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Archive for the ‘my life’ Category

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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Blogging 2.0

The truth is: I wasn’t really crazy about this blog.

I’m trying to be a journalist here. A serious one. So I have to write about serious things. And try to be smart and poignant, yet also somewhat detached.  And include the right links and make sure I don’t sound like a dumbass.

No wonder I lost steam.

But I’m really, really missing writing. I don’t know who is going to read this. I’m going to try not to care what they think.

Over the past few months, chiding myself because I should be writing, I’ve come up with idea after idea for a new blog. “I’m going to write a letter to everybody in Congress urging them to effing pass health care already,” I once declared, nearly gushing over the idea. Then: “I’m going to write a blog that will single-handedly make the environmental movement sexy.”

But then I get all caught up and distracted trying to think of quippy blog names and end up shelving the idea.

I’ve been lucky enough to work with Andrew Sullivan, prince of the political blogosphere, during  my editorial internship at The Atlantic. His blog is almost more successful than the venerable old mag itself, if you measure success by page hits (which, let’s be honest, is kinda true). His idea is that blogs are the new magazine…only instead of being held together by staples, they’re held together by a person.

So I’m going to try it out. I’m not presuming that it’s really worth it to you to read this blog. But it’s worth it to me to write it. And what will you find here? Who knows. Photos of cute pandas. Venting about filibusters. Recipes. Rants. Videos of the Founding Fathers if they were in a boy band.

I love absolutes. I like to make declarations (I’m a vegan! I’m a yogi! I’m a party animal! I’m a serious journalist!). I also have a hard time believing in anything absolutely. So maybe this blog can be dedicated to the extremist in my heart and the moderate in my head (ughhhh did I really just make a heart/head analogy? Sorry, vom!).

I like this coyote graffiti. I like the sound of the phrase “coyote graffiti”:

Stay tuned for my favorite things ever this week, coming up after the break.

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I deleted my Facebook account two days ago.

I’ve done this before. Usually during finals. Last year, I had my roommate change my password so I could maintain my account without being able to access it. I cracked pretty early in and was back posting and probably stalking you before my last exam was over.

This time was different. I just got fed up with the whole thing. The whole fact that I was (we all do?) create this persona that exists online. It’s starting to creep me out. The friend requests, the new privacy settings, the people popping up in my newsfeed—the majority of whom I don’t really care much about now and have mostly never cared much about.

But I also have little self-control when it comes to Facebook’s unique synthesis of shameless narcissism and voyeurism. Not only was I assaulted by photos of people I don’t care about, I found myself actually looking at them.

Yes, Facebook is an extraordinarily useful tool. But right now, the pluses are being outweighed by the minuses for me. The people that really matter have multiple ways of getting in touch without poking and tagging me.

I also have this weird theory that Facebook is the antithesis of mindfulness. Maybe the whole internet is that. But Facebook especially seems to be caught in the future and, of course, the past, having very little to do with the present. Which is why I’m redirecting my social networking attention to Twitter. Something about Twitter seems more Zen than Facebook. Nobody reads old tweets or judges you on pictures from four years ago. It’s all about spreading ideas and following trends, and less about…stalking people you’ve hooked up with. This piece in the Times by David Carr this weekend got me started thinking about Twitter in a new way. A year ago, I made fun of it. Shamelessly. But now, I see that it can really open your eyes to what’s out there on this big, bad intraweb.

One interesting thing to ponder, however, is that I did most of the promotion for this blog on Facebook. I now automatically post all blog entries onto Twitter. Will clicks go down? Up? Will I get a fantastic job offer from someone who reads my tweets (yes, that word is ridiculous)? We’ll see.

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I’m lame and white

Okay just on Stuff White People Like and stumbled across #105: Unpaid Internships. This is the best part:

When all is said and done, the internship process serves the white community in many ways. First, it helps to train the next generation of freelance writers, museum curators, and director’s assistants. But more importantly, internships teach white children how to complain about being poor.

Stuff White People Like always reminds me that no matter how hard I try, I will never, ever be a cool kid. Between running marathons and studying abroad in Africa to wearing scarves, I’m just not all that original, I guess. Seems like everyone else hating on unpaid interns. Like, my favorite, The Onion (#109 on SWPL), which had the headline: “Fall internship pays off with coveted winter internship.”

Pity party time. On an unrelated note, I saw someone wearing this shirt last night:

I’m a poor unpaid intern and I’d really appreciate it if you could buy that for me. Size small.

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I love making resolutions. I make resolutions so much, it’s like every day is New Years. Sometimes—training for a marathon, giving up soda— I’m really successful. Sometimes—never ever touching tequila again, for instance—I’m not. I like the language of absolutes. But language and reality aren’t the same thing and I have a less than stellar follow through rate on resolutions.

Still, because it’s New Year’s and because I might actually commit to one or two resolutions, why not? Next year (this year), I plan to:

Sing in the shower. Spend less time on Facebook. Keep my room clean. Blog at least three times a week. Stop biting my nails.

More than anything else, I’d really like to make an effort to be more mindful. To slow down and appreciate things and spend more time thinking in the present tense.

One of my new favorite things is GOOD. My friend Danny got me a subscription to the magazine and every time I get it, I learn at least ten new things, both from the content and the way it’s produced. According to its website:

GOOD is the integrated media platform for people who want to live well and do good. We are a company and community for the people, businesses, and NGOs moving the world forward. GOOD’s mission is to provide content, experiences, and utilities to serve this community.

GOOD currently produces a website, videos, live events, and a print magazine. Launched in September 2006, the company has garnered praise for its unique editorial perspective and fresh visual aesthetic and is quickly positioning itself as a significant new voice in our culture.

Anyway, the newest issue is all about slowing down, complete with a guide to slowing down. It includes the obvious: unplug the smartphone, take deep breaths, plant a garden. My favorite tip, however, is Number 4: Build a Backyard Dumpster Pool. Basically it involves renting a dumpster and filling it with water. Maybe I’ll try it next summer.

Anyway, I’ve decided the official start date to my new year is tomorrow. Until then, I’m drinking some Diet Coke, watching the Biggest Loser, eating ice cream and procrastinating.

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I feel old

The end of the decade…

There are tons of decade retrospectives out there (one on On Point today). Few are even remotely positive. Last night, some friends and I tried to think of good things that happened in the past ten years. The best we could think of involved our own sex lives and not the rest of humanity. Eek. I guess things are better if you’re Chinese?

Anyway, I find this past decade significant because it’s the first one I can fully remember, because it started off with my Bat Mitzvah and ended with me moving into my own apartment.

But this decade is significant to other people. Like the people who were born in 2000. It seems weird, but they’re actual people. This video is my favorite decade retrospective out there. It definitely beats looking at photos of the towers falling…again.

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I visited two of my best friends up in Portland, Maine this weekend. The weird thing about graduating college is that you’re suddenly not surrounded by your best friends, who are more than people you hang out with–they balance you, give you perspective, make you whole.

These two friends are probably among the crunchiest of my friends (in the best way possible). One just got back from four months of organic farming in Colorado, Oregon and California. The other is living in Portland, reading, writing, playing music, just being. We went out for a delicious Maine diner breakfast and over French toast with blueberries, I told them about my networking efforts (neither had really heard of LinkedIn). I felt kind of crazy.

Yesterday, my commentary piece came out in the Chicago Tribune. I know I should be proud to be published like that…instead I feel weirdly embarrassed. Did I just pimp myself—my story– out for some weird sort of fame? Am I coming across as some spoiled and sheltered little ignoramus? I don’t know.

This is the first time in years that I haven’t felt like I’ve been helping and participatory in my community. I’ve always volunteered and all that jazz, but in college and high school, I was able to engage in my community. Last year, for example, when there were some issues with multicultural dialogue at Colby, I threw myself into understanding the issue, trying to explain it in the Echo, and then doing my part to alleviate the situation–participating in Campus Conversations on Race, for example.

Now? Yes, I know things like NPR do a lot of good, but I still feel wracked by selfishness. Journalism is so important to a functioning society. But is this–updating LinkedIn, reading Twitter, posting things about myself on Facebook–really what I wanted to do when I saw All the President’s Men as a 14-year-old and decided that I wanted to be Woodward and Bernstein?

I don’t think the solution is totally changing my path. At least, not right now. Because I do have it really, really good. I think I need more balance. I need to go for a hike and read something that’s not on my computer screen or on the Foreign Service Officer Exam reading list. I need to learn how to cook.

I need to close my laptop and go to bed.

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