Monday, January 31, 2011


I'm super busy today but promise a Miscellanea post tomorrow. In the meantime, sit back and enjoy the most random keyword hit my blog has ever gotten: "are there hotdogs not made with icky stuff." To which the answer is yes. Actually there are. I don't have time to discuss them right now, but take heart and continue your search. Good luck!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Sign it

I know you probably get a lot of requests to sign various petitions on a regular basis, but this is definitely one you should sign:

Gov. Kasich: Pardon Ms. Kelley Williams-Bolar's Unfair Sentencing For Fraud and Theft

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Thursday Miscellanea

In the news:
I know it's a revolutionary idea, but patients in most hospitals will now get to designate who their visitors should be. Ya know, instead of having some hospital personnel who know nothing about them decide who can and cannot see them. What's amazing is that this is 2011, and we're just now finally implementing such a basic no-brainer policy. And who the hell would oppose a policy like this, anyway? Saints preserve us!, as my great-aunt would say.

It hasn't been in the news much, but Illinois is on the brink of abolishing the death penalty. Assuming the pro-death penalty governor signs the bill that has already been passed by the General Assembly. Either way, the fact that the bill was passed by the state legislature, any state legislature, feels like progress.

The supreme court dealt a blow to employee privacy rights this week, and grappled with the fallout of granting corporations personal privacy rights. At this rate corporations may soon have more of a right to personal privacy than, um persons. Which could prove a bit awkward. Or maybe not, as long as people dutifully remain cocooned in their haze of perpetual commercialized entertainment, consumer rat-race running, and second-shift working. That should prevent them from noticing or objecting to the relentless erosion of their rights.

And finally, a recipe for catnip crackers for your cat:

* 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
* 2 tablespoons dried catnip
* 1/2 cup plain yogurt
* 1 egg
* 1 tablespoon honey
* 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, mix together the flour and catnip, then stir in the yogurt, egg, honey, and vegetable oil. Roll out the dough on a floured surface and cut into small bite-sized pieces with a pizza cutter or small cookie cutters. We have a small dogbone-shaped cutter and a tiny duck-shaped cookie cutter we like to use. Place them on a greased cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until they start to brown.

If you have small kids in your house like I do, store the cat crackers in a container on a high shelf to prevent the kids from feeding the cats too many. Believe me, most cats will eat as many of these as they're given, but should only be given a few at a time to avoid manic climbing-the-drapes-and-swinging-from-the-light-fixtures episodes followed by a sleeping-off-the-catnip-hangover-with-a-bit-of-a-tummyache episode.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Falling pregnant

Apparently, in Memphis, high school girls are falling like birds from the Arkansas sky. Falling pregnant, that is. Which is something I was not previously aware you could do. But apparently you can and they are. All by themselves, from the look of it. You can google this news story all day and not find a single one that mentions the boys (men?) who are participating in the impregnation of the teenage uteri.

However, you can find plenty of speculation about why these (mostly disadvantaged) youngsters are turning up pregnant at such a high rate. It seems that they can't say no. Because everyone knows that that is the sole responsibility of girls/women. Boys, with all that testosterone and peer pressure, cannot possibly be expected to abstain, the poor dears. And we all know that the only way to prevent pregnancy is to abstain entirely from sexual activity. Having comprehensive sex ed that teaches about contraception wouldn't help. Talking honestly with girls about relationships and sex and how to set boundaries and require condom usage and withstand pressure/walk away from a boy who's acting coercive wouldn't help. Talking with girls about life choices and reproductive choices and educational opportunities wouldn't help. No. The only thing to do is tsk tsk about the high teen pregnancy rate and yammer on about how to get those slutty girls to just say no. Cuz that's been working so damn well...

Friday, January 14, 2011

Video of the Day

My kids are totally in love with capybara's right now...

Happy Friday!

Boob Wars, part MCCXXXIV

So.... it seems that the WHO's recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months is now in question. A few thoughts:
  1. Perhaps we could use this opportunity to reflect on how health recommendations are sometimes (often) context-dependent. While it may be true that in countries without access to clean food and water, breastfeeding exclusively for a longer period is in order, applying the rule everywhere may not be the best solution. However, before we commence WHO-bashing (sounds like a Seuss story, no?) it's helpful to remember that a major driving force behind the recommendation was the marketing of formula to mothers in geographical areas lacking access to clean water. We can go into the reasons why there's no clean water and why using formula would seem preferable to these parents, but for now, let's just remember the chain of events leading up to the recommendation to begin with.
  2. One reason why solid food is recommended at 4 months (I started introducing select solid foods to my daughter at 4 months, but just kept my mouth shut about it at the pediatrician's office) is that babies who are exclusively breastfed may become anemic. *Ahem* What they don't tell you is that this only tends to occur in babies who were born with the conventional hospital practice of clamping and cutting the cord immediately, rather than waiting for all the iron-rich cord blood to flow into the baby's body. This is why midwives in most cultures waited to cut the cord. But why would we pay any attention to the quaint practices of uneducated indigenous women? What the fuck could they know?
  3. The foods that we tend to introduce to babies as first foods (grains with all of the most nutritious portions stripped from them, processed into powder and then mixed with formula and/or tap water containing chlorine, fluoride...) don't generally contain any of the nutrients that babies actually do need at this stage in development. Oh, except for how we fortify them with ingredients like iron, which often makes their little tummies hurt. And then we give them some kind of medicine for their tummies and call them colicky. Yeah. Of course, we could learn a lot about the foods that are easily digested by babies and contain the nutrients they really need by looking at what various "primitive" cultures actually fed babies. Things like egg yolk and yogurt. But rejecting the highly processed, attractively packaged baby foods on the market would be so... uncapitalistic.
So here we have another example of the ongoing process of fixing the problems we ourselves have created, by turning to a solution that is itself the cause of another problem which then must be fixed, and on and on. It would be truly amusing, if there wasn't so much at stake.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Word of the Day: Neuroplasticity

The Truth about Boys and Girls by Lise Eliot

In Brief:
Boys and girls are different, but most psychological sex differences are not especially large. For example, gaps in intellectual performance, empathy and even most types of aggression are generally much narrower than the disparity in adult height, in which the average man is taller than 99 percent of women.

Researchers have found very few large-scale differences between boys and girls in brain structure or function. Boys have larger brains, and girls’ brains finish growing earlier than boys’ do. But neither of these findings explains why boys are more active and girls more verbal or reveals a plausible basis for any of the other emotional and cognitive differences between the sexes.

Experience itself changes brain structure and function. Most sex differences start out small—as mere biases in temperament and play style—but are amplified as children’s pink- or blue-tinted brains meet our gender-infused culture.
The whole article is available online if you have institutional access.

Also, watch a video of Eliot talking about her brain research here. The video is interesting, but it's profoundly ironic that it's sponsored by the very Dove chocolates that feature the intensely stereotypical and somewhat misogynist quotations geared toward women. That's what I call delicious irony.

I would expound more on this, but now that chocolate has been mentioned I've gotta go eat some and then go shoe shoppin' with my 9% smaller lady-brain. Ta-ta for now!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Scripture of the Day

...for our Bible-thumping* friends:

Ephesians 4:29
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

And a few bonus scriptures:

Colossians 3:8
But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.

Romans 14:19
Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.

1 Peter 2:1
Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.

Matthew 12:34
How can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.

*Which is not to say that I have anything against reading the Bible or being a Christian. I just think that if you're going to claim the label and (especially) try to force your beliefs and values on others, the least you can do is live up to it. All of it. No cherry-picking, please.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

New Year's Reading

What're y'all readin' these days?

I have a fairly bizarre mix of books sitting on my night stand, reflecting my current obsession with crafts and indoor gardening and short stories as a basic form of escapism:

The New Terrarium

Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self by Danielle Evans

Gnomes by Wil Huygen
What can I say? We're into gnomes right now. Ever since the 3 year-old announced her intention to be a garden gnome for Halloween...


Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon
Lacto-fermentation FTW!

The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2010 Ed David Eggers and David Sedaris

Abide with Me by Elizabeth Strout
Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine
Delusions of Gender is turning out to be really good, although it's taking me forever to read it.

The Green Hour by Todd Christopher

Johnny Crow's Garden by L Leslie Brooke
Best kids' book ever of all times. We've read this book at least 1500 times and plan to read it 1500 more time. It's indescribably awesome.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Icky bits: 0 Vagina: 1

You may remember this post, in which I had a little run-in with Bossy Daycare Lady about what words we use to refer to our genitalia. On a side note, thank god we got out of that institutional daycare and into the hippie-green-organic-local foods-yoga lady daycare. Until you have kids, it's hard to appreciate how stressful it can be to feel like you're stuck with a daycare that's out of line with your values. And once you have a chance to switch to one that is in line with your values, you realize how much the old one was really bothering you.

Anyways... Back to the icky bits.

So my stepdaughter is in first grade. They're beginning a unit on anatomy (like the skeleton, muscular structure, etc), so yesterday her teacher introduced the unit by asking them to name some things that are in their bodies. Of course, it was my kid who raised her hand and listed "a skeleton and a vagina." According to her teacher, none of the other kids reacted to it, and her teacher just calmly added it to the list and moved on. No snickering or blushing or shaming. And to me that's a score. The fact that 6-year-olds can name their body parts for what they are without feeling guilty or weird or thinking it's profanity or comedy or the-one-thing-that-makes-me-super-special is kinda awesome. Maybe the other kids don't know the word. Or maybe the ones who do have also only ever heard it in the same non-sensational matter-of-fact manner as my stepdaughter has all her life. All I know is that this feels like the first step in her developing a healthy relationship with her body and her sexuality. And that's something.

Heaven help us through all the cultural obstacles that await us.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year + The Myth of the Lazy Fatties

First: Happy New Year, y'all. I would resolve to be less neglectful of my blog this year, except I can't since my resolution last year was to boycott New Year's resolutions. So, ya know...

Second, there's this: One-third of 9-month-olds already obese or overweight:
The path toward obesity starts at a young age - even before babies transition to a solid diet, according to a new study.

Almost one-third of 9-month-olds are obese or overweight, as are 34 percent of 2-year-olds, according to the research, which looked at a nationally representative sample of children born in 2001. The study is one of the first to measure weight in the same group of very young children over time, said lead researcher Brian Moss, a sociologist at Wayne State University in Detroit. The results showed that starting out heavy puts kids on a trajectory to stay that way.

"If you were overweight at nine months old, it really kind of sets the stage for you to remain overweight at two years," Moss told LiveScience.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), childhood obesity has tripled over the last three decades. In 2008, 19.6 percent of kids between the ages of 6 and 11 were obese.

But less is known about obesity rates in very young children. In fact, researchers hesitate to label children that young as "obese." Recent studies have raised the alarm about particularly large babies, however. One 2009 paper published in the journal Pediatrics found that babies who gain weight rapidly in the first six months of life are at increased risk of being obese by age 3. Another study, published in April 2010 in the Journal of Pediatrics, found that heavy 6-month-olds are more likely to be obese as 2-year-olds.
This kinda calls into question the whole people-are-so-fat-because-they're-sitting-around-watching-tv-and-playing-video-games-instead-of-exercising bit that so many have been yammering on and on about. What are 6 month-olds doing differently than their great-grandparents did at that age? Probably not spending less time on the treadmill. *

However, they are drinking lots of formula that has some form of corn syrup as it's main ingredient, along with other forms of highly processed corn as fillers. And that's different from what their great-grandparents were doing at the wise old age of 6 months. They're also probably going to be exposed to far higher levels of environmental obesogens than their forebears, both prenatally and in the environment throughout their childhood. Then there's the fact that genetics plays a role in weight, so it seems likely that a person with a higher target weight as an adult will also have a higher target weight as an infant. Then there's the fact that what counts as overweight and obese has changed dramatically since their great-grandparents were infants. Add to that the fact that almost every food that's marketed to young children, and even infants, is loaded with highly processed (probably corn) sugars, artificial colors and flavors, partially hydrogenated oils, and corn-based fillers, and you have the perfect storm.

Case in point: most fast-food restaurants, and even school lunch programs, have now replaced whole milk or 2% milk with skim milk that has processed corn starches and sugars added to it to try to simulate the flavor and texture of whole milk. This is widely cited as a way the restaurants and lunch prgrams have improved the health of the meal. It's so incredibly ironic. Let's remove the (basically) healthy natural fats in the milk, which young kids who are undergoing rapid growth and brain development really, really need, and instead add in cheap highly processed ingredients which have been linked to obesity and diabetes. Brilliant! Add to that the fact that studies show that people who eat full-fat yogurt for breakfast or snack on full-fat cheese actually consume fewer calories over the course of the day because they feel satisfied after eating it, and you have a widely believed, totally counterproductive myth concerning low-fat dairy product being healthier. What should we be worried about keeping out of our dairy products? Hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides. Carcinogens and obesogens. Now that is something to be afraid of.

*Add to that the fact that obesity and diabetes have dramatically increased in our pet population. Are the dogs and cats doing less reps? Seems unlikely.
________________________________________ time you hear someone mindlessly repeating the old Fatties-Are-Lazy line, ask them about the babies. Ask them about the cats and dogs.

And have a happy (healthy) new year.