Friday, May 23, 2008

Time Magazine: Another Cog in the Controversy Factory

I read a lot of news from many different sources. One of those sources is Time Magazine, which I consider to be more of a "big picture" news outlet. They may not be the most cerebral of publications, but I consider them to be reasonably respectable and a good place to look when I'm more interested in broad strokes than specifics. That is, until they seemingly succumbed to the epidemic of yellow journalism.

Let us take their current issue, which features an article on children's vaccines. Let's start with a look at that cover. First, there's "The Truth About Vaccines" in gigantic letters. Also, don't forget the scary, giant-ass needle and a frightened looking baby.

Just looking at this cover (even from a distance), what impression are you left with? Well, I can tell you what impression you're not left with - that vaccines are virtually certain to protect the health of your child. No matter how many subscribers Time may have, I can guarantee that it is a mere fraction of the number of people who will merely glance at this cover and walk away with a misguided impression of vaccines.

"Surely," you say, "The article itself must be a well-balanced piece of journalism." And the answer: No.

There are simply far too many phrases that stir up controversy simply for the sake of controversy, including: "When the immune system of a baby or young child is just coming online, is it such a good idea to challenge it with antigens to so many bugs?", "Have the safety, efficacy and side effects of this flood of inoculations really been worked through?" and "Since the 1980s, the number of vaccinations children receive has doubled, and in that same time, autism diagnoses have soared threefold." Only rather belatedly does Time acknowledge that, "In 2003, a 15-person committee impaneled by the CDC and the National Institutes of Health analyzed the available studies on thimerosal and its possible connections to autism and concluded that there was no scientific evidence to support the link." That's yellow journalism at its finest.

So, whether you simply glance at the cover or actually read the article, odds are good that a significant number of people are going to have a misguided view of vaccines as a result of this article. Some of these people have children or will have children that will require vaccines. Some of these people are going to seriously question whether they should allow their children to be vaccinated. And I think we all know what happens to unvaccinated children when the come into contact with the diseases they were supposed to be vaccinated against.

Thanks, Time. Was selling a couple of issues worth the cost of spreading the myth of unsafe vaccines? Certainly, no such article can be explained by journalistic merit. If a single document case of vaccine-related health problems deserves a feature article, Time's next cover should read: "Death by Meteorite: Is it safe to leave your house?"

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Friday, May 16, 2008

Pros and Cons of Life in the Slow Lane


Sleeping and Dreaming: Now that I don't have to go to bed at a set bed time, I can actually get the amount of sleep that my body needs, rather than the amount prescribed by an alarm clock. Also, I've started to have extremely vivid dreams that I actually remember when I awake. That's something that hasn't happened since - well, since I don't know when.


Nagging Feeling of Laziness: I can't help but feel that I'm nowhere near as productive as I was before, and that this is somehow a Very Bad Thing. I think this feeling will go away with time. At least, I hope it will. Moving from Overburdened and Stressed to Guilty and Lazy isn't exactly a step in the right direction.


Work is What I Make It: One of my major goals for this down time is to be able to start writing again. Technically speaking, that means that writing this blog post is a productive activity. Sweet.


Money? What Money? : The second Wednesday of the month just came and went, and there was no direct deposit to my bank account. For someone who's still accustomed to throwing money at his problems, that hurts.


Pennies Saved... : With more time to think carefully about my purchases, I'm finding new ways to save money without feeling as though I'm making sacrifices. Case in point: I'm planning to sell Mercules (a 1999 Mercedes-Benz ML430) and purchase either a Volvo Amazon or Volvo P1800E. If I can find a suitable Volvo Amazon, I'd save the equivalent of $4000 a year in depreciation, gas and insurance - or more than a month's take-home pay at my previous job.


Video Games: I rented Guitar Hero III for the Wii earlier this week, and played it so much that I actually managed to strain my left eye. It's now back at the rental shop, where it can't hurt me any more.


Cats: We have two. They are hilarious. Whiskey is trying hunt insects on the other side of our windows, while Socks is curled up - and snoring - on the top of a tower that he hasn't actually fit on since he was about 6 months old.


... I think that's about it for cons.


The whole reason I'm here: Being able to choose, day to day, what it is I want to work on; having complete freedom to pursue my interests, accountable only to those whom support my charitable work. This is my chance to find the golden mean - to be productive at something I love and still have time for family, friends and fun. It's a gamble, but worth giving up a paycheque for a while.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Here's a great article on procrasination on Slate. I'm not as bad as I used to be, but I'm still a rather rampant procrastinator. Some of the suggestions in the article sound pretty good, but I find that sometimes I just need to get my lazy ass out of the chair and do what needs to be done.

Question for the audience: Do you procrastinate? If so, what is it that finally shakes you out of your web-surfing, Zood-playing stupor?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Change of Pace

Last post I talked about how I'd managed to dig myself into a pretty big hole, work-wise. I had been spending pretty much all of my waking hours dealing with work in one form or another, and was about ready to burn out. It was pretty clear that I needed a change.

I'd been thinking about what kind of change I needed for some time. In the end, I decided to take a risk and leave my day job to focus on my charitable work and writing to see if I can make either a paying proposition, while making my work-life balance a little more reasonable. May 2nd was my last day.

Now that I have free time again, I'm starting to realize just how much trouble I was in before. I literally have no idea of how to relax. I woke up today with the ability to do absolutely anything I wanted and I ended up spending the entire morning surfing the web and playing XBox. Oh, and I spent more time working.

I'm just not used to living my life consciously like this - being busy is a lovely anesthetic that numbs you against reality. You don't have to ask yourself any of the hard questions because there's always something immediate that requires your attention. Well, that anesthetic is starting to wear off. If I spend the morning eating cheeze puffs and watching Dr. Phil, I have absolutely no one to blame but myself.

But enough whinging. I'm sure that things will settle out, once I've had a bit more time to adjust of my (non) routine. I can find a nearby cafe where I can work on my writing, trade Mercules for a fun yet sensible classic car, spend more time at the cottage and do all the things that I haven't been able to because of work.

It'll be great. And I'll get to that right after I lead the Master Chief to victory against the Covenant.

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