Friday, August 31, 2007

Tap water and the Aquarium

I wanted to comment on the water sources in the various cities in this area:

Albany: Fairly soft, acidic water; you will definitely need to add a buffer to keep the pH stable, especially in the winter. Otherwise, pretty good for raising fish as long as you keep an eye on the pH. Tap water is typically about 7.2-7.4, but drops quickly due to the low mineral content. You might want to consider adding a few pieces of base rock (for coral tanks) to a freshwater tank to keep the pH stable long-term.

Schenectady: We get our water from an aquifer, so it's got plenty of minerals. The water is hard, and comes out of the tap with a pH of around 7.8-8.0. I got very spoiled keeping fish here, because the pH stays stable for a long time, even if you're bad about water changes.

Troy: Worse than Albany; the water comes from reservoirs, and it is always very soft and acidic. Comes out of the tap at 7.0, but drops to 6.0 within two days or so, once the carbonates bubble out. If you're going to keep freshwater fish, I strongly recommend use of a buffer AND adding some marine substrate to keep the pH from dropping rapidly.

Clifton Park: Must get it from an aquifer, because it comes out of the tap at about 8.4-8.6. Seriously. So, if you want to keep discus, get a water softener. Most fish can adapt to a higher pH, like in Schenectady, but in CP, you should choose fish that can take an extremely high pH. African cichlids are ideal, as are marine fish.

Latham: Almost perfect; only Schenectady is as good. Hard but only mildly alkaline, Latham water has lots of minerals and starts out at 7.4-7.6. It's fairly stable, and it is adaptable to most fish species.

Most of the other areas get their water from one of the above sources, or I haven't had experience with them. Check your water source before you add fish, and figure out what you need to do to keep your pH stable. There are a lot of rural areas where people have wells, and they seem to run from soft and acidic to extremely hard and alkaline, depending on where you are. If you have a well, have your water tested for ammonia and nitrite content before adding fish; you may need to use a water conditioner like Prime, which neutralizes ammonia and nitrite.

The ammonia and nitrite get into well water via farm animal waste, and if it shows up in your test, you should consider sending your water to be tested for E. coli. In the water chemistry class at Cobleskill, there is at least one person every year whose tap water turns out to be full of ammonia, nitrite, and E. coli, and the person and their family had usually been suffering from gastric complaints for quite a while without knowing why. A filter can be added to remove these, or you may need to purchase bottled water. Better safe than sorry.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

She's Lost Control

I'd remark on the raging debate over whether fat is unhealthy or not, but it doesn't exist. The voices of the opposition are screaming as hard as they can, but we're drowned out by the overwhelming majority who have sucked down the bait and are denying the hooks lodged in their bleeding throats.

Instead, I want to discuss what this is REALLY about: Fear of death. We've come a long way, and we're so technologically advanced that we can prevent untimely demise in ways that were never before dreamed possible. We're healthier than ever before, having smited hunger, disease, and acute health threats (like appendicitis). We're protected by laws and safety regulations. We have fire-resistant pajamas.

So when someone raises a spectre of early demise in the form of adipose tissue, of course we want to "do something" about it. We have become accustomed to control, having a choice in our destinies--so much so, that people are very threatened by the idea of those of us who have untreatable chronic illnesses, because we shake their faith in modern medicine.

So, you're worried, right? You want to reduce your chances of dying early, and that's understandable. However, not only is the link between fat and early death almost completely fabricated by thindustry propaganda, even if it WERE a risk factor for early death (and, I need to again stress that it is not), the evidence is pretty clear that there isn't a whole hell of a lot you can do about it: Weight you lose comes back (plus some extra) within about five years, unless you're really pushing yourself, and weight loss by itself seems to raise your risk of dying early (and it's worse if you've yo-yo'd throughout your life). Junkfood Science has all the info on that subject, so I'm not going to repeat her stuff here.

So, now that we've established that your fat isn't going to kill you, and even if it did, you're kind of stuck with it, let's look at some things you CAN control that are actually known to have a direct effect on extending your lifespan. Please understand that these are NOT commandments that I'm giving you, just descriptions of actions (or inactions) that you have a choice in taking:

- Wear your seat belt. They save lives, and if you don't believe me, ask an EMT or ER doc.

- Don't smoke. Your control over this is debateable--if you don't already smoke, this is pretty easy.

- Don't do hard drugs. Marijuana is not going to kill you, but heroin and cocaine can be lethal, and fairly readily so.

- Practice good food safety handling. It's amazing how many people worry about the calories in their food, but don't worry one bit about microbes that can cause severe illness and death.

- Get treatment for depression. Depression can kill, if the sufferer becomes suicidal.

- Live in a low-crime area (your control over this is questionable, but it's easier than losing weight, haha)

- Work in a relatively safe job (again, you may not have complete control, but you have some)

- Drive defensively--and SOBER--and try to choose a safe car.

- Don't commit violent crime. The police can shoot you, or the government can execute you.

- Observe good safety practices for all activities. Don't plug stuff in while standing in a puddle of water, don't dive into shallow pools, that kind of thing.

- Get some sun and adequate nutrition.

- Have safe hobbies. I guarantee that I'm safer playing with my nonvenomous snakes than you are skydiving!

- Learn first aid, and clean & disinfect all cuts and wounds (antibiotic resistant bacteria are on the rise)

- Try to be on medical insurance, and get adequate medical care. Don't leave that lump unchecked until it's the size of your head.

MORE important than any of these things, however, is to enjoy what you have right now. You never know, hence the phrase, "Eat dessert first; life is uncertain!"

Shaving Tip

So, since all my stuff is packed, I haven't been able to shave (and I like to shave because I enjoy the smoothness). Adam had picked up some uber-cheap hair conditioner for me to tide me over until we unpacked that box, but I didn't have any shaving gel.

I had an idea--a lot of people use soap to shave, but the thing that makes the shaving gels and creams different is that they are similar to lotion. So, I rubbed the cheap conditioner on my legs, and it worked just as well as shaving gel--and it's loads cheaper.

I was glad to come up with this idea, because the cheap conditioner really wasn't making my hair happy, and I hate to waste stuff.

Organizing Your Recipes

This idea was part Catt's, part mine. When she is looking at a magazine, and she sees a recipe that she likes, she'll tear out the page(s) containing the recipe rather than keep the whole magazine. Or, she'll cut out the recipe if it's small.

The result was a pile of snippets and pages, so I tamed the pile by hole-punching the whole pages and sticking them in a binder, then taping the snippets to either a full size sheet of paper that I hole-punched, or to an index card. I know that a lot of people intend to write the whole recipe out on the index cards, but who really has the time for that, especially if it's one that you haven't tried yet? Taping it to the card works just as well--you can wrap it around the side of the card if it's a long snippet.

The next step is to keep track of the ones you try. If it's a keeper, move it to a different binder marked "Keepers". If it was indifferent or crappy, rip the page out, throw it in the recycle bin, and be done with it.

Also, if you're trying stuff out in a cookbook, feel free to take a pencil to that sucker. I am merciless with my cookbooks, marking the recipes in a star-rating system, and commenting with adjustments or alternative ideas. I can never leave a recipe well-enough alone, so making notes right in the book helps me keep track of what I've done, what's worked, and what I shouldn't bother with again.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Blog flog

I've put up a new post at my cooking blog:
http://theladyofshallots.blogspot.com

I started Lady of Shallots in Livejournal, and I am going to eventually rewrite the existing material over there and post it in blogspot. The mashed potato article, however, is brand new. :)

Imagine, a cooking blog that isn't devoted to "How to make food with no calories at all! Use styrofoam and pencil erasers to fool yourself into being full!"

;)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Madonna-whore and magazines

I, like most other people in this country, occasionally go to the grocery store. I stand in line at the checkout counter, surrounded by candy bars and magazines. I'm not sure which one is worse. Well, okay, the magazines are worse. I'm not condemning candy as the evil that others claim it to be; I'm just allergic to peanuts, and it's aggravating to know that most of the things I liked in that section will now kill me. Darn it.

So, if I look away from the (to me) poisonous Snickers and Reese's, I am faced with a mosaic of media, which, while marketed directly to my gender, is also very hateful and destructive to women as well.

Celebrity mags focus on berating female actors for being sleazy, making a half-assed at best mention of the males. Brad Pitt? Can do no wrong. Jennifer Aniston? She's a stupid girl for losing Brad with her selfish not-wanting-a-baby-right-now behavior. Angelina Jolie is a multicultural madonna whose good behavior got her The Man. Why can't people just be respectful of others' reproductive choices? Why can't we just say that neither person's at fault when an irreconcilable difference like that crops up? I somewhat believe that the gossip rags have tapped into and furthered the vicious, bitter competition that women have with one another over the affections of a man.

Most of the other magazines perpetuate this competition. We are instructed that we must paint our faces the right way, exercise our pelvic muscles properly, learn the best sex positions (I can't wait to see what Google Ads comes up with when it latches onto that phrase), have the tightest abs, and cook the best meal. If you fail to do these things (as well as keep your house in perfect order and raise your children to be angels), then you don't deserve a faithful, loving relationship. How can a man be expected to stay with a woman who neglected to do her Kegel exercises twice a day, when he's got a tight, willing coworker waiting to snatch* him away?

Half the magazines have photos of incredible desserts on the covers, with "LOSE WEIGHT WITH OUR SECRET SHEEP EYEBALL AND ORCHID BARK DIET!!" plastered in 72-point font right next to it. Oh no, honey, that lucious cake isn't for you, it's for the husband and kids to enjoy while you nibble on bamboo leaves and laxatives. And if you don't like it, you're going to be SINGLE AND LONELY AND IT WILL BE ALL YOUR FAULT YOU DISGUSTING SLOB!

Are you kidding me? Why do we lap it up when this kind of insulting crap is thrown at us? Why don't we show those magazines our middle fingers and spend our money on more interesting material? And do you really believe that Cosmo's claim that they've found a spectacular new way of having sex is true (it never is; they're just renaming impossible kama sutra positions and rehashing well-known erogenous zones)? I'm not saying we all need to subscribe to Ms., but it wouldn't hurt to resist the urge to find out what "new diet" or "secret way to stick your finger up your man's you-know-what" they're teasing you with. Note, by the way, that the second "secret" accounts for about 30-40% of Cosmo's "new sex tips!" that you see in every issue. Yes, I looked.

For what it's worth, if I actually had money to subscribe to or purchase magazines, I would want one of the aquarium magazines, Reptiles Magazine, and possibly Consumer Reports. I'm not a big magazine fan, though; I'm more of a book nut.

* no pun intended, honest

The Shame of Affluence

I borrowed a book from a friend the other day. While I was reading it, a folded piece of paper fell out from between the pages. I'm not generally too nosy, but I peeked anyway, and I was shocked to see that it was a photo of a skeletal, starved little boy, printed out from a website. The caption informed me that this child was from Darfur, one of many victims of the atrocities happening there.

I was stricken and ashamed. Here we are, tut-tutting and navel-gazing about how OMG FAT Americans are, and how it's going to KILL US ALL, when thirty thousand children worldwide die of starvation and preventable illness every single day.

How selfish and stupid it is to fret about the "possible" health effects of excess adipose tissue when there are still people in the world, even in the United States, who are starving to death.

Before I had ever heard of fat acceptance and size-positivism, I would tell people that, even if fat makes me unhealthy, I am leaps and bounds luckier and healthier than those who do not have access to adequate food, let alone basic medical care, shelter, and safety.

I suspect that there are many who feel guilt and shame for their affluence, and that is part of the reason for this anger and hatred toward fat. Fat indicates that we are well-fed and not forced into hard labor. How can we stand ourselves, knowing that there is someone else out there suffering and starving? How can we reconcile our robust food supply and medical care with the fact that many others don't even have one guaranteed meal per day?

It is important to remember, though, that in order to give another person a hand up, you have to be in the position to do so. If you're starving and sick, you're not going to be able to help someone else who's in the same position. Do not be ashamed of your wealth; it is vain to self-flagellate over that sort of guilt. Acknowledge your position of power--the power to help someone else improve their lives. The answer is not to degrade yourself into poverty; it is to lift the stricken up to equal footing. How you do that is up to you.

What's your excuse?

Is health used as an excuse to justify extreme self-obsession and what would otherwise be regarded as an obscene level of vanity? What else can explain the smug superiority of those who act like they're doing society a favor by burning calories in hamster-wheel-like activities that accomplish nothing and take them nowhere (well, nothing except to sculpt bodies and make themselves thin).

"Health" has been placed upon a pedestal as the highest virtue; those who do not spend every free moment exercising or counting calories are regarded as sinners who would tear apart the fabric of society. If you are not placing your weight as your highest priority, you're accused of everything from global warming to increased health care costs.

But what if the stated goal of "health", in regards to food restriction and intense exercise, turns out to be invalid? What if deliberately starving yourself and engaging in long hours of extreme physical activity doesn't really make you less of a drain on society than the person who eats normally and engages in mild exercise? Even worse, what if the starving and rigorous exercise actually makes you more likely to have high health care costs in the long run?

If someone has been focusing themselves on intense diet and exercise to become and/or remain thin, it would be a difficult thing for them to accept that their socially acceptable excuse for doing so, "health", is not necessarily the end result. They may reject the idea, because otherwise they would have to admit that their pursuit of a lean body is for their own vanity, not for any greater good.

For someone who is not naturally inclined to be thin, the effort required to become and/or remain that way is immense. The autonomic processes of our bodies are difficult to control, even with the knowledge and medical science available to us today. Our bodies resist attempts to alter its chemical and physical processes. If we are taking a medication on a regular basis, the body adapts and becomes tolerant, requiring higher doses after a period of time. When we starve and become thin, either by choice or not, our bodies cry out and demand sustenance by causing us pain and suffering in order to drive us to find and consume food.

For many years, research has indicated that artificially lowering one's natural weight does not positively impact health or increase longevity. It has, however, been concluded, time and time again, that having adipose tissue has direct health benefits, and that being over the "recommended" weight of most such charts is actually better for longevity.

So what is the real purpose of body sculpting? Aside from those who have been fooled by anti-fat propaganda into thinking that they truly are doing the right thing and becoming healthier, I have to conclude that someone who works to achieve a particular body shape and size is doing so in order to look good for themselves and other people. They're doing it to be attractive, to avoid criticism, and so they can be part of the social elite.

The thing is, these are not good enough reasons for people to act smug and superior to those who choose to spend their energies on other pursuits. Guess what? You like to lift weights and count calories. I like to write, create art, and garden. How about you stop making excuses for what you do, and just admit that you're doing it because it's what you want, because I'm really sick and tired of people acting like they're doing ME a favor by dieting and exercising.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Photography - Metals Series

I'm still busy putting my new home in order, but I thought I'd share this photo gallery. It's my "Metals Series". I have a thing for taking pictures of metal objects. I hope you enjoy it!
Metal Series Slideshow

Monday, August 20, 2007

Some updates--and The Knife Corollary

First, I wanted to apologize for not knowing that the thumb surgery guy was a satire. I find it interesting that the editor's note mocked people for not knowing it was satire, when people get themselves surgically modified for far stupider reasons. The article really had no indication that it was satire; apparently we were supposed to guess that it's "ridiculous" for someone to get that kind of surgery.

Secondly, I have been in the process of moving over the weekend. It's been very long and arduous, so I have spent the past couple of days in an extreme amount of pain. I've discovered a corollary to spoon theory. I'm going to call it "The Knife Corollary".
The Knife Corollary states that it is possible for some chronic pain sufferers to continue their activities when they have run out of spoons, but when they do so, they are using up knives instead. Because of the nature of knives vs. spoons, running on knives involves a great deal of pain which worsens as the activity continues. Additionally, using knives will require an even greater recovery period and amount of pain medication than would mere depletion of spoons.

I ran out of spoons quite early on this week, and every box lifted, every furnishing nudged, and every cat scooped up on the brink of escape has been an exercise in agony. Fortunately, we are mostly done (just have to bring over the aquarium and the fridge contents, then clean up).

The hardest part of this weekend was relinquishing duties to other people. We have a LOT of very generous, helpful friends who came through for us in a big way. Even so, every moment I had to rest was fraught with guilt and shame because these people were breaking their own backs because I couldn't push any harder. They told me to stop doing so much and took things away from me, and I still feel bad. I couldn't do the same for them, and I often don't have the energy to even socialize as much as I'd like. That's the life of someone whose body has so heinously betrayed her, though--to have to accept more than can ever be repaid.

In a nutshell, I'm going to be pretty wiped out for a couple of days, but I hope to be back and writing all the stuff I've had on my mind. I keep extensive notes on my thoughts, but they're packed or lost or SOMETHING, and I'll just have to come up with new stuff.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Management Series Part 2: Interlude

Before I go on to suggest what I think could make life better for employees and employers, I wanted to describe some of the behavior I have personally seen on the part of supervisors and bosses:

- Demand that hospitalized employees "get back to work"

- Insist that contagiously sick employees come to work and infect everyone else

- Keep "secret" files on employees that they aren't permitted to see (but threaten them with what's in those files constantly! "I'm documenting this!")

- Pit employees against each other, creating animosity

- Use abusive language toward employees, including obscenities

- Throw items at employees, from small items like paperclips to large ones like chairs

- Demand that they work overtime, then scream at them because payroll's high

- Intimidate workers into working in unsafe conditions

- Intimidate subsequently injured employees into not reporting the injuries, or belittle them for their injuries and tell them to man up and get back to work

- Comment, ridicule, and lecture employees on personal, private matters such as their dietary habits, weight, religion, hobbies, health (I have had several employers tell me what medications/herbal supplements I should be taking, becoming angry when I didn't take their suggestions, or when I DID and didn't get better)

- Allow favored employees to break rules without consequence

- Allow or encourage favorites to physically or verbally bully other employees

- Allow favorites to work while intoxicated and even operate heavy machinery such as forklifts and manufacturing equipment

- Sexually harass employees

- Hire friends and family and don't hold them to the same standards/rules as others

- Be intolerant of disabled employees, even when their disability was disclosed in the hiring process

- Use racist language, including the N word (that's a story I will be telling soon, promise)

Yes, a lot of these behaviors are illegal. The processes for making a complaint or getting justice are often so complex or expensive as to be inaccessible to many aggrieved workers. Officials, especially elected ones, often have a financial or political incentive to side with the employer.

Think about it. How often do you hear of friends or family encountering an illegal behavior from a supervisor or boss--or how many times have you encountered them personally? How often do they pursue legal action? If they do figure out the channels for making a proper complaint, or hire a lawyer, how many times have you heard of someone winning a case or getting positive results?

The only times I've actually heard of positive outcomes in these situations have been when unions are involved. My father, a postal worker, taught me that bad managers in the USPS get a visit from union representatives if they are treating employees in illegal ways. But, for the most part, the rest of the employers in the US seem to have a great deal of freedom to physically, psychologically, and financially destroy their workers, with repercussions being rare in proportion to the number of offenses.

What have you seen? What has happened to YOU? I want to hear about it.

Management Series Part 1

I have had a number of very bad supervisors in my lifetime. Some of them were blatantly abusive, while others were passive aggressively unhelpful. I'm going to have a several-part series on some of the things I've experienced, and how I think employee/employer relationships can and should be improved.

In many of the places I have worked, there is a strong culture of blame instead of an atmosphere of problem-solving. In a non-union workplace, it's so easy to fire an employee that there is little incentive for an employer to try to re-train the employee and work with him or her to keep them around.

In many cases, each mistake follows the worker like a shadow. They can't shake it, and they can't fully redeem themselves with achievement. Maybe they were late to work last month, but came in early every day since, plus doubled their productivity. When they're late again one day, all the good in-between will count for nothing; all that will matter are the two late infractions (and, often, this turns into, "You're ALWAYS late" on the supervisor's part).

I have found that many supervisors are less inclined to work on positive development of their employees--and they are pretty much programmed to only register infractions. They look for a reason to exercise their authority, and they don't have much incentive to reward good work. Any supervisor I've known to "document" an employee's behavior has only written down negative things. An employee file is a laundry list of infractions, to be used as a reason to fire them later. Not on that list are the late nights stayed to finish a project, the time that employee came up with an idea that saved everyone's ass, or even a notation that they are supremely good at particular aspects of the job that give others trouble.

Management strategies of US employers basically consist of negative reinforcement (unless it's a favored employee) and instilling a fear of termination. I believe that this is wrong on many levels. It is a source of psychological and emotional trauma and distress. It doesn't help people truly develop good work skills. It is also irresponsible to society as a whole by creating instability for families and individuals. If an employer had incentive to work with an employee to improve their skills and work ethic, the employee would be less likely to become unemployed, and if they did change jobs for other reasons, the new employer would not have to work with unmanaged poor skills and work ethic.

As it is, "bad" workers who do not learn to work smarter and better are shunted from one job to another, not picking up the training needed to improve. They may end up on welfare, or they may end up turning to crime to support themselves and their families. If one or two employers had actually taken the time and effort to train them--and really train them, not give them a series of worthless "punishments", they might have become a better worker.

I'm not saying that there aren't some people who just aren't going to learn, no matter what you do; they're out there, for sure, and they'll be what they are. But I really believe that the majority can be helped--and there needs to be a responsibility somewhere to help them. If no one steps up to the plate to take them on, then that worker becomes everyone's problem--on public assistance, or committing crimes, or bouncing from one job to another, wreaking havoc on every workplace they temporarily occupy.

I don't know all the answers, but soon I will have some suggestions--after an interlude.

They don't teach counting (past 12) in design school

I'm sure most everyone has heard about the guy who had thumb surgery, not because his thumbs had anything inherently wrong with them, but because they were too large to easily operate tech gadgets like iPhones and Crackberries. If you haven't, well, here's a link.

I'm really upset by the implication that the human body is the malleable, problematic thing that must be molded to suit products. I believe that products should change to fit the people, NOT the other way around.

Is it really that detrimental to the profit margin that products suitable for larger hands cannot be manufactured and sold*? I would think that a decent niche market exists here; I know lots of folks with big hands--and it isn't because they're fat, or even because they're unhealthy or deformed. It's because some folks have genes that make them bigger than other folks. Furthermore, it is absolutely useful and necessary to have some of us bigger and some of us smaller in order to fulfill the myriad roles that life offers--or even the spots on a football team.

This, of course, ties into fat acceptance, because we are expected to bow to the arrogance of clothing designers and manufacturers that pronounce us too "disgusting" to wear clothing created by them. In order to wear designs by Ralph Lauren or Calvin Klein, we are encouraged to starve ourselves, expend our free time literally running in circles, taking dangerous or unpleasant medications, or even having our digestive systems surgically altered. Human flesh is to be cut, sculpted, and molded because it is apparently too difficult for these small-minded (pun intended) nimrods to work with the bigger numbers required to size things up a bit. I suspect the real reason they can't make bigger clothes is that they're too stupid to do the higher math involved; otherwise, it's too depressing to think that they hate larger women so much that they would rather we don't even exist.

It isn't just the clothing manufacturers, though. It's the makers of airline seats, medical equipment, and other items that fail to take the larger person into account. How many of you have chosen to fly less because of the discomfort of airline seating? Or the embarrassment of trying to shoehorn yourself into a seat? While I don't have problems fitting into a seat, being wedged in without the ability to move my legs or lean back a bit is so painful that I just don't bother visiting my family anymore. My long-legged spouse looks like a folded up mantis, and it hurts to even look at him in that state. I wonder how many people would fly more if they'd make it just a little less miserable to do so?

I don't know what the answers are, except to patronize those who DO give larger folks consideration, but when there is no company filling a niche (as with the phone situation), it's really hard to do that. What I do know is that, if someone were to suggest to me that I undergo surgery in order to better use a product, I will show them the first sign language word I ever learned. Surgery should be used for saving lives, reducing pain, or otherwise fixing a real problem, like helping someone to walk. If anyone thinks I'm going to have surgery so I can wear a clothing brand or use a telephone, they can suck it.


*There is, by the way, a cell phone manufacturer that makes phones with large, easy to push (and read) buttons--but the phone is very simplified, as it is marketed towards seniors. For the big-guy techie, somebody needs to step up to the plate and make a similar but more complicated product.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Webcomics I like: 5ideways and Friendly Hostility.

If you are not already a reader of 5ideways, you should be.

It's surreal, beautiful, and disturbing. It updates rarely but regularly, and I feel the results are worth the wait. Do NOT start at the end; it will not make sense. Start here, at the beginning:
http://www.5ideways.com/2005/20051013-1.php

The creator also has a more frequently updated comic called Friendly Hostility. That, too, is worthwhile, but is not AS surreal. It may be more offensive to some sensitive types than 5ideways., what with the baby-eating jokes and rampant trisexuality. I also recommend starting FH at the beginning, because it's too awesome to miss out on that stuff. FH is funny as hell, while 5ideways is more suspenseful and captivating.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Screw Pay-Per-Post

I gave Pay-Per-Post a try, and I really wanted it to work out. I thought it would be great to earn money for my writing, and I love being "assigned" a topic.

What I discovered, however, is that Pay-Per-Post is like a lot of insurance companies: They're looking for every possible reason to deny payment. If there is a minor issue with an article that could be fixed within seconds, it is rejected, and you are told not to re-submit it. One article was rejected over three weeks after submission over a one-word problem that was absolutely petty.

I've also heard many complaints from people that it's very difficult to get an assignment; you have to refresh over and over to see if one has become available. Since so many people are fighting for them, they are almost impossible to get, and you are only allowed to write two per day--if you are lucky enough to get that many in the first place.

From what I have seen, quality of writing does not seem to make any difference in approval. I would have thought that part of an advertiser's benefit of going with PPP is getting some clever and innovative articles written about them. Instead, some of the ones I've seen get approved are pretty dull, no more interesting than what you'd find in a newspaper (no offense to those who wrote them; apparently that's what you have to do for approval, and your other writings have been far superior to the PPP articles).

I knew it sounded too good to be true, and it was. If anyone feels the urge to support this blog, purchasing items from my Etsy shop (look in the right column) would be the way to go. I won't be wasting any more of my time or anyone else's with PPP, though.

Fat mamas and birth defects

Sandy at Junk Food Science did a fantastic job of taking the "omg fat wimmins are gonna have deformed baaaaaaaaybees" press release to task. What I'd like to do here is break that down into a bite-size information nugget to be cut and pasted when we're faced with that particular bit of hysteria:

Actually, if you look closely, the study found that there was only an association between fat mothers and neural tube defects (like spina bifida), not with any other defects--and, this was a correlation, which does not mean the defects were necessarily CAUSED by the mother being fat. It's well known that neural tube defects have a strong genetic component as well as being directly linked to folic acid deficiency; they can be mostly prevented by folic acid supplementation before and during pregnancy.

Interestingly enough, dieters tend to avoid foods rich in folic acid because they think they're fattening; a lot of our folic acid comes from enriched grain products like pasta, cereal, and bread, which are regarded as eeeeevil carbohydrates. So, a fat woman, who's more likely to be dieting, could be more likely to have folic acid deficiency, leading to neural tube defects. In that case, her FAT wouldn't be the problem; DIETING would be. Imagine that.

An Open Letter to the Formerly Fat

Dear Formerly Fat People,
I find it very interesting that much of the criticism of the size-positive community comes from formerly fat people. You come to our blogs to curse at us, tell us we're unhealthy, tell us you don't understand us, and express anger that we are choosing not to do what you have done: Lose weight.

I could speculate that you are angry that you may have worked so hard to lose weight when it might not have been necessary for health purposes. Maybe you are furious that we ask to be treated like human beings when you had to starve and sweat to get equal treatment; you think that we should have to work as hard as you did for it. Perhaps you feel it's unfair for us to be loved, happy, or confident at our size when you were not. Or, is it that we didn't allow the fat-hatred in society to take over our lives and drive us to punish our own bodies for taking up too much space, while you couldn't resist?

I am sorry that you view us as some kind of insult or threat. You should know that our fight against the cruelty, fraud, and ignorance that we are bombarded with daily is not meant to belittle you. You should also not blame us if the things we say are inconsistent with the social programming that inspired you to lose weight. I really understand that it's difficult to come to terms with the idea that you might have been led down the wrong path. It can make you angry, and it's perfectly normal to not want to believe the new information.

However, that does not mean that the new information is wrong. Your disbelief does not mean that you haven't been deceived or shamed into losing weight, nor does it mean that you were healthier for doing so. As disturbing and frightening as this emerging evidence is, it would be wise to at least look at it with an open mind.

I do understand that it's difficult to swallow size acceptance, given the cultural climate in which we've been programmed to hate our own bodies and irrationally hate adipose tissue. However, if you absolutely cannot handle the idea, at least remember this: The size positive community, did not ask you to lose weight, and therefore, we don't admire you for doing so. We don't hate you for it, but we're not going to give you a medal. I know you're accustomed to getting kudos from everyone around you because you lost weight, but you won't get them from us.

While you don't understand why being fat isn't necessarily unhealthy, I don't understand why you expect to be treated like a hero for doing something that only benefits yourself (and even that benefit is dubious). I don't understand why you think such extreme self-obsession is a virtue. Even if being thin made you healthier (which it doesn't), the difference isn't enough to be of a larger benefit to society. A 180-pound person is not less capable of volunteer work and charity than a 115-pound person. They pay the same taxes (Well, except for the fact that fat discrimination causes the larger person to get paid less for the same work), and can serve jury duty. They can hold public office, become doctors, and otherwise contribute to society just like thin people.

So, yeah, you lost weight. If you're happy with that, then good for you. But, that doesn't mean you deserve to be treated better than other people, and it certainly doesn't mean it's okay for you to be a horse's ass to those who choose not to lose weight. Get over yourselves and find something positive to do with your time.

Cooking artistry

I frequently entertain a guest or two for dinner; not so much in a planned fashion, but a, "Hey, you're already here, you might as well stick around and have some of what's brewing in the crockpot!" Naysayers are quite rare, as my meals are almost always pretty good. We do not cook meat in this household, but no one's had a complaint yet.

As such, I will probably start posting in my cooking blog more and more. You can find it here:
http://theladyofshallots.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Please take a look and see if there is anything that you are interested in:
http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=5179834

All the pictures come matted (nicely, too). Also, I will include one surprise bonus item with each order.

Additionally, those are not the only photos available; I have matted prints of almost everything in this gallery:
http://www.PictureTrail.com/gid15100919

If you decide you want something that isn't already in the shop, I can either upload it and make it available for purchase, or I can include it as the bonus item in an order, whatever you like.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Exercise, or I'll beat you up and kill your daughter!

Man arrested for assaulting neighbor for not joining exercise session
KANDA, Fukuoka -- A man was arrested Monday after assaulting a neighbor who refused to participate in a gymnastic exercise event organized by the neighborhood association, police said.

Katsuya Mori, 34, a company employee of Kanda, stands accused of inflicting bodily injury and damaging property.

The incident occurred on Aug. 1 this year. Mori visited a 35-year-old self-employed man's home in Kanda when he was drunk, and hit him, investigators said. Mori then hurled a concrete chunk at the victim's 5-year-old daughter and threatened to kill her.

At the time, Mori criticized the neighbor for refusing to participate in a radio gymnastic exercise session for summer vacation organized by the neighborhood association. Mori serves as vice president of the organization.

"Come to the exercise session," Mori was quoted as shouting at the victim's home. "You never cooperate even though I'm enthusiastically organizing the event."

Mori then summoned the victim to his own home and hit him with a golf club, leaving him with injuries that took seven days to heal. (Mainichi)

Original Japanese article here.


Wow. Given today's fat-hate climate, though, I'm amazed that they arrested him instead of giving him a medal--and a badge to enforce it everywhere.

What are we to expect when exercise and athleticism are regarded as the highest possible virtues? When those who decline to participate in them are derided as slothful degenerates who are entirely responsible for the moral and economic decline of society? When we cannot even schedule time to read to our children or sit down to a meal with them, but manage to fit in a daily workout and take Susie and Johnny to soccer practice?

Yet, this guy was beaten, and his kid's life was threatened, because he dared to have priorities other than engaging in an exercise program. His and his child's lives were declared worthless because he wasn't exercising. Apparently, you don't deserve personal safety if you aren't a fitness fanatic.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

He can't be this old!

My best friend and soulmate turned nine today. Aakhu, my beloved ocicat, is the best companion a girl could ever want. He has been there for me through thick and thin, and my life would have been crap without him in it.

I had to take some photos to mark his special day!

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Fibromyalgia: Thief of memory

Fibromyalgia sufferers are quite familiar with the memory loss and slowed cognitive processes associated with "Fibro Fog". The mental exhaustion from disordered sleep and the distraction of unrelenting pain can make mental functioning very difficult.

For the non-sufferer, this is akin to getting up after four hours of sleep and trying to think clearly while your body is wracked with the ache you might associate with the flu. You're trying to add numbers in your head, but every move you make reminds you of muscle groups you forgot you had, and you're just not able to focus because you're so tired.

Easing the pain and getting good sleep can improve cognitive function, but moments of 100% functioning are fairly rare. Coping strategies can help us get things done and maybe, just maybe, not forget we put a cake in the oven before lying down for a nap.

One of my favorite strategies for outwitting fibro fog is to keep a notebook and pen handy at all times. I write down every idea that I want to work on later, every task that I must remember, every bit of info that I want to pass along to someone. I jot down keywords, making sure I have just enough to figure out what I was trying to say. When I go through the notebook later to get things done or articles written, I check off completed items with a big slash through the text.

I take this notebook absolutely everywhere. It is tucked into my bag when I'm headed out, brought to the computer desk when I'm writing, and brought to bed at night. When I take the notebook to bed, I bring a little clip-on book light to ensure that I can see what I'm writing without waking up my sleeping angel of a husband.

The notebook itself is kind of important. It should be something that stands out, is sturdy, and is a pleasure to use. I chose a lovely little book with a flower on the cover, but there are so many blank books out there that you can find something to your tastes (see the bottom of this entry for a couple of stunning ones). A good pen is also important; nothing is worse than finding your only pen has crapped out on you while you're trying to scribble down thoughts that could be lost with a change of the winds.

As for remembering to get certain things done, I have found that timers are invaluable. I use my cell phone's alarm clock to remind me to do things, whether it's taking a cake out of the oven, getting ready to make an appointment on time, or start dinner before the husband gets home. If I don't set an alarm, there is a strong possibility that I'll fall asleep and burn the cake, miss the appointment, and starve the husband. (And, don't get all feminist on me for that--the man does the dishes and laundry, it's a give and take relationship!)

There are also lots of programs and websites that can help you remember appointments. Paper calendars always were out of sight, out of mind for me; the only time I had luck with them was when I had a free-standing flip calendar on top of my monitor, where it was constantly in my eyesight. I highly recommend these types of calendars, if you can find them.

My biggest problem, though, is losing great ideas and good phrases, and ever since I made myself use the notebook religiously, I have lost very little compared to before.





For more of these beautiful blank books, search for Smythe blank books:

I'm pissed. Strong language warning.

If you are dieting or otherwise trying to lose weight, that is your choice, and if you're happy with it, good for you.

If I am talking about fat people getting treated like garbage, I am not saying that, "You people who are on diets are assholes". I am saying, stop treating people like shit just because they're fat. I am NOT saying, "Skinny people are stupid and should stop being skinny." You are the size you are, and I don't think it's appropriate to pick on someone for being skinny OR fat.

If I am saying that I don't think it is appropriate for dieting and weight loss to be forced upon everyone, that does not mean that I'm saying, "You, there, the person who is dieting--stop it right now."

If I say that I am agnostic, I am not saying, "You there, Catholic person, you're a stupid idiot for being Catholic." I am stating MY beliefs.

See, that's what freedom is--it's about letting other people live their lives without being dicks to them over petty bullshit. Yes, I'm fat. Yes, I'm choosing to stay that way instead of dieting. So what? You might drink, do drugs, eat meat, go skydiving, and do all kinds of other things that may OR MAY NOT be damaging to yourselves--and that's your decision. I'm not telling you to stop doing them, even if your choices (OH MY GOD) increase health insurance costs. It's called life. We're living it in different ways, and we enjoy doing different things.

In other words, my asking for some fucking tolerance is not the same as indicting you for living your life differently. It's just asking that I not be called nasty names, told I'm "too fat" to have a job I can perform perfectly fine at any size/go out in public/wear shorts/eat a cookie/spend time doing something other than running laps/get laid, or otherwise treated like shit. Did I call you a skinny bitch? Did I tell you to go eat a sandwich? Did I tell you you're too thin to be of any value to society? Of course I didn't, because I acknowledge that people of all sizes are valuable. And that your size is not necessarily dependent upon your dietary habits--naturally thin people have just as hard a time putting on weight as naturally fat people do losing it. And, even if it is, it's none of my business what you eat, how much you exercise, or what size clothing you wear because it just isn't.

So, you are free to think that I'm unhealthy because I'm fat. But if you think that it makes me inferior as a person because I don't make it my priority to mold myself into your idea of what is healthy, then I don't know what to tell you besides you do your thing, I'll do mine, and if you happen to be right, you can say "I told you so" to my headstone, and you can feel like you are super awesome. Okay?

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Bad art

I took photos of a couple of my drawings recently. One of them is just your average mermaid, but the other is about body image:
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About me-mini biography

I suppose I've never properly introduced myself here, have I?

I was born in 1974 in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on the Fort Carson army base where my dad was stationed as an enlisted man. After he completed his service, my parents moved back to their hometown of Quincy, IL to raise me and give me a baby sister (born 1978). We were not religious, and I'm really glad for this.

I eventually went to Quincy University, a Franciscan university where many of the instructors were friars. Their biology program was pretty good, and I became an avid birdwatcher as a result of my ornithology class. For most of the time I was there, I dated someone who was wonderful, but ultimately incompatible.

After I ran out of scholarship money to attend school, I floated for a while in jobs until I met my first spouse and moved to Schenectady, NY to live with him in 1998. We did great at first, but things eventually fell apart.

I was going to school for fisheries and aquaculture, making the Dean's List, when I met Brian. I have been glued to him pretty much ever since. A few months after we met, I needed surgery for PCOS--I had a number of large cysts removed, and Brian took good care of me while I recovered. After that surgery, my body started to really go haywire, and I developed fibromyalgia.

At that point, I had been fat and fit for over five years. I could no longer do things that were perfectly easy before the surgery. Every dream I'd had of becoming a field biologist was gone, because I could no longer do the physical labor associated with the work.

So here I am, a brain full of knowledge and a wrecked body full of pain, wondering what's next.

When the scientists get it wrong

When I was going to school from K-12, I had faith in science. Yes, I know, the fundies are going to have my head for that line, but bear with me.

I sincerely believed that scientists were altruistic researchers who wanted to add to the body of knowledge in the world, and maybe get a little scientific glory for themselves. Once in college, I learned that I was very wrong. While there are some of those starry-eyed researchers out there who want to find real truth, many of them are primarily seeking a particular outcome, no matter what the facts say.

Data is massaged and manipulated. Studies are well-crafted to ensure a particular outcome. Experimental results that do not benefit the desired outcome are often tossed out completely. Basically, most of these guys want to be able to prove their point at all costs, often because the money's flowing from someone who says, "Give us THESE results."

There are no video cameras in the lab to ensure that the correct numbers are written down. There is no way to check and see if mice with undesirable results were quietly discarded. If I'm in a laboratory, and I count X number of bad results, I can write down Y results instead. In my last job, I was actually encouraged to alter data so as to avoid having to do something about products that were out of spec.

When you're selling an idea, the real motives are often hidden. For example, U.S. citizens were informed that Iraq was harboring weapons of mass destruction, and that Iraq was directly tied to the events of September 11, 2001. We now know that this was not the case, and the true motives behind selling the idea of invading Iraq were probably something quite different from protecting U.S. citizens from terrorism.

Those selling the idea that fat is bad and unhealthy are not motivated by an altruistic concern for people's health. If you find that a study is funded by the diet industry, you will probably find that its results are quite beneficial to the industry. This allows the industry to continue selling products and services that do not work, especially ones that work in the short term, but eventually fail. Built-in repeat customers are quite profitable, after all.

This makes me wonder how many other ways we are kept "sick" by the pharmaceutical and other industries that fund medical research. I remember when they changed a number, and suddenly a lot more people had high blood pressure. I had just gone to my (former) doctor in an extreme amount of pain from an infection, and my blood pressure of 140/90--higher than I'd ever had it since one awful night of agony in the ER*. My history of low-side-of-average readings and current stressful state didn't matter to him; he saw an opportunity to prescribe, thanks to the drug reps that pepper every available surface of doctors' offices with free gifts. I dug in my heels and refused to be put on blood pressure medication at the age of 28. Amazingly, I was fine at my next visit, since my pain was relieved, and I've been fine since. Had I been put on the medication, I would have suffered all kinds of side effects, and would have derived no benefit.

I think what aggravated me the most about it was that, instead of treating the cause, which was my pain and infection, he wanted to treat only the symptom. Artificially lowering high blood pressure is not necessarily a useful thing to do, and if a cause can be identified, it makes far more sense to fix THAT problem instead. Remember the old joke, "Doctor, it hurts when I do this"? Doctors today say, "Oh, here's some pain medication," when they should be saying, "Stop doing that!"

Of course, scientists have been getting it wrong all on their own for hundreds of years without the help of pharmaceutical grants. Every time I read about the medicine practiced even a hundred years ago, I get the feeling that they just made stuff up and declared it to be true. "Vapors", "humors", and "hysteria" are just a few of the ridiculous ideas that took way too long to overcome, and at the cost of many people's health, freedom, and lives.

People have been resisting change in scientific thinking for as long as science has existed, too. If you grew up thinking that a bat was a bird, you're going to fight pretty hard against someone who says it's actually a mammal. Add to that someone's financial stake in keeping the status quo, and you have our current situation of making sure that fat continues to be thought of as an illness. Ill people need medicine, surgery, treatment. If they realize that they can forgo these things, a lot of interested parties are going to lose a lot of revenue.

Follow the money, and remember that science is ALWAYS to be questioned. Learn to critically examine new studies--not just their abstracts, but their methods and data as well. If you're not comfortable doing these things, then at least have a look at others' interpretations of them; try to find the other side of the story. Sandy of Junkfood Science does a good job of doing this for us, and there are plenty of other authors out there doing it too.

*It turned out that my gallbladder was acute. I'd never even had an attack, so this was quite the surprise. They scheduled surgery asap, then rescheduled it even sooner after the bloodwork came back. Yikes. That was the worst physical pain of my life.

For those who just don't get it

One of my most recent jobs was working for a man who felt that anything that he did not understand or know much about was of no value. He could occasionally be convinced otherwise with some education, if you could find him in a patient enough mood to listen, but those moments were few and far between. If a customer inquired about a product that was unfamiliar to him, he would try to convince the customer that the product was no good, eventually berating them if they persisted in asking about it.

Did this mean that the things that he did not understand or know about actually were worthless? Of course not. The man cost himself quite a few sales by driving formerly loyal customers to purchase the items they wanted elsewhere. Instead of acknowledging this as a failure on his part to give his customers appropriate service and care, he would wildly rant about their disloyalty, and demand of his employees an explanation as to why the customer would do such a thing.

One man's belief that something is valueless because he does not understand it does not make it so. How often have size-positive writers heard, "I just don't get people who think it's okay to be fat"? How often do vegetarians hear, "I just don't understand vegetarians"? What follows, but is unspoken, is usually the idea that, "And because I don't understand it, it's stupid and worthless."

It's easy to despair. It's also easy to say, "Well, they're just closed-minded jerks, so I'll pretend it doesn't matter." My opinion, however, is that their lack of understanding underscores the necessity of education and simplification. Turning the tide on these wrongheaded notions and fighting against the cultural indoctrination of misguided lore is going to take a lot of effort. It might not even be successful for many years; look at how many stupid urban myths get passed around for years after snopes.com reveals them as false.

A more solid plan is needed if we are going to get results. I can tell people to read Campos' and Kolata's books until I'm blue in the face, but I know damn well that people are not willing to invest that kind of effort into educating themselves--especially when it might prove them wrong. The best success I have had is to take the knowledge and condense it into dense little bites of facts, small but rich paragraphs that can be easily cut and pasted into an online discussion, or memorized to be said out loud.

Well-cited nuggets of real science can be invaluable; it's one thing to say, "Go and read this book," and quite another to say, "The Minnesota starvation study indicates that our brains protect a set point of weight by changing metabolism to match lower or higher food intake, and by changing our behavior to focus on obtaining adequate levels of nourishment".

If we had a number of these little responses ready, then the "I don't understand it" crowd would no longer have an excuse for their bigotry. They would be forced to admit that they are either too stupid to comprehend basic facts, or that their treatment of fat people is based entirely on aesthetic preferences--and therefore just as bad as treating people badly based on other physical characteristics. If we take away the, "Well, it's unhealthy, because I know it is, because everybody knows it" excuse, they have nothing left to excuse their behavior.

There are a number of useful things in life that are too complex for the average person to understand. Would it be wise for me to say, "Doctor, I don't understand the physiological processes that make my medication work, so therefore it's just a bunch of crap," when the medication is one that keeps me functional, or alive? Would it make sense for me to deny the value of using good food safety practices because I don't understand the life cycle of E. coli or salmonella bacteria? Of course not.

So I'd like to prepare some very simple, well-cited bites of knowledge to deftly counter the "I don't get it" crowd who don't have anything besides their own lack of knowledge to back their side. Many people need simple blocks of information and lots of repetition to help them wrap their brains around a difficult subject, so let's give them what they need.

In the next entry, I'll expand on the idea of what we can do when scientists have gotten things wrong. Science is an ever-changing tapestry, but sometimes we just have to drag the flat-earth crowd out of the stone age, kicking and screaming.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Fish behavior and good ole boys

I read an article that was complaining about PETA's stance on fishing. I'm not going to go into my opinion of PETA, fishing itself or aquaculture, because it isn't relevant. The author annoyed me, however, by acting like an idiot.
PETA contends that fish “are intelligent animals who observe, learn, use tools, and form sophisticated social structures” and “talk to each other with squeaks, squeals...Some fish even woo their potential partners by singing to them!” They also contend that “Some fish tend well-kept gardens, build nests, and collect rocks for building hiding places where they can rest.”

I can imagine this guy chortling at the ridiculousness of fish behaving in these ways, as if PETA made them up out of whole cloth. "Contends"? Well, ol' boy, I'd like to point out that all of these behaviors are well-documented by aquatic biologists.

Anyone who's kept cichlids in aquariums can attest to their masonry skills, which for some fish borders on an obsession. Many other fish move rocks for nesting and shelter as well. This is so widespread and well-documented that I don't need to provide details.

Tool use in fish IS fairly simple, because they do not have fancy limbs like we do, but it happens, mostly consisting of using rocks to crush hard-shelled prey and spitting water (water is the tool). Archerfish (Toxotes jaculator) spit water onto insects that hang out above the water, knocking them down so they can be snarfed. Puffers and other fish spit as well, usually spitting water onto the substrate to reveal prey hidden just below the sand; this behavior frequently manifests in captivity as they spit to get a keeper's attention when begging for food.

The well-tended gardens of Garibaldi, the largest damselfish species, are cultivated for the purpose of getting babes. Male Garibaldi cultivate a patch of algae on a rock; the females come along to inspect the gardens and, on the basis of who's the best available gardener, choose their mate. Herbivores such as surgeonfishes and damsels will tend and protect a patch of algae.

Sound production in fish
is a BIG field of study these days; cod, haddock, toadfish, damsels, cichlids, and many, many other species use sound for a variety of communication purposes. Studying these sounds may help fisheries scientists figure out better ways to protect collapsing fisheries, especially since they are so often associated with mating behaviors.

Finally, the sophisticated social structures are very real. One of my favorites to talk about is the cichlid species that has effeminate males that pretend to be girls for the purposes of getting some sperm into the egg pile while a masculine male is mating with a female. Trannsexual sperm-sneaking fish--does it get any weirder than that? (Yes, it probably does, actually!)

So, if this guy wants to make the point that PETA is full of crap, he should maybe not be mocking information that is actually true. Maybe he just thinks a fish is a mindless creature that does nothing but swim, eat, and squirt out gametes, but as far as I can tell, he's projecting a bit there.

And this:
If you are a fisherman and see the whole thing as a crackpot scheme, don't laugh. Our side doesn't have any grassroots support like this and regulations can be swayed these days by the correct voter turn-out for ballot initiatives.

Yes, absolutely, there are no such organizations as Trout Unlimited, Rod & Gun Club, Bassmasters, or the other 140+ organizations that unite anglers socially and politically. Nope. Doesn't exist. And state governments do absolutely nothing to support the recreational fishing industry.

Get real.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

I guess I need to get my head out of the trough of Big Macs

So, you could have your paycheck docked if you're fat.

I actually would LOVE to have someone follow me around for a week and see how I actually eat. Hint: It doesn't involve McDonald's, a gallon of ice cream per day, or mountains of chocolate bars. :P

Breakfast today: a 6-oz container of yogurt

Lunch today: about 5 oz. of "Gimme Lean" brand vegetarian sausage, cut into pieces and sauteed in about a half tablespoon of olive oil

Dinner tonight: Mini pizzas made of English muffins, Boboli sauce, and a little bit of aged provolone. I'll probably have two, each of which is half a muffin with toppings. And I might have a scoop of ice cream for dessert because I LIKE IT. I usually make some vegetarian dish with fresh vegetables and eat that with rice, but I am low on fresh stuff right now (Saturday morning necessity: The Farmers Market).

At some point, I'll have a snack of grapes, a plum, or whatever kind of fruit is lurking in the fridge (Brian went to the store yesterday, so maybe we have PEACHES!)

This is fairly normal to me; I sometimes am not feeling well enough to eat breakfast, and sometimes not even lunch.

I AM SUCH A PIG!

Edited to add: I just realized that the headline was "being unhealthy* could cost you money"--NOT "being fat". Oh, the powers of assumption.

*emphasis mine

Edit #2:
Edited to add: If they truly believed in weight-loss as a health issue, and they really believed that it could be accomplished with traditional methods, then the docked pay would be made available to the employee if they applied it toward weight-loss (gym membership, Weight Watchers membership, doctor bills, medication). Since they're not doing this, it really and truly looks like a money grab to me.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

She's how old?!

http://www.viiphoto.com/showstory.php?nID=555

That is a 13-year-old girl. She's 12 in most of the pictures.

She had liposuction done because she tried like hell to lose weight with diet and exercise, and it didn't work. She may be getting a lap band. My opinions on those subjects aside, does anyone else notice that she looks like a twentysomething? It's not just the makeup making her look that way, it's her mature facial structure and curves too.

I'm reminded of people with gigantism*, whose pituitary glands go haywire and cause them to grow out of control, beyond what is normal, until they are seven feet tall or more, except it seems like her body is trying to be very sexually mature at a young age. I wonder if they did endocrine testing to see if she's producing massive amounts of estrogen or something. Or, maybe she's just genetically inclined to mature early if she has adequate nutrition. Hard to say.

*Yes, I am aware of the chronic pain and health problems of people with gigantism.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Leptin Babies: My take

This is going to be short and sweet.

How can anyone think it is a good idea to take an entire generation of human beings and irreversibly and unnaturally alter their metabolism in this way?

Will it create a generation of women who have serious fertility problems, as adipose tissue is important for childbearing? A generation of people with possible neurological and cognitive dysfunction? A generation of people who, in the event of a large-scale food crisis, have no reserves on which to rely? How young will they be when they develop osteoporosis? Will they all need c-sections, since they won't have enough adipose tissue to produce hormones vital to the birthing process? Are they going to move to the southern states because they'll be cold all the time? Will we have enough orthopedic surgeons to replace all their broken hips? If they get cancer or heart disease, will they die at higher rates than the previous three generations?

If anyone is actually trying to make the case that this would be for health purposes rather than aesthetic purposes, that person is an obtuse, short-sighted idiot who needs a few whacks of a clue-by-four.

Edit: Just saw some utter coolness--my vet is one of the Google ads today! Parkside Vet in Albany--they're really nice!

Economics 101

Let's say that you're having a particularly good year, and you manage to set aside a savings fund for "Emergencies Only". You swear to not touch it unless absolutely necessary.

Then, you get laid off. While you get some unemployment, it's not enough to cover your bills, so you spend the savings fund. Unfortunately, the fund runs out before you get back to work, so you're having some really hard times for a while.

Later, you get back to work, and it's just as good as before. So you start saving up, and to avoid getting caught short like last time, you save about 10% more than before, just in case.

Of course, you get laid off AGAIN, and somehow, you run out of the emergency fund this time, too. So, once you are working again, you save up even more than the last time. You also become more frugal, trying to get more for your buck. That's pretty wise, right?

I'm guessing that y'all see where I'm going with this. Your body does the same thing when you diet. It stores up a reserve, and when that reserve gets used up, it does a very frugal thing and stores up even more once times are better. It also becomes more efficient, slowing down your metabolism so that you use less energy to do the same things you did before. This is an autonomic survival strategy, folks. It's not a disease, and it's not a sin. We evolved* this way because it makes sense.
Nowadays, food is plenty in our society. We need to do less physical labor than our ancestor's ancestors, and we have more sustenance than ever before. This is not a bad thing! So why can't we accept our progress and be happy that we now have the capacity to eliminate hunger? Why do we have to guilt-trip ourselves for having easier lives than any other people in human history?

I once said that, maybe I'm fat, and EVEN IF that made me more likely to develop heart disease or diabetes (which it doesn't, but let's be hypothetical for a moment), I'm still better off than people in undeveloped nations that are starving to death or dying of preventable contagious diseases. It's a crime to focus so much time, money, and energy on battling excess adipose tissue when 30,000 children are STILL dying every single day of malnutrition and preventable disease. It's abominable and vain to complain that we'll die "early" at 70 of "overweight" when many people are still dying so young of starvation.

I propose that we focus our energies on bringing everybody up to par (that is, fed adequately and vaccinated as needed) before we continue to wring our hands about the "fat" illnesses that are really a product of advanced aging. I would like to see frivolous weight loss surgery and cosmetic surgery** put on hold until every sick person who needs surgery for real medical reasons is treated. You don't get your breast implants until every cleft palate is repaired; you don't get your stomach amputation until every bad knee is repaired.

* Yes, I accept evolution as a fact, because it is. :P Deal with it.

** With, of course, the exception of reconstructive cosmetic surgery, or cosmetic surgery needed to fix real problems--NOT "my nose needs to be perfect, and I'm starting to get wrinkles"

Cats are ridiculous

So, the spouse and I were away for MAYBE 36 hours total this weekend. Our very kind, gentle, kitty-loving friend KT came by to dispense cat food and cat cuddles several times during our absence.

When we returned, the cats acted like we had left a cat-beating maniac in charge of them. The girls were, of course, fine. They always are. But my boys, Dom and Aakhu, were total jerks.

Aakhu refused to even look at me. If I picked him up, he pretended I was not there. He has this amazing ability to completely deny my presence even while I am holding him and kissing him on his head. This is accomplished by staring pissily over my shoulder, refusing to make eye contact, and being a total dead weight in my arms. It took him a full day to decide I was worthy of being acknowledged again.

Dom wasn't quite as bad, but almost. He'd make eye contact, but in this feral, wary, "omg are you going to try to eat me?" way. If I touched him at all, he had to immediately back away and frantically lick the spot I'd touched, all the while eyeing me warily. If I picked him up, he struggled to get free and quickly groomed himself. He was mostly fine in the morning, but damn! NOBODY can do passive aggressive like these two. Not even my darling husband*.

*love you, honey :)

Please don't

Someone submitted one of my entries to a well-known site that is filled with fat-hating Internet Tough Guys. I received some very cruel comments, and thanks to my site statistics, was able to figure out where the heck they were coming from.

If you want to pass a link along to someone who might be actually interested in this blog's content, or to a relevant site, hey, that's cool. But please, for the sake of my feelings, I'd prefer not to have this site submitted to f***.com again, 'k?

The site's owner was very sweet and removed the link for me, and I appreciate that quite a bit. He's a good guy. :)

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AnnaHam is Cool

So, AnnaHam is totally smarter than I am.

Her post about the American tendency to look down on the disabled and the fat for "not trying hard enough" is a must-read, especially this part:
The message that we cripples and fatties get, overwhelmingly, is: Your chub/limp/whatever offends those of us who are normal. It disgusts us, so you'd better make up for it by hating yourself, saying, "Yes, I am too fat; I wish I could be thin," or "Yes, I hate having a disabled, non-normative body; I wish I could be like everyone else."

After reading that entry, check out the rest of her blog, including Invisible Illness Bingo! Brilliant!

Shiny! Pretty!


I was flipping through a catalog this weekend, and I came across some gorgeous clothing that actually came in my size. Of course, I won't be able to afford it for the next ten years, but here were some of my favorite pieces:
This in 2x

This in 2x

This in 2x

This in 2x

There were many other items of clothing that come in plus sizes--some of which were appealing to me, some of which weren't really my style, but it's nice to see a company actually selling pretty things in larger sizes.

Of course, if you want to buy them for me I'd be happy to give you my address, haha ;)

I'm also a freak for anything mermaid-related, so these caught my eye:
This sculpture

These mermaids

Kitchen confessional

I entered a contest here:
http://ge.rachaelraymag.com/contest/

My entry was based on my use of garlic, and while I was limited to 50 words there, I will not limit myself in this entry.

I gave up on fresh garlic a long time ago. It's annoying to peel, garlic presses are a pain to clean, and garlic goes bad too quickly to keep enough on hand for the amount that I use.

Instead, I use minced or crushed garlic in a jar, the wet kind. It really tastes the same, is cheaper, it's easy to load up in a dish (spoonful after spoonful...mmmm!), and it keeps for a long time. No one has ever noticed the difference, and it's light-years tastier than garlic powder. It's saved me a lot of time, money, and aggravation. I also use ginger in the same format; we are ginger addicts here, and I never disappoint a guest with my cooking.

If you really want to find inexpensive garlic in a jar, try the Asian market. I pay a lot less for many ingredients, including coconut milk, canned specialty vegetables (bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, baby corn), dried mushrooms, produce, fresh mangoes, and sauces (tamari, vegetarian oyster, stir-fry). Some of them are up to 50% less than in the standard grocery store, and there is little to no difference in quality. We hit up the Indian grocery for staples like basmati rice, dried chickpeas and lentils, and spices (cardamom is especially inexpensive, and it's a great place to get pre-blended spices like garam masala).

Good food is important in our household. We eat a LOT of vegetables, and our friends really enjoy visiting for dinner. Because we're fairly poor, our food budget does not allow for much dining out, and fast food places are not vegetarian-friendly anyway. Lunches usually consist of leftovers, and snacks are cheap stuff like yogurt, dried fruits, cheap pretzels, and bulk nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews, pecans--I am allergic to peanuts, but okay with tree nuts). We're definitely not "junk food vegetarians"; we couldn't stand to eat so unimaginatively!

Monday, August 6, 2007

What we cannot do

EDIT: If you are here from Fark, and you're just going to be an asshole, don't bother, okay? I know you think it's oh-so-cute to be mean to people and hurt their feelings, but it's not. I don't know who linked to this entry or why, but I'm really not interested in being verbally abused by a bunch of cruel jerks whose idea of entertainment is to see if they can torture a person into shooting themselves in the head.

EDIT 2: Many thanks to the admins at Fark, who were kind enough to remove the link to this entry--one that I had not submitted, and would not have wanted submitted.

----
I was thinking about the things that a fat person cannot do without others looking down on them or making mean comments. Here is my list; feel free to add to it!

- eat any food, even "healthy" food

- express a feeling of hunger

- shop for groceries (you should see the comments on "customers suck" type websites)

- engage in athletic activity ("ewww look at all that fat jiggling")

- exercise in a gym or other public place ("who do you think you're kidding?")

- shop for clothing ("YOUR size is over THERE")

- wear revealing clothing ("ewww gross")

- wear overly casual clothing (we get called slobs, while skinny people get a pass on wearing sweatpants in public)

- be sick ("maybe if you'd lose weight, you would be healthy")

- go to a doctor or emergency room ("It looks like you have a broken nose. You should lose weight.")

- date someone who is not fat ("what is wrong with him, doesn't he notice?" "he can do better than that"), especially someone who is regarded as good-looking (even a good-looking fat man is regarded as dating beneath his station if he dates a fat girl)

- use a wheelchair ("maybe if you weren't so lazy, you'd lose weight")

- watch television (see above quote!)

- be wrong about something (stupidity is often attributed to fat people)

- rest or take a break from work or other activity (fat = lazy, you know)

- enjoy a treat ("if you didn't eat that ice cream cone, you'd lose weight")

- eat fast food, even though people of all sizes eat fast food; god forbid you ever get hungry, and need to get food in a hurry due to time constraints.

- drink soda, even diet. You can't win--if you order a diet soda, they make fun of you for "kidding yourself". If you order a regular one, it's the reason you're fat.


- be clumsy (Obviously, thin people are never clumsy, and that is the reason my thin husband absolutely does not stub his toe three times a day minimum--oh wait, he does! I'm amazed he still has toes LEFT)

- have or adopt children, OR decide to not have children (no-win just like everything else in our lives)

- have a bad day, ever

--
Edit:
Very cool--I've been clipmarked!

Weekend out of town

I've been gone for the weekend, visiting family in NH. It was a good time, but travel is really hard on me. We rented a van that had seats which could not recline even the slightest bit, so I spent the trip sitting bolt-upright. Thank goodness for dramamine!

On the trip, I busied myself with writing in a notebook and drawing bad art. No camera work, as I didn't see much that inspired me to take photos.

Part of our trip involved a picnic at the lake. My in-laws live in a gated community situated on a lake, where the houses are anywhere from half a million to several times that. While we sat under the huge tent, I had a strange feeling being among all of the people there, and it took me a little while to put my finger on it.

I had not seen such a gathering of all white people since I moved to Albany, NY from Quincy, IL. I've lived in NY for almost ten years now, and I've grown very accustomed to the diversity here; so accustomed, apparently, that I'm actually uncomfortable without it. My brother-in-law, who lives in the Washington, D.C. area, said that it weirds him out every time he visits as well.

Albany, NY has an enormously diverse population. Any race or nationality you can think of is represented here. The tech and engineering industries have brought in a ton of Asian and Middle Eastern people, for example. When I lived in Schenectady with my first husband, we were one of maybe two non-Indian/Pakistani families in our huge apartment complex. All of the men of those families worked for GE doing engineering and computer stuff, as did my husband. The block where we currently reside is mostly a mix of Black and white families, and we are moving to a neighborhood that is similar, with fewer whites than here.

One of my most recent jobs was in a neighborhood where our customers were incredibly diverse. There were many immigrants; countries represented included Russia, Germany, The Dominican Republic, Columbia, Japan, Australia, England, and Poland--and that's just the few that I can think of off the top of my head. I got to hear about all kinds of places, and I felt so lucky to learn from so many different people.

When I read about people who struggle to find salons that even know about, let alone specialize in, African hair, I want to invite them to Albany, where I can direct them to at least four places that I know pretty well. I had to do a photography gig for an area merchant association, and every business in that small area knew who I was. The sheer number of African hair places, including one that was specifically devoted to braiding only, was striking to me. It's a nice little community where you can get just about every service under the sun, including a fantastic manicure, amazing pizza delivery, delicious specialty chocolates, and the best homemade pumpkin ravioli in the entire world, and it's because so many different people have come together to create a neighborhood that is relatively safe, clean, and friendly.

I felt very much NOT at home in the sea of Caucasian faces on the shores of that lake. I don't know if it was the lack of diversity, or the careful masks that everyone wore, but I never thought I'd be so glad to get home to the unruly neighbor kids that run absolutely wild in the streets here (all races, all heavily unsupervised; they're not really naughty, just loud and not very cautious around cars*!). Seeing homes that looked "lived-in" instead of the cookie-cutter McMansions, being in a neighborhood with history, all of this is comforting to me.

Is it any wonder that I was not inspired to pick up my camera? Every ounce of "wild" had been squeezed out by perfectly manicured lawns. There was no architecture to capture my interest, no urban graffiti that made me think, and no broken-down items at the curb to tell stories. Just perfect lawns, perfect houses, and perfect people with perfect children, 2.5 in number, and primarily blonde, blue-eyed, and indoctrinated with the absolute knowledge that they are the Be-All and End-All, and that all attention should be entirely focused upon them, no matter what. I suppose the up-side to this is that I was pretty much forced to rely on introspection and imagination to write and draw. In the presence of a sterile environment, we have only ourselves for inspiration.

*One day, I came within inches of running over the little neighbor girl who is ~6 years old. We have diagonal parking spaces on our block, and she was sitting and playing in one of them, next to a car, but in the space next to it, by the tire. I could not see her at all when I turned into the space, and I glimpsed her at the last possible moment and braked hard. She did not even look up. Her mother was nowhere in sight, as usual, and I was extremely freaked out. She's a nice little girl, and she loves to see and touch my snakes when I bring them out, but I wish someone would talk to her about playing in the street, which she does quite frequently.

Friday, August 3, 2007

That's entertainment?!

My husband was watching a video posted on YouTube, some Japanese comedy skit with subtitles. It showed a fat man who happens to be seated next to a famous woman in a restaurant. The woman is being interviewed by someone who asks what kind of men she likes. She states that nice men are good, bad men are okay, but fatties are just disgusting. The interviewer agrees with her, and the fat guy almost cries right there.

Afterwards she apologizes, and gives the guy her autograph. Unbeknownst to her, she signed a magic book; if a person's name is written in the book, they almost instantly become fat.

Cue freshly fat woman breaking furniture as she balloons into approximately 275lbs. First the table explodes due to her expanding belly. Then her chair breaks, because that's what all chairs do when fat people are sitting on them. The fat guy then stumbles and breaks his own table into pieces by falling on it. The laugh track plays as both fat people fall over, legs in the air, because being fat makes you clumsy and unable to stand upright for more than five seconds.

My husband said, "That was just STUPID." He's a good man.

Now, I know this is going to come as a surprise to everyone, but I have never broken a table by bumping against it. I have never broken a chair with my gargantuan girth. I can actually stand upright for many minutes at a time without falling over such that my legs stick up in the air, and I am also capable of walking around without bumping into and breaking every stick of furniture in the place.

You might also be surprised to know that I eat only vegetarian food, usually with utensils and plates, instead of gobbling Big Macs by the dozen from a trough. When I am finished with a meal, and I am offered a tiny after-dinner mint, I do not actually explode in a disgusting mess of partially digested food. And, believe it or not, I have never crushed a thin person by sitting on them.

Imagine that.

Art Fair in Albany, NY

I am going to be selling photography at a booth at this art fair on Wednesday, August 8! If you are in the area, stop by on your lunch break. It's a good location if you're a state worker :)
http://www.albanyevents.org/more_events/index.cfm?ID=33

Summer in the City Art Fair 2007

Wednesdays: August 1, 8, 15, 22, 29

Academy Park (across from City Hall)

11:30 am to 2:30 pm

Art exhibits by local artists Musical entertainment Artwork available for purchase

August 1 - Musicians of Ma'alwyck

August 8 - Larry Stevens

August 15 - Sara & Weston Raab

August 22 - Spiral Tango

August 29 - Gravikord Duo

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

BABY SNAKES!

Today, we found a pile of yellow rat snake eggs! They are Cornelia's, and I doubt that they are viable, but it's nice to see that my girl is healthy and happy!

Cornelia is one of four yellow rat snakes in this household. Rat snakes are a fairly easy snake to keep, and they are relatively intelligent snakes. My experience with them is that they are very good for handling, as long as they are raised well.

One of my rat snakes, Gregor, was abused, so he is defensive, fearful, and bitey. He's better than he was when we got him, but he still occasionally gets upset and nippy. All other rat snakes in this household, though (We have seven total*) are very friendly and easy to handle.

We've taken Cornelia's eggs and put them in the incubator. They didn't look terribly good because we found them too late, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

* Cornelia, Lucius, Marcus, and Julian: Yellow rat snakes
Claudia and Gregor: Everglades rat snakes
Elanor: Baird's rat snake

Pain, will you return it?

If you're a chronic pain sufferer, there is a nurse who is looking for input for an article she's writing. The questionnaire is pretty easy, and I enjoyed filling it out.

The details are here:
Seeking Patient Perspectives on Pain

The reason I want to write this article is because after almost two years on the other side of the fence, so to speak, it's become glaringly obvious that there is a need for the healthcare community to hear first-hand how it feels to be treated with discrimination simply because you have a disability that isn't visible to the naked eye. Being refused treatment in the ER, being accused of drug-seeking behavior, and not having access to adequate pain relief complicates the issues at hand and may, in fact, make the pain and suffering we face worse than it already is. Chronic pain sufferers deserve just as much respect and dignity in treatment situations as any other person with a disabling disorder.

My answers to the questionnaire injected my experiences as a fat chronic pain sufferer. It's aggravating to have some ignorant jackhole tell me to "just lose weight" (some of you will remember that troll!) to fix my pain. I also very occasionally get contemptuous looks from pharmacy personnel when I pick up my pain prescriptions.

It will be interesting to see the article when she writes it. I hope that it will at least mention the fat perspective.

Cramp :(

This morning, I was taking volunteers for either killing me or cutting off my leg.

I had a BIZARRE dream last night that consisted of Nick, Doug, Dave, Jason, and some other guys from my fisheries classes and I on a boat on the Mississippi. I was supposed to take a turn as pilot, but my leg had seized up in a cramp from ankle to hip, so Nick stepped in and took my place (he was always a helpful person like that).

When I woke up, the cramp was real. Brian tried to massage it out, but it honestly just was too tight. As I limped around on it, I realized that it was actually up to my lower back and down to my entire FOOT. So I used what Brian calls "The Jackhammer", which is the powerful massager thingy that has been my saving grace for quite a while:

Amazon has it for thirty bucks, but I think we picked it up cheaper in a store somewhere. I've bought a lot of crappy massagers that were pretty much useless, but this was one of the best purchases I've ever made.

I dug that sucker into the key areas, mainly the tendons of the tenaciously tight muscles, and I had to work for a good 20 minutes. I've gotten the worst of it worked out, and hopefully that will talk the rest into letting go.

One thing that the jackhammer does that helps me out immensely is loosening up lower back muscles. I have Brian use it around my coccyx, then I wiggle my hips a bit, and there's a satisfying little "pop" that is followed by nearly instant relief. I had to figure out a way to do that on myself this morning, because my dearest was getting ready for work. So I set it on the bed, lay on my side, and leaned back onto it. That worked! I also used the same tactic for my calf, which was the tightest, crampiest muscle of the bunch. Hopefully as the day goes on, and I do some stretching, I will work the rest out.

I think yesterday's extremely busy day (I had the weirdest job interview of my life, and I had to run a ton of errands) somehow overloaded that leg, which has been a bit sore lately anyway. The ankle's been a bit inflamed, and if that gets too tight, it just cascades all the way up to my lower back. Meh.

What really sucks for me when I get these muscle cramps is that muscle relaxers don't work for me. I have tried every brand, and they don't even make me drowsy. It's like taking a sugar pill. A lot of medications are like that on me; they either have no effect, or they have an opposite effect. Benadryl doesn't make me tired, but at least it has the antihistamine effect. Valium doesn't seem to do anything. Hydrocodone acts as a stimulant. I don't get this effect with every drug, but it can be frustrating when trying out something new.