Who you calling lazy?

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.


As I suspected

Gallup released their 2009 index of American wellbeing. The states that are doing the best seem to be the kind with lots of wide open spaces (as well as states that don’t have a ton of industry). I’ve been missing Maine and dying to go hiking lately. But, luckily for me, Washington DC ranks near the top of large metropolitan areas in wellbeing.

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.

Closing the (face)book

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.

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.

New year, new resolutions

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.

Whole Foods towed my car…

…does this mean I should boycott?

Okay, so I parked in a Whole Foods parking lot in Brighton a few weeks ago on a Friday night to stop by a friend’s party. 45 minutes later my car was towed. I get it…it was past closing hours and I wasn’t a customer at the moment. Still…really? Sometimes I think I should be able to get a permit that marks me as poor and helpless. Needless to say, I’m happy to be leaving my car behind when I move to DC (whose public transportation, I’ve heard, is much better than Boston’s awful awful Green Line).

Anyway, this article is really interesting and made me think a whole lot about Whole Foods and my relationship with it as a consumer. Frankly, I’m totally seduced by Whole Foods. As Nick Paumgarten writes in the New Yorker, that’s not a coincidence. It uses the new genre of “supermarket pastoral” (aptly termed by Michael Pollan) to sell you stories about the food you’re buying. And the visuals are set up so you want to buy more:

This store, like most, led with produce. “Nothing more whole foods than produce,” Robb said. “Look at all the colors.” There were thirty varieties of apples. “Most markets say, Let’s throw the food out there and stick it in your bodies. No, it’s a beautiful, stimulating experience. It’s a visual experience.” Sometimes the store deploys “dummies,” wooden or cardboard devices hidden under mounds of produce, to create an illusion of greater supply—supermarket Wonderbras.

Whole Foods, even if it is corporate and kind of a green-washer, is doing some good. Even though it has less than one percent of the American market on groceries, it has changed the way we all think about food and food distribution. Sometimes, the Whole Foods ethos seems like total bullshit when you see the shelves full of ice cream and potato chips (ooh, they’re organic).

The New Yorker piece mostly profiles John Mackey, the CEO. He’s a libertarian with some ideas I really disagree with—anti-unionism, for instance. But he’s a vegan and likes to go backpacking. That combination is kind of refreshing and made me stop to think a little bit about what his message is. His views on responsibility for your own self really strikes a chord with me. Sometimes, like when I think about the costs of higher education in our country, I totally support the idea of a Scandinavia-esque welfare state. Other times, like when I think about how much other people’s obesity will end up costing me (kind of a health nut), this viewpoint makes total sense.

In the end, I can’t even afford Whole Foods. The last time I was there I spotted some almond butter—something I’ve wanted to try. Too bad a jar of it cost like 20 bucks. Interestingly, the growth of Whole Foods has spurred even bigger and badder corporations like WalMart to include organics (Wal-Mart is now the biggest retailer of organic groceries, weird huh?). Maybe I’ll shop there instead.

Whole Foods wasn’t really created for me. I don’t like spending a lot of money on food and I tend to live on bags of trail mix from the drugstore until I get so sick of it I go on a bi-weekly fresh produce binge. If Whole Foods catered to a customer like me, it would probably go out of business. And hey, it looks like Whole Foods doesn’t really like me either. Or why would it tow my car?