 to $11.99. I chose the Swiss Family Robinson Bacon Cheeseburger dinner, Lee opted for the Love Me Tender chicken tender dinner and a Butter Beer Float (root beer float). Keith decided to get the steak tips, and seemed pleased with them. Our meals arrived just as the movie started. We were disappointed that the pitcher of ginger ale we ordered came with just a large paper cup of ice on the side. The ginger ale was cold in the pitcher, but we preferred ice in the pitcher as well, because the cup ice melted during the movie and we were left with lukewarm soda. Still, we could easily have pressed the magic waitstaff button and gotten more ice. It was hard to see our food, but the flashes of light from the movie screen were enough to satisfy us that we weren't eating squid. Lee said, "The chicken fingers were really good. They were crispy on the outside and moist on the inside. The coleslaw was also really good - not too much dressing, and not too tangy. I thought overall, the food was good, but overpriced".
My burger was WONDERFUL. There were plenty of FRESH mushrooms and the burger was cooked as I had requested. I chose the pasta salad as my side dish, and it came in a small bowl, which was just enough. The salad was tasty. Keith seemed please with the steak tips. We all enjoyed the experience and food. Distractions were minimal during the movie. Everyone around us was so busy stuffing their faces so that talking and noise were almost nonexistent.The waitstaff quietly cleared tables, and near the end of the movie they presented our check and collected the magic button gadget. Overall, I would give the cinema experience five stars, especially for the comfort factor and the food four stars. I would recommend this cinema for the unique experience.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

The Secret: Not So Secret

I have just finished reading the book The Secret. I was intrigued by all the hype and interest in it, and the fact that it was flying off the shelves that I just had to see for myself. But this book didn't offer any new information and there was no big "Secret" revealed to me. The Secret is nothing but rehashed ideas and material packaged with a heavy dose of materialism.

The book's concept is that you can get whatever you want in life if you just think positive and act as if you already have it. That's the big secret. It mentions throughout the book that you can have millions of dollars, jewelry, and other materials things. Some examples of this are given by people. Now, I do agree with the idea of being positive as much as you can, but mine is more on a spiritual level believing in a combination of positive thinking and prayer. There is nothing wrong with praying for yourself, but there are so many people worse off than us who need our prayers and some positive thoughts. I would love a Toyota Prius (as mentioned in another blog post of mine), or my own home but I believe the only way these things will come to me is with my own efforts, not some magical thinking.

Could this be done as a scientific study? Could there be, say, one group of people who think positive for a period of time about getting a large, specific sum of money, and another group who thinks about owing a certain amount of money then comparing the results? Much of it would be written off as coincidence. But I've always wondered: what if EVERYONE in the world at noon Eastern time every day for a month stopped what they were doing for 3 minutes and thought "the whole world is peaceful and happy"? Would it have any change? It is Utopian thinking, similar to the Coca Cola ads about teaching the whole world to sing and live in harmony. Still, I can't help but be curious as to it's effect, if any. My realist friends (and atheist friends) would certainly scoff at this notion. I am admittedly a dreamer at times. We dreamers usually prefer to say "what if", while others take the scientific approach and say "prove it". However, I am not so much a dreamer that I think peace could be that easily attainable.

I must confess, I did just for the fun of it do my own little experiment. One morning I saw the Fed Ex truck pull up in front of my building. I thought, "I have a package". I kept thinking it over and over. The Fed Ex truck pulled away, no package for me. Hours later, I went into my email. A friend who I only hear from periodically emailed me saying, "You have a gift coming". It wasn't my birthday or any holiday. Then I remember it was a belated gift. I was thinking a little of the Twilight Zone theme, but shook it off as coincidence. Then later in the day, I went to my mailbox and there was a package from this friend. Now, I rarely get any packages, and this friend has never sent one to me before. Could it be the power of the Secret? It was only an experiment, but I think if people play around and do it just for fun, it is at least entertaining.

This book has many quotes from various people, most of whom I never heard of. They are new age people, people in history who were part of the New Thought movement, and other positive minded folks. There are too many quotes and not enough substance, even for us dreamers. The power of positive thinking has already been covered by Norman Vincent Peal in his book. Positive affirmations have already been written about by authors such as Louise L. Hay in her book You Can Heal Your Life. What's so new about this? Yet I predict this fad will continue and we may even see all kinds of money making products, as The Secret Journals to write in, The Secret Companion Book, The Secret Lunch Box, The Secret Toilet Paper, etc. The only one who is easily materializing the millions of dollar touted as being attainable is the author.

[Updated article about The Secret(6/23/07)]

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Atheism Revisited (but I am still a Christian)

To take the first step in faith, you don't have to see the whole

staircase: just take the first step.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

There has been a good amount of response to my previous blog about 2007 possibly being the year of the atheist that I need to address the issue again. Naturally, as a Christian, I don't want to turn my blog into an debate on atheism, but I have been enlightened by the comments, especially from Vjack at Atheist Revolution and feel it is necessary to revisit this topic.

One of the points I've learned is not every atheist is angry and hostile towards those who are religious. There may be some like that, but it is not the majority. We have made a stereotype and also some atheists make a stereotype that we Christians/religious people are all trying to force or convert atheists and others to our beliefs. It has been mentioned that Christians back in history were brutal and violent in this effort. I don't disagree with this, but would like you all to keep in mind that many Christians and other religious people were also brutalized for believing. So one of the main concepts both groups, believers and non-believers, need to keep in mind instead of passing a quick judgement is that it is not right to stereotype and that both groups have faced persecution or harrassment for their opinions.

In a recent blog post at Atheist Revolution, Vjack states,while it is not universal for all atheists, that their are two prongs to atheism: faith is irrational and religion is harmful. I would like to address the first prong about faith being irrational.
Because something can't yet be proven, or any concrete evidence found to prove it's existence, does that mean it doesn't exist? Every day scientists are learning new things, finding and inventing new means to quantify, measure, and prove the existence of different things. Right now, we are just finding many new species of animals and plants we never even knew existed. If years ago, someone found a drawing of one of these animals and stated it existed, they would be laughed at and ridiculed. Yet now it is fact. Just because there currently, today, exists no proof for the existence of God does not mean He doesn't exist. Perhaps the right tools or measuring devices just aren't around to verify His existence. Also, perhaps we aren't MEANT to find His existence through science, as this would eliminate the need for faith. Maybe we are meant to find God only through the means of faith, as many Christians do believe. And that is not irrational to us at all.
The second prong mentioned, religion being harmful, may be true in some cases. Again, we are talking about religious extremists who want to beat into submission those who don't believe. I don't subscribe to that path, nor do many other Christians and people of other faiths. Again, it is necessary to avoid stereotyping. In fact, research has been done and it has been proven that religious practice promotes the well-being of individuals, families, and the community.

Perhaps it would be better for atheists to consider themselves "apatheists": Continue not believing in God or religion, but also stop worrying if others believe. To put it simply: live and let live.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

2007: To Be the Year of the Atheist?

I am not psychic at all, but I predict this year will be the year of the atheist. What prompts me to believe this? Looking at the website, there are many articles about atheism in the news today. And the popularity of Richard Dawkin's book The God Delusion, which reached the top ten (ironically at Christmas time), seems to confirm it.
I have no problem with people who have other beliefs than me, or no beliefs at all. But why do people find it necessary to try to remove the faith of others? Do these same people relish telling children there is no Santa Claus? Do they look forward to divulging that the Tooth Fairy is a myth? Yet, by my using these examples maybe I am putting God in the same category, which will not truly defend my beliefs. I am by no means a child believing in some magical entity. I am an adult who has given much reflection and study to define my own spirituality and determine who or what to believe. And I believe in Christianity, in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, Mary as the Blessed Mother, the Saints, the whole bit. I do believe that much of the Bible was distorted and some important texts were omitted and altered. But the fact that these texts were even found is, in itself a miracle and only proves that maybe this was God's way of having the truth come out.
What is the difference, really, between an atheist and a skeptic? An atheist is defined as a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings. Part of the definition of a skeptic is a person who doubts the truth of a religion, esp. Christianity, or of important elements of it. And for the record, an agnostic is defined as a person who holds that the existence of the ultimate cause, as God, and the essential nature of things are unknown and unknowable, or that human knowledge is limited to experience. So the main difference between these three labels is that atheism is flat out saying 'no, no way' while skeptics and agnostics leave a little wiggle room for the possibility, exhibited by the words 'doubt' and 'unknown'. The only way an atheist can become a believer is if there is definitive proof of the existence of God, a skeptic would need some evidence to remove all doubt, and the only way an agnostic can believe is if the existence of God becomes known, which, like the other three would result from proof or evidence. But isn't faith believing without total proof? And wouldn't the atheists, skeptics, and agnostics still question the validity of the evidence? Look at the people who don't believe the Holocaust ever happened. There is evidence, there is proof yet they don't believe it. I think there are some people who, no matter what will choose to stubbornly deny things in order to be right or to be so narrow minded that no other opinion but their own can be the truth.
I may someday read Dawkin's book, borrowing it from the library as I don't wish to put money in the pocket of someone so aggressive in his disbelief.
All I'm asking is for tolerance towards one another, and keeping an open mind. I may not agree with you, but I will defend to the end your right to an opinion. Just don't force your opinion on me.
UPDATE: Here is an article that shows the increase in popularity of atheism:

Monday, January 1, 2007

Another Chance

It is 2007, and with any New Year comes the promise and hope of change for the better. This is displayed by the increase in all the diet ads, health club ads and ads for products to stop smoking. What prompts our desire to change? Is it looking back on the past year and seeing the areas we didn't improve? Or is it just society's and media's direction to be thinner, healthier, and better?
I believe the New Year reminds us of getting another year older and of our "failure" to be as perfect as we hoped.
Unlike a birthday, New Year's is celebrated world-wide by billions of people on the same date. It is a mass celebration of the end of one time period and the beginning of another, or "out with the old, in with the new". This doesn't mean that we don't pause and reflect somewhat in the same way on a birthday. It just means that it is the perfect opportunity to reach masses of people who might all be in the same state of thought. My favorite diet-related ad, by the way, is the ad for Special K cereal. Had my child, upon seeing my posterior clad in a red and white bathrobe exclaimed, 'Santa!', I would most definitely be putting coal in her stocking.
Certainly, there is nothing wrong with planning to change for the better, as long as it is not being done out of pressure, such in the book 1,000 Places To See Before You Die, or a feeling of having to do it. Personally, I'd like to see the New Year brought in with a "Life List" that not only has the obligatory 'I will lose x pounds', or 'I will stop smoking', but a list of experiences that would make our life richer, fuller, and happier. (Keep in mind the experiences refered to here should be legally and morally ok.) I will share with you some experiences I would like to have. Warning: these experiences border on the bizzare, but once you get to know me you'll just say 'oh', like most of my friends and family do. Also, keep in mind these are not in any specific order (except for the parade one):
1. Ride a float during the Macy's Day Parade. This is something I've always wanted to do. I don't need to be the center of attention, like Ferris Bueller, as I'd be happy just to be a generic winter-coated person waving a gloved hand. I think I've found a legitimate way to get in on this: this past parade, I saw a sign language interpreter signing a song an artist was singing on a float. Since I have started taking classes in American Sign Language, this could be a possibility. Maybe.
2. Ride in a hot air balloon. Actually, I was saving this one for my fiftieth birthday. The real reason is I'm afraid of heights, so the longer I can postpone it the better.
3. Have a Youtube or Google video that shows up in the top ten. I must emphasize that it should not be too embarassing, though who can beat the guy doing one of my favorite videos, The Numa Numa dance, or the hypnotic OK Go video? Looking at the current list of top videos on these sites, it seems I would have to be a famous, very attrative woman with a wardrobe malfunction to get there. Oh well.
4. To do something heroic. Giving blood might seem heroic enough to people, but I've already done that. I was thinking more of pushing a kid out of the way of an oncoming truck or car, saving someone who is drowning, etc. I can be totally anonymous, as it is just the experience I am looking for.
5. Own a home. I don't need a mansion. I only want a nice mobile home in a coop park I've selected in Merrimack. Nothing fancy. Do you hear me, Oprah? Bill Gates? Anyone? Bueller?
6. Own a Toyota Prius or Toyota Camry. OK, now the list is turning into a materialistic wish list rather than life experience. But isn't reducing carbon emissions and lowering dependence on foreign oil a life experience itself? Isn't it?
7. Lose weight. Boring, I know. But I just copy it over year to year.

That's all I'll share with you for now. There is a guy who had a list of over 100 things, and he's done 104 of them already. I'd be happy with a list of 50, and maybe get three things done. We must be realistic. (But keep in mind I never thought I'd be swimming with dolphins, but I did it three years ago.)