Thursday, August 28, 2014

An Ex-Smoker on E-Cigarettes

I used to smoke up to 6 cigarettes a day. I quit in early ‘09 after trying and failing to quit in ’08.

Smoking is nasty. It’s the leading cause of preventable death in the US—either directly from lung cancer or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or through the various health risks that increase with the habit, like stroke, heart disease, or some type of cancer. If you’re a woman, smoking makes it harder to get pregnant, and if you happen to be pregnant, your fetus’s healthy development will be impeded. If you’re a man, your swimmers won’t be as potent. [Source: Health Effects of Cigarette Smoking (CDC)]

Source: CDC

Over the past couple of decades, the public health campaigns and policies against smoking (especially indoor smoking) have been effective…perhaps too effective. For now nicotine has shaken free of its complacency and insinuated itself into a new form: the e-cigarette.

The e-cig is a battery-operated nicotine delivery device for people who love the stuff and don’t mind looking like they’re smoking a wafer roll. A crucial difference is the delivery mechanism: instead of burning tobacco and limbo knows what else, e-cigs vaporize a liquid that contains nicotine and additives. So technically the action is not smoking, but rather vaping. More info here.

Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/health-28937610

Manufacturers claim that e-cigs can help people quit smoking, a claim that has caused regulatory bodies like the World Health Organization (WHO) to give them some serious side eye. Because if the main substance of cigarettes = nicotine, and e-cigarettes = nicotine, and nicotine = addictive, how exactly are e-cigs helping with quitting?

Alas, we have no super solid evidence for or against the claim, although as per usual, the internet is rife with anecdata, typically from smokers who insist that e-cigs are awesome because they don’t contain the cocktail of death that comprises conventional cigarettes (tar, carbon monoxide, arsenic, etc.).

We do know that liquid nicotine is harmful when ingested or absorbed through the skin. Poison centers across the US recorded a 215% increase in calls due to e-cig liquids between September ’10 and February ’14. More than half were for kids under 5, because they will pick up anything and put it in their mouths, including cartridges of apple-flavored nicotine! Yum!

Why won’t anyone think of the children?!?!?!

I’ve had two close encounters with e-cigs indoors. In one instance, I was in line at a McDonald’s at a Connecticut rest stop, and this guy behind me lit up. The person behind him immediately castigated him and he sheepishly walked outside. In the other instance, a group of us were sitting at a table and dude just lit his e-cig. He turned it off after a couple of puffs, though. I think the rest of us kind of went, “Eh,” and moved on with our lives.

Anyway, there’s a kerfuffle because now WHO is advising a ban on indoor vaping. Some people are all, “But it helps with quitting smoking / But it’s not as bad as regular cigarettes / But it cured my baldness!” while others are like, “Eh.”

Bottom line: I don’t trust nicotine. I vote yay on banning e-cigarettes indoors. Outside? Knock yourself out.

This post brought to you by FMLA, which is not a company, as one person thought when I said, “I am going on FMLA,” and he replied, “Good luck working for FMLA.”

Monday, August 25, 2014

Recipe: Easy White Bean Dip

Just add these five ingredients into the machine and presto!

My sister-in-law taught me this recipe. It goes great with pita chips or veggies.

Prep time: 5 minutes
Makes: 20+ oz.

Ingredients: White kidney beans, garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper

Instructions:
  1. Drain and wash the beans.
  2. Peel the garlic (amount is up to you...I used 5 cloves for 19 oz. of beans) and toss into the food processor.
  3. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
  4. Add beans.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Blend!
Such easy!

This post brought to you by my constant, gnawing hunger.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Comic: Ick



Don't lie. You know exactly what I'm talking about.

Our bellybuttons are scars from when the umbilical cord fell off. Most people are "innies," like myself, with enchanting depressions in the abdomen. A small percentage are "outies," who have extra scar tissue from the umbilical cord. (Full Wikipedia article here.)

I vaguely recall Fragrant Mother instructing child-me to apply lotion to a Q-tip and swab around in there to clean it up, but, filthy tomboy that I was, I didn't really listen. I would allow years to pass before I looked down and went, "Oh yeah, maybe I should clean that, too!" and then promptly pass out from the eldritch horrors that I retrieved and inadvertently awoke from their microbial slumber.

This comic is about the last time that happened, aka last week. Ick.

This post brought to you by a rhinovirus! Ick^10.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Guardians of the Galaxy is a hilarious, well-written, and well-made romp featuring a relatively obscure band of alien superheroes. Its goofy irreverence is on display from the moment its title shows up on screen, all the way through to the Easter egg at the end of the credits. And since it's PG-13, it's certifiably fun for the whole family!

The movie chronicles the accidental formation of the "Guardians of the Galaxy," which starts when Peter Quill/Starlord (Chris Pratt) retrieves an orb from some ruins. As it happens, Ronan the Accuser (a scenery-chewing Lee Pace), a nutjob Kree, has promised to deliver the orb to Thanos the Mad Titan. He sends Thanos' adoptive daughter Gamora (Zoe Saldana) to take the orb from Quill. Meanwhile, raccoon-like bounty hunter Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and his sidekick Groot (Vin Diesel) try to nab Quill because he now has a bounty on his head from taking the orb before the Ravagers, a crew of bandits whose leader (Michael Rooker, eeeeee!!!) raised him. It goes wonky for everyone, and they end up in a high-security prison, where Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) is waiting for the opportunity to avenge the death of his family at the hands of Ronan.

Such a simple plot, amirite???

No, seriously, director James Gunn and co-writer Nicole Perlman map it out so well that the story unfolds easily and with plenty of laughs along the way. Each Guardian is funny--Starlord is earnest, often exasperated by events, super attached to his Walkman, and "not 100% a dick," in his own words; Rocket is very angry at life and expresses it through nonstop sarcasm; Groot is...special; and Drax takes everything literally ("Nothing goes over my head. My reflexes are very fast. I would catch it."). Gamora is mostly serious, but she does get one or two one-liners that will make any non-child member of the audience die laughing.

Apart from the dialogue, the action scenes are impressive, as expected of a superhero movie. There's plenty of hand-to-hand combat and flying-through-space scenes, and the CGI blends seamlessly with the real actors and sets. Only Thanos sticks out as a purely digital effort, which is odd because Groot and Rocket don't. I think it's because both Groot and Rocket were realized through a combination of voice acting, on-set acting, and motion-capture. Details here.

As for the villain, Ronan the Accuser is a bad mofo, although his entire character is basically "crazy guy who hates Xandar." FYI, Xandar is a planet ruled by Glenn Close, so not a bad place? But Ronan is all, "Cleanse it!" blah blah anger. The important thing is, he looks cool, sounds intimidating as hell, and doesn't do anything too stupid, apart from the mandatory monologuing.

TL;DR: Get your butt in the theater right now. Worth watching in 3D.

This post brought to you by a fried chicken sandwich with avocado!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Movie Review: Riddick (2013)

Riddick, the third in the Chronicles of Riddick series, recalls the original Pitch Black by pitting the titular character (Vin Diesel) against hostile alien (and human) life on a distant planet. This outing is probably the darkest, bloodiest, and manliest of the three, and I say "probably" because I never watched the middle one.

Fortunately, Riddick's gravelly voiceover recounts past events at the start of the movie. Apparently, Karl Urban's evil eyeshadow betrayed him and Riddick is left for dead on an alien world. Riddick lives up to his fearsome reputation by surviving and defeating the various predators intent on his demise. He even adopts a puppy! And then he must pass through the Swamp of Horrors, which he does in the manliest way possible: puppy clutched to chest, handmade bladed weapon held high as he slices effortlessly through a large scorpion-ish monster. I was briefly afraid my husband had gotten pregnant from watching that scene, it was that manly.

Anyway, after he realizes that even more critters are en route, Riddick activates an emergency signal that attracts two mercenary groups: one run by the bad guy from Bad Boys 2, and another with the Token Female Character. Good thing it's Starbuck (Katee Sackhoff)! Oh, and their leader is the dad of that jerk from Pitch Black, and he wants answers because feelings!

From that point on, it's a matter of Riddick being the bogeyman, much like in the first movie. His first night attack quickly dispatches three extras, and both groups of mercenaries grudgingly work together for his capture. Also: there is a shower scene and bewbs! While Riddick does plenty to earn the viewers' awe and admiration, there's one particular scene that made me and Fragrant Husband do the Slow Clap with our mouths hanging open. Seriously, whoever choreographed this movie is a sick, twisted individual, in the best way possible.

I shall now spare your further spoilers, mostly because I got sleepy and went to bed without watching the ending. But I'm sure Riddick and Starbuck declared their undying love for each other and rode away into the space. Right? Right?

TL;DR: Dark, violent, and a must-see for fans of the man.

This post brought to you by Bliss Spa! 

Movie Review: Hereditary (2018)