Sunday, October 30, 2011

Dairy Fast

Sometimes you just need a challenge. Not eating meat (or eating only ethical  meat) isn't so challenging to me anymore, especially since we don't buy meat for our apartment. Two years ago I did a sugar fast right before Halloween, but we don't buy a lot of sweet things either. What I want to do is a dairy fast. I know. Blasphemous. How dare I claim to be from Wisconsin and want to give up dairy products for 10 days.

I tried starting this on Friday, and here is a list of ways I've already cheated:
-ranch dressing
-cheese pizza
-chocolate chip cookies
-a lot of cheese pizza

It's a lot more difficult than one would think. Milk is in everything, not just your average dairy products. But all the research I did on giving up or limiting dairy said it would be worth it. So I'm starting over today. I already don't drink milk, substituting it with almond milk. Now I just need to commit to resisting the temptation of all the cheese in my fridge. :( If I make it through these 10 days, I might go crazy on day 11.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Halloween: Meh

We got a Halloween costume flyer in the mail a few weeks ago and I was not surprised to find that, as a woman, my choices were limited to whatever sexy object I wanted to be. This trend (which merely requires that girls wear beachwear and heels and come up with a creative/alliterative label like Naughty Nurse, Sexy Sailor, or Foxy Firefighter) is not new or strange to me. It's still a little upsetting and I understand why people hate it, but honestly, I'm over it. Getting my undies in a bundle over what girls wear on Halloween feels a little cliche at this point. We get it; it's sexist. Here's a redeye article that discusses it further, and this Jenna Marbles video makes a good point as well.

Even though I'm not in the mood to get on my soapbox about holiday gender stereotypes, I'm still not crazy about Halloween itself. I've thought this through, and it really has little to offer me. You don't get the day off from school or work, there's no giant meal involved, you only technically celebrate for three hours, and the celebration requires you to do most of the work. Plus, if you live in Wisconsin, you have to wear a winter coat over your costume.

As an adult-type person, I feel like I'm supposed to enjoy Halloween even more than a child, because even though many adults don't go trick-or-treating, they still get to have parties and dress up. Here's the thing: I don't see how that's any different than any other weekend in an adult's life. I could host or attend a themed party every day if I really wanted to. As for the trick-or-treating, I can eat candy whenever I crave it. And if Halloween is really about letting your freak flag fly, well then let's be honest: I never take mine down. If I want to dress up, I kind of just do. All jokes aside, I'm a grown woman. As long as I'm paying my bills and not hurting people or evading taxes, I can do whatever I want.

Except eat with chopsticks. Can't figure those things out for the life of me.

Friday, October 21, 2011

As the Bed Turns

Well folks, I made it almost two months. Tonight was my breaking point: I'm back on the wagon. (Off the wagon? Whatever.) I rearranged my room tonight. Something stirred in me and I realized I couldn't do anything other than clear out the old 8 by 8 and, well, rotate my bed 90 degrees. Because that's really the only rearranging I can do up in hurr.

Check it out:

The best part so far of this new arrangement: optimal viewing of our hoarding neighbor. Seriously, I can see right down into her apartment. Confession: the other night I watched her watch TV and eat cereal straight from the box while I ate a bagel and sat on the edge of Britney's bed. Who's more pathetic? I'll let you decide.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Never: Hyperbolic Marketing

I feel out of the loop when it comes to new songs now that I'm not spending most of my time with teenagers. The only time I listen to the radio these days is when I shower. I realize for many that means daily, but if you know me, you know that isn't my reality.

As I showered & listened the other day, two commercials struck me. The first was for North Face and encouraged me to "Never Stop Exploring." A few seconds later, Lowe's implored me to "Never Stop Improving." [Remember when Lowe's was "Improving Home Improvement"? Now the focus is on the customer. Clever.] Both ads reminded me of Ray Ban's "Never Hide" slogan.

What do these ads say about our culture & society? Americans are traditionally socialized to embrace rugged individualism & continual advancement--more money, things, education, success, power--and these three companies have definitely embraced that. I personally appreciate all three ideas, though I think there comes a time we should ease up on exploring and improving to enjoy what's here and now. I'm sure there are times we should definitely hide as well. Like during Hide-n-Seek or Sardines. I also don't need expensive outerwear, construction supplies, or sunglasses to follow through with these three ideas.

Okay, the sunglasses might help. I always thought it was funny (funny-weird, not funny-ha ha) how some people use sunglasses to stand out, while others use them to blend in. Ray Ban is clearly in the stand out camp. No evading the cops or paparazzi allowed. Nevermind their actual use, to Ban the Rays of the sun.

It's nearly 5 am, and time for another room check here at work. I'm doing the overnight, which means checks every half hour along with late night TV. And you all know what that means: infomercials. Do you have a frying pan that can be used as a hammer in emergency situations? I know I don't, but for a few simple payments I can have one shipped to my door. Now that's Amurrrica at it's finest.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Happy Mad Hatter Day!

Remember the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland? His hat had a slip of paper reading "10/6" ... and thus, October 6th is now celebrated as Mad Hatter Day. A day similar to April Fools' Day, but more for celebrating/noting silliness.

Silliness of course being the very things our society regards as "normal," but are in actuality completely mad:

--bottled water
--gym memberships
--vitamin supplements
--frozen meals
--cartoon characters not wearing pants
--working more to afford things you don't need and can't enjoy anyway because you are always working
--why doesn't Tarzan have a beard?
--shoes designed to feel like you are not wearing shoes
--swimming pools
--arm rests at movie theaters
--fancy ketchup
--the Easter bunny
--Donkey Kong
--the phrase "head over heels"
--child pageants
--plastic utensils
--sweater vests
--country music

The list goes on. Let me know what other strange things we have been socialized to believe are normal!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Chicago V Madison: Streets & Bikes

I don't mean this post to be a competition; Chicago and Madison both have pros and cons. I just love comparing cities, and since I recently spent a bunch of time in Madison, these differences/similarities are fresh. As far as city comparisons go, this one's fairly weak. I'm not going to get into the sports, food, music, politics, or any interesting stuff of either city. I just want to write about the streets and the biking. FYI, I didn't research any of these; I'm post-workout blog vomiting.

Okay, if this were a competition, Chicago is the winner hands down just by virtue of The Grid. Directions and maps don't confuse me; I'm actually a great navigator. Madison, though, always gets me turned around. I wonder if living in Chicago has spoiled me; maybe The Grid is a crutch of sorts. Or maybe I just haven't spent enough time in Madison. Either way, I love hearing an address and knowing almost exactly how to get there without googling it. Madison (and most of Wisconsin) operates on the some streets straight, some not so much system. It's super easy to get lost and you most likely need directions to get anywhere, unless you are already familiar with the area.

Chicago is a huge bike city. Some neighborhoods more than others, but overall, biking in the city is a normal, popular thing to do. And yet, there are still very few protected bike lanes. In some areas, there aren't bike lanes at all, just the several feet between parked cars and traffic for bikes to maneuver through. A biker in Chicago needs to be super aware of his/her surroundings. Luckily, most drivers are also aware of their surroundings, even if they hate bikers. Madison also appears to be a bike city, and besides confusing streets has bike trails. Partially I'm guessing it's a college student thing, though I know Madison usually ranks as a healthy city. Still, I did see a lot of way protected bike lanes--like literally a separate area of the road just for bikes. So that's awesome for Madison bikers. Streets are confusing, but you can pay more attention to where you're going since you don't have to worry as much about being in traffic.

There you have it, for anyone wondering just how Madison and Chicago compare on two minor city details that actually come into play a lot in my own personal life, these are things I observed. I hope I've been super helpful.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Spoiler Alert: I'm Eating as I Type This

I'm about to surprise no one with this confession: I love food. Cooking it, eating it, talking about it (sometimes preaching about it), and reading about it. Well, I've been reading food books for a long time. But after a short hiatus during which I read books about Chicago and introverted philosophies, I'm on a nonfiction/food kick again. Unless the novel about a piano tuner in Burma written by a medical doctor (the other book I recently began reading) sucks me in.

Following is a short list of my favorite foodie-type books. They are all fairly similar and have been integral in my quest to eat food. As a result of reading several of these books, I am mostly vegetarian. (I know, you either are or aren't. I'm not, but it's easier to tell people I am than to explain flexitarianism/being an ethical omnivore. Although I guess that undermines the reasons for differentiating in the first place.)

When I used to have food discussions with the youth I worked with they thought it was hilarious that I wouldn't eat the cafeteria meat just because I didn't know where it came from, or whether it was treated humanely: "So you mean, if you saw a cow die, and you knew where it was from and that it was killed quickly, then you'd eat it?" they'd ask. I'd nod. "EW. I could never eat something that I just saw killed," as they scarfed down hot dogs or hamburgers or chicken of questionable origin. This discussion grew into a running joke: "Rachel, do you want a hamburger? I think it was laughing when it died." "Rachel only eats meat from happy animals, like if the chicken gets to dance around and play before someone kills it."

So, if you are looking for something to read, or if you never want to look at ground beef the same, here's a few informative, but also entertaining, reads:

In Defense of Food - Michael Pollan
I've discussed this book's still awesome. Check out his other ones as well, or read the many articles he's written, or watch videos of him on various news/talk shows. Basically, become of fan of this guy.

Eating Animals - Jonathan Safran Foer
Again, the man, his books, etc...all pretty great. Don't let the movie version of Everything is Illuminated ruin J.S. Foer for you.

Fast Food Nation - Eric Schlosser
Now a major motion picture, starring Wilmer Valderrama, Greg Kinnear, and...Avril Lavigne? Whatever, still an informative and frightening read. Not that I ever eat fast food anyway.

Okay,'s not an exhaustive list. These are just the three that come to mind. I finished FFN just yesterday, and the other two have always stuck with me. I figured they were worth revisiting. Now go eat some real food!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Say No To Pinktober

[2016 update: 5 years later, this is still relevant.]

If you haven't noticed, it's October. Many great things happen in October. Baseball is finally worth watching, hockey and basketball seasons start, and football is, well...that's a story for another post. There are apples, squash, and candy to contend with. A lot of pink things start showing up as well. I'm personally not a fan of the pink initiative. Before you hate me, let me include a disclaimer: I'm against cancer. I just don't know how strong the link between "awareness" and "cure" is. If October were National We Found a Cure for Breast Cancer month, I'd be more supportive.

There's a great article here [2014 update: here, here, here, and here, 2016 update: here] that sums up my feelings on the month. What angers me most is how much of a lucrative business gimmick it's become. If someone wants me to buy a pink item to raise money for breast cancer awareness, the answer's no. I'm not paying to bring about awareness. Awareness doesn't equal action or results. I'll support finding a cure, supporting survivors, families, and those who currently have cancer, providing treatment, and introducing programs for early detection, but I think we're all well aware of breast cancer itself at this point.

Besides, can't we all just agree the "I (heart) boobies" bracelets (and their offshoots) are objectifying? Women are more than their chests. A woman who's had a mastectomy probably misses not just her boobs, and she's no less of a woman (or a person) without one or both of them. Plus there's the fact that breast cancer is still most common in women past the perky point in their boob life--I doubt they refer to their breasts as boobies. And let's not forget men, who can also get breast cancer but maybe don't care about "boobies," per se. [2016 update: All this to say, I do (heart) boobies. I think they are great. But breast cancer is not about boobs, it's about a malicious disease that affects a whole person.]

What I'm saying is: wear pink if you want. Or don't. But let's not pretend that this color is doing the real work of preventing, treating, or curing breast cancer. That's for us (and teams of qualified doctors and scientists) to do. And while we're at it, let's treat people with cancer like humans, not like body parts that happened to have people attached to them.