Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Idea Worth Sharing: Congressional Reform Act of 2013

I regularly receive Conservative-based email threads from my Father and Grandpa. I cannot always say that I agree with everything I receive, but nonetheless give them a fair consideration. This is a viable consideration and should seriously be considered. Cutting salaries and benefits to congressional elites will make a small dent by national debt and GDP standards, but holding those people who write the policies liable for what they pass will certainly make them consider the voice of the people. Ultimately, to pass such a policy, it will take strong public, judicial and executive branch initiatives.
Mount Washington- Presidential Range

*Congressional Reform Act of 2013

  1. No Tenure / No Pension.

A Congressman/woman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they're out of office.

2. Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security.

All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the American people. It may not be used for any other purpose.

3. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all Americans do.

4. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise.Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.

5. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.

6. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.

7. All contracts with past and present Congressmen/women are void effective 12/31/13. The American people did not make this contract with Congressmen/women.

Congressmen/women made all these contracts for themselves. Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their term(s), then go home and back to work.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Vegan Power Pancakes

 These pancakes are sweet, spicy and will keep you full until lunch!  If you don’t have all of the spices in this recipe just use what you have, don’t worry they will still taste good.  And feel free to get creative with the add-ins, my favorites are walnut pieces and dried dates but really the base recipe is flexible, you can put bananas, strawberries, really whatever you want in to it.  Have fun and enjoy!

1 c. whole-wheat flour
1 tbsp coconut sugar or brown sugar
2 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ginger
1/8 tsp cloves
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp salt
1 ¼ c soymilk or almond milk
2 tbsp grape seed oil or vegetable oil
2 tbsp nuts (I like almond slices or walnut pieces)
2 tbsp dried fruit i.e. dates, crasins or raisins

1.     Combine all dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl
2.     Add in the soymilk and oil.  Watch out because the batter will rise quickly due to all of the baking soda!
3.     Put some oil in a skillet (again I like to use the grape seed oil, but veggie oil or a butter substitute will work just fine) and let heat up
4.     Spoon pancake batter on to skillet, and flip when you can see the edges of the pancake begin to brown

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Fighting the Obesity Epidemic: Attacking the Symptom, Not the Problem

I recently read the Atlantic’s current cover article, “How Junk Food Can End Obesity.”  The author, David H. Freedman, makes some truly excellent points, arguing that many expensive, unprocessed “health foods” actually contain just as much sugar and fat as processed foods. Freedman discusses the classed nature of obesity in America, and how the working class and poor have significantly higher rates of obesity.   He identifies the fast food industry’s growing practice of swapping out less healthy ingredients for healthier ones as the most promising solution to curbing the obesity epidemic in America. Freedman continues to argue that “healthy food” does not appeal to the working poor, citing the McDonalds McLean Deluxe, the company’s worst product flop of all time.  He also describes the one bodega in East LA selling produce as empty compared to the other junk food laden bodegas. 

Though I agree with many of his points, I was bothered by a seemingly paternalistic message in the article, that poor people don’t want healthy food. I found myself wondering as I read this article, why is it that people know what is good for them but choose to eat something that is bad for them anyways?  We all know we are supposed to eat more fruits and vegetables.  And history has taught us that concluding “x group of people are just lazy and don’t care about their health” is a discriminatory and reductionist argument.  I think it’s time to look at the deeper cause.

The reality is that food is not simply fuel, and skyrocketing obesity rates among the poor are not just about food availability.  Food has an incredible amount of personal and cultural significance.  Food is a comfort, a ritual, a bonding experience or a moment of peaceful solitude.  We cannot discount the emotional, psychological relationship that humans have with food. If you are making minimum wage, struggling to pay for groceries, living expenses, and health care, or worse are unable to find a job at all, you will likely feel huge amounts of stress.  It’s not surprising that when we fell stress we tend to reach for the easily available and inexpensive “comfort foods” that light up the reward centers in our brains, releasing the “feel good” chemicals dopamine and endorphins.  Food is the least expensive and most readily available coping tool for stress, and it takes time and money to reach for healthier alternatives like exercise and hobbies that lead to personal fulfillment.  It’s not about people deciding what is “healthy” to eat.  Everybody knows what they should eat, and beating them over the head with shame and statistics won’t change anything.  The key to ending the obesity epidemic is not more Whole Foods Markets or a better McDonalds.  It’s ending the cycle of poverty and stress through social reform.  The most promising solution to the ending the obesity epidemic is a minimum wage you can live on, healthcare that won’t leave you bankrupt, and upward mobility through to a decent education. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

(Louie) Dog Shame- Terrified of Chewing Gum


Hi My name is Louie, I am a cattle dog/border collie/gremlin mix who loves to explore the world!   Unfortunately this week I have discovered a new noise, and I find it absolutely terrifying. 
It all started when the big fast human had something in his mouth.  It looked like he was eating my favorite thing, food, but then out of nowhere I heard it.  Pop!  I looked around, tail between my legs, ears down.  What was that?  Then I heard it again.  Pop!  This time from the female human.
I quickly looked around and fled the danger.  It turns out that I really don’t like the sound of chewing gum snapping, or any kind of mouth clicking.  For some reason it seems not to bother the humans.
Fortunately I have found several awesome places to hide from this scary noise.  One is in the back seat of the car as far into the foot well as I can go. 

Another is behind the bar in the kitchen where no one can see me from the couch.  
The other is in the closet with all of my mom’s shoes, where I blend in pretty well.  I really like to do this when I am all wet, getting all of her shoes wet too.
Hopefully I never hear the scary noise again.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Sweet Potato Chips

Everybody loves foods that are crunchy and salty.  Crackers, potato chips, pretzels.  Even better if it’s a little bit sweet too.  Like kettle corn.  Or the pretzel m&ms.  But generally, when I think of salty crunchy foods, I think mainly of foods like chips that really aren’t that great for you, are way too easy to overeat (I don’t know about you, but I could easily take down the share size bag of BBQ kettle chips) and lacking in nutritional value.  Sweet potato chips are tasty, nutritious, and if you cut the slices small enough, you feel like you're getting a ton of chips and only eating one potato. It's an easy way to have your cake and eat it too.  Or, I guess, have your chips and eat them too.

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
2. Cut up a sweet potato into thin slices.  If it’s a big potato, I recommend cutting the slices in half.  The more slices you get out of a potato= faster cooking and more pieces to eat!
3. Lay the slices on a baking sheet, then pour about 1- 
2 tbsp olive oil over the potatoes.
4. Mix the oil into the potatoes.  Don’t be afraid to use your hands.
5. Sprinkle salt over the potatoes
6. Bake potatoes 15 minutes and then start checking on them.  Smaller, thinner slices will cook first.  The potatoes are cooked and ready to eat if you can stick a fork in them and they feel soft.  If you want them crispier, you can leave them in the oven for longer. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

How to Get Your Girlfriend in to Kayaking

It's no secret that kayaking is a male dominated sport, and I have definitely had many guy friends ask me if I knew any single girls who paddled, or for tips on how to get their girlfriend interested in the sport.  I think men and women tend to learn and experience kayaking in very different ways.  Here are a few tips from a girl who spends a good amount of time paddling with my boyfriend, Zach (who happens to be way better than me) and has stuck with the sport for about six years now.  Hope it helps! (Photo: Me, Johanna and Mallie and the Nolichucky, Credit: Phil Ellis)

1.     Make it Fun
Kayaking is a lot of things.  Brown, gnar, epic, stout.  But most importantly, kayaking should be fun.  The more you manage to make it fun, the more likely she is to enjoy it.  Have a “date night” where you take a picnic, some beer and a kayak to the lake just to paddle around, get comfortable flipping/getting out of the boat, etc.  Paddle something low stress with mutual friends.  Positive association has long been a staple of advertising psychology.  If you want to get a person interested in something, make it a positive experience.

Me at the Kennebec my first year paddling in my Jackson Kayak Fun, with my signature look of sheer terror.  Photo: Rapid Shooters Maine

2.     Take It Slow
The Upper Green isn’t that hard right?  I mean you’ve run the gnarrows like 800 times and the upper only has like two easy rapids. She’ll be fine.  But then she get’s recired at Wanda’s hole, swims four times, and has to carry that stupid heavy boat forever to the parking lot and ends up wondering why anyone even likes this stupid sport.  I know a lot of women who tried paddling and had traumatic experiences early on that turned them off to paddling.  On top of that, most of us want to make the person we’re with happy, so that adds another level of pressure.  For any beginner kayaker, the more comfortable you feel with basics, i.e. eddies, ferries, rolling, strokes, the more confident you will feel navigating a river and handling the inevitable difficult situations that are inherent to kayaking.

 3. Encourage Her to Have Other Paddling Friends
It’s raining and the Scary Fork of the Dark Prong is running.  Zach is super pumped.  He loves the Scary Fork of the Dark Prong.  It’s his favorite river!  I have about as much interest in running the Scary Fork of the Dark Prong as I do in pulling out my own teeth.  Luckily, I have my own group of paddling friends, and we are all going to Fairy Boof Land.  Encourage your girlfriend to have her own paddling friends.  Not only will you get to go to the Scary Fork of the Dark Prong, but having your own crew gets you paddling with people of all levels, which can be a nice change from always paddling with someone way better than you. (Photo: Hanging out at the Ocoee.  Credit: Phil Ellis)

4.     Use Your Words
So your girlfriend just swam out of her kayak, she’s upset, maybe even crying, and you have no idea what to do.  So you decide to do what you would for any of your bros (though they would definitely not be crying), keep your mouth shut and give her some space.  This is NOT a good idea.  Let me repeat: NOT a good idea.  Because while you are silently giving her space, this is what she is thinking, “OMG why isn’t he saying anything?  He’s mad.  I’d bet he’s mad.  He probably doesn’t want to kayak with me anymore.  I hate this sport.  Why isn’t he saying anything?”  So let me save you some drama.  Go over, give her a hug, tell her that everything is ok, and continue to say nice things while you help her bail out her boat.  For most women, this shows caring and acceptance despite a “failure” of swimming, and will help her move on and not dwell on it.  This also goes the other way.   Giving compliments.  The other day Zach told me I looked really solid, and it inspired me to go run Section 4 at 2.4’, the highest I’ve ever run it.   A few positive words can go a long way.

5. Listen and Communicate
So you think your girlfriend is totally ready to run the Big Hole Slide Drop, but even though you told her like six times she’d be totally fine she’s still going to walk it.  What gives?  And earlier, she totally freaked out at you because you peeled out of an eddy and didn’t wait for her.  Women.  They’re all drama.  The reality is that following someone down a new run requires a huge amount of trust.  As with any boating partner (and probably any sort of relationship period), it’s important to communicate what you need, listen to the other person, and listen to each other.  If she doesn’t want to run something, don’t push her.  If she wants you to wait, wait.  When I run something new with Zach, I tell him that I want to follow him pretty closely through the big rapids, if I feel overwhelmed I signal to eddy out, and if I don’t want to run something I don’t run it.  Talking about all of this beforehand can take some of the stress out of the intimidating experience of paddling, not to mention prevent a fight or two.   (Photo: Zach and I after a sunny day on the Horsepasture, Credit: Andy Perkel)

Jackson Kayak
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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Ideals vs. Reals in the Reality Media World


 I think a lot of young people like to consider themselves enlightened and progressive citizens, conscientious and socially liberal people whose values are uninfluenced by desire for fame, money and status.  As such a young person, here are some things that I like to tell myself I believe in: feminism, environmentalism, and conscious consumerism.  That money does not make you happy, love and relationships do.  So by holding these values I should be opposed to media that encourages doing anything for a big paycheck, ridiculous spending, wasting my time idolizing a celebrity culture and wanting to buy Gucci and drive a Benz just because the people on TV do, right?

But despite my idealistic, surface level disdain for reality TV and a materialistic celebrity obsessed culture, I have one major confession to make.  I secretly love it.  I have bought more grocery store tabloids than I care to admit, have the first two seasons of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills on my laptop, and every time I visit my younger sister in we fire up the TiVo watch at least 3 episodes of Say Yes to the Dress or The Bachelorette.  Sure, I have my excuses.  It’s essentially free anthropology and psychology field studies, that while exaggerated still represent cultural values.  Whatever, its garbage, but sometimes I just need to turn my brain off.  It’s a socially important female bonding ritual, providing a relaxed environment and subject material we all can relate to(OMG can you believe she pulled Sean out of her date with Tamara? I can’t believe she picked that dress.  Wait, who’s KK’s baby daddy? Kanye?).

Though I am often satisfied with my justifications for watching and being entertained by reality TV shows and tabloid magazines, sometimes it doesn’t sit right.  I have found that it’s pretty difficult to watch the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and not feel slightly jealous of Camille’s ski house in Beaver Creek or Kyle’s wardrobe.  And I wonder about my real intentions behind watching the Bachelorette.  Am just trying to make myself feel better by judging someone else as “crazy”?.  Recently I have noticed that a lot of the Housewives series focus on women fighting like schoolgirls.  Is this show’s representation of women something I want to boost ratings for? But on the flip side of that, I don’t want to take myself too seriously.  Nobody likes the person that can’t seem to relax and lectures everyone about feminism during a TV show.  And I don’t think using the Bachelorette or Project Runway, as an excuse to get together with your girlfriends is a bad thing; in fact, I think time spent with friends is extremely important to our well being and happiness.

At the end of the day, we all have to be honest with ourselves and draw our own moral lines and look at our intentions. I’ve stopped watching Housewives because I don’t want to support a show that makes women look mean and petty.  But I probably won’t give “Say Yes to the Dress” with my sisters up anytime soon because doesn’t make me want drop nine grand on a wedding dress, and for me it’s more about sibling bonding time than the show’s content.  And for all you other recovering Housewifers, check out “The Real Housewives of Disney,” featuring Kristen Wiig as an alcoholic Cinderella on SNL.  It’s hilarious, and will fill your need for housewives drama and become your hands down favorite cast. 

Photo Credits:
Real House Wives of Beverly Hills -cinehotflix.com
KK's Wedding -usmagazine.com
Bachelor -abc.com
Real House Wives of Disney -justjared.com