What Does Organic Really Mean?

Consumers have a mind-boggling array of foods to choose from at the grocery store. Some foods appeal to families on a tight budget, others are marketed to shoppers with high-end tastes, and others are designed to provide calories in as little time as possible. A large portion of shelf-space targets people who want food that is healthy, nutritious, and wholesome. Such foods are generally easy to spot, because their claims are boldly declared on the front of the package: “Low Fat”, “Low Carb”, “Whole Grain”, “100 Calories”, “Only 90 Calories”, “Enriched”, “Locally Grown”, “All Natural”, “Organic”, and the list goes on. However, only one of those claims is legally defined and verified through independent, third-party certification: organic.

The term “organic” has several meanings that depend on context and how savvy consumers are about organic food production. Chemists use “organic” to refer to compounds that contain carbon. In the agricultural industry, it refers to “the quality of resembling an organism—that is, a living system in which a number of parts cooperate to the benefit of all” (“Organic and Locally Grown Foods”). Many consumers have a much narrower view and associate organic food only with improved nutrition, less pesticide residue, or better taste. Others focus less on the qualities of the food and take it up as a moral or environmental cause.

Each of those perceived meanings are valid; however, they are only part of the whole story. Continue reading

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(In)Accessible Website Usage

Photo of a blue Handicapped Accessible sign next to a door.

©MyDoorSign·CC BY 2.0·Flickr

This was a homework assignment for a class on Designing Accessible Websites. I describe my experiences interacting with the Web while simulating different disabilities.

I’ve been interested in accessibility issues for many years. I have had a few different friends with all sorts of disabilities, and I have been a volunteer and student worker in the Disabled Students Programs and Services (DSPS) office. Most of my experiences have been with the blind. One of my friends had an acquired brain injury (ABI) following a traffic accident.

As a result of these experiences, I have taken a keen interest in making my Websites as accessible as possible. I actually tried all four of the experiences (a. using my computer without a mouse, b. using a screen reader to browse the Web, c. using the low vision simulator, and d. using a color blindness simulator). I’ll give you a few thoughts about each below.

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Messages for and memories of Dave W. Murray

Dave W. Murray

If you would like to leave a message about Dave or for the family, please visit his new memorial page: http://willmurray.name/dwm

This page was created while my father was still alive and struggling to recover from a stroke following heart surgery. The memories and messages of hope shared by the visitors below are precious to me, so I am keeping this page for posterity.

For those who commented, thank you for sharing! The comments below are now closed. New comments will be moved to the memorial page.

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Father’s heart surgery, stroke, and death; and Mother’s anemia

Updated 25 October 2013

Dave Murray smiling while in the hospital's pre-op unit.I just looked through the search terms that people use to find my blog. It is obvious that most people accessing this page are scared and looking for answers about a parent or other close family member going through, or about to go through heart surgery, an Arctic Sun therapy, or a stroke. It breaks my heart to see some of the search terms, because I understand and empathize with your pain, confusion, and frustration.

I don’t think this page will give you the answers for which you are looking. It is a record of the events that my father, mother, and I went through, along with our friends and relatives who stayed updated via my blog. It is a snapshot of one family’s experiences, and yours will likely be very different.

In addition, my father’s surgery was very complicated. It involved two valves being replaced, a MAZE III procedure, and, while they were in there anyway, a triple bypass. The cumulative risks of those added up to a 1:20 chance of not making it through the very lengthy surgery (11+ hours). Unfortunately, my dad drew the short straw, and ended up hitting that unlucky 1 chance in 20. The odds were that he should have made it. His chance of dying in the next two years without the surgery was nearly 100%, and his quality of life up to that point would have been very poor. He wanted the chance at a better life, so I still think he made the best decision.

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How to deal with “I want it now!” in kids

A cute girl throwing a screaming tantrum.

©Lucille Pine CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 Flickr

You’re at the circus, Disneyland, the zoo, or or the fair. Suddenly your child spots his or her latest “must have” item. The finger points, the hopeful look appears in the eyes, and the words “I want it!” are uttered. What happens next can be an opportunity or a nightmare depending on how it plays out.

I suggest that when a child waaaants something, ask them if they want to buy it with their allowance (they do have an allowance, right?). If they don’t want to spend their money on it, then they have to trade something for it. Ask them which item at home will they part with in exchange for the shiny new thing. Obviously, the thing they have to give away needs to be something fairly equitable. No giving away furniture, sensible clothing, etc.—something else that was a shiny new impulse purchase is best. If the new thing is a big-ticket item, the thing they give up needs to be important to the child, too. This helps them learn to value what they have and also understand that everything has a cost.

My parents also had several other good tricks up their sleeves. Continue reading

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Review: Alice in Wonderland (2010)

I rate Alice in Wonderland (2010) 5 out of 5.

This was a fun and exciting movie, and it was excellent in IMAX 3D. If you are expecting the original Disney animated feature, there are a few very well done nods to it, but overall, this is a grown-up adventure fitting a grown-up Alice. There is lots of eye candy (and I mean that in a good way) for both adults and children, but many of the scenes are too intense, disturbing, or scary for younger viewers—especially without adult supervision.

Aside from several “gloomy” sets, and two disturbing ones (involving beheadings and decapitated heads), Tim Burton seems to have finally left behind his juvenile fascination with the grotesque, heavy Gothic influences, and dark humor. Perhaps it was a positive influence from Disney, but the movie had an overall uplifting feel to it, despite many side trips through dark places. I hope that Burton will continue to “lighten up” in his future works, while maintaining his wonderful sense of style, surprise, and hyper-reality.

Mia Wasikowska was a brilliant casting choice. Her character development from a dazed and confused innocent (almost annoyingly so) to her final state of mind was very well performed. She is a beautiful actress, and does a fantastic job—very believable.

Johnny Depp was terrific—as always. His accents and mannerisms were zany, but avoided the creepiness of his Willy Wonka performance. Continue reading

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My Life According to Disney

"Dreams Come True" fireworks display over the Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland with Walt and Mickey's statue in front.

©Tom Bricker CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Flickr

Instructions: Using only song names from ONE ARTIST, cleverly answer these questions. Try not to repeat a song title or use the artist I used. It’s a lot harder than you think! Be creative! Some questions may not apply to a particular artist, and some songs may suggest great new questions; adapt the questions as the music inspires you. Re-post as “My Life According to ____________”.

“A Cowboy Needs a Horse” (from Mickey Mouse Club)
1. “True To Your Heart” (from Mulan)
2. “Honor to Us All” (Mulan)
3. “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile” (Disney’s Annie)
4. “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” (Toy Story)
5. “I’m No Fool” (Mickey Mouse Club)
1. “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” (Mary Poppins)
2. “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” (Song of the South)

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