Category Archives: rants

Spud goes Thud.

Okay, not to put too fine a point on it, but this is just stupid.

The Root of All Evil? White Potatoes Dropped from School Lunch Programs

I mean, come on. It’s insane that potatoes were ever a) treated like a vegetable, and b) served as tater tots and french fries and called “nutrition,” but that’s not the potato’s fault. Potatoes are awesome.  And cooked properly, they taste great and are remarkably healthy.

And my son wonders why I pack his lunch every day?

Umm…Happy Halloween

And now, for the most depressing link roundup I could possibly manage:

What’s scarier than Halloween? Blood Chocolate. –an account of trafficking, child labor, and corporate pressure to keep beans cheap.

Broken Hearts: A Review of Industry Efforts to Eliminate Child Labor in the Cocoa Industry –showing how despite efforts, the real power to end the abuses lies in the hands of the chocolate companies, (like Hershey’s), who appear to be mostly concerned with profit.

And if we needed another reason: oh goody. Cancer, Hyperactivity, and Allergies may lurk in Trick-or-Treat bags. (Hint: it’s the synthetic food dyes.)

Then there’s less depressing stuff that nonetheless makes me sigh, because I know the kids around here wouldn’t fall for it: Replacing Candy with Sugar-Free Eco-Friendly Treats. (Know what I would have done if I’d planned ahead more? Gotten on ebay and bought a buttload of those ridiculous “silly band” things in bulk, and given those out. At least they are popular, and while they are ridiculous, they at least don’t use up THAT many resources…)

At least for costumes this year we were able to go second-hand and homemade…Harry Potter and (we think–Halloween isn’t for another two days) Tinkerbelle. (Or Belle.  Or Little Black Cat. She keeps changing her mind.  Fortunately, we can manage any of the three with thrift-store finds and fifteen minutes at the sewing machine.

At last, one final eco-tip, courtesy of my son:

“Pillowcases hold WAY more candy than plastic pumpkins!”

(And are more eco-friendly, but I’m not sure that’s his motivation…)

Happy Halloween! Be safe, be as green as you can, be healthy, and most of all have fun.

The C Word

Contrast the story below with the accompanying photo:

A quote from the “carepages” site of an old friend who’s been battling cancer for years: “My wife has been oh so diligent in helping me stay on my diet free of refined sugar, bleached flour, corn fed beef and pork and all other foods that create the ‘soil’ that grows cancer. To fight the cancer, she prepared regular doses of kale smoothies, green tea and Korean ginseng along with fantastic mostly vegetarian dishes loaded with cancer fighting compounds (to find out more, read the book AntiCancer: A New Way of Life.) I also did yoga and pilates faithfully 6 days a week for over two months now sprinkling in runs, bike rides and weight lifting as time permitted…”

The “soil” that grows cancer. I don’t think I’ve ever heard it put better. (As seen in the pretty pink cardboard flowerpots above and to the right.)

It’s near the end of October, that month where pink ribbons are everywhere–racing for the cure, buying for the cure, walking for the cure, donating for the cure, promises to work for this elusive “cure” are all over the place.  Unfortunately, guess what’s also all over the place? People and companies plopping that pink ribbon on things just to get people to think They Care, and thus shop from them. Companies selling products with carcinogenic chemicals in them are “donating a portion of profits to the cure” and thus hoping to get a pass.

It’s called Pinkwashing. (Sort of like “greenwashing,” where a company puts pictures of green fields and fuzzy bunnies on the front of something called “eco-green-super-non-toxic-natural cleaner” and it’s exactly like their other products only it has 1% aloe vera gel or two micrograms of lavender essential oil or something added…)

Now please, don’t get me wrong–YES, we need to fight for a cure for cancer, YES we need to find a way to combat this horrible disease, to give hope to those who already have it or will get it in the coming months and years. But…what about “Walk for Prevention!” or “2% of this company’s profits will go toward community education helping women avoid and eliminate breast cancer risk factors” or things of that nature? Where are those pink programs?

They are around.  They are sometimes harder to find, because they are spending what funding they have to do the research and education and don’t have giant marketing departments like the Big Pharma or cosmetic companies.  but what we don’t know really can hurt us. Check out this article from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics–a huge number of the products we use all the time have hormone-disrupting chemicals, things that can mimic estrogen, metals that stay in our bodies and accumulate over time…and worse many of them are not even required to be named on product ingredients lists.

Something else that article points out: Guess who the three cosmetics companies are who use the pink ribbon to advertise their products? Estee Lauder, Revlon, and Avon. Guess what those companies’ response has been when the above campaign asked them to eliminate potentially cancer-causing chemicals from their cosmetics?

Check out some of these links–

  • at SafeCosmetics.org–the origin of the pink ribbon. According to this article, it wasn’t originally pink, but peach–until Estee Lauder wanted to use it to sell products.
  • a New York Times article about the results of the President’s Cancer Panel–hardly an alt-fringe group :-)!
  • The Cancer Panel report itself
  • Skin Deep, a website with cosmetic safety information (hint: click at the bottom where you can show 500 per page, it makes it easier!–or use their advance search), or their specific sunscreen page–scary to realize that practically every sunscreen you can buy at a mainstream pharmacy or grocery store has potentially cancer-causing chemicals in it.  And encouraging to at least have the impression that there are a lot more products in general in the mid-range, if not the “recommended” range, in a number of categories.
  • The Environmental Working Group and its accompanying EnviroBlog
  • the ChooseWiser.org blog asks (and answers) the question: When is a pink ribbon a red flag?
  • The Breast Cancer Fund’s State of the Evidence 2010 report.
  • Read the “What is Body Burden” article on ChemicalBodyBurden.org. (IMO, this is a key–or even the key concept we need to be thinking about–toxicity isn’t just a question of simple cause and effect, it’s something that builds up gradually in our bodies over time.  If we can keep the burden low enough that our bodies can do their naturally efficient job of keeping us cleaned out and detoxed, that’s good…but who actually knows at what point the load is too big?)

A few days ago I blogged about how much we do, how much money we spend, how much Stuff Of Unknown (to us) Origin we put all over our faces and hair and bodies in the name of some inexact concept of Beauty...Would knowing the use of those products increases your risk of breast (or other) cancer cause you to stop, or make changes? Wouldn’t you rather not get cancer at all than pray there’s a better cure if you do?  The voices warning us about the long-term dangers of the way we live our lives every day are drowned out by the big media and marketing groups, but they are growing stronger, even if they still seem to come from the Fringey Green Wackos…and the Wackos, at least to me, are sounding less and less wacky these days, when we start seeing that what they are saying is being echoed by the doctors of those already diagnosed with cancer, like my friend from the beginning of this post.

Please, Think before you Pink.

And next October, don’t be surprised to see me wearing a peach-colored ribbon on my purse or coat lapel…

Of Hair and Acceptance

Occasionally on WordPress I check out the “freshly pressed” section on the homepage, where some of the “best” blog posts of the day are featured. (Some I have to wonder, why is this here?–but that’s me.) Came across one a few days ago that was fairly awesome:

I Love My Hair!

And it has in it an amazingly cool video from Sesame Street:

This video has apparently, in the few weeks it’s been around, gone absolutely viral and been seen by tons of women and girls (and probably boys and men too) all over the net, and it’s fabulous. And it got me to thinking. (**DANGER** Jenn is thinking again, Jenn is thinking, **DANGER WILL ROBINSON**)

I am a Euro-American woman, and I have very fine stick-straight hair. All my life I have wanted thick, curly hair.  I was like Ramona in those Beverly Cleary books, who saw that girl Susan with the “boing-boing” curls and just envied and loved and wanted from afar.  I slept on rollers, I sprayed goop into my hair, and I went through that period in the eighties wherein I got really bad eighties perms as often as I could, and still couldn’t get the thickness and wave I wanted. (I’m serious, my hair is so straight it wouldn’t even take perms most of the time, and even those would fall completely straight within a few weeks.) I had a friend in junior high, an African American girl with long hair that she could play with and braid and she didn’t even have to put fasteners at the bottom to make the braids stay in; in boring geography classes (which were most of them; Mr. Roark, bless his heart, was a really nice man but he didn’t stir one to passionate yearnings for deeper knowledge) she would fiddle with it and braid and un-braid it over and over–oh, I loved her hair, I envied her hair, I so wished I had her hair…

(Er…okay, I read those last few sentences and want to clarify, it wasn’t some psycho stalker thing, it was a seventh grade girl with a whole set of negative body-and-hair image issues admiring a friend’s hair.)

Even as an adult, it’s been quite a journey. The turning point for me was when I was sitting next to my friend Heidi in a rehearsal one day–Heidi basically has the Exact Hair I Have Always Longed for, thick and long and curly and absolutely beautiful.  Like Jean Rowena Whatserface the ingenue high school girl in Mr. Holland’s Opus–anyway, I had that day tried to do something to my hair, I forget what–curled it, braided it to get wave in it, I forget what, and it had been actually fairly successful, though my hair was still mostly very straight.  And Heidi had hit hers with a fully straight blowout. Every bit of that gorgeous wave gone.  In effect, she had gone to a whole lot of time and effort and possibly cost to make her hair do exactly what mine always does without any effort at all, and I had gone to as much time and effort to make mine look like hers.

The insanity of that hit me that day, and since that day I have embraced the stick-straightness of my hair. I embrace the sort of medium-boring-brown color (although I occasionally hit it with reddish temp stuff when I feel I need some color in my life), I even embrace the threads of white at the temple that threaten to explode one day into a full-blown Bride Of Frankenstein stripe.  My hair is what it is, I love it, and I don’t need to change it to look like anyone else’s hair. (Also, just to clarify: Heidi is a beautiful woman. She is beautiful with a blow-out, she is beautiful with her hair waving the way it normally waves, and Heidi can wear her hair any damn way she wants to and she’s just plain gorgeous period. Her hair, her choice–but realizing that she would choose exactly what I was always trying to get away from was a big deal for me. :-))

Now to be clear here–I don’t in any way mean to equate or even compare my probably very typical little hair-image struggles with what the African-American community (or any communitiy of color, really)  has had to deal with and continues to deal with in terms of constant cultural pressure that blond-and-pale=beautiful, and the degree to which one matches that beauty standard=how beautiful one is, and the farther from that standard one is=how un-beautiful one is.  It’s just sick, and it’s why videos like this are so important for little girls–of all colors, IMO–to see. So are movies like Chris Rock’s “Good Hair”–a really interesting and eye-opening look at African-American hair culture, inspired by Rock’s daughter one day asking him the question, “Daddy, how come I don’t  have good hair?”

See this movie, seriously. (And if any part of you just went, “I’m white, why would I need to see this movie? It doesn’t apply to me, does it?” I’d say, definitely, you need to see this movie.)

Another story: about a year ago, I was watching the opening scene of Rent with my kids for the first time, the Live from Broadway version filmed in the theater. (Okay, this is the part where my husband goes, “oh HONEY, did you have to tell the whole blogging world that our son likes Rent??” Sorry, sweetie–he loves the song, it’s loud and it has screaming electric guitars and drums and lots of words and he just digs it. And it’s not his fault, or yours, that his mom is a Rent-head.)

(By the way, Rent features actress Tracie Thoms, who is also featured in Chris Rock’s “Good Hair.” Maybe it’s just me, but I think she’s sort of a goddess.  In a non-psycho-stalker kind of way.)

I’m not going to re-hash the plot and characters here, but suffice it to say that Roger and Mimi are the sort of central love interest, and Mimi in this production is played by a gorgeous actress with brown skin and thick, black, curly hair and pipes that just don’t quit.  We’d listened to the recordings in the car often enough that my kids know most of the songs (don’t worry, I skip “La Vie Boheme” when they are in the car), and they knew the kid-friendly version of the story pretty well.

The cast is very multi-ethnic, and there is exactly one blond-hair-pale-skin actress in the chorus who plays a number of small roles.  As we watched that opening scene, the blond actress flashed onscreen for just a moment, and my daughter automatically pointed and said, “Look! There’s Mimi!” As in, after being Disney-Princessified, my daughter assumed that any heroine love interest character in any movie would be blond and pale.  She saw the blond, and just knew this had to be Mimi, because that’s what Mimi should look like. It sort of blew me away; it was like Heidi’s blowout in terms of flipping on an internal lightswitch and making me go, WHOA. This Changes Here.  So I flipped to another scene in the movie (don’t worry, not the pole dancing scene) and let her see the real Mimi and watch her interact with Roger and hear her sing and see how beautiful she is. And started buying non-blond Barbies.

So does this have anything to do with greenness of any kind? Well, maybe.  Because the thing is, how much of what we–especially women–consume and buy and put on our hair and faces and into our bodies is nothing more than some feeling inside our selves that we need to do this if we are going to be attractive? I have never heard a woman who wears makeup every time she leaves the house say, “Oh, I know I look just fine without it, I just like to wear it.” But I have heard many times, “OMG, I can’t let people see me without my ____ on!” (foundation, mascara, lips, whatever.) How much do we do, how much time do we spend, how much do we pay other people to change our natural appearance so we can be more “beautiful”? And, the question to which there is as yet no empirical answer–what is it costing us in our health and that of our environment?

I’m not judging–believe me, I am so not judging. I’m the last person to question anyone’s motives about anything–for one thing, as much as I spout about naturalness and beauty, ultimately my lack of extra beauty regimen has more to do with laziness than anything else, and I have plenty of quirky little insecuritiesand behaviors myself.  And I do have several friends who do do some of the funky hair stuff just because they like it, and I’m totally all over “do what makes you feel good about yourself” and all that.  I guess I’m just saying…I don’t know what I’m saying. Maybe I’m saying that each of us is the only one with the answer to the question, “Am I doing this because I want to, or because I’m afraid other people won’t like what they see if I don’t?”   And even knowing the answer to that question isn’t enough–because sometimes people not liking what they see when they look at us can cost us, say, a job…so again, no judging.

Just asking the questions.

Jenn, who is over 40, sorta-almost-plus-sized, has greying hair, wears no makeup, and is a beautiful woman.

When Culture Eludes Me

With a title like that, you were probably expecting something sort of deep for a topic, right? Like why it’s actually a stretch to think that we might get adequate climate change legislation in my lifetime, or how it is that we have all these hybrid cars on the market and most of them still get under 40mpg…or something genuinely green.

No, what I want to talk about is mom jeans.

I need help, all you my faithful friends, and if you call me a fashion-impaired loser behind my back (or even comment quietly that if my rear end were smaller I might not have this problem) I won’t mind, as long as I don’t hear you.  Take pity on me, and lend me your aid.

Most of you know my deep love for ebay shopping. I honestly don’t much like shopping in stores, since I don’t have any time anyhow, and at 5’10” I can so seldom find anything that fits me off the rack, anywhere.  It’s why I learned to sew. And it’s why I know exactly which companies sell “tall” pants and jeans, and regularly do ebay searches to find out if anyone is selling a pair. Which is how I ended up with the like-new olive-khaki pants you see at left.  For $5.99. Not bad, huh?

While the big pluses of ebay shopping include good prices (if you know how to work the system), giving second life to otherwise cast-away perfectly good clothes, and avoiding patronizing businesses with whose practices I take issue, the minuses include not exactly knowing what you’re going to get till you get it. For example–normally when I see “boot-cut” I can interpret it as meaning “not skinny around your ankles”–in short, fairly normal down to the hem, maybe a little wider. That’s what most “boot-cut” pants I have look like.  These suckers, in real life, have a little bell-bottom vibe.  Not a big deal–I can always alter the bottoms.  And until I have time to do that, I can wear them to work only on days I know I’m just going to be sitting around in my office not really seeing anyone. (Or going to a staff meeting.  I honestly could care less what the staff thinks of my clothing choices.) Or to the park with the kids.  Or I can pretend I’m doing the 70’s retro thing.  Or quote internet sites that say these are actually now sort of “in.”  In a way, thank God for ebay, because until pants I bought there started having this lower-rise thing going, I didn’t really pay much attention and was still looking for the pants I’d been accustomed to for years. (You know, pants with waistbands.)

No, my real problem is the hips. Because until fairly recently, because I do most of my shopping on ebay, I subsisted on “mom pants.” You know the ones, the things you could last purchase new in the 1990’s sometime, except from Lands End–nice long rise, waistband that sits at the –imagine!– waist, a couple of pleats onto that waistband allowing room for that abdominal curve and rear-end curvier curve, pants you can work and walk and sit and crawl around on the floor in. To me, for ages, they were just…pants.  Until I first heard a teenager (with about 2% body fat and low-rise jeans on) refer to them as “mom pants.”  And saw this Saturday Night Live spoof commercial. And even found the “guide to mom pants.” (Is there anything you can’t find on the internet?)

So okay.  Even though they are apparently making a comeback (is there any greater sign that one is a fashion ignoramus when something is making a “comeback” that you never really knew was gone?), most fashion-y sites say they are pretty much a no-go. Which I sort of knew, I was just in denial.  Because I crawl around on the floor a lot with my kids.

Unfortunately, the alternative becomes pants that sit at your hips.  I’m not talking crazy-low-rise, which are just not in my universe, but ordinary pants that sit about at the hips and don’t actually come up over the hip bones to sit at the waist (I mean, you see the picture, right? These are practically mom pants themselves). Because the waist has this nice feature–it keeps pants from sliding down your hips.

So, any of my dear friends who wouldn’t mind helping me out here–how in the heck do you wear pants that sit at your hips without their a) falling down (I was running to be on time for a rehearsal in a pair of these and I swear I thought they would fall down around my ankles), b) needing to be unattractively hitched up every ten minutes, c) displaying my seriously not-huge-but-certainly-present love handles to their best disadvantage, or any of the other pitfalls of not having on a pair of no-worries high-waist pants that stay exactly where you put them all day?  I’ve been struggling with this issue, silently in the despair of my room, for probably a couple of years now, and I am still lost.  Is the trick to wear them so tight they won’t go anywhere? That doesn’t sound like much fun.

Please, I need help. I need an intervention. I need wisdom and guidance. And most of all, I need pants that will stay up.

(And by the way–any of my other dear friends who still wear the mom pants–and yes, I honestly do too, because I have them and they fit and I can do anything in them–you should know that you can still find them on ebay, fairly often, though it’s rarer every day…we can band together as a sisterhood, secure in the knowledge that we will never sport plumber-cracks nor worry that the world will know what kind of underwear we have on, knowing that whatever activity we are called to, we are ready. Mom-pants wearers, unite!)

Remember that joke gift, where you put a tiny gift in a huge box?

Well, in case you haven’t noticed…it’s not so much a joke any more, at least where buying electronics is concerned.

Beth over at Fake Plastic Fish just bought a webcam. A 4.3 oz camera with 4.4 oz. packaging and a box more than 10 times the volume of the camera itself.  She is, understandably, aghast.

But we see it all the time, don’t we? Any mom whose kid has a party has struggled with those damn toy packages with the pieces and the plastic back-thingies and the twisty-ties, you know what I’m talking about.  Or when the one book from Amazon comes in the 3x bigger box, with a few of those weird air-pillow things. Or when you buy your nice sleek laptop computer or smartphone and it comes in this huge box…or even the nice overstock backpack I just bought for my nice sleep little laptop, which came in its own huge box. (It needed to be that big, I guess, because I also bought a couple of pairs of socks in the same order.  Take up more space. Right? er….right?)

It’s one of the things I get a kick out of, shopping from ebay as much as I do.  So many of the sellers there have the packing thing down to an art, and they will use envelopes (or double envelopes), or pack a buttload of stuff into one of those single-price shipping boxes,  and its incredibly efficient.  Or they will use a larger box, if its all they have, and you can totally tell they didn’t go out and buy NEW shipping materials,  and stuff it with old bubble wrap from their closet or newspapers from the recycling bin or those weird air-pillows from Amazon.

The bigger companies…they could learn something from these ebay moms, that’s all I gotta say.

Still can’t figure out the corn syrup thing…

Okay, first there was the report that high fructose corn syrup causes obesity in a way cane sugar does not. Which I mentioned here.

Then there was the retraction. Which I also wrote about.

Now the Corn Refiners Association is trying to get the name officially changed from HFCS to “Corn Sugar.”

And then I find this article from Princeton University, a fairly reputable institution unless I’ve missed something, with another link.

I can’t figure it out. Anyone know anything more concrete about this?

Oh. My. God.

I can’t quite believe this.

Automatic for the People: Candwiches and Wine by the Glass

Thanks, AJH, for this lovely and…erm…appetizing link…

Burger stylists?

Okay, I know this is turning into the Week of the YouTube Video on my blog–but seriously check this out:

This article showed up on MNN, and it’s honestly fascinating, though not too surprising.  I’m going to show it to my very commercial-influenced children…

There’s actually a lot of press out there about this issue: check this out, where you can see side-by-side pictures of the commercial vs. the reality.

And then there’s Domino’s pizza, which is on the one hand (good) sort of pulling back the curtain on  pizza commercial tricks…but on the other (not as good), still producing a sort of carboard/boring/processed product.

Homemade is so much easier…because even though even ethically produced beef is pretty hard on the environment, and those burgers should probably be pretty rare visitors (no pun intended) to our tables, homemade pizza is one of the easiest things ever–either make some of your own pizza crusts and freeze them for later use, or heck, plunk some sauce and veggies and cheese onto almost any bread product you can find–naan bread, flatbread, pita, muffins, bagels–it’s gonna be a lot cheaper and healthier than Domino’s.

Hah! Chocolate “formula” is no more!

Over on Marion Nestle’s Food Politics blog, I was delighted to discover this:

Mead-Johnson withdraws chocolate toddler formula: Meaningful or just PR?

Honestly, I barely care if it’s PR–and of course it’s just PR! Their statement of why they are withdrawing it is what the blogosphere would call a “flounce”: “there has been some misunderstanding and mischaracterization regarding the intended consumer for this product and the proper role it can play in a child’s balanced diet. The resulting debate has distracted attention from the overall benefits of the brand, so we have decided to discontinue production of Enfagrow Premium chocolate toddler drink…” Aww, poor Mead-Johnson, with the mean blogger moms distracting everyone from the good you are trying to do for our children by pointing out that you’re making CHOCOLATE FORMULA. (Okay, I’m ranting again. But this one really ticks me off.)

As Marion says, “It’s the sugars, stupid.” And that statement applies to the vanilla version (which remains on the market) as well as the chocolate.

I don’t care if it’s PR, and I don’t care if they flounce, and I feel the same way about Kelloggs’ Rice Krispies immunity claim also getting nailed…the fact, under all of this, is that bloggers spreading the word and giving people information is causing companies to change the way they do things. We–if I may be so bold, because I hardly qualify as being able to include myself in the realm of people like Marion Nestle–are making a difference.

Yes, Marion, you are highly influential.  Never doubt it.

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