Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Wednesday evening roundup

Some of those lost to the storm.

So maybe instead of holding colleges to the lower standard of the rest of the justice system, we should call for justice system reform to more effectively address sexual assault? Put the "justice" back in the system, if you will? Rather than saying, 'look, that's just the way it is because that's the nature of the crime' (rarely are there witnesses; perpetrator exploits victim's sense of confusion about events; and especially in the case of students, that confusion leads to delayed reporting and submission of medical evidence), let's create a justice system that deals with this hugely widespread crime. The writer probably doesn't intend it, but her argument reads like 'boys will be boys, women do themselves no favors, and there's only so much college administrations and courts can do.' She does make some useful proposals (education, etc.) but let's take some of the onus off of the victims, which will in turn deter the crime.

Speaking of colleges, if you're going to protest sweatshops, do it intelligently.

It's not easy having a difficult mother.

I don't care what the study says, I'm going to say 'hell no,' and I have plenty of data points.

I love the text of this tweet, which tells us a lot about the pressures of parenting in our society: "'How do you raise a prodigy?' Rare parenting story that doesn't make you hate the author, yourself or other parents." My favorite excerpt:
Natasha later said she saw nothing strange in a musician’s ability to express emotions she has not experienced. “Had I experienced them, that wouldn’t necessarily help me to express them better in my music. I’m an actress, not a character; my job is to represent something, not to live it. Chopin wrote a mazurka, Person X in the audience wants to hear the mazurka and so I have to decipher the score and make it apprehensible to Person X, and it’s really hard to do. But it has nothing to do with my life experience.”
And another:
My research on prodigies echoed my study of children with other differences. Sue Petersen compared her experience to having a child with a wooden leg; May Armstrong saw common ground with parents of disabled children; and I realized that parenthood always entails perplexity and that the valence of that perplexity matters less than the spirit with which parents respond to it. Half the prodigies I studied seemed to be under pressure to be even more astonishing than they naturally were, and the other half, to be more ordinary than their talents. Studying their families, I gradually recognized that all parenting is guesswork, and that difference of any kind, positive or negative, makes the guessing harder. 
Amen to raising our standards for dating.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tuesday evening roundup and ramble

This is what happens when you let religious institutions restrict options for women's medical care.

Yoko should be credited for inspiration at the very least, not blamed for destruction.

The Post has some Sandy before-and-afters but you have to check out the crazy pictures on the Times' site, especially the submerged cabs in Hoboken.

I talked to my parents, all our New Yorkers are okay. One lost her car to flooding, but that's the least of her concerns.

A friend of mine took me to task the other day for not having hosted a cheese fondue party in a while. You have to understand, he and I have both spent lots of time in France (and in my case, in Switzerland) and we love our fondue. I told him I'd come up with a nut-cheese recipe and host a fondue dinner. I bought Russell James' Cheese book (and the others as well) but had to turn to Pinterest for a fondue recipe.

Tuesday afternoon rambles

I always knew there was a problem with that caveman diet. As with every other high-protein/low-fat diet, people see results because it's preferable to the standard American diet of Cheetos and Hohos. But it's still problematic:
A new chemical analysis of modern diets suggests Stone Age humans ate less meat than thought.

The findings, published in the November issue of the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, may explain why many archaeologists estimate that prehistoric people got most of their calories from lean meat or fish when modern humans would be literally poisoned by such a protein-heavy diet.
"When you look at estimates of people's diets in early archaeological interpretations, it's very animal-protein heavy, and that's very hard to explain physiologically," said study author Tamsin O'Connell, a University of Cambridge researcher. "We are suggesting that animal proteins were less important overall."
You know there's a problem when your 'paleo' friends snub their noses at oats, possibly the healthiest food on the planet, because the cavemen didn't eat it.

I'm not the only one who had to make sure I had enough wine to get me through the storm. The storm also had me craving comfort foods, so even more decadence today. Yesterday, all my fats were healthy; today, less so, since I had a quesadilla (Follow Your Heart jack cheese). I've also been snacking on the extra real-pumpkin muffins I made to bring to work (though those are made entirely with healthy fats--flax for eggs and rice bran for oil--and not too much sugar). But really, I need to stop snacking on them nonetheless.

I spent the morning working from home, which served to remind me why I don't do it more often, unless it's absolutely necessary: slow connection, one monitor, too much isolation--even for me. and Gracie was even quiet this morning; usually she's whining at my heels when I'm trying to work. Still, I'm glad I was able to do it; otherwise, tomorrow would be even more of a stress monster.


Per AAdvantageGeek's advice, I called Bose. They were professional, polite, and on it. We'll see whether the points post, but I really should have just dealt with them in the first place rather than AAdvantage customer service.

Tuesday morning roundup

Democracy in the Ukraine is really, really hurting.

Matt Bai on the importance of narrative.

Do you verbify?

The people had better had compelling reasons to be on the road. I am very lucky to have gotten through (most of) this thing with my roof intact, trees upright, and power sustained. It's actually perfectly still out right now, just very wet. I'd go to work, but the Metro's still down. The old fence--the privacy fence adjacent to my neighbors' yard--came down, but all the new fencing has stood up.

Okay, since I have power, I should telework.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Monday night roundup

It's annoying and interesting that the Post organizes its columns by 'left wing' and 'right wing,' because I don't normally go searching for one or the other, and what does it mean that the Post expects people to? I agree and disagree with writers of both persuasions. I think Jennifer Rubin is an angry, disingenuous waste of space, not necessarily because I disagree with her but because she's blatantly selective with her facts. I find that Kathleen Parker makes at least as many good points as bad ones, and I rarely if ever find fault with Anne Applebaum. Below, I praise David Frum. From the other side, Richard Cohen has been bothering me a lot lately. Starting with when he wrote about 'leading from behind' being an 'indictable offense.' Please. What would you do with Syria? Realistically. What. Would. You. Do. If you were actually responsible for military forces and intelligence assets and funds, and their consequences, i.e., if your job weren't just waxing idealistic about other people's foreign policy decisions.

More recently, or just now, this piece just irked the hell out of me. Like I said/implied, I don't have a problem with legitimate policy disagreements or critiques, but I can't help but find that Cohen is using his column to air his personal dislike of the President, which is largely based on the President's being an introvert. I don't care what Richard Cohen personally thinks of anyone, and I'm not surprised Nora Ephron hated him when she first met him (by his own admission). More importantly, I don't understand why the Post pays Richard Cohen to air his personal dislikes. If I wanted to hear someone's unsubstantiated personal opinion, I'd call my mother. I gave Cohen a pass when he took cheap shots after Amb. Holbrooke's funeral, because Cohen himself was in mourning, but where does it stop? Just because someone doesn't handle a situation with the same outward effusiveness that you would, it doesn't mean he or she doesn't care. This isn't a political argument. If anything, it's personal; as someone who's had to contend with others' (my mother, RM) accusing me of heartlessness for not showing affection or emotion the same way they do (or in the way to which they for some reason feel entitled), I just don't think it's fair.

Look, the internet is a big series of tubes where people can express themselves, without an editor or publisher determining whether those expressions are worthy of publication. I appreciate that, especially as a blogger. But at what point does it threaten the Post as an institution when its columnists take to its albeit-online pages to administer petty personal critiques?

This starts out as the best response to the Mourdock comments yet.

Best collection of dating advice, ever.

Did I tell you that mom's talking to me again? And in the few Skype video calls since, including tonight (I've been staying off the cell during the storm in case I lose power), she asked me what was wrong with my hair. Twice. I'm not sure how anyone would answer that question, unless the 'wrong' pertained to a style formed by voltage. So she asked me whether I 'always' wear it 'like that.' I said no, not always. Apparently, like the busybody at the party the other day, mom thinks I need to invest in a beauty day.ocxz

Frankenstorm roundup

Lakes have tsunami potential.

India has potential to become less of a clusterf*.

I know duty is duty, but please give these guys the day off when the weather worsens.

Um, Mourdock expected high-fives?

We had a great laugh over this last month when it hit the print edition. Men. Yes, ladies: this guy is for real; get out your helicopter skis.

For the thirtieth time, isolated nutrients are not the answer.

Another list of food label definitions. Do be wary of the 'multigrain' trap; I didn't know about the dyes, but it doesn't surprise me. I rolled my eyes at 'free range isn't necessarily healthier'--I guess it's not enough that it would be less cruel (if it actually meant anything, but as the article pointed out, it's not enforced in any way). On the topic of whether organic's healthier... a friend noted, and I agreed, that sometimes you can taste pesticide residues on food and it tastes gross. I liken it to bug spray. I've experienced this almost every time I've had to buy conventional apples, and she and I both noted it with respect to grapes. 

Yup, this was me two months ago.

F*. I really wanted to go to work tomorrow. Not least because Gracie is driving me crazy, but also because I have $hit to do. Like, a lot of it.

Monday morning roundup and ramble

Liberal Europe has a Jewish problem.

This is eerily reminiscent of one of the bullets I dodged when my last relationship ended. More on that in my ramble.

Those of us with CSA veggies will love this quinoa-vegetable paella recipe (turnips and fava beans and carrots and more!). I don't know where one gets "very young artichokes" so I'll use canned ones; That reminds me, I meant to get asparagus. Would it be foolish to make a run to Giant some time today?

Speaking of recipes, the Times (Recipes for Health) features kabocha (or butternut as a replacement, but I love kabocha). These recipes are mostly very easily veganizable; only the lasagne could be iffy, but I intend to try it.

I was actually tempted to go to work but Metro is shut down and I'm not biking. I'm really hoping things (i.e., work, Metro) are open tomorrow.

Ramble: I was talking to an acquaintance (at the party I went to on Saturday) who's not quite a smug married but still feels positioned to pry and give unsolicited advice. This all came up because she had offered to set up another friend who was there, and then turned to me. I had not talked to her about my relationship (she'd heard that it ended from a mutual friend), and when she asked what happened, I said politely that I was done talking about it. But she asked again on Saturday: "Was it that your ex-bf didn't call back? Because sometimes people change their minds..." I let her know that that was not the issue and that I was infinitely better off out of that relationship than in it. Even in the first days post-breakup, when I was busy divesting myself with material (and digital) signs of him (stuff he left around the house, stuff he gave me, his info that would autofill on my computer) friends urged me not to be so hasty, I was certain beyond a doubt that I wanted that man out of my life. She couldn't have known that, but she might have figured that I didn't need someone who hardly knew me to offer advice. She then proceeded to suggest that I spring for a 'beauty day,' like a friend of hers did--get my hair and make-up done, etc. Shrug (see my "read a book or something" comments in other posts). Done-up hair and especially make-up is not me, and so it is counterproductive to try to attract someone with a look that I have no intention of maintaining, ever. The men out there who want to date women who like like Barbie are entitled to do so, but they have no business dating me and I have no business playing Barbie for a day in order to convince them to date me. Let them date Barbie. I want to date people who want to date me.

To be clear: I've ranted on in these pages about the general state of unwash (not to mention the state of illiteracy) of the eligible men in this city. I am not trying to match their level of unwash (it would be a challenge if I were). What I am saying is that someone who already puts a basic level of care into my appearance, and whose definition of basic care does not include face-painting, it would be best to date someone who is comfortable with that level.

The irony was, I'm not sure when the woman providing this unsolicited advice last put any thought into her own appearance. That is her choice, but is it also her hypocrisy? Or is it her double-standard: she's married, so she's in a position to let herself go. This brings me back to my point: my relationship or marital status will never put me in a position to let myself go, because I set my level of maintenance for me. Not everyone has to like it, and not everyone has to date me, but I'm going to date the people who want to date me as I am.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Sunday evening roundup

Now that I've had my meltdown--induced by multiple attempts to shrink-wrap my back door-windows--here's the rest of your roundup.

Meningitis victims--and surviving relatives--have not been accorded honesty and transparency.

A Montgomery County synagogue grapples with a case of endless moral dilemmas, and no easy answers. Either way--and I cite these words without applying them to the conflict in question--let us all, this election season, keep in mind the following:
Generosity of thought, willingness to explore the concepts and words of the other side, is a core criterion of holy, righteous communication...
Mordechai Kaplan, founder of Reconstructionist Judaism, wrote: “From the cowardice that shrinks from new truth; from the laziness that is content with half-truths; from the arrogance that thinks it knows all truth – O, God of truth, deliver us.” Amen.
To hold our positions humbly means knowing we could be wrong. God knows all; we don’t. We should continually try to learn more, surrounding ourselves with people whose experiences and knowledge bases differ.
Cory Booker has managed his share of miracles, but needs more.

Japan is stuck in a state of 'meh.'

Russia's dissidents keep on keepin' on (and getting arrested for it).

It should surprise no one that Anne Applebaum's "Iron Curtain" is deemed sophisticated and edifying.

A new book about the stupidly depleted Atlantic is a cautionary tale for the planet as a whole.

A book and an article each raise questions about Army leadership (past, present, and future).

Not for the first time, Mark Bowden advocates for torture.

My theater-going is certainly down from last year, but that has nothing to do with the election; it's because so much of what I saw last year, disappointed. And I got sick of wasting my time (and money) at disappointing shows. So I've become more careful.

Many have slammed Naomi Wolf's latest book, but none (to my knowledge) as amusingly as Liza Mundy. And it's tragic that the book disappoints, because I'm enamored of its message: "Men, show some effort. It's not that hard! "Make the restaurant reservation.""

Also amusing: the Style Invitational (report from week 990).

Mark Bittman on the term 'foodie':
I hate that word. Everybody eats. So these are people who are obsessed with ingredients but don't know how to cook, or people who are obsessed with eating in restaurants but don't know how to cook or don't think at all about how food is raised or where it comes from? If those are foodies, I want no part of that. If foodie describes someone who is obsessed with things, I don't want any part of that either. If it were agreed that foodie describes people who care about the food they eat, where it comes from, how it was prepared, I'm fine with it, but I don't think that that's what it describes. I think it describes, more often than not, a vague hipster who eats in restaurants all the time and knows who just won Top Chef. I'm more interested in cooks -- a perfectly fine word -- and people who care about real food.
I have no idea who won Top Chef, ever. Actually, I know one of one guy, because an actual foodie told me about him and he just opened an overpriced restaurant near my office. I do, as you know, care about real food. And I was just pondering the joys of my decadent high-fat diet (just today: flax seeds, pistachios, avocado, pesto, dark chocolate, pumpkin seeds, turnip fries, tofu scramble...). I also thought about how skin-friendly so much of my food was, since I ended up putting the excess avocado and the inner pumpkin peel on my skin.

Wait, I don't have to go to work tomorrow? But, I have $hit to do. Like, a lot of it. And I can't do any of it from home. I almost don't know what to do with myself. Oooh, I'll read a book or something (more likely, the New Yorker, since I'm an issue behind). And I'll make the most of my new exercise bands and dozen stability balls. Ooh, and I'll seal the front door windows and call Bose.

Sunday morning roundup, Part I

If you think the political rhetoric on rape is absurd stateside, India's will bring your head to the brink of explosion:
“I think that girls should be married at the age of 16, so that they have their husbands for their sexual needs, and they don’t need to go elsewhere,” the village leader, Sube Singh, told IBN Live, a news channel. “This way rapes will not occur.”

So maybe universities in the US can aspire to handle sexual assault at least somewhat better than Indian villages do. The competition is on. And maybe we can build the political will in this country to get rid of parental rights for rapists, now a despicable reality in 31 states. Don't forget to vote next Tuesday.

Tom Friedman reclaims what it really means to be pro-life.

Can we all just lay off the gifs? It's really distracting when you're trying to read otherwise worthwhile articles. In terms of the content of the article, once you get past the annoying gif, I couldn't agree more: anything billed as "one weird trick," whether its' for weight loss or finding love, is BS. I'd never clicked on the "one weird trick" ads, so I can't tell you what it was, but I can still confidently tell you it's BS. I have listened to a lot of "self-"help advice about dating, and I've come to find the "one thing" highly offensive, because it's usually blaming women for not sufficiently catering to men's egos. Search these pages for the review of "Celeste and Jesse Forever," [bottom line: fun movie, hilarious, great lines, but disturbing message of 'woman punished for not accommodating the man-child that is her husband'].

Tom Philpott on Ikaria:
The typical American impulse would be to identify some wonder substance driving the Ikarians' good health, concentrate it (if not synthesize it in a lab first), stick it in a pill, market it heavily—and then find out the wonder substance is all but worthless. We've learned that isolating nutrients, stripping away the context of their presence in whole foods, is not a recipe for health, as Michael Pollan showed in his In Defense of Food. Consuming beta carotene in the context of a carrot is good for you; gulping down a beta carotene pill, it turns out, not so much.
He goes on to talk about how easy it is for Ikarians to make healthful choices, because the infrastructure, so to speak, supports them. Everyone else is doing it, and the good stuff is easily available.

On a related note, someone at a party yesterday said to me, upon the hostess' referencing something I couldn't eat, "being vegan must be very hard." I should prepare a more articulate statement, and maybe have cards printed with the response. How much of the question is based on people's not realizing that they eat food that happens to be vegan all the time, without noticing? When the hostess had apologized that there wasn't anything vegan--she'd planned on making something but ran out of time--I reassured her that there was plenty of vegan food on her table (hummus, guacamole, salad, fruit, etc.). 


Jessica Bennett's clueless rant makes me roll my eyes, even though it's just a few years old. She entirely misses the point of fashion writing in general, and in particular, the genius of Robin Givhan's fashion writing, which so acutely captures the social significance of people's style choices. You might notice that nowhere in the original article does she criticize Elana Kagan; she just does what a fashion writer does: she observes (and writes up) what's different about her style and body language. I guess my position on this--Bennett's umbrage leaves me nonplussed--reflects the position I articulated yesterday: style matters, and so does body language. It's not the be-all-end-all, but it has an influence that can't be shamed away. It bothers me when people of either gender who command our attention display poor posture. And Givhan is absolutely right to point out that style choices can age you. And otherwise help define you to others. She puts it more artfully:
Tied up in the assessment of style -- Kagan's or anyone else's -- is the awkward, fumbling attempt to suss out precisely who a person is.
I feel the same way about Jezebel's umbrage over Victoria's Secret photoshopping. People selling stuff have been altering images since they could. How many of you have shopped for a house and found that actual houses look little like their corresponding photos in brochures? I'm not suggesting that advertising isn't offensive ever; I've seen all the "Killing Us Softly" films. But photoshopping stray hairs out of a picture and slightly altering the lighting is the least the marketers can do. Is it necessary to remove creases in flesh and make armpits look less unflattering? That's a debate we can have, but do you think anyone's going to get an armpit complex because of it?

And is this really true?
Regular consumers aren't in a position to be privy to that same information; that's the point. Photoshop in advertising is supposed to fool us into thinking that what's depicted is perfect — but real.
Please. Who is this so easily fooled "us"? And is the difference between the 'before' and 'after' photos significant enough to throw an otherwise mentally healthy person into a complex? Even Jezebel thinks not. In Fashionista's own words, "if you’re looking for an ego boost, look elsewhere." I'd add to that--in contextual paraphrase of another Jezebel article, already quoted a few times on these pages, "go read a book or something."

And in the words of a third (already excerpted above), "the commercially minded are selling a fantasy." And an easy fix to all that is lacking, in our minds. People selling us things are going to make it look like, in the absence of those things, we're ugly losers; that's their job. Our job is to roll our eyes and love ourselves the way we are. To realize that there's not 'one weird trick' that'll fix all our problems, not even if it gives us Doutzen Kroes' abs (which, by the way, are more formidable in the 'before' pictures).

And fashion writers are going to analyze the style choices of public figures, which includes putting those choices in context to better convey their meaning to the reader. That's their job. There is so much real misogyny out there to be upset about (see parental rights for rapists, above), and sure, minor cases of objectification do fit into a larger societal message of "women's bodies are not theirs." But let's pick our battles and not stifle reasonable commentary by crying 'sexist,' etc. at every turn.

Alright, all: I'd better bring the plants in and stuff. Then I'll get you whatever's good in the Post.

Response to comment

AAdvantageGeek: Thank you for the explanation, and also for introducing yourself so articulately so I couldn't mistake you for one of those spammers who pretends to comment on the topic, only to implant an ad link onto the site (the joke is on those people, because very few people actually read this blog). But thank you for the explanation--I will call Bose and let you know what happens--and for the kind words about the blog.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Saturday morning rambles

Thankfully, most of my married friends are a lot like this writer: supportive, not smug. It's been years since I've continually experienced smug marrieds, at least at a sustained level. And not really ironically, the smugs, like the other bridesmaid referenced in the story, ended up divorced. The writer attributed it to karma, but there's more to it than that: if you're really happy, you don't need to go around feeling superior to people and vocalizing that perceived superiority. I would argue that the only person who goes around preaching "I'm so happy I'm married, you must be so miserable, being single" is the person trying to convince herself she's happily married even though she's not. Maybe she's trying to convince herself that being married is worth being unhappy, because look at the pathetic single people. Or maybe she's just trying to convince herself that she's happy, period. But if she were, she'd feel no need to manufacture superiority out of her married status.

There's another issue here, though: that of the metaphorical cheesecake. Sure, there will be people who will want to dangle it in front of (metaphorical) diabetics, and those people are assholes, but as with every area in life where there will be assholes, it's up to the you (the target of the assholish behavior) to be so happy in your life (and with the food you do eat) to shrug it off. I'm not jealous of happily married people (probably because, as I've mentioned, the ones I know are not smug and obnoxious) any more than I'm jealous of people who eat cheesecake. Not to go all self-helpy on you, but we, as a society, have got to acknowledge any negative jealousy that pops up within us and channel it into positive aspiration. See happily married couple, think not "f* them for having something I don't" but "how great that they have that connection." I don't have a cheesecake follow-on to this part of the analogy, because frankly, I don't aspire to cheesecake. But that's also part of the point: I don't aspire to cheesecake because there's so much other good food available to me that doesn't contribute to animal abuse or environmental degradation and doesn't make me feel like $hit.

I moved offices at work this week, or, specifically, I moved from a cubicle into an office. I lost no time: I made phone calls I had delayed making, and I was able to talk on speakerphone while I unpacked. But I digress.

The old "stuff" I came across in the process of packing included various brochures and printouts I'd picked up at health fairs. These ranged in topic from ideas for stretching at your desk to the nutritional content of certain foods to how to better focus to how to cultivate a healthy body image. It was this last one that caught my eye; one of the bullets said to take note of your reaction to others to others and channeling it away from the external and toward the more meaningful. For example, when you catch yourself thinking, "wow, she's in great shape" or "she's so put-together," redirect your thoughts to, "wow, she seems like a really good person." This is very pertinent to me: I'm not judgmental about women's shapes, but I'm sometimes judgmental about their style. For example, a week ago, the coordinator of the volunteer event--whose general inefficiency and ineffectiveness encouraged me to mentally roll my eyes at her appearance--was wearing the most horrendous mom jeans. That she was generally overweight was none of my business; I just wished she'd chosen a pair of jeans that better flattered her figure. Of course, her choice of jeans was none of my business, either, but my mind did go there.

I can't help noticing people's style, for better or for worse. I'm not going to stop thinking, "good lord, why would someone leave the house like that," or "oh, honey," or, for that matter, "wow, she has a great sense of style!" I'm not focused on it to the exclusion of more meaningful characteristics; it's just the first thing we all notice. I can think, "she has a great sense of style but she's embarrassing herself at that dais," or "I wish her sloppy appearance weren't distracting from the valuable content of her presentation." It's just too much to ask not to notice the external. Right?

Okay, time to shut up and do yoga.

Saturday morning roundup

China has overplayed its rear-earth hand.

Bangalore is trashed.

College campuses are starting to reform their policies and practices regarding sexual assault. Gail Collins parses the latest political rhetoric on the matter. Note how different the conversation is in France.

Sandy's definitely on its way to DC.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Thursday evening roundup

While Pakistan's bulletproofing buses for cricket players, maybe they could work on the school buses, too.

Aw! Nigerian kidnappers up their game for the holidays:
Police say kidnappings often increase towards Christmas, when gang members need more money for festivities and gifts.
God's all, "I don't think so."

Tina Fey is wondering whether she's a secretary on Mad Men.

Ikaria: the island of life. Here's a shocker:
She noted that the Ikarians’ diet, like that of others around the Mediterranean, was rich in olive oil and vegetables, low in dairy (except goat’s milk) and meat products, and also included moderate amounts of alcohol. It emphasized homegrown potatoes, beans (garbanzo, black-eyed peas and lentils), wild greens and locally produced goat milk and honey.
“One explanation why they live so long is they eat a plant-based diet. Or it could be the absence of sugar and white flour. From what I know of the Greek diet, they eat very little refined sugar, and their breads have been traditionally made with stone-ground wheat.” 
Most importantly,
That’s what the $70 billion diet industry and $20 billion health-club industry do in their efforts to persuade us that if we eat the right food or do the right workout, we’ll be healthier, lose weight and live longer. But these strategies rarely work. Not because they’re wrong-minded: it’s a good idea for people to do any of these healthful activities. The problem is, it’s difficult to change individual behaviors when community behaviors stay the same. In the United States, you can’t go to a movie, walk through the airport or buy cough medicine without being routed through a gantlet of candy bars, salty snacks and sugar-sweetened beverages. The processed-food industry spends more than $4 billion a year tempting us to eat.
Conveniently, a companion blog entry links to a few plant-based recipes (note that the Times avoided the 'v' word).

Thursday morning roundup

In addition to the crass reduction of women to mere vessels, the "God's will" comment was a theological error.

Smoking is not a victimless event.

Is free speech on campus curtailed?

Kids are not starving because of the new school lunches.

Lots of good stuff in this profile of Hilary Mantel.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tuesday evening roundup

Meet India's incorruptable, and so, easily-fired, government official.

People want to live in India. The comments are pretty good.

Is the best way of squelching trolls to ignore them? (Clearly, this is not an option when they're distributing topless pictures of you in your schools).

Compounders deliberately avoided cooperating with the FDA.

The sun sent out some X-class flares. Unrelated, but the colors on my ride home were beautiful all around--great colors in the tidal basin, then the Potomac, then the trees along the path.

Did anyone think the ag industry would take action voluntarily to reduce its (ab)use of antibiotics?

Forbes is convinced you don't need to know what's in your food, and convincing you that you do is a big conspiracy.

Multivitamins are okay, but they don't replace good food.

Teff pancakes! Sub flax, chia, or hemp for the eggs, and vinegar+soymilk for the buttermilk.

You can't go wrong with chickpeas and lentils, and other pulses.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Monday morning roundup

The world wants anti-censorship tools.

Nicholas Kristof says, cuddle your kids. Or, if they're rats, lick them.

Ezekiel Emanuel says, chew xylitol-sweetened gum.

Fairfax County--particularly the clusterf* that is Tyson's Corner--is starting to think awfully highly of itself.

The entitled generation is so regardless of race. An excerpt:
It could be something as simple as your cousin thinking he deserves to be famous just because he has more than seven followers on Twitter and figured out how to upload a YouTube clip. Ditto for the opinion of a random blogger who thinks belaboring your opinions is synonymous with holding informed ones.
I kind-of feel bad for Abigail Fischer. If there's anything teenagers are entitled to, it's to f* up and move on. But in her case, her f*up is so public that she's stuck with it, unless she finds a way to outgrow it.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sunday evening roundup: stay strong edition

There's a problem when people are afraid of anatomical terminology. The irony is, that neutralizes the term for racier connotations.

I don't understand the offense some take at outing trolls. I do understand exposing the double standard:
But, as the scholar Mary Anne Franks has observed, women haven’t actually achieved this “bodiless” freedom online. They are embodied in distributed pictures and in sexual comments, whether they like it or not. The power to get away from yourself, like everything else, is unevenly distributed. Women have become, as Franks put it, “unwilling avatars,” unable to control their own images online, and then told to put up with it for the sake of “freedom,” for the good of the community. And then they are incorrectly told, even if the public is behind them, that they have no remedies in the law. They are shouted down by people with a view of freedom of speech more literal than that held by any judge.
And don't think it's not all about power.
It’s not a coincidence that it’s right around the age of 12 that a girl begins to come to an understanding of her potential for power. Not just her sexual power. But her intellectual and physical mettle as well. She’s still very much a child – a child in need of support and protection – but early adolescence is the beginning of a girl coming into her own as an independent person. With a brain and a body she’s going to control. How terrifying that is for the hateful, misogynistic jerks of the world. (And I’m not letting sabotaging, self-hating females off the hook here for their bullying and divisiveness either; they’re a huge part of the problem too.) They pick on girls because it’s easier than dealing with adult women; that’s how weak they are.
The writer's message to young girls:
I hope you and your friends grow up to be everything that scares the crap out of these idiots. I hope you all stay loud and strong and refuse to be pushed around by dirty weirdos hiding in their basements, anonymously trying put you down, rewarding each other with encouragement and bobbleheads. I hope you change the world. I hope you all can stay brave and autonomous and bullyproof and be their worst nightmare. Because they’re been trying to be yours for way too long.

Sunday afternoon roundup

Greece's Golden Dawn is really scary.

The Stalinism of Mao.

Have I mentioned that our food system is detrimental to our health and safety?
As farms and pastures encroach ever deeper into the wilderness, ecosystems are disrupted and people come into closer contact with disease carrying animals. As jungles and rain forests are razed, as factory farms proliferate to produce chicken and other meat for a global middle class, as jetliners knit the skies with multiplying flights and routes, microbes have more opportunities to jump from animal to person and speed around the globe.
Japan won't be able to meet Kyoto targets.

Are art thieves just confused?

Apartment museums proliferate in St. Petersburg, that "city of canals and pastel-colored palaces."

Yes, utilities and phone companies, among others, are screwing you over. And yes, some of those items on your bill that are made to appear to be taxes are just bull$hit charges.

A Square's book about a Triangle. Kidding; the book is about the impact of naval power in the Civil War.

Are all three books actually about manliness?

Got umami?

I want that calendar!

Sunday afternoon ramble

I never did tell you that mom did talk to me last week when I called her on her birthday. It was a cool but cordial conversation. It left me unsure of where we stood, but as far as I was concerned, I was at once relieved that we were on speaking terms and not particularly enthusiastic about speaking.

Yesterday, on the walk home from Whole Foods, I stopped into a local thrift shop and found my dream pair of jeans for $5. Except I didn't have any cash on me--I'd gone there straight from an all-morning volunteer gig--and thought the place had a $10 credit card minimum, so I grabbed a $4 cookbook on cooking with hemp and a $1 copy of Dr. Roberta Satow's "Doing the Right Thing: Taking Care of Your Elderly Parents Even If They Didn't Take Care of You." I probably needed that more than the jeans that justified the entire purchase.

Yes, I know, the title doesn't exactly apply--my mother did take care of me--though, is it ever that simple?

Anyway, dad called this morning to guilt me into calling mom more often. "Never mind what she says; she wants to hear from you." Okay.

Dad reminded me that mom is really not well. I've always thought he was the one in denial: she's fine, just an exaggerated version of the person she's always been. But maybe I'm the one who's been in denial and I need to figure out how to balance my part in taking care of mom with my new-found determination to limit my exposure to her abuse.

I also thought about mom in terms of the Shamu paradigm, which I've come to rethink or at least apply more selectively after someone offered the opposite perspective (in the context of a work situation): if you are training a dog, you have to start with the little things. Little rewards, or lack of rewards. for little things, build up to big rewards (or lack thereof) for big things. I got so good at ignoring my mother and letting her go on about how she'd always been supportive of me that there's no use breaking her delusions now. Of course, mom always discouraged the breaking of her delusions even in little ways:

Mom: I do everything for you and you've never done anything for me!
A.: Actually, I just [resolved your issue with the credit card company.]
Mom: Well, if you're going to keep score! I don't need your favors if they're going to cost me!

So you can't call mom out on anything, because she calls you out on keeping score. If I tried to point out to her, with specific examples, instances where she hasn't exactly been supportive, she'd just turn it into my being bitter for even remembering those things. I'm sorry; I have a very good memory. But I have an even better memory for when people have been supportive of me.

Even if I could present a convincing case to mom, I don't want to. Just like it's easier to clean up Gracie's poop every time than to try to teach her a lesson, it's easier to just let mom entertain her own version of events. I certainly don't need her to believe that she hasn't always been supportive, or rather, I only do need her to know it when she throws the opposite in my face. It's just like I don't keep score when I do things for mom; I only bring those things up when she makes a case of my never doing anything for her.

But dad made a very good point this morning, one that addressed my big question: are these really delusions? Does mom believe her own rants, or does she truly know, deep inside, that she's full of shit? Dad said that she does know. That she'll go on, outwardly, doing her thing, but really, she knows the truth.

Sunday morning roundup

Someone thought that deploying the Guatemalan military to fight crime was a good idea? Have we learned nothing from decades of abuse and carnage?

I'm looking forward to the debate that delineates conceptual foreign policy divergences into practical differences. Apart from the number of $2-billion submarines.

The role of race in politics and policy requires a delicate balance.

I've lost all respect for Candy Crowley (though I'd still defend her against tacky jokes about her weight, which is irrelevant); she's somewhat out of touch:
After the last presidential debate, moderator Candy Crowley similarly wrote off even asking a question about the future of the planet as a poor use of air time: “I had that question for all of you climate-change people. We just, you know, again, we knew that the economy was still the main thing, so you knew you kind of wanted to go with the economy.”
All of "you climate-change people"? Really?

Wait! Another datapoint on omnivores' attitudes about dating vegetarians. This "preemptive judging" phenomenon is noteworthy, meshes what I've rambled about in the past: the people who take issue with herbivores have issues with their own eating habits, which the herbivores expose, usually unintentionally. The people comfortable with their eating habits don't give a $hit.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Saturday morning roundup

Pakistani public opinion seems to be moving on, away from protecting girls' education.

We can't afford fortress diplomacy.

Really, Kathleen Parker? People having fun on Twitter is what's wrong with politics, not, say superpacs? Not fear of bringing up gun control? Not celebrity endorsements? As Ms. Parker implied, there's a market for political humor, so when the politicians oblige, society makes humorous political lemonade.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday evening roundup

Will Egypt and Turkey manage an alliance?

Is our insistence on exceptionalism keeping us from dealing with big national challenges? 

Sustainable, pesticide-free agriculture is a reality. We just have to make it a more wide-spread reality.

Get your binder reviews here.

I don't know about most people, but most respondents to a Your Tango poll would date a vegan. The rest are probably douche bags.

Quick Friday morning roundup

Have we talked about how the overuse of antibiotics in agriculture is not good?

Teach your children well.

Back to ag:
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Junk Food Feed
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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Wednesday evening roundup

Okay, I know there are hurt feelings in China but you've got to quit assaulting people.

Tom Philpott on GMOs. It was part of Mark Bittman's roundup, which I'm meta-rounding up here.

I don't know what Mr. Ozersky is talking about; plenty of $50 meals (for 2) in DC. Teaism comes to mind, and that would even include wine.

The Onion on Scotland.

Wednesday morning roundup

New star alert! It's just over in Alpha-Centauri. Yes, Blogger spell-check, there is an Alpha-Centauri.

In almost equally epic news, Cuba is dropping its exit visa requirement.

Sorry, Big Bird: binders Full of Women has out-memed you.

Lewis Black amuses:

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Back in Black - Lance Armstrong, Butt Chugging & Farm Animal Sex
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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tuesday evening roundup and ramble and playlist

What a sad, sad story about the consequences of deinstitutionalization.

Mo Ibrahim once again looked for leadership in Africa and came up short.

Can we leave Big Bird out of politics and out of fashion? Those are just wrong.

It's unfortunate that people would look for, or provide, inspiration on how to be unhealthy and hate oneself.

I've slammed overly wordy writing on these pages, and here, Ben Masters ostensibly defends it:
The contemporary preference seems to be for the economical, the efficient, for simple precision (though there is of course such a thing as complex precision). Books, it appears, should be neat and streamlined. Language shouldn’t be allowed to obscure a good story.
 Right. But it should be allowed to create a good story. If it works, it's not excess, is it? He explains,
Not every sentence, however, can or should stretch its seams. Not every thought, not every subject, warrants a maximalist approach (a point I have attempted to explore in my own fiction through parody). The elaborate has to be earned and justified, lest excess become a tyranny of style, whereby the prose levels out into an unhelpful equivalence of so many adjectives, adverbs, phrases and images. Proliferation shouldn’t come at the expense of distinction. Bare prose, in the right places, can be equally intense or vivid.

I've learned of a new, vegan-friendly pizzeria near my office, but is it really friendly to gouge vegans, even while accommodating them? This came up in Ocean City, where a place wanted to charge me $3 for subbing in Daiya cheese in an enchilada (I just got it without cheese, and it was probably better that way). Isn't that excessive? Daiya's not that much more expensive than dairy cheese. This pizza place asks $1.50 per vegan substitution (cheese, topping, etc.). Um, really? So dead-animal sausage is "free" but I have to pay for a soy substitute? Really? It would be less offensive if they just served a whole vegan pizza or two and charged more for them, but itemizing the higher expenses just draws attention to the hypocrisy. I'll just keep going to Busboys and Poets, where the vegan options are comparably priced and proven to be delicious.

A couple of my friends have gone through breakups over the last couple of weeks, which got me thinking about breakup music (which I'd been thinking about anyway since "Less than Strangers" came on Pandora). I thought about how the breakup music that resonates now is different from that of a decade ago. And about how it falls into two, or maybe three, categories: (1) sadness and (2) hope/defiance, and maybe something in between. So I've decided to write you a quirky list of breakup music. I'll probably keep adding to it, especially the middle category (2), which is the best.

When you want to wallow in your sorrow
Ghost (Indigo Girls)
Tear in Your Hand (Tori Amos)
Adam and Eve (Ani DiFranco)
Don't Speak (No Doubt)
Mississippi (Paula Cole)
Le Train Bleu (Jean-Luis Murat)

When you're ready to move on
Gravel (Ani DiFranco)
Gonna Get over You (Sarah Bareilles)
The Easy Way (Dar Williams)
Lately (Linda Nawn)

When you're somewhere in between
Gravity (Sarah Bareilles
Less than Strangers (Tracy Chapman)
This Fire (Lori McKenna)
Little Love (Melissa Ferrick)
Caroline (MC Solaar)
World of Our Own Making (Merry Amsterberg)

Cat poop: It’s what’s for dinner

For a while, I tried the Shamu thing when Gracie expressed her dissatisfaction with something or other (my absence, her getting insufficient attention despite my presence, the switching of cat litter, etc.) by pooping outside the litter box. The Shamu thing meant ignoring her; I shrugged, cleaned up the poop, moved on with my life. This took no more effort than attempting negative reinforcement. so even when the placement and circumstances of the rogue poop were particularly audacious, obnoxious, and ballsy, I shrugged and let it go.

Until Sunday, when I nearly rolled my bike over it on the way in. I’d just cleaned the doormat from the last time she pooped all over it. I’d had it. So I reverted to my old recourse: I gathered the poop in a plastic bag and placed it on Gracie’s food dish. And imagined the following conversation (because that's what I do):

Gracie: Hmmm, where did that come from?
A.: What do you think?
Gracie: I must have created that.
A.: Right.
Gracie: But I don't like it on my food dish.
A.: Then don’t leave it outside the box.

In her non-defense, she's been contending with a new, smaller litter box (the other one had become to gross to be cleaned). But this is where the ‘parent’ in me comes out:

A.: Oh, you don’t like your new litter box? Did you know that there are cats out there who don’t even have a litter box?
Gracie: Meow?
A.: If you don't like it, drive your fat, furry ass to PetSmart and pick out the one you like, that also fits in the utility room.
Gracie: But mommy, I can't drive.,
A.: Then shut the f*up.

 In all seriousness (or, at least, in more seriousness), I just have a low tolerance for whiny bi&ching, and I have a hard time squelching the ‘parental’ approach for trying to train Gracie out of her personality. As I watch friends with small children encourage their kids to use their words—there’s no excuse for whining or crying once you can actually verbally articulate the issue—I yearn to use the same methods on my cat. I just don’t understand why she has to cry about everything. I don’t respect that kind of thing and I won’t abide it.
And I can't take her seriously, because she cries wolf on a daily basis. As I got dressed this morning, I heard bloody-murder crying from downstairs. I thought, “good lord, what is it now?” And then I thought, “no, really, is someone slitting Gracie’s throat?” When she cries that desperately is when she tends to poop outside the box (in the "I'm hope but not paying her sufficient attention" category), so I thought, ‘great, all I need this morning is to clean up cat poop before I leave for work.’ But I came downstairs, and there was none. Rather, there was, but it was inside the box. She was just whining bloody murder because she wanted to go outside. Well, tough $hit (no pun intended), I want to play outside, too, but one of us has to make a living.

Anyway, I wonder if she’d also thought about pooping outside the box but decided against it because she didn’t want the output to end up on next to her dinner again. I’d like to think that deterrence worked.

Tuesday morning roundup

The best way to walk away from red lines is to avoid them in the first place.

When political photo-ops do charities no good.

Twitter takes on the health care reform debate.

Blackberry is the new AOL. I do have to say--when I was temporarily issued one for international work travel--it was more user-friendly as an actual phone (just not anything else).

Oh, this is so sad and hilarious at the same time. But seriously, watch out, lest the ducks inherit the earth.

If you freak out about nudity (particularly other people's), you're the one with issues.

Wait! We have another contender for awesomest dad! And it's Sarah Silverman's dad.

Jon Stewart recognizes the rarity of journalism:
The Daily Show with Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Democalypse 2012 - V.P. Debate: Battle for the Historical Footnote - Martha Raddatz
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Monday, October 15, 2012

Monday evening roundup and ramble and response to comment

The Taliban's war on girls and education is hardly limited to Malala.

Granderson balances arguments around affirmative action.

I still don't care for Junot Diaz's fiction--though a friend tells me that "The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" was good once she got into it--but he's sort of redeemed himself with this:
You see, in my view a writer is a writer not because she writes well and easily, because she has amazing talent, because everything she does is golden. In my view a writer is a writer because even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway.
All joking aside, the rethinking of homework for reasons of fairness is an interesting consideration, both from the perspective of learning and from the perspective of role-of-government: how far can/should government go in leveling the playing field? Kids with (constructively) involved parents will always have an advantage, that some other kids can overcome. Can you really neutralize the advantage without damaging the education system as a whole?

Carolyn on human nature and deliberate harm. I wrote recently about what a step it was to see that mom was deliberately saying destructive things to me (not out of an innocent cluelessness, not out of constructive criticism). And yet, as Carolyn points out, maybe we all do it at times, without even realizing it.

Stanford's organics study suffered some methodological issues:
So, for instance, [Kirsten Brandt, the scientist who led the Newcastle study,] decided that if a paper reported results for crops grown in separate years, each year should be regarded as a separate data point, because weather conditions vary so much from year to year. The Stanford group instead averaged the multiple years into a single data point.
The overall Stanford approach, Dr. Brandt said, was similar to what is used for analyzing human clinical drug studies, where the effects of a medicine should be consistent and variations indicate that a study may not have been done well. In agricultural studies, she said, the variations are expected because of differences in plant species, weather, soil and other conditions. “This difference is a genuine difference,” she said, and not an indication of shoddy experiments.
Farmed shrimp is even more disgusting than I'd previously known. Seriously, stay the f* away from it.

Supersizing and food waste.

Look at all that beautiful vegan food.

It is true that your outfit speaks for you.


On the way to my double-parked car on Saturday (such is most of the parking at the Birchmere, which now apparently charges for parking through its service fees), I heard my name out of a car backing out of its spot. I turned to see a friend, who had attended the same concert at the suggestion of her friend, who was in the driver’s seat. My friend and I said 'hello' and scurried away, so as not to exacerbate the traffic situation in the lot, but I caught up with the other friend at work this morning. She told me she hadn’t heard of either performer, but went because she trusted her friend’s judgment, and she enjoyed it, but didn’t care for Dar's performance. What was up with all that talking, she asked? Did the audience really need a primer on Greek mythology? She added that Dar came off as snooty, even a bit contemptuous of the audience.  

I, too, had detected a layer of contempt; Dar had chided the audience, twice, for requesting songs. “Oh, yeah, I’ll leave it up to you what I should play.” And, as I wrote the other day, I, too, was put off by the amount of talking. Last year, Dar talked a lot, but she also played a lot of songs.

But I told my friend, as I agreed that the performance was disappointing, that Dar was one of my favorite musicians of all time. My friend was surprised. I explained that, no, really, Dar has a lot of really great songs, even few of them made it into her set. It was so weird to have to say that. Mind you, not everyone likes her music, but I think this friend would. 

Now, I am not the concertgoer who needs to hear “As Cool as I Am” at every show, but I do need to hear more music than introductory explanation, and some representation of her more well-known music. It does seem like she’s almost disappointing on purpose, as an f* you to the audience. So to answer my own question, I doubt these last two years were anomalous; I guess she's come to see touring as an annoying duty. So I am done with seeing her live.

Response to comment: I just found out that one of my former managers (recently retired) was married to someone who sat around the corner from me. I worked for her on and off for three years without a clue that they were connected in any way. That is the way to work with one's spouse.

Monday morning roundup: what's-wrong-with-people? edition

Why do societies protect sexual abusers?

I'm no theologist,  but what is unChristian about anti-bullying initiatives?

The Pakistani government still hasn't publicly criticized the Taliban.

Susan Sarandon talks about fighting off an attempted assault at a casting call.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sunday evening roundup

Chavez is going to try to be helpful, i.e., serve as a force for peace in Colombia.

William J. Dobson's new book on oppression and resistance.

Are Czech communists really back, and are they a threat?

And is free speech truly at risk in the West? I see his point on some matters but I'd disagree that encouraging people to be respectful comes at the expense of free speech.

Then again, some people read or hear vitriol just by virtue of someone expressing opinions.

Do American businesses have to deal with China? Can the dealing be mutually beneficial?

India is in the market for strategic partnerships, but playing hard-to-get.

New Delhi's metro system is contending with suicides-by-train.

Can Spain keep it(self) together?

Fascinating new stories about the Cuban Missile Crisis. Foreign Policy has more. My favorite line:
Castro had a suggestion: "So you have a law that prohibits transfer of tactical nuclear weapons to other countries? It's a pity. And when are you going to repeal that law?"
How do you execute foreign policy in a f*ed up world

Stephen Pearlstein explains it all (wrt regulations).

Felix Baumgartner did it!

The Post's Travel section offers a nasty-illness-101.

Arena finds that producing new plays is more fraught than it would appear.

The days when GenOn covered north Old Town with dust (and tried to pretend it was normal) are gone.

Quote worth sharing! From Harold S. Kushner's "The Book of Job: When Bad Things Happened to a Good Person":
“I find God in the miracle of human resilience in the face of the world’s imperfections, even the world’s cruelty,” he writes. “What enabled our fourteen-year-old son, so stricken with congestive heart failure that he had to sleep standing up, to look forward to every day he had to share with his friends, his family, and his dog?”

I love it when drivers are polite to cyclists (and the other way around), but when it's your right of way, you may as well make your move.

Oh, one thing I will say for the Birchmere is that they have nice wine, in nice wine glasses. What I can't say for them is that they have a single vegan item on their menu. I mean, if you're gonna host artists like Dar Williams, you're likely to get a vegan or two. Just sayin'.

Speaking of wine, Carmaniere is taking third place among my favorite wine types.

Feel better now

My ride to (and from) Mt. Vernon this morning was a near-perfect experience. The trail is always beautiful, but especially so this time of year, and the weather couldn't be more pleasant. I'm generally disappointed when something--usually weather or exhaustion--gets in the way of my weekly ride. There's nothing I enjoy more than being on that bike, on that trail, enjoying the views and the fresh air. So it surprises me when my commitment to the ride is seen as some sort of sacrifice or show of discipline. If I saw it as something I had to do, or had better do, I probably couldn't bring myself to do it.

F. had framed it that way when we first started spending weekends together, while we were still amused by our differences/before we understood that they were insurmountable: there you are, bettering yourself, while I'm sleeping in. Shrug. To the extent that I am bettering myself, it's incidental: I'm bettering myself in the sense that I'm doing something that makes me happy and feeds my soul; I'm exposing myself to fresh air, beauty, and activity. As for his sleeping in, that just meant that I could take my time with the bike ride; I didn't care what he did. But the point is, it's not the lofty, long-term benefits of exercise, nor a sense of duty that gets my butt out of bed and onto the trail in the morning; it's the drive to feel better now. See my post about the immediate benefits of exercise from a month or so ago.

The same goes with food: I don't eschew junk food because I think it'll hurt me in the long run (in fact, I'm a big believer in moderation). I just don't care for it, usually, because it will make me feel like crap then and there.

It was in this context that I was re-pondering the article that so frustrated me on Thursday. I mean, you know my position: I'm the first to roll my eyes at men who won't admit their preference for thinner women is physical, who claim that it's about "self-control." I call BS on those guys, and I wholeheartedly agree that they're hurting themselves more than the non-emaciated women they dismiss. But I'm a stickler for logic (sorry, occupational hazard) and the article's logic mostly failed. Of course there are different standards for "skinny" people's eating habits; there are also different standards for millionaires' shopping habits. This is why these things are personal: you have to do what's right for your circumstances.

But it's not just the logical inconsistencies that so bother me in the article: it's the incredibly defeating idea that one's health is out of one's hands. Poverty and genetics may correlate with obesity, but they're not deterministic, and the idea that either is, only keeps people obese. So does the peer pressure that hits when one person within a peer or family group actually tries to take control of one's health. Why do you think vegans so freak people out by our very existence? The idea that we have agency over what we consume is threatening to people who justify their habits by denying that agency. Please be sure that I'm not suggesting that vegans threaten all non-vegans, or that veganism is right for everyone, etc. What I am saying is that vegans (and others--paleo eaters, vegetarians, etc.) threaten people who want to pretend that their nutrition is out of their hands. I wouldn't be surprised if this is why it's such a threat to my mom.

Look: if you're happy as you are, however that is, that's great. Especially because you're not the one(s) giving me crap for the way I eat. But if you're unhappy, don't blame your genes, or anything else. Blame poverty only if you're so poor that you can't afford a bag of lentils. You're right that it's not about will power in the small sense: the will power to resist an unhealthy meal, or to exercise even though you don't feel like it. I'm a big believer in making sure you're getting enough food and making sure that your food tastes good, and in listening to your body. It's about will power in the big sense: making the decision to own your health.