Thursday, September 29

Boot Camp for Parents

I recently wrote an article on the radical parenting methods of Demarcus (Sarge) and Joy Brown, owners of Naples Fitness Boot camp. The Browns have appeared on the TLC “Wife Swap” series and the “Radical Parenting” episode of the CBS “Dr. Phil” TV show. They have been openly criticized for their approach to parenting and extreme lifestyle. They eat a strict diet of mostly raw foods and significantly limit their children’s exposure to books, TV and even other children. When the family plays a game the loser does pushups and the children do chores and run an obstacle course daily.
However, after getting to know them, I must admit, the children are respectful, well-behaved and physically fit. As an experiment I decided to implement Joy and Sarge’s stringent diet, rules, chores and fitness regimen in my own family. I wanted to see firsthand the impact of their radical parenting tactics.
When I announced the experiment to my family I met with adamant resistance. “There’s no way I’m eating raw chicken” said my 8 year old daughter. “I’m not doing an ‘oxickle court’ said my 5 year old son. Everyone seemed to lighten up when I explained the details of the diet and obstacle course. When I started to explain Joy and Sarge’s discipline system, there was dead silence and wide eyes. “First I’ll give you a warning, and then you’ll have to write whatever you did wrong 150 times. If those two things don’t work, then you’ll be spanked” I said. That’s when my daughter wisely pointed out that my son can’t write. In fact, both children displayed a level of intelligence far beyond their years as they offered up reasons why they couldn’t participate in the experiment.
Joy and Sarge don’t allow their children to watch TV shows that include mature content. That’s basically everything on TV. We chose to play Chutes and Ladders. According to the Brown family rules, the loser must do pushups. We played four times and I did forty pushups.
Later, we all piled in the car to go to the grocery store to buy our healthy food. It was almost dinner hour and the idea of a salad seemed so daunting we were forced to stop for pizza on the way. We used the time over pizza to create the grocery list. Beyond fruit and salad, I couldn’t think of a single thing that I like to eat that isn’t cooked. We left the grocery store with $85.00 of fruit, vegetables and nuts.
The experiment immediately commenced. We went outside for the obstacle course. I led the kids through a series of pushups and sprints. My son led us through his own version of an obstacle course that included three sprints around a tree and culminated in a head first dive into the trunk of the SUV, a front roll over the back seat and a baseball-style slide out the back door. Sarge and Joy would have been so proud.
We’re now in day two of the experiment and all of the fruit and vegetables have disappeared and my son has asked at least fifty times “Can I have an unhealthy snack now?” As a reprimand for his constant pestering I told him to write his name 150 times. We didn’t get beyond ten times because it took him so long. This method of parenting is very time consuming.
My biggest issue with this approach is that it requires a lot effort on the part of the parent. There’s a surprising amount of ‘cooking’ involved with a raw diet and board games are a lot less enjoyable with a penalty of pushups. I think it would have been easier to just drop my kids off at Joy’s doorstep (I knew I should have gotten her address).

Wednesday, September 28

Radical Parenting: Does it work?

Have Demarcus (Sarge) and Joy Brown, Naples Fitness Boot Camp founders, found the key to effective parenting or have their militant training methods finally gone too far? Their extreme approach to child-rearing includes a list of 50 rules and a strict diet of mostly raw foods. The couple reveals their physical punishment among other topics on a jaw dropping episode of the CBS nationally-syndicated “Dr. Phil” TV show.
Sarge and Joy Brown, appear on a previously taped episode, titled “Radical Parenting” Friday, September 30th at 5pm.
Dr. Phil delved into Joy and Sarge’s nutrition plan, fitness regimen and rigid discipline. The endless list of rules and three step warning system roused gasps from the audience. Joy said, "The first time the children misbehave they are warned, the second time they must write 150 times “I will not do ..” and the third time they are spanked.”
Joy said, “The (Dr. Phil) show was interested in what the kids eat, how the kids exercise, our rules, chores and even games.” The audience was audibly shocked when Sarge explained, “We play a card game, if you lose, you’re doing pushups. Sometimes you’re going to win, sometimes you’re going to lose and sometimes there is a price you have to pay for that loss.”
The children aren’t allowed to read the Harry Potter books, play with friends outside of school or go to the movies. Dr. Phil advised the Browns to maintain balance. Joy said, “Dr. Phil talked about balancing discipline and education. We as parents are educating them as opposed to the world educating them.”
Joy and Sarge are devout Christians and express concern over allowing their children to socialize with other families who don’t share their values. “The kids aren’t allowed to just go off and hang out with other kids” said Joy. After school, the children, ages 8 and 11, do their homework and chores. Joy says, “Each kid has a list of chores and they do the same things that I do, wash the windows, clean the kitchen, dust, sweep, mop, vacuum and do laundry.”
Physical fitness is a priority and is incorporated in their daily activities. For example, the children must run an obstacle course in the backyard after school. Joy says, “The way we train our clients is the exact same way we train ourselves.” Successful examples of their own training methods, Sarge can do 75 pushups in a minute and Joy has run a 6 minute mile.
The entire family adheres to a stringent four meals a day diet of primarily raw food. The diet is Joy’s own creation and can be found in her new book, R3 Diet. Previously a sugar addict, Joy admits to having eaten a whole box of Krispy Kreme donuts in one day. After seven years of research and testing Joy guarantees that her diet will lead to successful weight loss.
This is not the first time the Brown family’s extreme lifestyle has been showcased on TV. In 2009, the family appeared in a highly controversial episode of the CBS series “Wife Swap.” In the episode, Joy swapped homes with the Holland family where bacon is a staple and exercise non-existent. The conflict in each household was instantaneous. Sarge took viewer criticism when he threw his sons mattress out the door because it was improperly made. The episode included an infamous scene of Joy using a baseball bat to demolish the Holland family’s unhealthy food and culminated with the youngest boy, nine year old “King Curtis” running away, vowing not to return until Joy left. The ensuing public debate regarding Joy and Sarge’s parenting style swept across internet blogs and catapulted the episode into one of the most popular of the Wife Swap series.
The Browns believe that their parenting style is a mix of love and boot camp style training but they didn’t begin that way. When the children were younger, Joy was seriously depressed. She recovered from her depression and found purpose when she literally dreamt of exercising outdoors. Although Sarge was serving in the army in Iraq, Joy opened her first boot camp with a mission to promote healthy nutrition and fitness in 2005. Since then the family has built their lives and business around their philosophy of “Four pillars: food, fitness, supplement and mindset.”
The couple is opening R3 Health Club, their first indoor/outdoor club in October. The club will offer raw cooking classes, nutritional education and a juice bar in addition to fitness classes. R3 Health Club will be located at 843 Myrtle Terrace, near the corner of Pine Ridge Rd and US 41.

Friday, September 23

The Foreign Wife

The Foreign Wife

Why don’t we know when and where the NASA satellite will land?

It’s all about the drag. ‘Drag’ has slowly but surely pulled the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) out of orbit, down towards earth. All satellites experience drag but most rely on onboard propulsion systems to maintain altitude and keep the satellite in its intended orbit. After 19 years in space, UARS propulsion system is no longer operational. Without a propulsion system the satellite cannot counteract the drag and reboost itself into orbit. 
The big question on everyone’s mind (including NASA) is when will the satellite re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere and where will the debris spread? If the satellite’s drag could be accurately calculated, then this question would be answered exactly.
Most assume that it must be easier to get a satellite down to an exact landing place on Earth than get it up into space in an exact altitude and orbit. Not so. The drag that continuously pulls at all satellites is determined by multiple constantly changing variables. The unpredictability of those variables makes the calculation of drag almost impossible.
Drag is a force that opposes the direction of the satellite's velocity and retards its movement. Three primary factors determine the amount of drag on a satellite: the satellite's mass, the satellite’s area and the density of the atmosphere at the satellite's altitude. Two of these factors, the area of the satellite and the atmospheric density, constantly change.
How can the area of a satellite vary? When calculating the area of UARS, for the purposes of determining drag, only the frontal, flat surface area perpendicular to the velocity vector is used (sort of like the front windshield of a car). However, the satellite is constantly moving, thus the amount of frontal area is constantly changing.
Richard Strafella, a former NASA aerospace engineer for 33 years, is an expert in flight dynamics and spacecraft orbit decay. Strafella says, “It is difficult to calculate the area for a satellite like UARS, which has a solar array on one side of the main body. The solar array must constantly point towards the sun (to gain power), so the satellite is continuously moving its orientation to stay ‘locked-on’ the sun. During the night-time portion of the orbit, the solar array may be slewed back to another angle so that when the sun is again visible to the satellite, the solar panel is in the correct orientation to point towards the sun.” The satellite’s area will constantly change as the satellite travels in its orbit and maneuvers to stay locked on the sun.
How does the density of the atmosphere vary? Strafella explains, “At any given altitude, the atmospheric density is not constant but varies greatly, more so on the side of the earth in sunlight than the side in darkness. In addition, the sun’s radiation causes the earth's atmosphere to heat up. As the atmosphere heats up the atmosphere expands outward from the earth increasing the atmospheric density at all altitudes. Further, the sun follows roughly an 11-year cycle, known as the solar cycle and in 2011 the sun's activity is increasing towards the solar maximum.” The increase in the sun’s activity causes even greater fluctuation in the density of the atmosphere making drag on the satellite even more erratic as it travels around the earth. 
As the satellite decreases in altitude and gets closer to Earth the atmosphere becomes denser increasing drag. Finally the drag force becomes so intense it exceeds the satellite's capacity to control its own orientation and the satellite will tumble through space. Once it begins to tumble it is impossible to calculate the satellite’s area making re-entry estimates uncertain. When the satellite has begun its final plunge, the spacecraft is usually torn apart by the drag force and the heat of the Earth’s atmosphere.
Strafella, responsible for determining orbit decay throughout NASA’s history (from the Apollo missions up to the Hubble Telescope) says conclusively, “It is very difficult to give an accurate long-range prediction for when and where any satellite will re-enter. However, UARS will be tracked and only when it is within a couple of orbits (i.e., within a few hours) of re-entering will there be a precise prediction for the satellite's reentry time and location.”

Satellite Smashes into the Earth. Maybe

I’ve packed water, flares and a tent. I’m just not sure where to go? There is a NASA satellite hurtling through space towards the planet Earth and no one seems particularly concerned but me. The satellite is bigger than a killer whale (but smaller than a humpback whale so somewhere in between the size of a killer and humpback whale). The target landing zone for the satellite is between 57 degrees north latitude and 57 degrees south latitude all the way around the globe. I checked more than once and the landing site is unnecessarily large for a whale-sized satellite. The latitudinal range includes many oceans, South America, North America, Europe and all of the destinations in Asia that I like to visit. Where will I go? More importantly, has anyone told the rest of the world that they reside in the target landing zone?
The satellite, known as the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS), was launched by the Space Shuttle Discovery to measure the effects of human and natural compounds in the ozone layer. Needless to say, NASA has conclusive evidence that humans are messing up their own atmosphere.
The satellite is expected to smash into the earth’s atmosphere on Friday the 20th. The math is tricky and there is a wide margin of error for the smash date. It the satellite doesn’t hit Friday, it might come on Sunday, or possibly Saturday or maybe even Tuesday the 27th but it will definitely get here before Halloween.
Although NASA is vague on the time, date and destination of the satellite, there is certainty that during re-entry the satellite will break up into exactly 26 separate pieces. The largest piece will be about the size of an adult dolphin.
I researched NASA’s website and selected the ‘NASA in Your Life’ heading under ‘News Topics’ and information regarding the impending collision is suspiciously absent.
I’ve seen this movie before. Initially NASA tries to cover up the details and downplay the severity of the event. Then someone like Jodie Foster blows the whistle and reveals critical details about the satellite and its trajectory. As the object gets closer to earth, the US government and NASA officials become increasingly desperate to find a solution. Finally, unlikely heroes step up to the plate. After his insightful advice during the BP oil disaster Kevin Costner will be a shoe-in to plan the rescue mission. Sigourney Weaver, with her experience in deep space will be a frontrunner to run the mission and the poor cosmonaut who was stuck on Mir should probably go as well. If only Jodie Foster would surface the critical details, then we would know where the satellite is going to land and I could plan my trip.
The satellite was designed to operate for three years but reminiscent of the MIR Space Station, the satellite has been in orbit since 1991. Amazingly, six of its ten original instruments still function. I’m hopeful that one of the remaining functional instruments is a guidance system. Then the mission master (Kevin Costner) could access the guidance system and steer the satellite to land in the ocean, or perhaps on Muammar Gaddafi’s compound.
As a precaution, over the next week, should you see something that looks like a dolphin falling from the sky, take cover.

Friday, September 16

Debate or Book Tour? Republican Presidential Primary Ponzi Tea Party Debate

I was lost in the first five minutes. I didn’t have the playbill for the cast of characters participating in the Republican presidential primary debate in Tampa. I couldn’t remember who was who or how they got to participate in the debate in the first place.
The cast of thousands included: Governor Rick Perry, Rep. Michele Bachmann, Rep. Ron Paul, former CEO Herman Cain, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Governor Jon Huntsman, former Governor Mitt Romney, former Sen. Rick Santorum, former dancer Bristol Palin, former tweeter Anthony Weiner and former President George Washington. There may have been a few more, a few less, suffice to say there were a lot of “dressed for success” people on stage.
The debate was hosted by CNN and the Tea Party Express. I’m so confused. Is the Tea Party Express a subsidiary of the tea party? Is it similar to Holiday Inn Express — you pay less, you get less?
I had no idea there was required reading for the presidential debate. I felt just like I did my sophomore year in college when I showed up the first day and hadn’t done the summer reading. I didn’t know that Romney, Perry, Paul, Santorum, Cain and Gingrich have all written books. Their books were referenced continuously during and after the debate. I didn’t have the books so I had a hard time keeping up with the discussion.
No one however, had the courage to bring up the obvious white elephant in the room. When did these elected leaders find time to write a book? Don’t they have a full time job already? Do their bosses know that they wrote a book? I knew someone who maintained two jobs at one time. He was never questioned; he always appeared busy at his desk. He was busy alright — busy collecting two checks. I tried to write a book and my husband came home every day to dirty laundry and frozen pizza for dinner. That didn’t last long. It was suggested to me (as if I didn’t know) that these authors had ghost writers. I just hope they don’t have ghost voters as well.
Cain, who is the former CEO of Godfather’s pizza, was the only participant in the debate who has not held public office. His books were never brought up during the debate. Even without his book, Cain made the only comment I fully grasped. Cain said, “I’ve been told by some people, well, you can’t get that done. I say why? Well, because you don’t know how Washington works. Yes I do. It doesn’t.” I hope Cain stays in the race just for the endless pizza jokes. “How long would it take Congress to cut a square pizza, with a round pizza cutter, into 17 equal parts?”
A lot of time was spent debating Social Security and Perry’s infamous “Ponzi scheme” statement but the real issue behind his statement was blatantly avoided. If the name “Social Security” was an accurate description of the federal program then it wouldn’t have nicknames. “Social Security” simply doesn’t work and neither does “Ponzi scheme” for that matter. The program no longer imparts a sense of security and none of the participants feel like being social. My suggestion is “Some Pay Into It — Some Take Out Of It” otherwise known as SPII - STOOI.
None of the people I polled watched the debate yet all of the people I polled like to watch TV. Some of the people I polled watched football, some watched the Miss Universe contest and the rest went to sleep.

Thursday, September 8

Save the U.S. Postal Service: legalize mail order marijuana

When did the post office go bankrupt? I went on vacation a few weeks ago, so did I miss something? Every time I go to the post office there is a line five people deep. My post office seems like it has enough business to stay afloat. It isn’t like a pizza place in an ill placed strip mall. Indeed, even a poorly located pizza place can stay in business if it has delivery. Last time I checked, the post office delivers.
Who’s in charge over there? The Postal Service accumulated debt as a result of fewer people mailing letters. With the advent of email more than 20 years ago (remember Eudora?) the reduction in paper mail flow and revenue was a foregone conclusion. Bankruptcy should have and could have been avoided. The increase in email users and decrease in paper mail is no surprise – to anyone.
There have been a few suggestions to keep the postal service solvent. The obvious “save the post office” suggestion by raising the price of the stamp won’t significantly impact the escalating multi-billion dollar debt. Others have considered making the post offices more of a local meeting place, circa 1910. The post office would include retail shopping and a coffee shop and I think this is a great idea. I’m tired of buying overpriced but well-advertised coffee from mammoth corporations. I would much rather support the post office with my jolt of caffeine. But will they have a drive-thru?
My favorite “save the post office” suggestion thus far is an online system that would, for a fee, allow you to manage your snail mail. That’s right, you could pay money to go online to delete your paper mail from ever being delivered. I can’t explain the inherent electronic-versus-paper contradiction of this “save the post office” suggestion. I didn’t say it was a good idea, I just said it was my favorite.
Part of the reason that fewer people use mail is that they don’t like what shows up in their mailbox every day. It is estimated that 41 pounds of junk mail lands in each mailbox annually. Junk mail is of little interest to the recipient and generates less revenue than regular mail for the postal service. There was a time when a trip to the mailbox was exciting. Perhaps if the contents of our mailboxes were more compelling people might be encouraged to increase their use of snail mail.
My “save the post office” suggestion: legalize mail order marijuana. I guarantee mail usage would increase. I think there are a considerable number of Americans who would find a joint in their mailbox a compelling reason to use the postal service. The average household mail delivery would jump from 41 pounds to at least 82 pounds in one year. People would be standing by their mailboxes waiting for the postman. In fact, I project that the postal service would find itself flush with cash. (Hey, it’s a better idea than paying to manage snail mail online.)
Will the post office close down and reopen as a Uno’s pizza restaurant or perhaps Mail Boxes Etc.? More importantly, if the post office closes down, does this mean I have an excuse for not sending out Christmas cards? I’ve always been challenged by Christmas cards and this would be the ultimate excuse. “I’m sorry, I can’t send you a Christmas card, or even a gift because the post office is now a pizza place – that delivers.”

Wednesday, September 7

Hurricaine Preparedness is No Joke

I’m not sure the recent earthquake and hurricane that hit the east coast was a message from God “to get the attention of politicians” as claimed by Michelle Bachman. However, I do know that severe weather is no joke and must be taken seriously. Regardless of the source or mission of a hurricane, preparedness is essential.
When Hurricane Irene first showed up on the radar, I went to the store for extra milk just in case the storm veered my way. There were at least 500 other people at the store with the same idea. Inside the store, grocery carts slowly weaved down the aisles as shoppers anxiously pressed forward grasping for the last bottle of water. I went directly for the ‘baking items’ aisle - the one aisle I thought would be traffic free (who bakes in a hurricane?) giving me swift and direct access to the refrigerated section. Before I knew it, I was caught in grocery cart gridlock. A dispute had broken out over bread flour. I looked at the shelves and the baking powder was decimated, the yeast was almost gone. Before I could stop myself I blurted out incredulously, “Are you really going to bake bread during a hurricane?” One of the ladies glared at me and shoved her cart to the side allowing my cart to pass. It was obvious she did not think I belonged in the baking aisle.
I understand that in the event of a significant Hurricane, the drinking water may run low, but will all of our food stuffs run so low that we need to start baking our own bread? If so, my family is in big trouble.
I’ve tried baking bread and it’s impossible. I even bought a bread maker which purportedly bakes bread all by itself. I was inspired by my friend Courtney who bakes bread almost daily. Her bread smells wonderful, looks tantalizing and tastes delicious.
I went to Courtney's house one afternoon and she was just preparing to bake some whole wheat bread. As if we were on a cooking show, I watched her quickly toss ingredients into her bread maker and by the end of our visit, fresh baked bread miraculously appeared. Courtney convinced me that I too, could easily perform the magic of bread maker bread baking. I made a cursory effort with my calculator and concluded that I would actually save money by baking my own bread. I sold myself on the purchase of a bread maker by listing off the health benefits of homemade bread.
My husband told me he would be impressed if I used the bread maker more than three times. He did have some facts to substantiate his obnoxious comments because I received a (requested) juice maker for my birthday and used it exactly one time. The juice maker then literally gathered dust on the floor of the pantry. I generously gave it to my friend who has an orange tree. I promise you would have done the same thing. The juice maker was big, heavy and a hassle to clean.
In response to my husband's obnoxious bread maker comment, I began baking bread. I was determined to prove him wrong. I baked five loaves of bread in two days. I made white bread, two loaves of oatmeal bread, whole wheat bread and whole wheat buttermilk bread (didn't know that flavor existed). I was like Jesus with the loaves of bread and fish, only no fish. The problem was, not one of those five loaves resembled bread.
My understanding of the bread maker is that it is fool proof, meaning any fool can use it and produce bread. Let me tell you right now, I am no fool. I gave the bread maker to a friend of mine whose child is allergic to almost everything that tastes good. I suggested she try making hypo-allergenic bread.
Even in a hurricane the bread maker would be useless since the electricity would surely go out. For that matter, the electric oven would also be useless. That is why I simply cannot understand what the shoppers at the grocery store are going to bake with their flour in the event of a hurricane. Perhaps the outdoor grill might work for baking Indian pappadum or naan? I think my family would be doomed to starvation since I can’t even master a loaf of white bread in a bread maker, much less pappadum on an outdoor grill.
In my opinion hurricane preparedness should never be taken lightly. The required emergency supplies include water, batteries and many loaves of pre-made, store-bought bread.