Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Fair and balanced

Don't you hate it when the articles you are reading do not tell you what you want to hear? I came across an article, "Our hand-cleaning paranoia," that I thought would be excellent support for my rant against our germ-obsessed culture, particularly in relation to raising young children. But no, the article is actually in favor of people washing their hands. I still think that some people's cleaning habits do border on paranoia. (Apparently a relation of mine, while visiting my parents, constantly wipes everything down with Clorox bleach wipes.) But perhaps there are some simple habits that we need to adopt. However, I still think a trend towards outright cleanliness paranoia may end up harming consequent generations more than it will help.

Look at that: I gave a viewpoint that wasn't exactly in line with my own beliefs, and didn't completely belittle it. Just like how Fox News does it...

Speaking of trends, and quality news sources, I was doing some high-brow reading the other day in Reader's Digest. (Give me a break. I'm in the middle of Cloudsplitter and I recently read A Confederacy of Dunces and some Salman Rushdie.) In an article about "Fads that have to go," the RD was right there with me on some things: I'm looking at you, Mister Talking-on-the-cellphone-in-the-public restroom. But some of the fads (not all are listed in the online version) just seemed a little to ranting-for-the-sake-of-ranting. Really, you're going to complain about flatbread? Without it, how could I make my homemade cheesy gordita crunch, which makes the Taco Bell version seem like dog food? Of course, I support ranting--it's one of my favorite hobbies--but I at least want a logical foundation to the rant.

Lastly, I'm sure we all know that Big Brother is watching us, via our cell phones and the Google. But it still unnerves me how much information can be learned through technology about our personal lives. Soon it might be time to go off the grid.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Feel the burn

I love spicy food. I dump or sprinkle hot sauce or chili flakes on most of my meals. Almost everything I cook for myself is spicy, and I have a strong predilection for cooking Thai, Indonesian, Indian, or Mexican food. My cooking habits have adjusted quite a bit while I've been home, since some of the people I'm now cooking frequently for cannot handle any spice. (Certain individuals have tried arguing with me, saying that they do like spicy food, but no, they do not. A twist of the black pepper grinder does not make a dish spicy.)

A recent article, "Why do we eat chilli?" (also, why do the Brits spell chili with two Ls?), examines why humans, unique amongst the animal kingdom, seek out and enjoy something that is technically--from a physical receptor standpoint--painful. Is it conditioning, the fact that we've actually worked to build up a tolerance? Or some human psychological flaw, a form of masochism? Masochism, tolerance development, I'll just call it delicious and let the scientists try to figure out why.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

My ADD is acti...Squirrel!

The Onion recently published a video skewering Time. The gist of the critique: Time lacks in-depth coverage; its short-form journalism lacks intellectual rigor and is geared for short attention spans.

But I like Time, I thought to myself. Is it true that I, like so many others in my generation, lack the ability to focus on a single topic for more than two minutes? Do I need to immediately track down some Ritalin to save myself?

This train of thought got me thinking about Twitter, that ultimate purveyor of small-burst thought. I briefly considered starting my own Twitter account. I waited several days, making note of things I would post if I had such an account. Four days later, I realized my postings likely would have amounted to two things:
1) Seeing a picture of his newly born grandson (my nephew), my father exclaimed, "Look at the hair on that kid! He looks like a drug addict."
2) Peanut butter pie is a breakfast food, isn't it?
Not exactly world changing, stimulating stuff.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

There's still hope for me

Some recent research has revealed that heavy drinkers outlive nondrinkers. Take that, teetotalers and crazy religious folk! (However, they do say that moderate drinkers live longest of the three groups compared in the study.) And since I don't write poetry anymore, by my estimation I should live, approximately, forever. There goes my plan to die young. Maybe by the time I'm 106 I can afford a house of my own.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Me write good some day

While doing some updating at work today, I found that in one of our online records, a coworker had listed a "Coalition on Litteracy" [sic].

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Getting down to the meat of the matter

I don't really eat much meat. While I was in Indonesia, I was borderline vegetarian. It was easy there, partially because of the abundance of tofu and tempeh in the Indonesian diet. And it was cheap. Tempeh is considered a low-class food, since the rich people can afford to eat quality meat regularly. Once, a taxi driver asked me about my favorite local food. When I replied that I liked fried tempeh, he laughed hysterically and said that he would invite me over to his house to eat some, and then he laughed some more.

When I went to Thailand, I had to eat meat. Vegetarian options don't abound there, and I was eating most of my meals in the school cafeteria, where there were a limited amount of options every day. And I'm allergic to fish, so that avenue wasn't open to me, either. I complained at several meals to my boss that not only were there no vegetarian options, there were occasionally no vegetables to be found. As in Indonesia, eating meat had an air of socio-economic superiority; vegetables are low class, and our students were upper class.

In Ireland, the cost of meat kept it out of the refrigerator; I ate a lot of eggs. (And cheese. Damn the cost; I NEED cheese.) But when we ate in pubs or restaurants, there was meat again. Vegetarianism hasn't really caught on there, and I only saw a couple vegetarian dishes on menus. Fortunately, I do have a weak spot for cheeseburgers.

Recently, Salon has run a series of articles about people and their relationships with eating meat. No ground-breaking journalism, but it did make me think about my own habits.

I grew up eating meat. Lots of it. Ground beef (from cows that I helped raise, so there's that aspect), Spam (which I didn't raise), and bologna and that bizarre Oscar Meyer ham and cheese loaf (now: blech). But somewhere along the way, I lost the taste for it. I don't avoid meat really for any notion of saving the world, and only marginally less for health reasons; I don't eat meat because I don't really like it. At least this prevents me from going out in search of fake meat; my non-meat proteins don't in any way resemble meat, though I'm not sure how unusual this is.

For the time being, I'm back at home living with my parents, whose dinners seem to consist of a piece of meat and accompanying vegetable or starchy root vegetable. When my mother has asked what I want for dinner, I've told her that I don't eat like them, so if she'll tell me what she wants, I'll make it for her. (There is also the slight problem that almost everything I eat is spicy, and my mother can't handle any degree of heat.) I've decided to eat as they eat; dinners seem more communal if everyone's eating the same thing, and I don't really want to prepare two meals. Also, the grocery store at the bottom of the hill isn't the most vegetarian friendly; they don't have tofu, but at least they have hummus. But I've been surviving the daytime without meat, when I'm only preparing food for myself.

I don't advocate for anyone I've met to eat less meat. I don't think I can change that habit in people so easily; it truly is something ingrained in our culture and habits from a young age. But I have been able to push for local consumption: if you're going to eat that burger or fish, maybe you should know where it comes from, and then decide if you want something from a little closer to home. ("Why is this turkey from Canada?" I exclaimed the other day.) Maybe awareness won't change the world, but it's a start. And everything has to start somewhere.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Dancing and drinking

This may be the best video ever about serving hot beverages.