Monday, December 13, 2010

CNN Blogs on sex: "Should women be more like men?

Sex: Should women be more like men? – The Chart – Blogs

First, a disclaimer: I have always found "
Sex and the City" – both the novel and the TV show – to be vapid, idiotic, unrealistic fluff that is insulting to women. Now on to a response to the question posed in the article.

Now, not all men are assholes and whores. Neither are women. So why women fixate on the less flattering qualities of men to emulate in their quest for balanced gender roles is baffling. I tend to think it's because they're not really searching for equality; rather, they're seeking to rebel from the more sensationally prominent of their existing gender role constraints.

Men are not respected by women when they are players/whores. Why would women think they'd command respect as sluts who objectify themselves, valuing their bodies as nothing more than currency in the same way some men do? Is it an "if you can't beat them, join them" mentality?

Then there are the biological variables as described in the article, and of course the fact that "Sex and the City," the TV show, was helmed and directed by men.
That said, the themes and scenarios and characters in the show did spur greater awareness and serious discourse alongside all the vapid frivolity.

People in general need to stop trying to be like someone else and start being like themselves. We can admire qualities in others, and decide to adopt and shape it as our own, but to attempt taking identities wholesale requires a level of misdirected insecurity and regard for the superficial over the nuances of human and individual identity.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Books and Culture: Japanese Schoolgirls!

"Japanese Schoolgirl Confidential: How Teenage Girls Made a Nation Cool",
by Brian Ashcraft with Shoko Ueda. Kodansha International, 2010. 9784770031150.

The analysis about the impact of the image of the Japanese schoolgirl in Japanese popular culture and technology sounds interesting and still very timely. In America, Japanese schoolgirls has something of a preteen, gamer, and yes, pedophilic, appeal, but there is much more to their popularity, longevity, and impact on pop culture around the world, including Japan. A welcome addition to the growing trove of pop culture analysis.

- Official website -
- Reviews: a blog. chaos tangent (nice layout). the akiba. japanator. popmatters. jap lit.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

On marrying young

Mark Regnerus -- "Freedom to Marry Young" -- The Washington Post

As interesting as it is insulting (not Regnerus being the insulter, but the assumption that people are choosing to push people away as opposed to just not having met anyone yet). That said, I agree with the basic four-word thesis and enjoyed the sociological analysis (I do regret not double-majoring in Sociology instead of just minoring in it), although I'd add that in granting one freedom, we must not revoke or condemn others.

lthough, while the data generally supports the thesis of younger does not equal worse for long-lasting marriages, the data mentioned takes the analysis beyond that original question and into questioning of changing norms re. gender values and worth.

For example, the idea that for women, age is a debit, not a credit. Well sure, if a woman's worth is measured like the value of your bank account and value as a spouse hinges solely on how long your biological clock keeps ticking. Granted, that's a big factor for many people, but is that the only thing that has been studied re. women's worth in a marriage? I think the argument/analysis still could've been made without the tying of worth to reproductive ability.

Feminism aside, though, as one of my colleagues, Kate Schwab, notes, "
it doesn't change the fact that men are hardwired to desire young, sexy, and yup, fertile beauties. Sucks, but it's the truth."

To which I'd respond with the following irreverent and playful rant:
Men have fought their supposed biological predisposition to sow their wild oats and with as many fertile and shapely women trotting out pheromones and eyeliner for a long time in order to settle down into generally monogamous relationships which are the foundation of marriages and all the lovely economic and human affection advantages brought about thereof. Given enough incentive, whether in the form of financial stability, numerous shags, societal pressure, or, hey, affection/love!, men can fight their supposed hardwiring as they choose. Otherwise, more dimwitted women would be knocked up than smart ones. Oh wait... !

On another note, men will "eventually" mature enough to catch up to their long-lasting sperm count, and their age is a credit?! Um, so women are as unsuperficial as they are super-fast to mature?
But moving on, according to Schwab, the biggest trend missing here regarding gender issues is the cougar phenomenon.
Are these women of middle age and decent wealth so rare as to make them statistical outliers? Or is it that young men tend to enjoy, um, playng with them for awhile but show little inclination toward marital commitment in that department? (In which case, a woman's age would appear to outweigh even the benefits of wealth, social advancement and intellectual knowledge.)
Then there is the human factor. Affection, love, religion, social pressures that lean in either direction. And as Sheila C., 24, of A Gift Universe, notes, reverse age-hesitance.
Many people actually do delay marriage, even when they've found a person they believe to be "the one," simply because they think they're too young. Men write off the idea -- "I'm only 28; I'm only 30" -- while the women go along with it be...cause *everyone* tells them they are too young to get married. I have seen that.

Certainly getting married young shouldn't be a goal. But if you've found the right person, waiting for some magical age or achievement isn't going to get you anywhere, in my opinion.
Of course, it isn't all just about fertility. Since men reach their sexual peak at 17 and women don't hit theirs till about 30, perhaps it's less about sperm count and more about money. Or, instinct, as Sheila adds.
We are shaped by our instincts, for better or worse. From an evolutionary perspective, 50-year-old husbands with half a dozen 14-year-old wives would be fine, whereas our culture has (thank goodness) progressed past that!

Often more conservative/religious people tend to get married younger, and their divorce rate can be predicted to be lower. On the other hand, marriages decided hastily because of pregnancy obviously aren't likely to last long. One thing I never see discussed when people play the divorce-statistics game is what it takes for a couple to get divorced. I mean to say, a very conservative, religious couple might be miserable and choose not to divorce, but a couple that's played the field a lot before marriage and is looking for "the perfect mate" might get divorced even if their problems are solvable, simply because they're expecting something closer to perfection. A big factor in whether a couple gets divorced is whether they believe in divorce in the first place. Another is whether they have kids.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Rocky waters for polar tourism

Cruise ship in peril between the southernmost tip of South America and Antarctica

Why would you go on a CRUISE ship to the Antarctic? Presumably everyone on that ship at least knew it'd be somewhat treacherous down past Cape Horn? At least everyone was safe this time, not like three years ago ( Speaking of past incidents, though, in the last four years, three cruise ships have ...been smacked and crippled by exceedingly powerful waves ('07, '08, '10) during the same week (give or take a few days).

On polar tourism trends:

And that 2008 incident:

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Reaction: Medical Team Murdered in Afghanistan

The Associated Press is reporting that a medical team of six Americans, one German, one Briton and two Afghans, were killed in Afghanistan after completion of a two week mission to provide health care to rural villagers. The Taliban claimed responsibility, stating that the murder were justified because the group consisted of American spies and Christian missionaries.

It's sad when a valid concern, like foreigners attempting to degrade your culture and history through conversion, is twisted so horribly into warped justification for any and all murders, power grabs, and other violent acts that are just as if not more detrimental to a community than that which is being fought against.

RIP to the medical team killed.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Food Review: Fresh Direct meals

Chef Terrance Brennan, of New York's Picholine and Artisanal, is known for emphasizing cheese in his celebrated dishes. So I consider myself lucky to have a nearly cheese-less dish as my first taste of Brennan's culinary expertise. As it happens, my latest foray into gourmet cooking is also more affordable than a reservation would be, and not entirely fresh. Thanks to my temp position at, this week, I found myself faced with not only free hot chocolate, but also a vending machine full of pre-packaged gourmet "4-minute meals" courtesy of Fresh Direct, the online grocery store that delivers to your home (or trailer or wherever you want). On this day, my workday lunch consisted of opening the microwave and popping in Brennan's Parmesan Risotto with Porcini Mushrooms, Asparagus and Peas.

I am not a fan of fast food and have my doubts about how well pre-prepared meals stand up to reconstitution in the microwave or with a little water (from both a taste and nutrition perspective). So I had low expectations, but even accounting for that, the taste, texture and freshness of the ingredients were of pretty good quality. After the designated four minutes in the microwave, a minute to sit, and a quick spoon stir, the risotto came out firm and creamy (it didn't even need water), the mushrooms neither chewy nor raw (that's a good thing in my book and I'm a mushroom fan), the asparagus and peas crispy and well-steamed, and the parmesan an afterthought. For a vending machine meal, this wasn't bad. The portion size was quite decent, too, although I needed the fruit I brought with me from home. If you find yourself stuck in the office facing a deadline or a wintry, blustery day outside, then it's a viable and convenient option I'd certainly recommend.

Total cost: $6.89
Total prep time spent: five minutes
Total taste-worth measurement on a scale of 7 hungry hungry hippos: 5 hungry hungry hippos

Monday, May 10, 2010

Restaurant Review: Ethos-U.N.

One of the most important skills to master as a vegetarian with meat-eating friends is the art of ordering off of a non-veg-friendly menu. True, plant-based diets are more the norm than ever thanks to healthy eating movements and fears about obesity and diabetes risk. And usually, the restaurant’s chef is ready with a backup option available upon request, or is willing – and able – to alter a dish to omit meat. But every once in a while, in conversation with the waiter, you’ll find yourself faced with either an apologetic “sorry” or a resolute “no.”

What to do in situations like this? Why, order off the appetizer and salad menu, of course! (And always check with the restaurant, whether via phone or a peek at their menu online, before leaving the house.) Not only can this help you go easy on the size of your meal, but it often ends up easy on your wallet, too.

I employed this tactic one cool Saturday evening at Ethos – U.N. (905 First Avenue, NYC), a restaurant specializing in Greek cuisine that a close friend had chosen to celebrate her 25th birthday.

Continue reading at -->

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Restaurant Review: Blossom

Of all the fantastic gourmet restaurant options available for vegetarians in New York, Blossom (187 Ninth Ave., between 21st and 22nd Streets) is one of my favorites, thanks to reasonable prices, delicious organic food in hearty portions, and a warm décor with unpretentious ambience that welcomes business casual and upscale diners alike.

While it’s candlelit interior would be perfect for date night, it is also a lovely place to catch up with friends, which is what I did one recent Thursday evening. Walking through a little slice of Chelsea, from the 23rd St. station exit on Seventh Ave. to Ninth Ave., I quickly found the restaurant in its snug ground-floor spot in a townhouse, but got a little confused at where exactly the door was, it blended so well with the wall. Once inside, though, a friendly waitress quickly seated us by the front window, poured us glasses of water, and took our drink orders.

To look at what I ate, check out the full Blossom review over at

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

TV Review of "Glee" Season 1, Episode 16: "Home"

Tonight's episode of Glee, "Home," was beautiful and fantastic. Such emotion and realistic dialogue and directing let the actors really shine. Here are my thoughts on what I loved, what I hated, and what I thought just worked really well for the show and the characters.

Things I loved
I loved finn's mom's scene where she's explaining letting go of her husband/finn's dad and that their home hasn't really been the home it would've been with finn's dad weren't missing. So spot on in dialogue and beautifully acted by both Cory and Romy (the actors playing Finn and Carole). So accurate. My mom was riveted on Finn's mom and I was riveted on Finn's reaction to the chair.

I loved the Mercedes and Quinn scene. So touching. Another example of fantastic and accurate writing. When Quinn said that eating to keep her baby healthy and strong made her ask why isn't she willing to give herself that kind of care and attention... so spot on.

I love how Mercedes's "Beautiful" ballad was powerful, yet toned down from the high pitch of Aguilera's equally amazing, but different, version. Amber Riley really hit the emotion and the music.

And I loved how Will Schuester is acknowledging and feeling his loneliness – the loneliness that comes from having been in the same serious relationship since when he was 16.

What I hated
On another note, I hated how the investigative reporter never interviewed any students or faculty, or even Sue herself since he interrupted her in her office right before she was about to put her foot in her mouth. A good reporter lets the subject speak for itself. And a good reporter never goes and tells the subject how the article is going to turn out.

I didn't really care for the song selection, either. And while I love Kristin Chenoweth's talent and energy, the songs they gave her didn't pop the way it could have with different songs and thematic ties. The music-in-story seemed a little forced and disjointed and even Kurt's rendition of "A House is Not A Home" was pretty painful, thanks to it coming out of nowhere and being infused with both the parent-dating drama and the Kurt has a crush on Finn drama.

What I thought worked
How nice was it to have a break from the kid's angsty love lives and other melodrama going on. In other words, thank you, writers, for putting Rachel and Jesse in the background this episode. They're talented and all, but Glee needs this to be an ensemble cast with ensemble scenes, not designated "stars." And Glee needs to show that it knows it has the potential to be more than just the music – and the music is only as good as the emotions tying it to the story.

It was also nice to see a responsible, competent and sane school nurse on the premises. When she showed up on the screen telling Mercedes that her mother was on her way to pick her up, and said it all calmly and with sympathetic understanding, well, that was a not insignificant moment for me.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Is American Sign Language a "foreign language?"

The Chicago Tribune reported today that while some universities allow students to count American Sign Language classes towards foreign language credit, some do not, citing their belief that ASL is either not "foreign" or not a "language." This is absurd.

ASL is a foreign language in that it is both different from the standard language – English – used in American public schools, and is a formal means of communication between a large section of the populace. Languages do not require a formal written component to be valid, although ASL does include it's own form of translation from English, called a "gloss."

Kate, a Montana resident who has studied ASL off and on for over a decade, notes that ASL has markedly different syntax from standard English.

"Signing or finger-spelling to English syntax is often called "pidgin" and frequently seen in drama productions. The grammar difference is especially noticeable with things like adjectives, for example, when and English speaker says I am glad, an ASL user would be much more likely to sign "Me +Happy +Me."

As in English, ASL also has homonyms but they can be surprising. You would use different signs for "deliver" depending on whether you mean "to rip something off," "rescue" or "to give birth", and some signs are easily confused - the grinding motion for "coffee," done wrong, suddenly means "will you make out with me?" and the sign for "pregnant" becomes "log cabin" depending on finger movements."

Also, "foreign" is not defined based only on geographic distinctions. It is defined as something that differs from a particular subject or group's norm. Similarly, "language" does not require spoken words to be relevant. It merely requires a standard and recognizable set of signs of symbols, such as written characters, drawn glyphs, or finger movements. Technically, ASL does also has an oral component, except the it uses fingers and gestures.

Sheila, a former high school and grade school teacher in Virginia and Pennsylvania, agrees, stating the following:

"It is a very special case, but I would agree that it is a foreign language. After all, Latin is a foreign language whose spoken form has virtually no practical application. It's still useful for communicating (so to speak) with the ancient Romans. ASL allows you to communicate with another special group -- not people from a different country, perhaps, but people from another culture. And it has MORE applications than many foreign languages. You could study Russian and never meet a Russian person who didn't speak English, but the chances of meeting a deaf person are pretty high."

On another note, ASL does have a cultural component, as it is used by members of the deaf community as well as their family and friends. To treat people as if their widely used method of communication is somehow irrelevant is like telling them that they are irrelevant. It is an arrogant stance to take and a close-minded slap in the face.

What do you think, reader? Does American Sign Language count as a foreign language?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Three Simple Tips for Aspiring Cooks

On Easter Eve, I had the opportunity to eat a fully catered authentic Italian-American meal, complete with many vegetarian-friendly options, courtesy of Chef Mark of San Francisco's California Culinary Academy and Michael's Restaurant (2929 Avenue R, Brooklyn, NY). The reason for the union of East and West Coast deliciousness? The birthday dinner of my next-door neighbor, Vivian – Chef Mark's mother. Needless to say, I was delighted to be meeting the chef son who my a-Mu (the Toisanese name I call my neighbor, which means something like "respected older unrelated aunt") brags so much about. I had so many questions.

First on my agenda – right after saying hello, wishing a happy birthday to the birthday girl, and the quick scan of the dishes to whet my appetite for later – was to chat up Chef Mark about what kind of food he cooks, how he cooks, and what tips he would have to an aspiring cook.

Chef Mark was very amiable and obliging, as I suspect I detected a combination of pleasant surprise (at finding someone so enthusiastic about what he does for a living) and weary familiarity (from all the students asking him questions). He immediately said the following:

"Three things: use fresh ingredients, take your time, stay simple."

That's it.

I was amazed.

And momentarily silent (if you know me well, you know how rare these occasions are) from Chef Mark's quick and ready answer. I thought he'd at least pause at the uniqueness of my question. Now I found myself mentally typing his words down and filing them away for this post.

Lesson learned. Always be on your toes.

I repeated the three rules to him just to confirm later that evening. But not before I asked him what he thought about CSAs (community supported agriculture, for those whose lives don't revolve around the fresh food movement). He agreed with me that they're great ways to get fresh food on the table. I would add that they're a great way to cut costs if you feed an army of kids regularly or if you need to push yourself to cook more often by throwing produce too beautiful to waste your way every other week.

And really, these rules make a world of sense. Here's why.

Use fresh ingredients

Vegetable Antipasti

Take this plate of antipasti that Chef Mark prepared that morning. It practically screams "Fresh." Fresh kalamata and green olives. Fresh steamed asparagus. Fresh roasted eggplant. Fresh tossed skinny string beans (I don't recall the actual name of these at the moment). Fresh red peppers, roasted and sliced into slivers. It's gorgeous. And good for you. And good eats.

Take your time

This is definitely pertinent advice for me, the impatient one when it comes to eating, slow walkers, and important things getting done. Since starting my gradual adoption of a vegetarian diet over five years ago, I've made progress on the eating speed front. I'd heard all the talk about how French women – and women living along the Iberian and Mediterranean Seas in general – stay lean and fit in spite of their oil-rich diets. I knew the value behind the concept of afternoon siestas. I noticed how stuffing my face made me feel sluggish for hours afterwards and slowed my work productivity.

Now slow walkers... that's out of my hands.

I'm working on having the guts, courage and shrewdness to just take on the pile of work, already, sensing the balance between what needs to get done first and what can get done first.

But taking my time in the kitchen is so far turning out to be pretty relaxing, cathartic even, and helping me slow down in other ways, too.

Stay simple

Cheese Antipasti

How much simpler can it get than a tray of sliced mozzarella and tomatoes, tossed in olive oil and vinaigrette? (Along with some type of salami-like meat and chunks of dry cheddar.)

The simplest recipes are often the most delicious. Sometimes they are even more time consuming to prepare than less seemingly complicated recipes.

And the foods with the simplest list of ingredients are always the healthiest. If you can't pronounce it or have never heard of it, it's no longer simple and no longer healthy. Just say no to food additives as often as you can.

Another way to keep simplicity in mind is in how you stock your kitchen, however small (warning: it's a video), like Deb at Smitten Kitchen's. Or natural foods oriented, like Heidi's over at 101Cookbooks. Or regarding flavor profiles.

And if you think simple and tasty means hard work, check out Amy's Stupidly Simple Snacks video series over at AmyBlogsChow.

There. Three simple rules, plus a little help from friends with tasty habits, to start your own cooking adventure. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sunday Brunch at Belleville

I coerced my mother into driving us into Park Slope this morning for brunch. The sun was shining, the clouds and winds were cooperating, and the plan was to hit Chip Shop, that land o' fish and chips and vegetarian Shepherd's pies over on Fifth Avenue and 6th Street. But somewhere along the way, I noticed that my stomach and developing-foodie sense was tingling, telling me that even a full veg English breakfast didn't count anymore as what I wanted: a real brunch.

The concept of a "real brunch" is something that I invented to describe what is basically urban sidewalk bistro fare. It features dishes that one doesn't usually make at home and cannot get at a diner; dishes that stand out for being filling, creative and worth the average ten bucks ($10) paid; dishes with ingredients to inspire, not remind you of what you already have in your fridge. Perhaps after a few months of sampling "real brunches," they'll lose their luster for me and brunch will go back to just being the portmanteau of breakfast plus lunch. But I don't think so. I might just start comparing cooking styles in the hopes of determining a favorite spot. Or begin imitating them.

So, as we walked away from the minivan (it looked right at home in this neighborhood), I posited a purposeful wander within one to two blocks of Chip Shop to see if we could find a suitable cafe or restaurant with an inspiring brunch menu. Thus we found Belleville (330-332 5th St., on the corner of Fifth Ave.). And they lived happily ever after.

Just kidding. Really, though, the food is lovely, as is the decor. Wood-paneling, long, smooth bar, French doors in a cream colored hue that open up onto both the avenue and street, red awning trim and brick accents, black-and-white small floor tiles, natural-tone wicker chairs outside and white linens on the tables... all attributes that drew my mother in like a moth to a flame. A bit standard in terms of NYC fresh bistro style, but charming and surrounded as it is by quaint, yuppie South Brooklyn (Ugh, Park Slope is totally in western BK, but the nabe gets the South BK regional designation out of 19th century tradition), effective.

The bistro/cafe was bustling at 11:30 A.M. on a Sunday morning, full of strollers, remarkably well-behaved toddlers, pooches, and young and older urban families of various ethnicities, all out for some sunshine and good food. My mom and I seated ourselves almost immediately after I settled for a blinding-in-white-shirt-and-apron waiter's friendly offer of outside seatage/seating after failing to flag down the maître d' girl, who was sitting at the bar, with her back turned to the door, snacking and drinking either tea or coffee with milk. My mom and I wondered if anyone knew we were there and if we were supposed to be plugged into an electronic table map, but it turned out fine since our waitress peeks outside to see the newcomers every few minutes.

To start, we ordered a croissant basket ($5), which took a while to arrive, but was worth the wait. So fluffy, flaky and full of surface area for the little red pots of cinnamon butter and raspberry jam to be spread around, I was in appetizer heaven. Even better was the fact that the whole thing was soft enough to shove into and melt in my mouth, which still cannot open very wide thanks to a swollen jaw from Tuesday's wisdom-tooth extraction. Even my mother, an exacting eater if there ever was one, loved it.

My Oeufs Pochés ($12) – perfectly poached, runny, possibly even slightly sensual eggs sitting on a square of puff pastry and topped with a spoonful of hollandaise sauce and a sprinkle of what I think were either chives or parsley – came surrounded by so much delicious sautéed duxelles (aka mushrooms) and spinach that my mother and I were able to share the veggies and there was still more! That's saying a lot, if you know how we eat. Of course, I finished it, along with half of my mother's order of Crepes du Jour – the day's special of crepe-wrapped bacon, melted gruyere cheese and onions. The cheese was stringy, but melted enough that it didn't matter, and had a sharpness and slight tartness to it that startles, but is tasty.

Both dishes came with a side of roasted potatoes/home fries and arugula/greens salad. The potatoes were plentiful and looked so brown and orange you'd think they were burnt, but were far from problematic. I'm a roasted potato fiend and fancy myself something of a connoisseur-in-training and these were ungreasy and both crunchy and soft, a perfect combination. The salad with some sort of olive oil vinaigrette was also a welcome and well-concocted addition, serving as a refreshing cleanser to cut through the stronger flavors of everything else. And I got an extra serving from my mom's plate, too!

So I give Belleville Bistro 4.5 out of 5 stars, marked down a bit for slightly slow service, although it was a very busy morning, so it doesn't seem a chronic issue. I would highly recommend it to new and experienced brunchers alike.

Also, I apologize for the lack of photos. I usually snap photos for work and whim all the time, but had the bad luck of leaving my battery charging at home. So hopefully my descriptions worked well for you! I plan on going back to Belleville in the coming months, so I'll update with photos then.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Public Produce Markets as an Economic Catalyst and Job Generator?

The Project for Public Spaces published an article this month calling for a national study on the economic impact of public markets, with one of the goals being to find out just how many jobs are and might be created by the development and presence of a public market in a community. This would be a valuable reference for both market advocates and political types with job-creation on their minds to have.

Personally, I have always loved the cry of vendors hawking their wares. It varies by location and in intensity and pitch, but inevitably exudes such a natural, yet practiced and practical, enthusiasm.

History also supports my romanticized vision, having shown that markets have been gathering places throughout the world for people of all walks of life. It has only been in industrialized, technology-centered societies that the natural appeal and applicability of public markets waned (or was suppressed). Now, in an era where jobs are scarce, trendy trappings are more a luxury than a given, and "fresh" + "sustainable" + "community" is to food as "vintage" is to clothes, it makes sense that public markets are making a comeback.

My personal bias aside, such a study would certainly provide welcome data about the economic potential of public markets in communities of varying sizes, from an urban metropolis to a small town. Our nation is in need of any project that has economic viability, on top of the social and environmental benefits offered – perhaps a study on social potential should be called for? – so this type of collaboration would be ideal.

Some of the other topics and goals of the study are as follows:

• The number of jobs created by a public market - directly and indirectly. These could include farmers, seasonal farm workers, market stall employees, market managers, and even seed salespeople.

• The economic impact on the businesses around the market.

• The economic benefit of participation in a public market for the farmer/producer’s business, including an understanding of their cost of production and the cost of their market operation.

• The economic impact on the participating farmers’ rural communities.

• What else needs be evaluated? And how can this study take shape?

Browse the PPS's article for more about the background of public markets and the logistics and collaboration that such an impact study would entail. The nonprofit is also soliciting reader feedback and ideas on their "Markets Economic Impact Study" at

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Not Just TV: CW's Potentially Deadly Faux-Pas

With spring comes green-light new TV pilots season. I mostly don't give a hoot about this unless one of them features an admired actor/actress or is tackling an issue of interest to me. But I do read (Entertainment Weekly). And this announcement caught my eye:

After emitting a pleased cackle at the fact that the idiocy known as 'Melrose Place' 2.0 might go under, I noticed the thing about this item about something called "Nomads." Then my mind just hit the floor (not literally, of course). Here is my problem with it.

"Nomads" is basically about backpackers performing odd jobs for the CIA abroad in the hopes that they'll get formally recruited and trained. Problem is, assuming the show does well and gets high visibility, it will alter a sizable portion of the public's perception about (1) backpackers and (2) the ulterior motives of young idealists. This public will probably include at least some people abroad. So this is totally going to put actual real-life backpackers - most of whom are not in fact working for the CIA as spies and minimally trained covert operatives - in danger. We already have teens and 20-somethings being kidnapped and held abroad for months and years on end. Seriously, I know this is "just TV," but you know, most of the time, it really isn't.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Health Care Hoopla: A Primer from the AP

The AP published a pretty good breakdown yesterday of how the proposed health care reform bill in its current incarnation would affect Americans.

It looks to me like the main problems/areas of instability or unease would lie in:
(1) the Employers section, where large employers would be fined if they don't figure out a way to monitor whether employees receive federal assistance -- monitor without violating privacy laws.
(2) the fact that it's going to take three to four years for the exchange and insurers not being allowed to kick people to the curb.
(3) the changes to how medicine is practiced, as PCPs and other general practitioners and surgeons will all have to shift how they treat patients (bc while doctors should already be working to keep patients healthy, the system really is a pay-as-you-go, non-holistic setup). I think this would be viewed as a good change, but a rocky one.

Lost in Translation: The Line Between Journalism and Espionage

NY Times article: "Contracts Tied To Efforts to Kill Militants"

Let me get this straight. So the "benign gov't info-gathering program" was a website known as Afpak, proposed by a former CIA guy and a former TV exec., set up to operate as what looks like a local news service focusing on cultural conflict issues in the context of wartime. And the intermediary - the accused Mr. Furlong - between the military and Afpak told Afpak that the military wasn't interested while also telling the military that Afpak was worthwhile? And when the rug got solidly pulled out from under Afpak, Furlong reallocated some of the leftover funding into one military program while shoving the rest - $15 mill. - into thin air?

Out of all this, aside from the outrageousness of his actions, if verified, it strikes me how apparently this Afpak endeavor was never clearly defined as either news-gathering versus covert intelligence gathering. If the boundary between the two is not recognized by the editors, not to mention our own military, contractors and the leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan - two countries where the USA has unstable relations, to say the least - then it's no wonder why journalism is regarded with suspicion and contempt by leaders on both sides (despite what they may say in public about the importance of a free press) and why the work journalists produce – and risk their lives for – are regarded as little more than spying.

It’s no wonder why what we do is lost in translation in countries where there is no free press. It’s no wonder why our own gov’t leaders make such pitiful efforts to defend our work and our lives when it comes to that.

Quotes about Rapes in Haiti

Below are some choice quotes and excerpts from an AP article on the dramatic increase in rapes of women and children in the tent camps in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The words and stories speak for themselves.

"The toddler is taking antibiotics for a gonorrhea infection of the mouth."

"Rape was a big problem in Haiti even before the earthquake and frequently was used as a political weapon in times of upheaval...

"The 21-year-old said her family has received no food aid because THE HAITIAN MEN HANDING OUT COUPONS FOR FOOD [and shelter] DISTRIBUTION DEMAND SEXUAL FAVORS."

"Eventually she found the patrol car but THAT OFFICER "TOLD US TO GO AND GET THE ATTACKER AND BRING HIM TO THEM.""

"Few rapes are reported... women often face humiliating scrutiny... police officers who suggest they invited the attacks... nurses who contend young girls were "too hot" in their dress style."

"WE ARE AWARE OF PROBLEM... BUT IT'S NOT A PRIORITY," Information Minister Marie-Laurence Jocelyn Lassegue said last month."

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Legal Bites: "Chelsea's Law" Wants GPS Tracking of Sex Offenders in California

The state of California is facing public support for a potential "Chelsea's Law," legislation that would require convicted sex offenders returning to society to wear GPS monitors that would track their movements to ensure that they stay away from the places - schools, playgrounds, child care centers - where children and youth congregate. The proposed law is named after 17-year-old Chelsea King, who disappeared in late February and was found raped and murdered a week later. Convicted sex-offender, John Robert Gardner III is charged with the crime, as well as the murder of a 14-year-old girl in a neighboring community. He was on parole at the time of the crime and his arrest.

I'm for such a new law and policy. 'Twould be nice if it were adopted by more states, too. As for this excerpt, I'm glad it's been noted now, but why it existed, what the hell:

"On Tuesday it was revealed that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation last year destroyed records pertaining to Gardner's 2005 to 2008 parole as part of a routine annual documents dump.
The Associated Press and Fletcher's office both requested the documents, prompting the department to reveal that they had been destroyed.
Upon learning of the department's policy, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered all parole records for convicted sex offenders held indefinitely."

What Irony: PepsiCo Funds Yale Nutritional Science Fellowship

As announced in a press release from Yale Medical School, PepsiCo is funding a new fellowship in Nutritional Science.

Okay, what kind of Orwellian world has Yale Med decided to create in the name of a little wad of green inked paper? Taking funds from the corporate giant that stands to lose good PR, if not millions of dollars, as a result of your Rudd Center and other med, health and nutrition program's research into childhood obesity, diabetes, and the negative health effects of sugared soft drinks - and the positive preventative results of soda taxes?
And having this whole thing guided at least in part by the former WHO tobacco control guru?
I'm with Michele Simon (of on this one. This instance of industry influence and selling out really hurts. And yes, it truly is shocking.

Revenge: Child Health Group Evicted By Harvard After Alleged Disney Interference


After successfully publicizing the dangers and lack of educational benefits to babies from Disney's Baby Einstein brand of TV videos, the nonprofit Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has been evicted from its offices in the Harvard-affiliated Judge Baker Children's Health Center. This, after Disney representatives repeatedly called health center officials and allegedly threatened to sue unless the Campaign ended all communications with the press and advocacy work against Disney products.

Conflict of interest should apply.

That Judge Baker and Harvard even thought that this would be acceptable is surprising, but also not so, since as the NY Times article notes, Baker is run with a corporate board of directors, not a community one. So it is subject to a more corporate management than many in the public might expect.

But in the end, I still say this:
Shame on Disney. Shame on Harvard. And shame on us, the American people, for allowing ourselves to create and nurture and continue to stand by and nurture corporations and their ruthless, immoral, careless, evil mindset - which has permeated our own - that operate outside ethics and the law.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Buy the Book?: Texas Conservatives Seek to Rewrite History Textbooks

And the battle continues, both over what points-of-view get play in history textbooks and over whether a handful of people in one state with a large student population - Texas - should be allowed to decide the textbook foundation for the majority of public school curricula throughout the country.

It's a fascinating debate and conflict with valid points on all sides. But education really should not be at the whim of changing political tides, as idealistic as that may sound to some. This is a goal and point that really should be reached for as much as possible.

As for the debate going on in Texas right now, it's one thing to advocate a certain measure of balance to textbook curriculum (i.e. the quoted proposal to add info on conservative organizations and public figures, or even comparing Jefferson Davis' ideas with those of Lincoln's, for context), but it's quite another to eliminate and replace existing historical events and context (i.e. American imperialism in its early and middle development, the neutral description of the different political and economic systems at play, and the goals, however idealistic, of minorities during the Civil Rights Movement).

(photo credit: Darren Heater -

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Rubbing Salt in the Wound: NYC Assemblyman Proposes Ban on Salt in Restaurants

With rising public interest and awareness in the relationship between food and health, city officials across the country have jumped aboard the grassroots bandwagons with enthusiasm, proposing and then passing laws to eliminate trans-fats from restaurant foods, require restaurants to prominently display calorie and other nutritional information on their menus, grade food establishments on a letter-grade scale, and tax soda/soft drinks sold in stores. The debate that has resulted has been heated, but mostly civil and sparking genuine opinions about the pros and cons of such government involvement in public dietary guidelines and eating choices. Even if one disagrees with the proposed legislation, and whether the laws work or not, at least leaders are making points based on informed research, right?

Apparently not always.

According to recent news reports, NYC Assemblyman Felix Ortiz has proposed a bill to ELIMINATE ALL SALT in all restaurant kitchens. That's right, ALL SALT. The idea apparently being that salt (1) is bad for you, (2) is not essential to the cooking process, (3) is simply a condiment that can be added at the end, (4) is not naturally occurring in food ingredients. Choice is good, but like salt, it is best used in moderation.

That's not a proposal based on sound health or scientific reasoning. That's insanity. You need salt to preserve foods and ward off bacteria. Salt helps give bread flavor and texture. Salt is a natural part of many foods, just as sugar is naturally essential to fruits and many vegetables, too. The notion that salt is somehow unhealthy even in trace amounts is absurd, so much so that I cannot take Assemblyman Ortiz's proposal seriously in any way. This is a good thing because if I even thought his proposed bill had a chance in heck to pass, I'd be feeling panic and outrage instead of stunned sadness as I sit here shaking my head at his folly.

This is a particular shame because it is coming from Assemblyman Felix Ortiz of southwest Brooklyn, of NYC's 51st District which includes Red Hook, Boerum Hill, Sunset Park, Borough Park, South Park Slope and Windsor Terrace. A local political and community leader who, until now, has had a pretty good record on pushing relatively popular health and community-centered issues such as farm-to-school advocacy, funding for eating disorder clinics and domestic violence. This issue, however, is likely going to weaken any prospect he had for higher office.

Fortunately, salt will in all likelihood not get wiped off our plates. Unfortunately, until the bill is officially rejected, talk on blogs, news shows and in pundit-land will continue.

photo credit: Earl53 at -

Monday, February 22, 2010

Check marks

Housekeeping. We all need a day or just a few hours every week or so to do it. Especially when we don't want to. Today was one of those days.

I didn't write anything substantial today for my sporadic freelance work, but I did get a bunch of stuff done.

1. Wake up during the actual AM hours. (This is a big thing for me ever since I switched my work/sleep clock on its head.)
2. Make peace with not remembering and documenting every little detail of the night's dream. Also, make peace with sleeping for a long time to enjoy my exciting dream world.
3. Cancel the web hosting for - the health insurance blog some classmates and I started a year ago.
4. Cook.
5. Interview for a part-time job at a start-up travel site start-up.
6. Enjoy and present well at said interview.
7. Buy a cupcake.
8. Go grocery shopping.
0. Schedule temp work for later in the week.
10. Do writing workshop homework.
11. Listen to the full stomach and stop eating.

On the down side, these are the things I didn't do:
1. HungryHeather
2. Cover letters.
3. Demand articles.
4. W-2 organizing.
5. Freelance articles.

The interview went well. It was fun, even.
Much to do.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

I do not celebrate Valentine's Day.

I don't celebrate Valentine's Day. I don't hate Valentine's Day, either. It's just one of those days that has never held any significant meaning to me. Perhaps this is because I never had a Valentine. But even things change and I have a Valentine in my future, I'm pretty sure this indifference will stay the same. You see, the fourteenth of February, for me, has already been marked as (1) my friend, Tara's, birthday and (2) the general time of year when the V-Day campaign to end violence against women is marked. And this year, there's the added occasion of the Lunar New Year falling on this day, according to the Chinese/Lunar calendar. So I'll be busy with that.

However, when it comes right down to it, I am a rather sentimental person who also doesn't mind the occasional friendly, trivial quiz. So to mark this Valentine's Day, I will answer the questions posted over at The Pioneer Woman's blog on love.

What was your first love’s name?
Have you ever had your heart broken?
What’s your favorite love song of all time?
Do you have a Valentine this year?
Do you believe love rules or love stinks?
Have you ever walked into a plate glass door in the dining hall on your first day of college?

Here are my answers:
First like = Will.
"They Were You" by Barbara Cook for the musical, "The Fantasticks"
Not on the first day...

So, Happy Year of the Tiger!

And Happy Valentine's Day!

In other news:
My hair is curly!
I love ice choppers. Before tonight, I never realized just how essential they are to breaking up clods of snow that fell from the awning onto the garage, forming a tightly packed pile.

On Social Media and News Sharing Over the Internet

John Tierney wrote this column over at the Times today, in their Happiness section: "Will You Be E-Mailing This Column? It's Awesome." Seeing as how I make a daily habit out of posting links on Facebook and here, I feel like I'd be remiss if I didn't post my thoughts on this one as well.

First, a few things:
(1) love the mention of "the optics of deer vision."
(2) the sample was solely from the NYT. That skews a bit, but could also be safe bc of the mainstreamness of it.
the Times' tracking system works when tracking the clicks on their
page. What about when people like me use a separate "Share on Facebook"
button I've installed in my browser? I'm not sure if it counts that
too. And what about when I re-share articles already shared, like I just did with this one? I guess if it tracks the # of times an
article's URL is spit out into the web of social networks, then their
stats are fine. But if it only tracks NYT-specific page hits, then eh.

That said, why do I post things with such regularity? What types of articles catch my attention enough that I decide they warrant sharing and blasting out into cyberspace, like a spam message to all my Facebook friends?

Well, the process goes something like this:
What I share is the byproduct of what I read. And I only read what I am surprised/shocked/stunned by, scared by, have something to say about, think might be well-written, is written by someone whose work and thoughts I respect, that I think specific friends might enjoy hearing about, or that I think might elicit a fun debate/discourse.
So this includes anything politic, cultural, health-related, science-related, food-related, tv or entertainment-related and NYC-related.

So far, it's worked fine and lets me figure out my stance on issues and how to structure those thoughts while having engaging and constructive conversations with friends and colleagues.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

PET PRIORITIES: Five Musts for the Furry Ones in Your Life

(Published in the January 2010 issue at - page 41)

By Heather Chin

The beginning of a new year has been a chance to start anew for families around the world for thousands of years. Losing weight, eating healthier foods, getting a promotion, studying more, saving money – the list goes on. Some resolutions are easier than others. This year, resolve to take care of the whole family – pets included – with these easy-to-do goals for the creatures who bring warmth and love every day of the year.

However big, small, clean, lean or furry your pet, he or she must be given the gift of you keeping them healthy via regular checkups with the veterinarian. According to the American Animal Hospital Association, pets should undergo a comprehensive annual exam that includes a lab analysis, heart check and dental exam. Annual vaccinations for things like rabies and flu are recommended, as are once-a-month tablets or spot-on treatment to prevent flea, tick and heartworm infestations. If you haven’t already, schedule a vet visit for the new year.

Combine good health with play by walking the dog and encouraging him to exercise. Invest in a running wheel for Pete Hammster and let Chairman Meow scamper and pounce more often on playthings. Add daily walks in the backyard or at a local park that will keep both of you fit besides being a good habit to develop overall. Invite fellow pet-lovers to make it even more fun in the sun – you get relaxing conversation and the dog gets a new friend to play with. When it gets cold outside, also remember to let dogs and cats stay warm indoors.

Don’t forget to make sure the princess looks her best before running outside. Grooming can be as basic as cleaning behind her ears daily (to avoid odor and ear mites), washing her feet and shampooing her hair. Check your pet supply store for cleaning products that provide dry/itchy skin relief. You could also try mouth cleansing pet chews and bones that will help her both charm the neighbors’ pets and prevent tooth loss.

While resolving to focus on a healthy diet high in calcium and other nutrients, that doesn’t mean you have to avoid treats. Brand name pet foods have many options that combine taste and health, but you can also make your own treats, such as popsicles or hollow squishy toys with a dap of catnip, tuna or other favorite treats in the middle.

Last, but not least, is the easiest resolution of all: spending more quality time with your pet. Love and affection is something that everyone enjoys and can relax the whole family. Blow some bubbles, toss a ball and hide treats or toys around the house. Dogs and cats often suffer from depression, stress and anxiety just like humans do, so simple gestures like petting, walking and making them feel loved is the perfect way to start the New Year.