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Archive for February, 2010

The skinny on fat

I’ve been doing a lot of research this week on the policy and economics of obesity in the US, preparing a paper on why and how Americans are obese. It’s pretty fascinating stuff…did you know that in 2004 the US food supply provided nearly 4000 calories per person everyday?

Which must mean there’s a whole lotta food waste, of course. 1400 calories? Everyday?

Before I started this research, I was a pretty staunch supporter of soda/fat/McDonald’s taxes. Across the board, I consider this stuff disgusting and soda especially, useless. Why not tax it and use the money to fund obesity prevention education?

Well, as I’ve learned there are a lot of reasons not to. A soda tax would be regressive, meaning it would harm poorer people, who spend a larger percentage of their money on food, more than wealthier ones. It’s also not necessarily going to target people who seriously need to lose weight—skinny people like the occasional Pepsi, too.

The problem is more deeply embedded in our society, in everything from how much cheaper our calories have become over the years (thanks in large part to government subsidies for corn and high fructose corn syrup practically becoming its own food group) to the shape and structure of our cities to how much time we have to prepare meals.

(For more on the soda tax and health reform, click here.)

Which brings me to a more interesting point. One of the studies I read, from the USDA, called “Who has Time to Cook?” places much of the onus of cooking on women. Although they write that regardless of income or marital status, women spend more time preparing food than men do (a fact is a fact), they say that “working full-time and being a single parent appear to affect the time allocated to preparing food more than an individual’s earnings or household income do.”

A)     Home-cooked foods are for the most part healthier than packaged/fast/restaurant food.

B)      Women are more likely to be single working parents.

C)      Women prepare most of the food.

Does this mean that women entering the workforce are somehow to blame for the obesity crisis?

It’s a tough question. I know there are so many other factors at work here and that it is possible to make cheap, easy, and nutritious meals daily (I do it myself…although I do have a hard time imagining feeding a family on the scrambled egg whites and spinach I eat many nights a week).

Meanwhile, I have big plans for sugar, butter, and chocolate tonight (speaking of obesity and women preparing food). I’m having friends over for a belated housewarming celebration of beer and baked goods. Do you remember the Suz who was afraid of cooking anything more than microwaved vegetables? No more. Tonight, we’re doing Smitten Kitchen’s blondies and cheesecake marbled brownies.

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Still unsure how I feel about Google Buzz. I’m a bit creeped out by the sudden inclusion of all my Gmail contacts suddenly being privy to my Tweets and Google Reader shares. Another part of me also wishes that more people would participate. Some friends have told me that Buzz is my crack, that I’m the only person they ever see post anything. In my defense, it’s part of my job to surf the intraweb for cool things and I really, really like sharing information…one of the reasons why I love journalism.

For all Google Buzz’s potential pitfalls, I was happy to sign on this morning and see two Buzz posts that made me smile. The first from my friend, Chelsea, who posted a Foreign Policy slideshow (this magazine is quickly becoming one of my favorites and consistently features incredible photography) on “A Dog’s Life in China.”

This was one of my favorites:

I spent last January in China with an Economics class, studying the cultural, environmental and socioeconomic changes associated with the country’s rapid growth. At one dam visit, I noticed a group of older men sitting together on some benches, with bird cages hanging in the trees around them. One of our guides told me that this was so the birds could sing together.

My roommate, Maren, posted this excerpt from Eve Ensler’s latest work “I am an emotional creature.” I heard Eve perform this on the show where I interned in the fall, On Point, and it gave me the chills. Good to see it in print form:

I love being a girl.
I can feel what you’re feeling
as you’re feeling it inside
the feeling
before.
I am an emotional creature.
Things do not come to me
as intellectual theories or hard-shaped ideas.
They pulse through my organs and legs
and burn up my ears.
I know when your girlfriend’s really pissed off
even though she appears to give you what
you want.
I know when a storm is coming.
I can feel the invisible stirrings in the air.
I can tell you he won’t call back.
It’s a vibe I share.

I am an emotional creature.
I love that I do not take things lightly.
Everything is intense to me.
The way I walk in the street.
The way my mother wakes me up.
The way I hear bad news.
The way it’s unbearable when I lose.

I am an emotional creature.
I am connected to everything and everyone.
I was born like that.
Don’t you dare say all negative that it’s a
teenage thing
or it’s only only because I’m a girl.
These feelings make me better.
They make me ready.
They make me present.
They make me strong.

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Caught in a bad romance

“Just remember. Lady GaGa is the enemy.”

This is how I ended a female counselors’ training session at camp this summer. I’ve worked at a summer camp out in California for the past four summers. Most of our campers came from wealthier homes in the LA area and come to camp charged with both the pressures and sense of opportunity inherent in being a girl today. This past summer, as director of Girls’ Camp, I was convinced that Lady GaGa–oversexed, plastic, and outrageous–was just the wrong role model for the strong and empowered women I wanted the campers to become.

I think I might have been wrong. Sorry GaGa.

This was back in the day before I watched the Bad Romance video so many times I almost have the dance memorized (it’s complicated and I’m not coordinated). Okay maybe lyrics like “I want your leather studded kiss in the sand” is a bit much for twelve-year-olds. But Lady GaGa–oversexed, plastic, and outrageous–totally owns her oversexed, plastic outrageousness.

Last night my roommates and I were discussing how wimpy and ignorant of English literature (hello Shakespeare) Taylor Swift, another contemporary pop princess, is. Today, I stumbled across this video, a parody of Taylor Swift’s song “Fifteen” by Madinthemoon:

Brilliant. I’m not sure what my favorite lines are. Maybe:

Don’t spend your weekend nights crying at home on your guitar wishing life was like Disney.

Or:

Cause if you’re a virgin and some jerk steals your hymen, your life isn’t over. Because your hymen isn’t all you’ve got to offer in this world. Did you know at that end of that play that Romeo and Juliet DIE?

She closes out with another gem:

If you’re going to listen to someone, listen to GaGa. Choose creative over canned, choose fierce over bland.

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Spotted Thursday night at Ben’s Chili Bowl: Wesley Snipes.

The actor visited the U Street institution for a late-night snack after a press screening of his latest film, “Brooklyn’s Finest.” The movie was shown nearby at the Lincoln Theatre.

(Hat tip: Dylan Perry)

The vegetarian chili was delicious.

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Dear Leader, etc.

North Korean propaganda posters.

Original translation: “Do not forget the US imperialist wolves!”

I wonder if they also have these posters hanging up at CPAC today?

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I thought it was just me:

I just moved to DC. I almost cry every time I run past the Lincoln and ever-so-phallic Washington Memorials (approximately three times a week).

My favorite YouTube video of all time?

I visited the Smithsonian Museum of American History this weekend and dorked out in the Abe Lincoln exhibit. And then I visited the National Portrait Gallery and dorked out in the Presidents’ section (and the pretty neat Presidents on Time exhibit).

As the weekend drew to a close, I sensed something was in the air…

“Has anyone else noticed that the founders are really, really hot these days?” I asked a group of my fellow dorked out editorial interns.

“Um, it’s Presidents’ Day?”

Duh.

But still, there is definitely a thing right now about the founders. There’s the obvious “Tenthers” movement, those Tea Partiers obsessed with the tenth amendment (the one that gives all powers not specifically associated with the federal government to the state).  There’s the NYTimes magazine article from this Sunday, asking “How Christian Were the Founders?”

And even in my crowd, there’s the recent obsession with this video (probably more related to Prez Day but whatever).

I’m glad this American Prospect blog gave me a name for what I (along with apparently everyone else) am feeling:

Founding Fathers Fetishism.

Maybe those Tea Partiers are on to something. The seductive combination of wigs, fake teeth, democracy, and rich white males have my panties in a twist.

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The Daily Beast has decided to publish its list of the 24 laziest countries in the world. And, surprise surprise, according to their calculations, Americans win. Here’s how the “Coach Potato Olympics” were judged:

We evaluated four criteria, each weighed evenly:

Calories Per Day: from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations from the 2009 Statistical Yearbook; 2003-2005 data.

Television Viewing: combined data from the OECD Society at a Glance 2009 and OECD Communications Outlook 2009, tracking hours of television watched per day and the percent of people who prefer to watch television with their free time.

Aversion to Playing Sports: from the OECD Society at a Glance 2009, tracking the percent of people who prefer to play sports with their free time.

Internet Usage: average hours per capita for December 2009, provided by ComScore.

Forgive me for sounding like an Anthropology major here, but aren’t we being a little Western-centric in defining laziness? True, the only participants were 24 developed countries as determined by the OECD.

One of my good friends is living in Thailand (not ranked on the list) and she noted that laziness manifests itself differently everywhere. One country might not have an aversion to sports, but what if individuals from another country have a tough time working independently? Doesn’t have a rich history of innovation?

I know the ranking isn’t remotely scientific, but I’d hope the Daily Beast could do better in its press on random international rankings.

Oh wait. Done.

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