Where we get fit and spin (wool)

Archive for September, 2011

I am Wiggling with Happiness

I have two articles that are so sensible, and so intelligent, they are making me giddy. The first, In Praise of Fast Food, in a wonderful essay on the history of food and food processing. It makes the point that while we want to avoid the worst pitfalls of  the modern diet, we can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

As a historian I cannot accept the account of the past implied by this movement: the sunny, rural days of yore contrasted with the gray industrial present.

What’s the problem with this view? As much as I’d like you to read the whole article, allow me to summerize:

  1. Food needed to be processed, just to make it edible and preserve it. We have been messing with our food supply since we became human. Agriculture is a form of processing- selective breeding created plants and animals that were more nutritious and easier to keep. There’s a reason that agriculture replaced hunting and gathering.
  2. “Not starving” was the main focus of food processing up until modern times. Our current view is skewed by our apparent plenty.
  3. Modern industrial practices allow women to have the lifestyle we assume is “our right”. Women’s lives were dominated by food production throughout history. Stone ground wheat? Who ground it? Go to any third world country and see how much time is devoted to preparing food. Men too, were slaves to the fields.
  4. Most food we think of as “ethnic” were only developed in the last few hundred years.
  5. Food has always had hazards-molds, insect debris, plants themselves have toxins in them. Today’s hazards are no different.

There is much more in this article, the author’s main point is to not romanticize the past, and to appreciate and respect the strides we have made in having affordable, safe food that allow us to do things other than food production.

The second article is in a similar vein, on food processing. Again, it makes the point that all processing is not bad, and we need to make a more sophisticated distinction between good processing and bad. What Does Food Processing Really  Mean? looks at this distinction. I would ask you to read it, but if you don’t, the point that it makes is that much of processing is necessary. Anything you do to food is processing it. Freezing, canning, milling flour, even evaporating sea water to get salt is processing it. She ends the article with the point that we need to be more clear in our terms, especially since manufacturers are trying to muddy it by calling things “fresh”and “natural” that aren’t. She would like to use three terms; fresh- for things like fruits and vegetables, minimally processed-for foods that the processing does not change it’s basic nature, and ultra-processed- for foods that contain artificial ingredients, cheap and degraded ingredients, or those that the processing makes them unhealthy for us.  If you think about it, these are still slippery definitions-if you gas an apple to keep it fresh, is it still fresh? In her definition flour is minimally processed, but too much is definitely bad for you.

In spite of these problems, the main point of this article, that we need to think about our food, and not make snap judgements is sound. Even though most of us will find disagreement over what should or shouldn’t be in our diets, eating thoughtfully is something we should all be doing.

Please eat carefully, and think about what you’re eating. Please read something that totally disagrees with your current beliefs about food, to get perspective on what you believe. And- if you read the articles I’ve linked here, please comment leave me a comment, letting me know what you think of them.


A delightful romp around the web.

I haven’t posted in awhile, nothing seemed worth talking about, till today. I have an article and a website to talk about.

First- I have said for years, losing weight is all about the math. Apparently that is not the whole story. Before you go “a-ha, that excuses my not being able to lose weight!”, it only means the difficulties you encounter are real, and that long term weight loss responds better to long, slow, permanent effort. The link is to the New York Times article. There is nothing really new about this, except it does clarify some of the issues involved. For example, as you lose weight, you burn fewer calories. Why? It takes more energy to move 300 lbs than it does 200lbs. Calories are simply a measure of energy. I am a small person, by resting metabolic rate is ridiculously low, something like 1600 calories. If I don’t exercise, I will gain weight. If you are heavy from fat, you are burning fewer calories than someone who weighs the same as you from muscle, as fat uses less calories than muscle. These are two of the confounding factors of weight loss. Add into that the “fudge factor”, people not being honest about what they are eating, and the difficulty people have sticking to diets, and you see that while math is important to weight loss, psychology and physiology are important as well. If you are having problems with weight loss, it is worth your time to read the article. The main points of the article are:

  • Losing weight is not easy
  • You need to make consistent, long term changes
  • Don’t expect rapid weight loss or quick fixes
  • You need to increase exercise as well as diet
  • You need to overhaul your plan from time to time

Now my next link is for all the ladies. I have been researching menopause on the web.

wild eyed crazy lady

why, you may ask?

I have found that most sites talk to you like the high school hygiene movies-“There’s a special time in a girl’s life…” Yea, special. That’s the first word that comes in my mind when discussing such things. In any case, I have to applaud people who try so hard to make fertilizer out of poop. This site Power-surge.com, while being long on the cliche, touchy- feely, positively cute side, does give a lot of information. They are also selling a ton of products. Maybe the site just appealed to me by making EVERYTHING that is bothering me a symptom of menopause. Just put a nice big bow on it and wrap it in estrogen.

That’s it for now. Back to making baby booties and practicing being the crotchety old crazy lady. At least for today. Oh, one last thing-did you ever see the ad for cougars.com- a “dating site” to date cougars? THOSE ARE NOT COUGARS! A cougar is an OLDER woman- at least 40, who wants to date younger men. They are called cougars as they are the predatory ones. The idea is that they are not hot in the sense of men chasing after them. (Or at least the men they are after are not chasing them.) It is not supposed to be a compliment, and it is not supposed to be applied to sexy young things. Oh, of course, in the world of advertising, any female over 30 is old. GRRRRR. I’ll show them cougar. I am getting crotchety.

If my Last Post Didn’t Make you Think I was Crazy….

Now I think anyone who reads this blog is probably smarter than I am, so I want one of you to explain the economy and this current downturn to me. Let me lay out what I think of it, and you tell me where I’m wrong, or how nuts I am.

First, what is the economy? Wikipedia says:

An economy consists of the economic system of a country or other area; the labor, capital and landresources; and the the manufacturing, trade, distribution, and consumption of goods and services of that area. An economy may also be described as a spatially limited and social network where goods and services are exchanged according to demand and supply between participants by barter or a medium of exchange with a credit or debitvalue accepted within the network.

This seems like a fair definition. I looked up Merriam-Webster’s definition, but it added nothing. So we will use this definition/description. I couldn’t sleep the other night, and I’m thinking to myself, “this whole thing started with housing”. Now, your house’s worth is not a set thing. Your house is only worth what someone will pay for it. If you don’t keep it in a desirable condition, it becomes worthless. In this current situation, the houses in question were still desirable, people just couldn’t pay what they promised to pay for them.  This happened in such high numbers, that there became a glut of houses on the market, bringing all  house prices down. On top of this, people who “bought” those loans, who were counting on that money being paid back as part of their income and net worth, suddenly weren’t as wealthy as they thought. So now, you have all the people who lost their houses not spending extra money since they now can’t use their houses as piggy banks, and some are still trying to pay something of what they owe. Those that walk away are still trying to pay for some place to live. All the people who invested money in the loans, through banks, mutual funds or other investment means, now have less income, so they aren’t spending as much. All these people spending less money, means less jobs and hiring. Topping all of this off, trust has been broken. In good times, we trust each other to do as we say. This “mortgage crises” is actually a crises of trust. If I invest my money in something, will the person pay me back?

This is where I get into my own view of things. The economic downturn is a psychological downturn. We have lost trust in our major institutions. What we call “the economy” is the transactions we make with each other. People are scared and suspicious, so they are hoarding what they have, rather than transacting with each other. Those that have, don’t want to lose any more of it than they have, those that have not, don’t have any options.

Remember, our whole economy is mental nowadays. When my boss pays me, no one goes into his account and pulls physical money out, and put it in mine. Everything is trust and record keeping. There is no pot of money somewhere in a bank. While we still use cash for small transactions, all the big stuff- stocks, mutual funds, bonds, are all just numbers in ledgers.

What the government is trying to do when they attempt to “jump start” the economy is to get people in a better mood, more trusting, less suspicious, more sharing. The trouble is, they are looking more at the nuts and bolts, rather than directly at the psychology. It is hard to look directly at the psychology, we don’t want to draw too much attention to how ephemeral our system is. The other problem is, we are not experts in affecting each others moods and emotions. If someone is that good at manipulation, they would be very scary.  It is like turning a herd, since we are talking about changing each other as a group.

My advice- quit worrying. If you’re worried, you’re part of the problem. 😉

Is This Common sense, or Crazy?

Ok, so tell me, if unemployment is up to 9.1%, and we have unemployment payments, which means the unemployed are getting money, couldn’t they use some of their time to do some of the things that the government says it can no longer afford to do?

This idea was spawned by seeing back to back articles on the television news about how California is thinking about closing most of it’s public places in an effort to save money, followed by the unemployment news. Couldn’t some of those unemployed people help maintain the parks? If we have so many people out of work, couldn’t we use some of that potential labor force to improve things? They have done studies where unemployed people spend much of their time sleeping and watching tv. Being out of work is depressing and demoralizing. If an unemployed person is not in school, or even if they are, Couldn’t they spend three or four hours a week volunteering somewhere? Just a thought

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