Thursday, January 28, 2010

OK, yes. I'm excited to see "Lost"

Despite the fact that the show has posed more questions than it can ever possibly answer, it's still one of my all-time favorites...and I'm really sorry that this is the last season!

For those of you still scratching your heads over the many mysteries, here's a fun video. (Although my son pointed out that one of the questions it mentions was actually answered in the same episode--the question of how Jack got John Locke's suicide note back. Do you remember the answer to that one?)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Is the red team's Melissa lying?--My Biggest Loser update

...and I have a suggestion for the show's producers

I'll admit, it's not always easy to read contestants on Biggest Loser. Is the show manipulating them by showing close-ups with certain looks on their faces, editing things carefully to portray them in a certain way?

I have no trouble believing that Biggest Loser producers are capable of those kind of shenanigans, simply because conflict is what creates drama, which (in their minds at least) equals ratings.

However, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that I've mistrusted the Red Team's Melissa from the beginning. I even mentioned it to my daughter early on. Then, I revised my opinion of her because she was seeming like a nice lady.

Now I'm back to my previous lack of trust.

One of the big issues in last night's episode was trainers Bob and Jillian's certainty that Melissa has been lying about throwing two weigh-ins, despite Melissa's tearful and emphatic assertions that she was telling the truth.

I actually posed the question of Melissa's truthfulness on Facebook, and here are some of the responses I got:

--"I CAN NOT STAND Melissa!! I think she is lying! No way could she have lost the pounds she did week 1 and then 2 weeks of what 0?? Cause she gained a pound then lost a pound right? And then what she lost tonight? I need her to leave soon cause she makes me angry!"

--"I am not sure if she was lying, but no matter what it was WRONG for Bob to yell and curse @ her in the weigh in last week. I was waiting for her hubby to stand, be a man and tell Bob not to talk to his wife like that."

--"She was absolutely lying. physiology and biochemistry tell you that. they can pretty much tell you how much weight theyve lost before the weigh in if they do their calculations right."

--"Ohhhhh, She was lying. The proof was in her sudden weight loss, when she had to try disproof that she was throwing the weigh ins. She is one of those people that are 'good' at lying and knows when to cry or act mad to get everyone to believe them. I felt really bad for the green team. It really irritated me for her to be laughing that one of them were going home."

--"It seemed pretty obvious to me that she was lying, and it bothered me that she threw in the "I swear on my kids life" comment...I don't think that comment should ever be said."

One reader even suggested--and this is a thought that had occurred to me--that Melissa has convinced herself she's telling the truth:

--"Honestly, I think she has so deluded herself that she didn't throw the weigh-in, that she now really believes it. OJ syndrome. :-)"

Well, we may never know the truth--but if Melissa and her husband are really that devious and bent on game-playing, THAT will come out.

As for who went home last night...

I've got to say that the green team of Miggy and her daughter Migdalia quickly became two of my least favorite people on the show. To me, they appear to be two of the most unpleasant women I've ever seen on Biggest Loser.

I admired their strength, determination and resolve early on. But the Rushmore-sized chips on their shoulders quickly soured me on them.

So, Migdalia was missing out on seeing her husband before he left for Afghanistan. I'm truly sorry about that, but as I understand it, she was aware of this when she signed up for the show.

She seemed to spend most of her time sulking and pouting and generally having a rotten attitude. Contrast this with last season's Abby, who had lost her husband and two children in a car accident, but was gracious and positive throughout.

Her mother, Miggy, comes across as downright unpleasant. While I can't blame her for disliking the red team's Melissa, she is showing her dislike in a very ugly and un-classy way.

I wouldn't have minded both of them going home, but I'm sure the fact that Miggy's staying will serve to create even more drama.

My suggestion:

Biggest Loser producers have demonstrated in the past that they are NOT reading my blog and/or taking my suggestions, but here I go anyway:

Please, next season, feature some contestants who are not so enormous that we see minimal transformation during the show.

For me, one of the best things about the show is watching these really overweight people slowly morph as the show goes on. It's truly inspiring!

Lately, most of the contestants have been so huge that even when they've dropped 100 pounds, the most you can say about them is that their faces are a bit slimmer.

Again, my usual disclaimer: I'm not saying this as a Skinny Minnie. I've battled excess weight my entire life. AND I'm really happy for the extremely obese people, like Shay and Daniel, who have transformed their lives.

But for the purposes of the show, how about having some contestants that are just really overweight--not really, really, REALLY overweight?

Is that terrible of me?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Cindy Swanson, CyberSnoop: The Case of the Costly Social Networking Site?

Is Facebook planning on charging 4.99 a month to use the site?

Listen to CyberSnoop: The Case of the Costly Social Networking Site?

Is Facebook planning to start charging its users?

If you’re one of the millions of people who uses Facebook, you’ve probably already seen some of your friends on the site joining groups like “We're leaving Facebook if they try to charge us,” along with statements like “Invite all your friends and together we can make a stand.” Initially, even clicking on such statements would lead users to a virus that would harm their computer.

Most of the rumors claim that Facebook is going to start charging 4 dollars and 99 cents a month, starting June 30th of 2010.

However, both and say this simply isn’t true.

According to, and I quote: “While Facebook executives have never explicitly ruled out instituting fees for specific features of the site, they have repeatedly denied having any plans to impose a blanket charge on all users. Most recently the question was put to Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg in an April 2009 inverview with Business Week editor Stephen J. Adler.

Sandberg responded, "The answer is no, we are not planning on charging a basic fee for our basic services. Once again, that question stems from people thinking we're growing so quickly, we're running out of money. We're growing really quickly, but we can finance that growth. We're not going to charge for our basic services."

In my research for this CyberSnoop, I actually ran across a business article in which the author suggested Facebook start charging users in order to make a ton of money.

But it’s not happening now…and if it ever does, you can count on a lot of people un-friending the site. And that includes CyberSnoop!

Clearing up another internet rumor, this is Cindy Swanson, CyberSnoop…reminding you to check it out BEFORE you hit that “send” button!

Monday, January 25, 2010

A Year of Blind Dates

My interview with Megan Carson

Even the mention of a blind date is enough to make many people shudder in fear--but what about an entire YEAR of blind dates?

That's what Megan Carson did, and she lived to write about it...and in a humorous, reader-friendly, enjoyable style at that.

Megan's book, A Year of Blind Dates: A Single Girl's Search for The One, chronicles her experiences going out with dates arranged by an agency she refers to as The World's Best Dating Service--as well as several arranged by her own friends and acquaintances.

While some of the dates were tear-inducing, many of them were really funny or downright strange--like the guy who called her "Kiddo" during the entire date, and the math geek who was obsessed with Debbie Gibson.

Probably the most disappointing and even heartbreaking were the guys with whom Megan thought she made a genuine connection, but who ended up never calling her back.

No, she didn't find Mr Right. It wasn't the typical movie "happy ending," but Megan says it was a happy ending nonetheless. She says she ended up becoming a much more confident dater, and she's learned while leaving herself open to the possibilities, she's now content to let God determine the timing of the discovery of her own "One."

Go here to listen to my interview with Megan Carson.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Transformation of an Exotic Dancer

Scars and Stilettos: incredibly gripping and beautifully written

As a radio personality who interviews authors, many books cross my desk unsolicited. Scars and Stilettos grabbed my attention immediately, partly because of Harmony Dust's beautiful face on the cover, and the subject matter: an exotic dancer's life is transformed by Christ.

Like a lot of women, I've wondered how any woman gets to the point of displaying her unclothed body for money, so I began reading. And pretty much didn't stop until I had finished the book.

Harmony writes so beautifully, I had to stop and search for a ghost-writer's name on the book. There is none. This woman has a natural talent for writing--for telling a story in the most evocative and powerful way.

Although there's nothing graphic in the book, she doesn't pull punches. You'll find more curse words than you're used to seeing in a "Christian" book, but I'm sure not as much as if she had more accurately recounted conversations from her past.

The story unfolds of a young woman who holds the scars of child sexual abuse and rape, and who is so hungry for love that she'll do anything to keep the man she thinks she can't live without--including selling the view of her naked body to strangers. Not to mention squandering thousands of dollars on his whimsical "needs" and emergencies.

But Harmony is a complex person. The whole time she was stripping for a living, she was attending college, studying child psychology and making straight A's. She lived a double life: hard-working and hard-studying Harmony in sweat pants and no make-up by day; Monique, dancing in an all-nude strip club by night.

She recounts the events in her life with a raw clarity and authenticity, but also with such descriptive beauty and power that you can't help but feel every emotion.

In the end, Harmony's life begins to change thanks to one Christian friend who loved her, didn't judge her, and kept asking her to come to church with her.

Harmony's transformation is a story that shouldn't be missed--and a challenge to all Christians to never stop trying to reach "the unreachable."

Go here to read about Treasures, the ministry Harmony founded to reach out to young women involved in the sex industry.

More on Scars and Stilettos here.

Thursday, January 21, 2010 Your Christian book, music and movie terminal

"We want to be...a website where people of all walks can discover the amazing options available to them in Christian entertainment today"--from the site's "About Us" page

I interview co-creator and author, C.J. Darlington

(Go here to listen to my interview with C.J.Darlington)

How do you get word about new releases from your favorite Christian authors and musicians? Would you be interested in an online one-stop shop, so to speak, where you could get all the information on the latest books, CDs and movies...along with reviews, interviews and contests in which you can actually win some of those products?

Then is definitely for you.

The brainchild of sisters C. J. Darlington and Tracy Darlington, is one of the most varied and comprehensive websites featuring current info on books, music and movies that fall into the Christian genre.

"Tracy and I were both free-lance writers, and we had different interests...Tracy's interest was mostly Christian music, and I was more interested in the books," C.J. Darlington told me in a recent phone interview.

"We kind of were wondering how we could put our interests together, and we thought, 'Let's do a website."

The site started in 2006 with book and music info, eventually branching out into movies. is updated every week, and typically will feature a new author interview and music interview.

A strong interactive element keeps the site popping, with reader surveys and frequent contests in which site visitors can win books, CDs and movies.

C.J. Darlington's Thicker than Blood

Since I had C.J. on the phone, I took the opportunity to ask her about her first published book, Thicker Than Blood.

She says the book was birthed when she was a 15-year-old homeschooling student, so having it published after years of revisions and rejections was particularly rewarding and exciting.

In 2008, she submitted the manuscript to the Operation First Novel contest. C.J. writes on her website:

I submitted the manuscript to the contest, and in November I found out it was a finalist. On February 19th, 2009 I was amazed when Jerry B. Jenkins announced Thicker than Blood as the winner of that year’s contest. The winner received a contract with Tyndale House, and I couldn’t be more blessed with the way the Lord brought it all about. I almost gave up on this novel. I almost put it away in a drawer. Goes to show persistence is vital in writing.

My review?

Thicker Than Blood grabbed me immediately with its tale of two very different sisters.

May is about to lose her beloved ranch, but is struggling to keep it together with the help of tenacity and faith. Christy is estranged from her family, trapped in a violent relationship, and miserable.

Adding interest and suspense to the story is the fact that Christy and her abusive ex-boyfriend Vince are antique book dealers, and Vince is involved in shady dealings that threaten to bring Christy down.

The characters are real and engaging--I found myself pulling for black sheep Christy even when she was at her worst--and the faith element is strong and believable.

And as someone who has sisters that she loves very much, the family aspect of the book was relatable and appealing.

I heartily recommend Thicker than Blood.

Go here to listen to my interview with C.J. Darlington

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wayback Wednesday

In which I delve into the archives of Notes in the Key of Life to give a post a second airing. This one was originally posted on January 24, 2008.

Scottish and cute...what's not to love?

Today is the birthday of poet Robert Burns...

Scottish poet Robert Burns was born on this day in 1759, in Alloway, Ayrshire, Scotland.

Why do I care? Well, I must admit I don't have an excessive fondness for Burns' poetry, which is mostly written in a sometimes unintelligible Scots dialect. Here's a sample, from the poem "To a Mouse":

Wee, sleekit, cow'rin', tim'rous beastie,
O what a panic's in thy breastie !
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi' bickering brattle !
I wad be laith to rin an' chase thee
Wi' murd'ring pattle !

(By the way, that's the poem that contains the famous lines: "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men /Gang aft a-gley..."

So why am I fascinated with Robert Burns? Well, for a couple of reasons--firstly, I have an affinity for all things Scottish and have longed to visit Scotland for years.

And, here's a confession: I've had a little crush on Robert Burns ever since I first saw his picture when I was a teenager. There are not that many likenesses of Burns, but in every one of them, he looks remarkably handsome. Can't you just imagine a Scottish accent coming out of that face? Gerard Butler, you've got nothing on Robbie! :)

It's pretty amazing that Burns' birthday continues to be celebrated around the world--even right where I live, in Northern Illinois--with "Burns suppers." This from Wikipedia:

The format of Burns suppers has not changed since Robert's death in 1796. The basic format starts with a general welcome and announcements followed with the Selkirk Grace. Just post the grace comes the piping and cutting of the Haggis, where Robert's famous Address To a Haggis is read, and the haggis is cut open. The event usually allows for people to start eating just after the haggis is presented. This is when the reading called the 'immortal memory', an overview of Robert's life and work is given; the event usually concludes with the singing of Auld Lang Syne.

Originally posted on January 24, 2008

Monday, January 18, 2010

Stuff I've Never Done, That's Always Done in the Movies

NOTE: OK, I've re-posted this thing more than once, but it's just so genius! Anyway, enjoy (again?)

Oh, and feel free to add more if you think of any!


Several months ago, Men’s Health came up with a list of things that happen all the time on screen, but never in real life: “I’ve never…” At the time, I was still Darren Marlar's co-host on 101qfl, and we had fun talking about the list, and even adding a few of our own.

I blogged about it at the time, but hey, it's worth a repeat! :)

Here it is...stuff I've never done that's always done in the movies...(mostly written from the viewpoint of a man, by the way)

• Bumped my head and gotten amnesia.

• Left the water on in the bathroom sink long enough to flood the whole house.

• Been chased through the forest, tripped, and twisted my ankle, compromising my escape, but I still say, “Don’t stop. Go on without me.”

• Been stuck in an elevator with a woman I hated, but by the time the elevator was repaired, we were passionately making out. (*revised for family friendliness :))

• Been stuck in an elevator with a pregnant woman.

• Said, “Open this door or I’m breaking it down.”

• Found myself on top of a moving train.

• Picked a lock with a credit card.

• Said, “Don’t do it, man. Just give me the gun.”

• Been to a wedding where someone stood up and objected.

• Collapsed onto my car horn.

• Seen a bunch of homeless guys standing around a flaming trash can, singing doo-wop and wearing gloves with the fingers cut off.

• Dialed a “555″ phone number.

• Closed my medicine-cabinet door and seen someone in the mirror who wasn’t there 3 seconds ago.

Added by Darren and me:

• Ran into a church where the girl I loved was about to get married to someone else, but upon seeing me stopped the wedding and professed her love to me (and either ran out the door with me, or WE got married instead...and the former groom admitted he was in love with one of the bridesmaids.)

• Rushed to the airport to stop the woman I just realized I love from leaving, and as I get to the gate, I see her plane pulling away, and then feel empty because I think that my best chance at love is now gone, but, as I turn away, she’s standing there because she decided at the last minute not to get on the plane because she realized that she loves me too and was hoping I would come to the airport to get her.

and...(added by Cindy!)

Woken up in the morning, after a long night of sleeping, with a full face of make-up and breath fresh enough to kiss someone.

Got any to add? :)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Haiti: How Can We Help?

Hearing and seeing news reports about the devastation in Haiti is heart-wrenching. The immediate question: How can we help?

First off, you can donate quickly and efficiently through your cell phone. Simply text "Haiti" to 90999, and a 10 dollar donation will be charged to your cell phone bill.

Many wonderful agencies are doing work in Haiti. One terrific one is Compassion International. Do consider giving through this very respected and trustworthy organization.

And if you're a praying person, pray for the situation...for the victims, for the relief and recovery efforts, and that God will be glorified even in this catastrophe.

Here's some info about Compassion's involvement in Haiti previously and in the current crisis, from a talking points sheet provided to 101QFL:

Compassion in Haiti

• Compassion’s work in Haiti began in 1968.
• Currently, more than 64,600 children participate in 230 child development centers. At least one-third of
Compassion’s centers are in the area hardest hit by the earthquake.
• Compassion partners with churches to help them provide Haitian children with the opportunity to rise
above their circumstances and become all God has created them to be.

What is Compassion Doing?

Without communication, we don’t have specifics for this crisis. But our Compassion guidelines for disaster
response spell out pretty specifically what the field should do and can do in response to a crisis.


In the immediate few hours after a disaster, Compassion locates those Compassion-assisted children and
families who have been affected by the disaster, and provide them with the following:

• Temporary Shelter: Shelter needed to remove the families out of the elements and into safety. Items
like tents, tarps, blankets & mosquito nets are often supplied.
• Basic Sanitation: Items such as latrines and temporary hand washing station.
• Cooking Utensils & Fuel: Things like pots and pans, plates, cups, eating utensils, as well as a means for
cooking food item
• Emergency Clothing: 2-3 day supply of clothing for each family member.
• Preventive Health Services: Control of communicable diseases (e.g. measles, malaria) and outbreak
control (e.g. cholera, meningitis, typhoid) needed to ensure health is not negatively affected as a result of
the disaster.

Compassion staff will also set up a temporary meeting area called a “child area”, and stock it with crayons; paper; stuffed animals, etc. A “child area” is described as a safe place for registered children & their siblings to
go during the aftermath of a disaster. Here they can find comfort in activities (such as coloring & games) as
well as support and encouragement from project staff.

Click on the Compassion button at the top of this post to give.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Biggest Loser: a cautionary tale about the consequences of overeating

I well remember when, a couple of years ago, I faced the news that I had Type 2 diabetes. I cried. It's not jolly news to learn...and I was vividly reminded of it last night when I watched Biggest Loser.

Last night's episode was a graphic reminder of the consequences of overeating. You don't just get fat. It doesn't just affect your appearance. There are major health consequences.

In his review, Jason Hughes sums it up when he says last night was pretty much a showcase for the show's resident physician, Dr. Huizenga:

He spent the entire episode scaring the contestants with stories about how they were all going to die soon, they were the sickest group ever (which is the case every year), and in the case of the Purple team, he went to their home to scare their family, by telling them that their loved ones were probably going to die soon.

Honestly? Some of it was so painful I had to fast forward through it. Watching people weep in sadness and humiliation isn't fun.

However, this IS a message that has to be spread. Overeating has really awful, quite expensive, and sometimes fatal consequences. We as a society have to get that through our heads.

(No, I don't like legislating healthiness--people should have the freedom to be fat if they want to, without the government telling him how to eat. But you need to be aware of the consequences of doing so.)

Jillian the Psychoanalyst

Of course, we were treated to more of trainer Jillian's psychoanalysis.

When she's gazing earnestly into the eyes of one of the contestants, trying to get to the bottom of the reason they've eaten themselves into extreme obesity, I waver between wanting to cringe at the near-cheesiness of it all, or applaud the fact that she really cares so much. Because she obviously does. So I guess I do have to applaud it, because she really is helping these people.

Last night, she helped poor Maria overcoming her fear of water...a fear that sent her to the emergency room during last night's challenge. And she helped pinpoint John's issues resulting from the deaths, in quick succession, of several loved ones.

So Patti went home...

I wasn't upset about Patti's departure. I believe her daughter, Stephanie, desperately needs to be at the ranch. Stephanie is a lovely girl who is just going to get more beautiful as she loses weight.

I do have a favorite

I have to admit it...Michael's my fave. There's just something about him that's very endearing and appealing. Losing the amount of weight he has to lose is an enormous challenge, and I'll be rooting for him every step of the way.

He's not going to be able to do it in just one season. They'll either have to make some special arrangements for him as they did Shay from last season, or let him come back for another season as they did Daniel. But there's something about him that I just love.

Thoughts, anyone?

Monday, January 11, 2010

15 Books That Will Always Stick With Me

If you're a dedicated bookworm, as I am, then books are more than just pages full of words for you. As corny as it may sound, they can be friends. There are books that you will turn to again and again, simply because reading those very familiar passages are a pleasure and a comfort.

This topic was actually one of those quizzes you occasionally get on Facebook, but it made me stop and think about the books I love the most...the books I re-read time and again.

I almost didn't include the Bible, because it's more than a's a living thing. But it does take first place.

There may be a few I've left out, but these sprang immediately to mind. What are yours?

1. The Holy Bible

2. Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte

3. Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte

4. Through Gates of Splendor, by Elisabeth Elliot

5. The Chronicles of Narnia, by C. S. Lewis

6. Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott

7. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen

8. The Red Knights of Hy Brasil, by Christine Savery--This was a childhood favorite when I was a missionary kid in Beirut, Lebanon. I had lost it, but a few years ago I found a copy online, and yes, I do read it again occasionally. I also give this book at least partial credit for my lifelong obsession with Ireland, and desire to go there. I blogged here about finding the book after many years.

9. Not My Will, by Francena H. Arnold

10. Redeeming Love, by Francine Rivers

11. The Atonement Child, by Francine Rivers

13. Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell

14. The Hiding Place, by Corrie Ten Boom

15. Auntie Robbo, by Anne Scott Moncrieff--Another childhood favorite that I've found and bought again online. I blogged about it here.

Honorably mention goes to the books of Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt, which I read again when I find them at the library. I particularly love Stewart's The Moon-Spinners and Nine Coaches Waiting.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Will I like American Idol this season?

My family will attest to the fact that I don't actually watch a lot of television. I have a select few shows that have traditionally been my favorites: Lost, Biggest Loser and American Idol.

I've enjoyed watching AI because, as with other "reality" shows, I would find my favorites early on, and take pleasure in watching their progress.

I used to really look forward to a new AI season, because it's one of the things that breaks up the monotony of the long, cold Northern Illinois winter.

So American Idol is back next week...and I'm not at all sure at this point if I'm even going to like it.


My favorite last season was Danny Gokey. As someone who also frequents online blogs and the like, I quickly found out that a Danny Gokey fan was NOT the most popular thing to be (at least not online. In real life, most people I encountered seemed to love the guy.)

Almost as soon as Danny showed up with the backstory of his young wife dying suddenly and tragically--combined with the fact that he was marked as a Christian early on--a cadre of highly vocal online entertainment writers and bloggers launched what could only be characterized as a hate campaign against him.

The reasons for this were initially mystifying--why would anyone possibly fault someone who had recently lost a loved one for mentioning it?--it soon became clear that Danny was being slammed because he had the innate raw talent to pose a major threat to one or two of the other front-runners on the show.

The whole experience had the effect of somewhat souring me on the show itself. If fans could be that vicious--and believe me, MANY of the comments were both vicious and cruel--I don't know, it was just really disheartening.

Frankly, my faith in basic human kindness--what little I had left--plummeted after reading those comments. I soon learned to avoid the blogs and sites that boasted such toxic ugliness.

Interestingly, despite the fact that AI season 8 is history and Season 9 is launching, the nasty comments about Danny continue on some sites. Makes you wonder about people who have so little of a life that they simply can't let it rest.

A show that did it right

Meantime, a few weeks ago, we were treated to a reality music show that did what American Idol fails to do--judge contestants without humiliation and hatefulness.

"The Sing-off" was a short-lived, few-episode show that featured a cappella singing groups. Granted, the no-talents were winnowed out ahead of time, so there was little need for snarky comments.

But the judges? Wow, they actually gave constructive criticism, couched in encouraging praise. They actually KNEW something about music theory and presentation.

So I'm just not sure...

I'll give it a chance, of course. And I'll probably have favorites early on.

But God forbid they should have a tragic backstory and actually have the audacity to talk about it, because the haters will be on them like white on rice. (Unless it's just Danny Gokey they've determined to hate.)

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

And so continues my love/hate relationship with Biggest Loser...

"Love/hate, Cindy?" you ask. "I thought Biggest Loser was one of your all-time favorite shows!"

Yes, that's absolutely true. I do love the show because of the inspiring transformations that take place in the lives of overweight people as they re-train their eating and exercise.

However, I've always admitted that there things that really bother me about the show.


Did we really need to see the contestants facing an initial weigh-in in front of their friends, families, and in some cases it looked like pretty much their entire town?

The show's producers would probably argue that this was a way to determine just how serious the contestants were about losing weight. "Let's plop them on a scale, with most of their enormous bodies on bare display, in front of everyone. If they're willing to suffer the embarrassment and humiliation of THAT experience, we'll know they really mean business!"

I found it really painful to watch, though, and couldn't wait until it was over. Granted, the moment they come back and weigh in with much-slimmer bodies will be all the sweeter for them. But I could have done without it, thank-you.

I already think it's horrible how they force the male contestants to weigh shirtless, and the female contestants to expose their midriffs.

We already SEE they're overweight...we get it. We don't need to see graphic proof. (And I'm not saying this as a Skinny Minnie who is grossed out by overweight people...I've fought the weight battle most of my life, and still do.)

A biking marathon on Day One? Seriously?!?

When the contestants had to take part in a 26 mile-plus bike ride before they'd even had a chance to unpack their bags, I was appalled.

Sure, doctors were on hand. But is someone going to have to keel over dead during one of these insane challenges before the show calls off such drastic challenges?

I think we already know these people are serious about losing weight. (Didn't hopping on a scale in front of hundreds of their acquaintances prove that sufficiently?)

An annoying twist

Then when the bottom two teams had to leave the ranch, I was steamed. That was just CRUEL.

Sure, the show redeemed itself by announcing that the two teams would go home for 30 days and compete to see who would make it back to the ranch. Thank you! Or I would have been even more annoyed.

So is there anything I DO like? A big YES!!!

Okay, I got my rants out of the way first.

This is still a wonderful show. Witnessing the sheer joy of people who thought they could never lose weight, when they shed a huge amount in the very first week, makes it worth all the show's silly machinations.

And being a firsthand witness to the metamorphosis that takes place in someone who loses a substantial amount of weight is truly satisfying.

Not to mention the practical advice and knowledge gained while watching the show (even if some of it is couched in annoying and glaringly obvious product placement--but, this is the positive part of my post.)

And I guess more than anything, the sheer inspiration I get from the contestants. If they can be so determined and motivated that they can push themselves physically for hours a day, I can certainly exercise for 30 minutes to an hour! If they can accomplish their goals, I can too.

So despite all my problems with it, I guess that's why I love Biggest Loser.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Cindy Swanson, CyberSnoop: The Case of the Tacky Tip

Did Oprah Winfrey advise restaurant customers to tip the waitstaff only 10 per cent, due to the current tough economic times?

That's the rumor that actually started a Facebook group called "1 Million Servers Strong Against Oprah's Comments"...a group that had more than 37-thousand members as of this past November.

However, no one can find any evidence that Oprah actually said this, either on her show or in her magazine. In fact, guests on Oprah's show have encouraged people to be better least 15 per cent, since waiters are paid well below the minimum wage and depend on their tips to survive.

The rumor has been so persistent that Oprah actually issued a disclaimer on her website, saying that she believes in generously compensating waitstaff.

In CyberSnoop's opinion, Oprah has made some statements and advocated some philosophies that are highly questionable at best. But according to several sources, this is one statement she never made.

And for the record, CyberSnoop encourages you NOT to be a tacky tipper.

Clearing up another internet rumor, this is Cindy Swanson, CyberSnoop, reminding you to check it out BEFORE you hit that "send" button!

Monday, January 04, 2010

And so 2010 begins...

One of my New Year's resolutions is NOT to neglect my blog as much as I have in the past few months!

No doubt about it, Facebook is the culprit. Since I've gotten more into the habit of reading and posting there, Notes in the Key of Life has gone by the wayside.

But, I don't want to give up my blog. It has always been a great outlet for me, and I hereby determine to keep it alive in 2010.

A look back at 2009...

Reflecting on the events in my life during the past year, a few things stand out.
First of all, the day after Mother's Day, I found out that my work situation would never be the same.
At a staff meeting that day, I found out that the radio station(s) (101QFL and Radio 91) where I have worked since 1981 had been sold.

The news wasn't potentially all bad: although the new owners typically get rid of current employees and switch stations to national syndication, they were willing to give at least one of the stations the chance to stay local.

What followed was a few months in limbo. All I knew was that things were going to change. Would I be part of whatever was left of one of the stations? For what seemed like an eternity, none of us really knew what was going to happen.

The upshot was that one of the stations is history, but I was blessed to be able to keep my job, albeit in a different form.

Saying goodbye to people I've worked with for most of my adult life was VERY hard. And even now, I have no guarantees about my future here. But I'm convinced everything comes into the life of a Christian for a reason, and I'm learning to give my future to God. He alone knows what the future holds, and He has a plan for my life.

I do know this: the whole situation has caused me to grow in ways I never imagined, both spiritually and practically. The rest of my story is yet unwritten, but I'm good friends with the Author.

Fun stuff happened too...

In late May, we went to the wedding of a nephew in Iowa, then several of my husband's family members came back to Rockford for a visit. It was a very pleasant time.
In late June, I got to spend some time in Port Aransas, Texas, with all my children, including my lovely daughter-in-law, my grandson, my mom, my sister and her family. That was definitely one of the highlights of my year. Relaxing on the beach with the people I love the most was WONDERFUL. I want to go back!

In October, my husband's two sisters came from California for a visit. We had so much fun, and it was great getting to know my husband's older sister a little better...I've never lived around her. Awesome ladies!

In November, my precious little Grandson Number Two was born. Little Josiah Daniel Swanson was born on November 9th. I got to meet him in person on Thanksgiving Day...and let me tell you, any question about whether you can love a second granchild as much as the first flew out the window. Josiah is the most precious little bundle. I adore him just as I do my first grandson, Payton, who will be 3 at the end of this month.

The picture you see here is of Josiah and Payton, the two loves of my life. I hate that they live so far away, but I cherish every single moment I get to spend with them.

In December, my husband, my daughter and I headed down to Texas for the holidays. It was an incredible time!

And so begins a new year....
That brings us to today. My church's mission statement for 2010 is "Making a Difference: Moved by Compassion."

I'm claiming it as my mission statement for the year. With the world in increasing darkness, we who call ourselves Christians MUST make a difference. I'm asking God to show me the ways that I can most effectively do just that.

To those of you who read my blog, my sincere thanks to you for sticking with me through sporadic posting. I pray God's blessings on you throughout the New Year!
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