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Stop the War on Women

April 8, 2011 2 comments

That’s it.  I’ve had enough.  It’s bad enough that I’ve lived my whole life, half of which has been lived in the 21st fucking century, with outdated, outmoded, misogynistic mores, norms, laws, and principles in action.  That’s bad enough.  But on top of that, instead of seeing that improve with my lifetime, it’s sliding back down the fucking hill!

Our foremothers (yes, foreMOTHERS) didn’t fight the fight for the vote, the right to be recognized as an individual outside of our fathers, brothers, and husbands, the right to make our own choices for ourselves, the right to an education, the right to our own bodies, just to see it slip back away out of our grasps in the 21st century.  Worse, not only are they slowly chipping away at our rights, but gradually the respect we used to garner is slipping away.  It’s disgusting. It’s despicable.  I’m tired of it.  It needs to stop.

It’s bad enough that we are constantly barraged with what we *should* wear and what our hair *should* look like and whether or not we *should* wear makeup and what type of body is the *most* womanly and whether or not to eat a fucking salad on the first date.  What happened to our right as Americans to be ourselves and pursue our own fucking happiness?!  If I want a salad, I’ll have a salad.  If I want a whole chocolate bar, I’ll eat the goddammed whole chocolate bar.  If I want to bench press weights, I will, and I shouldn’t have to worry about being considered not womanly or being “accused” of being a lesbian (like that would be a *bad* thing?!).  I should be able to just be myself and let people appreciate me for me.

I am not a bad member of this country!  I pay my taxes.  I pay attention to what’s going on around me.  I do my best to be a positive element of society.  And what?  I’m bad because I’ve used Planned Parenthood in my day?  I’m bad because I plan ahead because, brothers, we’ve all seen your track record for sticking around and being a fucking man about life if a woman does get pregnant and decides to keep the baby.

Do you know what there’s an epidemic problem of in this country?  It isn’t women being immoral.  It’s men refusing to GROW THE FUCK UP and behave like adults!  What is so fucking terrifying about treating women like equals?  What is so fucking terrifying about letting us have our nature-given right over our own fucking reproduction system?   Is it a fact that a 24 year old woman in Boston has more balls than you do?  Because I can tell you, I’ve stood up for my rights to fuckers like you many many times over the course of my life, and that takes a lot more balls than to tromp on people who are just trying to keep their natural-born rights.  Are you really that much of a pussy that I have more balls than you do?  Let us have our rights!  Better yet, get beside us and *fight* for them!  That’s what a real grown-up man would do.

Donate to Planned Parenthood

Donate to NARAL

 

On 20-somethings and Cooking

January 20, 2011 20 comments

I saw something when I was out grocery shopping this weekend that I can’t stop thinking about.  There were three young 20-somethings in front of me in the self-check-out.  They  had a very full cart.  I’m assuming they were roommates shopping for the household.  In any case, I had a bit of a wait, so I started to look at what they’d bought.  I’m always intrigued to see what groceries other people buy.  Anyway.  Their food consisted entirely of prepackaged meals, almost all of them Hungry Man frozen dinners.   We’re talking enough frozen dinners to feed all three of them for around a month.  It took all of my self-control to not let my jaw drop open.  There was not a single piece of fruit, vegetable, or even, heck, a box of pasta in the mix!  Not even some canned applesauce!  Every single item was a frozen dinner.

This rather dramatically demonstrates a trend I’m seeing among my generation that frankly worries me.  I’m not one to rant in a pretentious way about what you should eat, but what the hell happened to the art of cooking?!  Why are people reaching their young 20s with absolutely zero knowledge about how to make dinner from scratch?  I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met who are my age who know next to nothing about cooking.  One of my meals that never fails to impress these friends who can’t cook I call Poor Man’s Pasta.  I take some fresh veggies, chop them up, stir fry them for a bit with herbs, water down some marinara sauce, add it to the pan, and cook it until it simmers down.  I toss pasta in with this, and we have a meal stuffed with fresh veggies and herbs and far more health than a frozen meal that god only knows where the food came from, how long its been frozen, or how much sodium is in it.  It’s basically frankenfood, and it disturbs me that people my age don’t know how to make anything better.

Cooking is one of those things we need to know how to do as human beings.  We should know how to make ourselves food! This seems obvious, but it apparently is not.  Why are parents letting their kids grow up without knowing how to cook?  Isn’t this a basic human need that should not be ignored?  It reminds me of the kids in my undergrad who arrived at college with no clue as to how to do their own laundry.

So, I call out to my fellow 20-somethings.  If you don’t know how to cook, please learn.  It is cheaper.  It isn’t that time-consuming to make a freshly-made meal.  Ask a friend who knows how to cook.  Take a lesson at a local adult learning facility.  This is a basic skill you should at the very least know how to do.  Even if you only cook your dinner yourself once or twice a week, it’ll still be better for your health.  Not to mention, then you can pass the ability of cooking on to your kids, if you decide to have them.  Don’t let the future be a world where only professional chefs know how to cook a meal.

Wolf Bite Wednesday (Gardening Is Not Elitist)

April 7, 2010 4 comments

I’m sure you’ve heard the people claiming it’s elitist to backyard or container garden.  The “reasoning,” apparently, is that because other people in the world have to farm to subsist, doing so when you don’t have to is rude to them.  Or something like that.  Excuse me, but the assumption that farming is something you only do until you can afford not to is what’s elitist.  It’s looking down on farmers.  It’s looking down on people who are actually willing to get their hands dirty to sustain themselves.  It’s looking down on everyone who works along the line to make the packaged, processed foods these so-called humanitarians eat.

There is, of course, a place for production farming.  It’s a great way to produce a lot of food in a short amount of time at a relatively low price to feed a bunch of people.  It’s obviously far more logical to have a large farm of rice paddies than for me to attempt to make my own rice paddy in Boston.  I’m laughing just thinking about it.

But what about your backyard that is currently just grass?  What about your balcony that’s decorated only with chairs and a few garden gnomes?  What about the 3 feet of space in my kitchen that’s too small to fit an appliance or table in, so is currently just wasted space?  If I grow vegetables and/or fruit there, I’m:

  • Using space that would otherwise be wasted for a valuable purpose
  • Lessening my environmental impact, which is a benefit for everyone
  • Becoming more self-reliant, which is always a good thing
  • Maintaining important knowledge to help pass down to future generations

These people seem to think that big business manufacturing is The Answer to all societal problems, but it isn’t.  It isn’t too hard to imagine a future where no one knows the basics.  Where no one is in touch with the earth or with their food or with their clothing or with the animals.  We’re practically living in it now.  Just look at the obesity epidemic, the violence, the general feeling of ennui permeating modern life.  We’ve become so caught up in the power of manufacturing that we’ve forgotten even good things are bad if they aren’t in moderation.  It’s great that I can get rice and tofu in the store–those aren’t exactly things that I can grow in my backyard.  But it’s also great that I can grow a tomato in my kitchen.  Nothing teaches you where food comes from quite so well as planting the seed, nurturing the plant, and harvesting the fruit yourself.  It’s empowering.  It’s understanding on a close, personal level what we as people are capable of with our opposable thumbs and big brains.  Gardening isn’t elitist.  It’s bringing a sense of humanity back to a people whose culture continually tries to rob them of it.

Wolf Bite Wednesday (Alarm Clocks)

March 17, 2010 2 comments

There really should be a better way to be woken up than by an alarm clock.  Actually, it bugs me that we need alarm clocks at all.  Back in the day, people naturally woke up when they woke up, which was generally dawn-ish.  With the advent of electric lights though we’ve all thrown our sleep cycles out of whack.  I wouldn’t want to let go of technology, and I enjoy being able to be awake for 19 hours a day, but you’d think science would have come up with a way for us to get the amount of sleep we need in fewer hours by now.  But no.  We have to get by with caffeine and the buzzing of alarms that sometimes just epically fail to wake us up.  Maybe if there was some way to inject caffeine into us at a certain time so that we just woke up semi-naturally, already alert due to the caffeine coursing through our veins.  Now that’s an idea science needs to get on!

In the meantime, maybe I should invest in one of those super-loud alarm clocks that actively moves away from you.  When even the cat hitting you in the head fails to wake you up, you know you gotta do something.

The “Eating Healthy Is Expensive” Myth

January 6, 2010 9 comments

There is this huge misconception in American culture that eating healthy is more expensive than eating junk food.  That’s the case if you don’t want to put effort into your meals and you want to buy gourmet food, but with a bit of effort it is simply not true.  I know about the dollar study where a guy went into a grocery store to see what he could buy for a dollar, and the worst foods had the most calories, aka “bang for the buck.”  However, I’m speaking from personal experience here.

Three years ago, I went vegetarian, and everyone told me how much more expensive my grocery bills would be.  You know what?  They aren’t.  On average, I spend about $50 every two weeks on groceries, and my groceries usually wind up feeding more than one person for around 5 nights a week.  That works out to approximately $100 a month, minus eating out, which happens about once a week.

For healthy eating, you need fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein, and other pantry needs necessary for cooking.  Whole grains are key, because they help your body feel full on fewer calories, and they are super-healthy for you too!  Let’s look at the facts on these food groups.

Fruits and Vegetables
Fresh fruits and vegetables can be a bit expensive, it’s true, but you just need to be a smart shopper when it comes to this.  Buy only what you will eat before it goes bad.  For me, this means I need to grab veggies once a week.  Also, store them properly, or they will go bad before their time.  If you really want to save money, buy fruits and veggies that are in season.  Produce that are in season are cheaper, because the stores can acquire them from closer sources.  I used this technique last night, and I found out that *all* of the produce I wanted was actually on sale, most of them for under $1 a pound.  A great resource for knowing what’s in season is eattheseasons.com, which also has an option for UK for my British readers.  For nights that you’re in more of a hurry, buy frozen fruits and veggies.  If you have more of a budget crunch, buy store brand ones.  These are cheap, and you usually can get two meals per bag.

Whole Grains
A box of whole grain pasta costs $1.29 at my local market.  That’s it, and I get at least 5 or 6 meals a box.  Whole grain rice appears expensive, but remember that a bag of it lasts a long-ass time, because it grows when it cooks.  Also invest in whole wheat flour and regular flour (you need that so it doesn’t get too heavy for some recipes).  A bag of either is around $2 in my market, and lasts months.  Any other whole grains you want are similarly priced.  It appears a lot to people, because they’re used to buying single-serving foods in the grocery store, but that $6 or $7 you’re spending on the bag of rice will make many many meals.

Protein
The most expensive proteins are the most highly processed.  This means that fake meats like tofurkey are the most expensive.  One box of tofurkey slices for sandwiches costs around $4.27 at my market.  You know what though?  It’s highly processed, and isn’t that healthy for you (though, healthier than meat).  A box of tofu, on the other hand, is usually somewhere between $1 and $2, and one box makes 4 meals.  Tempeh is similarly priced.  Beans, which you need to diversify from soy anyway, cost under $1 a can, and one can make around three meals.  If you want to go uber-healthy, you can buy bags of dry beans and cook them yourself, which is even cheaper than buying canned beans.

Other Pantry Needs
Since I’m not vegan, I do need to buy eggs, cheese, and butter, and these are usually the most expensive purchases I make.  However, one dozen eggs last me around 1.5 months.  Another purchase that, similar to the bags of rice, seems prohibitively expensive because of a single serving meal mindset is cooking oils.  Olive oil is one of the healthiest oils for you, and the bottle I bought last night cost $12 and some change.  However, one bottle lasts me at least 4 months.  Again, buy store brand.  The fact of the matter with all the pantry needs is their price can seem a bit high, but you use a little bit at a time in cooking–like with soy sauce for instance–so really per meal the cost is a few cents.

There you go. That’s my real-life shopping for healthy groceries experience.  Yes, you need to actually cook your meals instead of buying frozen and sticking it in the microwave, but trust me, it is not so hard to learn to stir-fry, sautee, and bake.  Stir-frying and pastas especially just require you to be able to stir things around in a pot.  Plus, you get the added benefit of burning some calories while making your food instead of just sitting on your butt on the couch watching tv waiting for it to heat up in the microwave.  It takes a bit of up-front cost to get your pantry equipped with the long-term use items like rice, but once you’ve done this, you’re down to buying a few quite cheap items a week, with the periodic need to replace the long-term items that never run out at the same time.  It is not too expensive to eat healthily if you know how to do it.

The Joy of Doing Less During the Holidays

December 22, 2009 Leave a comment

No doubt about it, the holidays are a busy time of year.  There’s presents to buy and wrap, parties to go to, people to see, travelling to do, baked goods to make, decorating to do, and more.  If you’re at all like me, it can all add up to stress.

Looking back on last week, I see that I did a lot of things that should have been fun, but I was so stressed out that the stress over-shadowed the parts I should have been enjoying.  I was constantly plotting to make it to everything (not to mention to stay awake) instead of just enjoying the moment.  I realized this yesterday, and worked to make my week this week less stressful, but thinking about it this morning, I remembered a blog post from one of my favorite zen blogs, Zen Habits, entitled The Lazy Manifesto: Do Less. Then, Do Even Less.

The jist of it is that minimalism isn’t just about what stuff you own.  Minimalism is also about doing less and enjoying it more.  I think the benefits of this are easy to see if you just think about the last time you were distracted doing one activity out of a worry to get to the next one on-time.  Now imagine if the first activity was the only one you were doing that day.  See how that works?

If you live in the moment and enjoy it to the fullest, you don’t need to hyper-schedule yourself.  Instead of going to every single holiday party, choose two for the month to go to and really go all-out at them.  Don’t be afraid to tell friends or family no, you can’t come, you don’t have time, even if you don’t have time just because you want to spend that evening at home baking cookies and watching Christmas specials.

I really like this idea of doing less, but doing it to your fullest.  I think as Americans we have the tendency to overschedule ourselves for god only knows what reason.  Maybe some lingering Puritan philosophy about idle hands being the devil’s plaything.  Regardless, there is such a thing as doing too much during the holidays, so don’t be afraid to say no and limit just how many festivities you partake in.  Partake in fewer to a more full extent.  I think you might wind up surprised at how truly festive you’ll feel.

Why BookSwim Is Bad for Reading

October 13, 2009 15 comments

BookSwim is a business that essentially claims to be the book version of Netflix.  I’d been to their website a few months ago, but when someone reposted it on Twitter I revisited.  I was immediately struck by how the whole thing bothers me.  After a bit of pondering, I realized why.

BookSwim is attempting, subtly, to become a monopoly in the supply of books.

They claim to be more convenient and better than borrowing from a local library, cheaper than buying books, and more trustworthy than eReaders.  They also claim to be better than swapping services like SwapTree, since you’ll be getting new or barely used books instead of old copies.  However, they understand you may still want to buy a book, so you always have the option of buying a book you have rented from them and then just not returning it.  Soon, all you will need for books is a BookSwim account.

Everyone knows monopolies are bad from an economic standpoint.  Where there’s a monopoly there’s horribly high prices, and the item being offered becomes a mark of wealth rather than something everyone uses.  However, I see a monopoly of this type as dangerous to literacy, intellectualism, and even freedom.

How easy would it be to censor what the public reads if everyone attains their information from the same book provider?  Can you imagine the nightmare for freedom of thought it would be if one congolmerate controlled all collection development for an entire nation?  Already they claim to have almost every book you would ever want to read, yet when I searched for five books on my to be read list, only the most recently published one (this year) was held by BookSwim.  (Most of the other were from 1960s to the 1980s, though one was a classic).  They claim to be willing to buy any book they don’t have that you want, but I honestly am skeptical about this.  Maybe I’ve received too many promises like that from cell phone providers, but I can just see the “sorry, there wouldn’t be enough demand to warrant the price” email now.

I know most users wouldn’t limit themselves to just BookSwim for getting their books.  At least not right now.  Yet this scenario of a Big Brother monopoly over where we can acquire our books is clearly what BookSwim wants.

“But, Amanda,” I can hear you saying, “Shouldn’t a business want to become a great succcess?”  Well, yes, but they could have come up with a business model that is more supportive of the community of reading and learning.  A website such as IndieBound, for instance, that makes it easy for users to find local independent bookstores.

Reading and learning isn’t just about “Oh I got this book that’s popular right now, and it came so conveniently in my mail.”  Reading and learning are about the journey and the connections.  When I go to my local independent bookstore and browse for something to read, I not only get a used book cheap, but I also chat with the owner and other browsers.  I leave knowing that my book came from someone else in the community.

I like knowing that the books I read come from many sources.  I use the local public library, borrow from friends, buy used from indie bookstores, buy new copies, receive ARCs from LibraryThing and blogs, and plan to swap via SwapTree in the near future.  My knowledge-base is fluid and about a community.  It isn’t one business that ships my books to me in the mail.  It’s the various communities of readers that overlap and interact to make for my own unique learning experience.  If a company such as BookSwim did become a monopoly, I would lose all that, and that is one of my favorite aspects of reading.

In Response to Catcalls and Car Honks

September 23, 2009 3 comments

I don’t know exactly what you’re thinking when you catcall me or honk your horn at me.
Maybe you think you’re paying me a complement.
Maybe you fantasize that I’ll respond with a flirtatious gesture.
Maybe you like seeing me jump in surprise or flinch in nervousness.

But I am telling you right here right now:

I do not consider it a complement.
I do not appreciate you scaring me with a honk of a horn.
I do not like looking around trying to see an accident only to see your laughing face and wave as you drive by.
I do not enjoy your invasion of my space as you lean into me to whisper thinly veiled aggressive comments.
I do not savor needing to quickly decide whether to pretend I didn’t hear your yelled comment or respond by telling you to leave me alone.

I know you do not think it but:

I have a right to walk the streets of my city without being scared by a man in a car with a horn who thinks he’s all that.
I have a right to walk the streets of my city without having my space aggressively invaded by a man who thinks I should naturally enjoy him hitting on me.
I have a right to walk the streets of my city without being harassed

Regardless of what I’m wearing.
Regardless of how hot you may think I am.
Regardless of how much you enjoy making women uncomfortable.

This is mine, and every other woman’s,  right.  I would like you to respect it immediately please.

Note: I don’t mean this to be a poem; this just happens to be the format it came out in.

Five Questions to Minimize Your Possessions

September 15, 2009 11 comments

I’ve been doing my best to be a minimalist for the last four years.  Most people don’t know this about me, but they do notice the results.  My friends have made comments ranging from how quick helping me move was to how does a librarian only have around 200 books of her very own?

Recently a couple of friends have told me they would love to have the organization and ease of care that comes with owning less random stuff like I do, but they don’t know how to accomplish it.  I’m actually going to be helping one of them out in person, but I thought given American’s propensity to be packrats, perhaps a blog post of my techniques might be useful to other folks on the interwebs.

In order to minimize the stuff you already own, you of course will have to sort through it.  Allot yourself plenty of uninterrupted time to do this.  Have trash bags handy for junk and boxes for donations.  I recommend doing the sort as close to trash day as possible so you can get the junk out of your house asap.  Here are the questions I use when evaluating whether to keep something:

1.  Is it actually junk? If it’s a piece of clothing, is it torn/stained/beyond repair?  If it’s a game, is it missing pieces?  If you think you can repair it, stop and think if you actually will.  How long has it been waiting to be repaired?  If it’s going to take you more than a week to get to it, toss it!

2.  Do I need this? By need I mean need as in I’ll have to go naked/starve/will lose my sanity without this.  I count clothing, bedding, and things that help me relax under this category.

3.  If I don’t need it, do I have valid reasons for wanting it? or Am I only keeping this for sentimental reasons? Things that are ok to want for sentimental reasons:  a picture, a letter.  Things that are not ok to keep for sentimental reasons:  that piece of ribbon your girlfriend tied around that bunch of flowers she gave you one time.  The key behind this logic is the minimalist mantra of quality over quantity.  You won’t lose the memory of her giving you the flowers if you throw out the ribbon any more than you did when the flowers died.  It really is just a piece of ribbon taking up space and how often do you really look at it?  In contrast, a stuffed animal she gave you that you snuggle periodically is a quality reminder of your love for each other.  See the difference?

4.  Are there negative emotions/memories attached to this item? Even if an item is useful and in good condition, if every time you see it you remember a negative experience or emotion, you shouldn’t keep it.  It just serves to bring a negative vibe to your household.  Maybe you dread opening a particular drawer because that item is in there, or a lovely painting is on display that everyone likes but you feel badly looking at it.  These are simply not worth keeping.  They aren’t improving your quality of life; they’re bringing it down.  This goes for items that predominantly bring negative emotions/memories, not that have a minor one attached that you rarely think of when seeing it.

5.  Is this a quality item? This is my final sorting step, and one that has really helped me keep items I’m prone to collect down to a reasonable number.  Remember that your possessions take time to maintain.  Items that aren’t as high-quality to you will prevent you from enjoying other items as much.  My book collection is a good example of how quality vs. quantity helps to minimize possessions.  I only keep books that I either loved or want to have around to loan to people.  Yes I love books in general, but my collection is a reflection of me.  I want to look at my bookshelves and know that I only kept around the ones that are truly of quality to me.  Otherwise it’s just collecting for the sake of collecting isn’t about the enjoyment received from the item.

After you’ve finished sorting, bag up the junk and get it out of your house.  Take the boxes of donations to the best places for them to be used.  Now you are left with only things you need or that truly bring more happiness to your life.  Put everything left away.  Don’t be afraid to reorganize as you go.  You’ll have much more free space and new ideas may present themselves.

The Self Magazine Controversy

August 12, 2009 4 comments

We all are peripherally aware of the fact that a bit of photoshopping is done on magazine covers.  We expect that a fly-away piece of hair in the model’s face might be shopped out or an odd-looking shadow, for instance.  I thought this was about making sure the lighting didn’t make the model/actress/singer look unreal and probably a bit about smoothing out an imperfection that woman is insecure about, like a blemish she had that day.  So when the Kelly Clarkson on the cover of Self controversy came out this week, I was angered on behalf of Kelly.

Essentially, Self shopped off around 20 pounds from Kelly’s frame. Not at her request.  Not with her permission.  In fact, Kelly was appearing in Self to talk about how she’s happy with what she looks like and isn’t letting the “zomg she’s fat and not perfect!” gossip get her down.

Did you catch that?  They photoshopped a singer appearing in the magazine to talk about being comfortable with her weight to look skinnier.

But it gets worse.

Jezebel dug up the Self editors’ response, which did not consist of apoligies, but instead states that this sort of thing is their general method of operation.  When models show up they look so real that they “could be mistaken for a member of the crew or the editorial team.”  The horror.  They then go on to state that they extensively photoshop every cover model, because “It is…meant to inspire women to want to be their best. ”

No, Self, you’re not inspiring women to be their best.  You’re guilt-tripping women to continually attempt to achieve a look that is so impossible you have to photoshop models and celebrities to make them appear that way!  God forbid women look like women.  There are many body types.  What makes a person beautiful isn’t their body type; it’s health and who they are as a person.  Some women have boobs and a big butt.  Others naturally lack curves.  Some women have stick-straight hair; others have frizzy fly-away hair.  But no woman’s body is flawless.

Having flaws, both physically and as a person, is part of being a human being.  Presenting to women, and to the little girls who are bound to see these magazine covers, that this body type that is only possible through photoshop as a tangible possibility is harmful.  You’re telling them that it’s their fault they don’t look like this.  They could look like this if they just work hard enough.  If they follow your crazy fad diets.  If they apply every creme in your magazine to their skin.  If they would just spend an hour in the morning doing their hair and applying makeup, not to mention the two to three hours at night working out.  Clearly striving to keep our bodies healthy isn’t good enough, is it, Self?

This photoshop controversy is worse because Self purports to be about women having healthy bodies, not fashion like Elle or Vogue.  The public expects them to feature healthy women on the covers, not a photoshopped fantasy of what women supposedly should look like.

A online commenter pointed out that this is women hurting other women’s body images.  He’s right.  Women put out this magazine.  Women are putting this image out there, causing other women to obsess and waste their time attempting to achieve the impossible, not to mention putting an impossible ideal into men’s heads.  Shame on you, Ashley Mateo and Lucy Danziger.  You are the worst type of misogynist–a female one.