Breast Cancer Promotion Rant

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Breast Cancer, Breast Health, Consumer Info, Cool Links / Clicky Linky, Health

In recent years, there has been a tremendous pink ribbon marketing push starting around the middle of September. It’s great that corporate America has taken an interest, and now you can’t go anywhere in October (Breast Cancer Awareness Month) without being inundated by pink ribbons and pink, well, everything.

The cynic in me says the corporations only real motivation to do this is because they will make more money by offering spatulas and kitchen knives that people already own, but will buy again because they want to support the cause. At this point, you can buy nearly everything tinted pink or with the pink ribbon on it. I myself bought a chef’s knife with a pink handle a few years ago, even though I had plenty at home. I bought it for cathartic reasons, but still. *chop*chop*

As I did last year, I ask you to take a moment before plunking down money for yet another set of shears or pen set. Read the fine print on the item to see how much they are actually donating to charity from the cost of the item. In my experience, it’s been between 2-5% and rarely, if ever, higher.  So if you spend $100 in October on breast cancer awareness stamped items, you’ll likely only have $2 to $5 actually going to the charity that the faceless corporation chooses.

My preference is to instead find a charity that I think is reputable and trust-worthy. Care should be taken to ensure that a majority of your funds go toward the cause itself, rather than overhead. Charity Navigator seems to be a good site, as they evaluate over 5,500 charities from a financial management aspect. There are other sites, simply search on “charity overhead percentage” or other terms that are of concern in your decision making.

The reason I have always preferred to give my money directly to the charity itself is quite selfish. I want to make sure that every penny leaving my hands is going to make a difference. Yes, it stimulates the economy to buy stuff. It also fills your home with things that you, in some cases, don’t need duplicates of, or don’t need at all. Another point on selfishness, is that you don’t get to claim the cost of a waffle iron with a pink ribbon on your taxes. You do get to claim a deduction to a non-profit organization, if you itemize. And make sure you get a receipt to document it, in case you are ever audited.

If you still want to buy the items, go for it! I particularly like clothing items or car magnets, as they serve as a reminder to others of the needs of women and men suffering from this particularly devastating disease.

Another favorite is items that are already on the shopping list, like yogurt or cereal, that support the cause. Yoplait has been a Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure sponsor for ages, and their pink lid promotion has raised over $25 million dollars over the years. (Warning for those that care, they do still have HFCS in their yogurt, the last time I checked.)

And no, I don’t feel this way only over pink ribbon items. In this tough economy, I believe that most, if not all, charities are feeling the squeeze as folks have less money to share. So even if your cause of choice isn’t breast cancer awareness, make sure you spend your donation dollars smartly.

Watch this site for a tax deductible and highly recommended charity that you can donate to with a few mouse clicks and keystrokes.

Breast Cancer Confessional – Pink Terror

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: 5k, Breast Cancer, Breast Health, Chooch, Friends, Health, Mom, Soulful

Following my Mom’s passing from breast cancer in 2006 (Jesus, how could it have been so long?), I felt a sharp stab of pain every time I saw a pink ribbon. As you can imagine, after her 2+ year fight she valiantly put up on this second occurrence, almost everyone at both of her services was wearing a pink ribbon in honor of her battle. I spent a lot of time looking at the ground.

I even took my sons and nephews shopping because they wanted to get a pink item for their suits. Two chose pink shirts, the other two chose pink ties. I was never more proud of them for that, proudly laughing in the face of potential mockery and homophobic comments (I’ve got a rant on this I’m saving for another day), in order to honor their bigger-than-life and beloved grandmother.

It’s actually a blur to me if I wore any pink at all, maybe Chooch remembers as he is my memory bank for the few months before and after she passed. The family talked about everyone wearing one, but I didn’t. It felt wrong to me for some reason that I can’t really explain. It was like kryptonite to me and I quite literally winced every time I saw a pink ribbon.

I can quite clearly remember the first time I wore a pink ribbon again, as it was on my participant T-shirt at the 2008 Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Richmond. I can tell you I wouldn’t have made it ten steps without Chooch and good friend Paulette Jaxton there that day. Although I don’t think she really knew what she was in for when she decided to join us. It was more than just a fundraiser and 5k for me; it was a crucial step in my healing process. And what a painful step it was. Talk about immersion therapy.

That was a huge day for me, as I had enough distance from the loss to be able to embrace the community once again and proudly take steps for such an important cause, when my Mom could no longer do so. We did several Races for the Cure in Washington, D.C. after her first diagnosis in 1991. Hell, she even stood on the stage with other survivors one year, lined up in their pink t-shirts as the opening ceremonies were held. She truly believed that doing the Races made a difference, and not just for raising donations. It also raised awareness and was an awe-inspiring sight, that sea of pink on the news that night.

My hope is to raise funds for breast cancer research every year, in her name. I’ve done this since that first race in 2008, with Paulette and Chooch at my side. When I was physically unable to do the race this year, I signed up for the Sleep-In for the Cure. This allowed me to raise funds even though I was unable to attend. They even sent me a t-shirt. I’ll be doing the race, every year, and am considering adding other Komen races in different places. Even if I don’t raise any money through donations, they still get my registration fee, after all. And every penny counts. Someday, I’ll work my way up to the 3-Day race, as I’ve wanted to do for years and am freshly inspired to finally reach that goal. Who knows? 2011 may be the year.

It’s taken me weeks to write this post, and it’s more confessional than I first intended. All I really wanted to do was:

  • Remind you to do a breast self exam. Male or female, you need to know how your breasts feel to be able to determine if and when something changes.
  • Urge you to immediately get to your physician to get it checked out if you find anything that concerns you, no matter how small. You have a brief window for early detection, and it can be the difference between life and death.
  • Ask you to get another opinion if you feel your doctor is dismissive of your concerns. If you don’t have health insurance, check into local programs for a free or lower cost mammogram. It won’t go away just because you don’t have insurance.
  • Tell you NOT to rely on youth for protection. You’d be surprised at how many people get breast cancer in their 20’s and 30’s. In fact, my ex-husband’s sister recently won her battle against breast cancer, and we went to school together. She’s 41, just like me.

Every race I’ve done has been wonderful in its own way, and each time it is a bit less difficult staring down the pink ribbon.

I’m including some pictures from breast cancer fundraiser races I’ve done, starting with May of 2008. Other folks in the photos include Paulette Jaxton, Allison Duncan, Mae Breakall and Jett Micheyl.

Droid App – Wordfeud

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Chooch, Droid, Friends

Over the weekend Chooch and I lucked into a great deal when we changed carriers and were able to upgrade our G1’s (original Droid phones) for Droid X’s. I’ll leave it to Chooch to give the full poop on how awesome they are, but will briefly mention that although I love the larger screen, it does feel a bit strange using it to make calls. Most of my use is text based, so this is not truly a drawback in practical terms.

We decided to try and find a game similar to “Words with Friends” which, for now at least, is exclusive on Apple devices. It’s a shame because it would be great to be able to play with more friends across the great divide of Droid vs. Apple, but such is life!

The game we’re currently testing is “WordFeud” on the Android market. It reportedly will not work on G1’s because of the older operating system, but works smoothly on Version 2.2. There are other games, so may end up jumping to another, but for now I’m enjoying the 8 games I’ve got running.

If you’re playing it, feel free to throw me an invite, my username is Vivid Muse, natch.

Geist by Philippa Ballantine

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Books, Cool Links / Clicky Linky, Friends, Health

New Zealand author and dear friend Philippa Ballantine has her new book launch TODAY! My husband Chooch read a pre-release copy and says that it’s his favorite of her books to date! Our copies are en route and should arrive today. If you haven’t already, rush out to your local bookstore and buy it or simply order from Amazon!

Geist

Between the living and the dead is the Order of the Deacons, protectors of the Empire, guardians against possession, sentinels enlisted to ward off the malevolent haunting of the geists…

Among the most powerful of the Order is Sorcha, now thrust into partnership with the novice Deacon, Merrick Chambers. They have been dispatched to the isolated village of Ulrich to aide the Priory with a surge of violent geist activity. With them is Raed Rossin, Pretender to the throne that Sorcha is sworn to protect, and bearer of a terrible curse.

But what greets them in the strange settlement is something far more predatory and more horrifying than any mere haunting. And as she uncovers a tradition of twisted rituals passed down through the dark reaches of history, Sorcha will be forced to reconsider everything she thinks she knows.

And if she makes it out of Ulrich alive, what in Hell is she returning to?


Take a moment to watch the cool trailer created by Tee Morris in support of Geist.

Platoon (Number 86)

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: AFI's Top 100 Movies, Cooking, Movies

Directed by Oliver Stone and released in 1986, this movie starts at Day One with a new recruit in the war in Viet Nam. I first saw this on videotape sometime in the late ’80s/early 90s, as it was definitely not the type of movie I wanted to watch on the big screen.

It has a lot of familiar faces, far more than I remember being in this movie. Charlie Sheen, Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe, John McGinley, Forrest Whitaker, Kevin Dillon and  Johny Depp are the faces I most easily recognize, but there are others whose names I don’t know. And of course Oliver Stone is in a memorable bunker scene.

Platoon is a tough movie to watch. It just doesn’t get much more brutal than this. You see ugly things happen to American soldiers and you see ugly things done by American soldiers. Heart wrenching, stomach turning, gag inducing and it doesn’t let up for more than a moment before it hits you even harder in the next scene. This kind of stuff overwhelms me so it’s hard to talk about plot points, cinematography or realism of special effects. It’s just damned painful.

That said, it’s impossible to forget that the actors, each one, give their all. It’s difficult at times to remember that this is just a movie as they are immersed so completely in this insane landscape that you find yourself immersed as well. Horrifyingly realistic, it’s one of those movies I’d hoped never to watch again and likely would not have if not for this endeavor. Willem Dafoes’s iconic death scene easily includes the best and worst moments in the entire film.

The evil red glow in Barnes’ eyes as he moves in on Taylor, the deer (?) that Taylor saw or visualized after the deadly ambush – these brief images add to the many reasons that this movie belongs on this list.

Fave quote:
“Don’t drink that, asshole. You’ll get malaria.”
“Yeah, I hope so.”

Too Long For Twitter, GLAAD Spirit Day

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Cool Links / Clicky Linky, Friends, Too Long For Twitter

I’m choking on all the bigotry and hate in the world, so am joining GLAAD’s Spirit Day today to raise awareness and show my support of Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender youth by wearing purple and spreading the word.

Bullying of any kind is WRONG, but when children are taking their own lives over it, IT HAS TO STOP.

Life is short, choose love over hate. And if you can’t, please keep it to yourself instead of spewing it on others.

Playstation Network Hack – Resolution

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Consumer Info, Games, Video

As I posted previously, my Playstation Network account was hacked in the wee hours of Saturday morning. Because my credit card info was unintentionally linked, they were able to not only empty the $10 or so that remained after previous purchases but were also able to steal $140 from my bank account to load the account with before emptying it out with purchases.

The customer support was great, as they created a service request and walked me through changing my password after 2 escalations. Due to it being a Saturday, they were unable to reimburse the bank transaction and I was given a service number and told to call back on Monday. In speaking to an extremely helpful gentleman yesterday, I am very happy with the customer service I’ve received as a result of the early morning drama.

Not only is my bank account getting credited, but they were easily able to trace the consoles involved. In seconds, Paul was able to see that our console was not used to load the PSN wallet or download any games, so he continued the investigation to track down the console that hacked my account.

It seems that one PSP was used to load the PSN wallet with funds from my bank account, and that multiple PSP’s then used my account info to download games. Not surprisingly, this was identified in moments, down to the serial numbers of the PSP’s. All those involved have been permanently banned from the PSNetwork.

Odd as it may sound, I find this swift shot of justice more enjoyable than the recovery of my funds. In a world where people routinely do harm to people just trying to get by in this difficult life, I have no problem when justice (or karma) gives them a swift knee to the groin.

So, to prove that you’re smarter than me by not becoming a victim:

  • Don’t use your credit card to make purchases from the PSN Shop. Buy the PSN cards instead. I didn’t even know these existed, nor did I know that the transaction in February retained my credit card info. So my next suggestions is…
  • Login to your account and delete any credit card info that is stored there. It’s quick and simple to do.
  • While it’s still possible that your account will get hacked and any money that you loaded in your PSN wallet will be pilfered, if you do the previous step at least it won’t hit your bank account, too. The wallet reimbursement was much faster (moments) than the bank reimbursement will be (days). I have no reason to believe there will be an issue, but if there is you know I’ll post about it to help you avoid any other pitfalls I stumble across.

My last remaining hope? That they were PSP Go’s. They only way that content can be loaded onto those little darlings is via the PSN Store, which they are now banned from accessing. Now that would be heavenly.

*sigh*

***Edit***

Refund from Playstation Network was processed yesterday. I’m a happy panda. 🙂

Review of 12 Angry Men (87)

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: AFI's Top 100 Movies, Movies, Podcast

I’ve been really looking forward to this movie, as I’ve always heard of it in such awed tones. We watched the trailer, and I have to say I doubt it would have urged me to the theaters. It’s overly dramatized and under represents this subtle and powerful film.

I also believe it’s the only Henry Ford movie I’ve seen, other than On Golden Pond, and I loved him in that. How could you not?

It also stars Jack Klugman, (who I’ve had a crush on since Quincy), Jack Warden, E.G. Marshall and Ed Begley’s Jr’s dad, Ed Begley. Obviously there are other men in the movie, but these are the actors that I recognized from other movies.

Last but not least of those recognizable, is the man whose face I didn’t recognize but his voice is one I could never forget. John Fiedler is unforgettable as the voice of the sweet and lovable Piglet in all those Winnie the Pooh movies you’ve seen. In checking his IMDB page, I’m sad to say he passed away in 2005.

As for the movie itself, the first thing thing of note was the way many of the jury members stared down the accused. It’s pretty clear their minds were already made up on his guilt. As they file into the room in orderly fashion, we see these formal men relax and get comfy in the deliberation room.

We are immediately introduced to the camaraderie of the jury room, save for one lone man standing by the window. Henry Fonda stands separate from the rest, smoking a cigarette. It’s a simple yet powerful way to differentiate him from the others. Most of them, maybe all, are already stating the defendant’s guilt and he stands silently at the window.

Many times during the film I was struck by the casual and friendly interaction between the men, other than when they were in conflict over the votes to decide guilt. It makes me wonder if that was always the way it was when white men were gathered together. It almost seems as if there was a short hand based on their apparent standing in society.

The balance of tension in this film is masterful, ranging from a tangible suspense that is broken up with some hilarious one-liners. The casting is meticulous and the actors are completely immersed in their roles. They are completely believable as one by one the jurors change their votes after various personal epiphanies regarding the case. One of the most powerful scenes is when one of the jurors raves about how despicable the lower class is, in his opinion. Seeing almost every man silently stand against his comments was a powerful statement in this group of men that at once seemed so unified.

I’m thrilled to see a film that unquestionably belongs on this list, and I won’t be too surprised if this movie is higher on my personal ranking than 87. If you haven’t seen the film, I cannot recommend it highly enough. There are no car chases or sex scenes, but it is a purely enjoyable film with great depth.

Favorite line: “He’s a common, ignorant slob. He don’t even speak good English.” Another gem is “Let’s throw it on the stoop and see if the cat licks it up.”

On a related subject, Christiana Ellis started a 24 hour gaming session in support of The Children’s Miracle Network. I can think of no better person to take on this challenge and OWN IT. So far, she’s raised $696 for this amazing and deserving charity. If you can spare a couple bucks, please make a donation to the cause. While gaming for 24 hours straight sounds awesome, it’s no easy feat, and I applaud her efforts.

And if you haven’t yet, check out the podcast that Christiana and Mike Meitin are doing as they go through the AFI Top 100 Movies. They are the inspiration for this blog series after all!

Now, pardon me as I go through culture shock. Chooch has fired up the next disc in our mainlining of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. The title of the episode is “Who Pooped the Bed.” Yup, you read that right.

Playstation Network Account Hacked

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Consumer Info, Games

Can you say first world problem? I knew that you could.

My unsteady yet productive day has been interrupted by a half hour freak out when I saw that my Sony PSN accout had been hacked and my bank account down $140. I actually had $150 stolen between the ass hat(s) loading the wallet and what was already in the wallet. According to my email traffic, there were two password changes and nine purchases, leaving 9 cents in PSN wallet. Very efficient, but you’ll have to forgive me for not having admiration for the puke(s) that robbed us.

I noticed it today (Saturday) around 1:30 pm, but it occurred between 2 and 5 am. After an automated phone system run around and three representatives, I was walked through changing my password and removed the linked credit card info.

I have to wait until Monday to talk to the next level of support to get the charges reversed, and I’m thrilled that we have a small cushion in the account to accommodate this particular boot to the head. Yes, I considered alerting my bank to the fraud but when I asked I was told it would be cleaner to let PSN handle, so I’ll wait. I’ll report it to my bank at that point if I don’t get it from PSN for whatever reason.

Chooch also removed the credit card info from his account. In the future we will add and immediately delete the information for purchases.

Now, I hate flooding my stream with endless blog posts, especially two in one day. However, I would kick myself if someone got hacked tonight when it might have been avoided if only I weren’t trying to space out my blog posts, for no real reason.

Please consider this my heartfelt request that you remove your credit card info from your PSN account if it’s there, as this appears to have been totally random. In other words, it could happen to you.

Too Long to Tweet, Number One

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Books, Friends, Soulful, Too Long For Twitter, Twitter/Facebook, Work

There are so many stories of Patrick McLean’s  that make me mutter “Brilliant,” even on the 10th hearing/reading. But this one gives me shivers, too.

“What I do see is the guy with the gun walking up next to my car. Or more precisely, the gigantic black hole that is the barrel of the gun. If you’ve ever had a gun pointed at you, you know what I mean. The barrel seems huge. And why shouldn’t it? It has to be big enough to swallow your whole life.”

-“Getting Shot” from Stories I Told Myself and The Seanachai podcast.

You may consider me biased, but come on. That is a fierce string of words.

Welcome to my shortest post ever.