Health on the Internet: Use your Common Sense

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 3:09 p.m.

While there is a saying, “Physician, heal thyself!” I have yet to hear a saying, “Patient, heal thyself,” yet every day people are falling victim to this syndrome by searching out information on their health conditions through Google or Yahoo.  Anytime someone that I know comes down with a chronic condition, they always seem to know better than everybody else because they’ve gone through a few web sites and not only have diagnosed their own condition but come up with a cure.

Here’s another truism: “There’s a sucker born every minute.”  The Internet is a very powerful fraud magnet and if you are suffering from a chronic health condition, you are probably at your most vulnerable, and may be open to trying some remedies that you’ve found on a web site.  This is a very bad idea and I beg you to think twice before parting with your hard earned cash.  At least, speak with your doctor and use your judgement before embarking on a journey that may wind up with an unhappy ending.

 Just recently, I became afflicted with a condition known as tinnitus, which is a constant ringing in the ears.  It’s actually like having crickets or cicadas hanging out there. In my desperation, I did something that I knew darned well that I should avoid.  I Googled tinnitus - big mistake.  I know that this is usually an incurable condition but I still searched on the Internet and found the usual advice that you will get no matter what ails you: quit drinking coffee, don’t eat chocolate or strong cheese.

That’s just great.  Not only will I continue to have an annoying sound whining at me 24-7, now you’re going to take away from me those last comfort foods that give me some kind of pleasure.  My friends, whether you have digestive troubles, tinnitus, or migraine headaches, you will be told to cut out chocolate, coffee, and cheese; it’s just no fair.  Yet on the sidebar, all kinds of remedies can be bought to cure everything from warts to tinnitus if you just give them your credit card number.  Yes, I may be desperate but I’m not stupid.

Facebook is another dangerous place to announce your illness.  I have a friend from my long past who is a follower of herbology and who swears that if I use a herbal concoction – and cut out chocolate, coffee, very cold foods like ice cream and some vegetables – I will be cured because my tinnitus is a symptom of weak kidneys and these herbs are the solution.

Now if I carelessly post the message that I’m enjoying a cup of coffee while perusing my Facebook page, I get a harassing message from my friend reminding me that I’m only damaging my health by drinking that cup of coffee.  It’s enough to make me cut my membership and go into hiding from overly well-intentioned Internet friends.

So here’s the deal: Make sure that you’re getting your health information from reliable sources, consult your doctor and don’t complain to your friends on Facebook because it will come back to haunt you in the end. Then go eat a Mars bar, and enjoy it.  

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TV on computer, Radio on Computer or What’s a Podcast?

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 6:30 p.m. in , , , ,
It’s bad enough for a media addict like me to have a wide variety of TV channels to keep me off the guilt machine (read exercise bike or more appropriately, elliptical trainer), but now my computer offers the possibility of having all or most of the TV and/or radio shows that I’ve missed at my disposal.  Not only that, most of it is free, legal and offered by the actual distributors themselves, so that I don’t have to suffer the eternal guilt and damnation of having downloaded illegal shows.

You may have heard podcasts mentioned on television and radio and wondered what they are.  In these days of iPods, everything is somewhat pod-related but a podcast is actually a digital media file which can be downloaded to your own computer, transferred to a portable device such as an iPod and used whenever you like.

iTunes, as most people now know, is the Apple online store where people can buy music, movies and television shows if they can find their wallets and then locate their credit cards.  The iTunes store also offers free podcasts and there is some very interesting material to be had.

Most of the CBC radio shows have some kind of podcast available on iTunes. You can even set up a subscription to one and iTunes will automatically download the show for you once a week. I just think it’s great for catching shows that I’ve missed.  For example, I’m a Van Morrison fan, and Jian Ghomeshi interviewed him a few months ago.  One of my colleagues at work told me about this so I went to iTunes, searched for the CBC radio show, Q, and before you know it, I had downloaded the show for free.  Even though I didn’t have time to actually listen to the show when I downloaded it, I was able to put it on a few days later when there was nothing on TV.

Another form of catching shows is through streaming.  Many television stations like CBC, CTV and Global allow you to go on their web site and watch shows that you might have missed.  With computer screens getting bigger and sharper, this is not such a bad way of keeping up with your favourite TV show.  The difference between streaming and podcasting is that you don’t get to download and keep the show when it is streamed. The web site broadcasts the show to you and you just watch it, much like watch a TV show without taping it.

There are web sites that stream that are not completely legal and I admit to trying it out; it was an amusing experience. If it wasn’t for surfthechannel.net, I would never have fulfilled my goal of watching every episode of Star Trek Deep Space Nine which was being shown on the cable station, Space Channel.  Every time I missed an episode, I was able to watch it through surfthechannel.net.  The only problem, if you can call it a problem, was that I had to watch it with Japanese subtitles.  I honestly believe that it enhanced the experience. 

Sometimes it is frustrating when the Internet is streaming slowly so that you have to wait for the next bit of the show to load up.  The best way to get around this is to walk away, do something else, and come back when the whole show is in your computer’s temporary memory cache.  Now you’re ready to watch the show without any interruption unless your spouse comes over to chastise you for having nothing better to do with your time than watch every episode of Star Trek Deep Space Nine.  

Possibly you might want to do what teenagers do: open another tab on your computer with a more serious and weighty web site and flip to it when you hear your spouse’s footsteps.  As soon as your spouse has satisfied himself or herself, you can quietly go back to the show.  I, of course, would never dream of doing such a thing and have never done it.  Now, I’m going to flip to last week’s episode of House.  Happy procrastinating.

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