Friday, September 28, 2012

Shabbos Callers

Before Shabbos, I happen to have quite a lot of stuff to do. 

Besides for hair styling and the Face, I am the only one in my house who knows how to operate the Shabbos zaigers (clocks), amongst other things. Meaning as soon as I get home from work I am a tad occupied. 

It is, therefore, not the most opportune time for guys to call for the first time. And yet, on more than one occasion, they do. 

I was surprised one Motzei Shabbos to find a voicemail, left barely 30 minutes before lechtzen, by a first-time caller. Dude!

One fellow said he would call me on Friday, and after watching my cell from 8 a.m. on he finally called. There was less than 100 minutes left, and I was behind schedule. With my eye on the clock, I decided to be truthful when he asked if this was a good time.  ("You what?" Ma shrieked.)

I may not have as much to do before Shabbos like Tevye's daughters, but there is still a lot I have to take care of. I can't have a casual chat when I have every minute plotted out. Shower (10 minutes, with deep conditioning), hair (30 minutes, not counting air-dry time), makeup (20 minutes), lachter, blech, urn. 

What do the fellas have to do, anyway? Walk in and out of a shower, a quick buzz of the Norelco, hop into a suit, and breeze out the door. If they live at home, I doubt they have many pre-candle lighting chores (if any men out there do, please feel free to share). If they live on their own, chances are they have meals lined up outside of their kitchen. Use your imagination, my males, as to what makes the differences between the genders. 

Kindly be understanding that if you call on a Friday, make it EARLY afternoon, if not the morning. Because if I am going to look civilized on Shabbos, it doesn't just happen.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

You are Not Special

Yes, yes, while I do not yet have children of my own, that does not mean I cannot link an article about how to have successful kids. 

Reading historical novels, it's interesting to note that one upon a time children = free labor. "Good work, Mother! With our eighth son, we can finally plow that stretch of land yonder!"
Or they were exchanged in marriage to bind social ties. The farmers would probably have swapped their daughters for an ox. "'Little cow?' Is that what you call her!"

Thankfully times have changed. With more time on our hands parents have decided to micro-analyze their influence to ensure that their offspring are better versions of themselves. But how to go about that? 

According to the article, be authoritative. Apparently, that's how to motivate. But not by praise before the fact. 
This may seem counterintuitive, but praising children’s talents and abilities seems to rattle their confidence.
Meaning, saying "You're smart" or "You're strong" or "You can beat any other kid single-handedly" is not the way to go. That incites feelings of self-consciousness and pressure. They should be able to tackle a task without worrying that failure could affect their "status." 
The happiest, most successful children have parents who do not do for them what they are capable of doing, or almost capable of doing; and their parents do not do things for them that satisfy their own needs rather than the needs of the child.
One perk of being the youngest is that my parents weren't really aware of my schoolwork. If I had a project, I went about it solo (well, Luke helped from time to time). But when I glued and taped and stapled on my own, I felt so accomplished, way more that the kid who proudly marched in with an obvious "Mommy-Made" diorama. I did it.
Once your child is capable of doing something, congratulate yourself on a job well done and move on. Continued, unnecessary intervention makes your child feel bad about himself (if he’s young) or angry at you (if he’s a teenager).  
The article compares a parent's hands-off method in this regard to when a baby learns to walk. 
You were in thrall to those early attempts and would do everything possible to encourage her to get up again. You certainly didn’t chastise her for failing or utter dire predictions about flipping burgers for the rest of her life if she fell again. You were present, alert and available to guide if necessary. But you didn’t pick her up every time.

You knew she had to get it wrong many times before she could get it right. 
It makes perfect sense that success is found independent from parental intervention. But why do so many meddle?
So if children are able to live with mistakes and even failing, why does it drive us crazy? So many parents have said to me, “I can’t stand to see my child unhappy.”  
Ah. Then it is not about the kid. It is about the mommy. 
If you can’t stand to see your child unhappy, you are in the wrong business. The small challenges that start in infancy (the first whimper that doesn’t bring you running) present the opportunity for “successful failures,” that is, failures your child can live with and grow from. 
Keep in mind this is the opposite of the "Tiger Mom" approach.
As Shmuley Boteach notes, Chua's method does not permit or tolerate failure. At all. Ever. That is not what Madeline Levy advocates. 
When we do things for our children out of our own needs rather than theirs, it forces them to circumvent the most critical task of childhood: to develop a robust sense of self. 
And be sure to practice what you preach. And that you are happy, in general. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Give Me Your Boring

Perhaps one of the reasons I am a self-proclaimed non-romantic is the idea that meaningfulness is supposed to be flowers and candlelit dinners and teddy bears with heart-shaped tummies. Now we all know that can't be all the time, the impassioned speeches of love, the "promises," the red roses. 

I'm more of an "everyday" sort of girl. I care about a relationship for the day-to-day. Sure, he can sing "Eshes Chayil" weekly, but how does that help me when I have an overflowing garbage can and too few hands?

Same thing with vacations. While I do enjoy seeing new places (although I am certainly not a good traveler) I don't feverishly plan them the way some others do. If I am leaving the country, nice. If I never do again, okay. Because I don't "need to get away."

Life is the everyday. Not the once in a while. 

Raluca State wrote "I Don't Believe in Date Night." (Horrors!) While it's nice and all, her argument is that getting out every once in a while and shimmying into something non-baby projectile friendly is not what keeps her marriage tight. 
I believe in everything that happens in between date nights.
Life isn't the romance or the getaways. Life is the tedious, the routine, the vacuuming. Sure, it's not dazzling, but it's real. And just because it's rather dull doesn't make it any less important. 

Take child care. Existence for full-time mommies revolve around nap times, mashed yams, and baby talk. While some may consider such a role to be intellectually oppressive, consider the greater picture: She is raising the next generation; she is teaching that child how to behave and how to believe. That can provide a great spiritual high, in my opinion. And I can say that after holding a vomiting niece over the bathtub.

"While you are scrubbing that pot," a psychologist guru would say, "you are doing your tafkid." Yes, even dishwashing can be elevated to a higher level. 

It's also about being in the moment. Let's say a date night is scheduled. Who's to say that either husband or wife will feel like chatting at that time? Deep "give and take" can't be forced. The best conversations don't surface at the perfect setting, but at the perfect moment (oversized t-shirts instead of Spanx). If one can see that the other half feels like sharing, one should seize that opportunity of making oneself emotionally available.
So it comes back to perspective. Where should an anniversary be celebrated? At a restaurant, or at home, where the marriage actually takes place?  Put the kids to bed early, maybe don a clean-ish top, and turn off any phones. Nothing says "Happy Anniversary" like leftovers.    
So I don't believe in date nights. I think you should focus on your marriage when you're in the house -- no waiters, no specialty cocktails, no skinny jeans and heels. I believe it has made my marriage stronger. I believe it has kept it secure through ups and downs. I believe it can help you have fun with your partner again. And I firmly believe in saving the cocktails, waiters and skinny jeans for girls' night out instead. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Good and The Right

On a talk show interview, Jane Lynch (of "Glee") said, "Do you want to be right, or do you want to be good?" 

In my local paper, an article was printed that detailed the lengths a principal went to preserve the feelings of a young student. The next week, a man wrote in, saying that story struck him so deeply that he decided to halt divorce proceedings. For the sake of his children, he said, he can stop arguing with his wife.

Luke went to a shiur that cited the Talmud tale of Reb Eliezer, who was able to invoke the natural world around him to prove the truth of his position. Water flowed against the current, trees uprooted themselves, walls fell down, a divine voice rang out from Heaven, and the other rabbanim were unmoved, since, they said, "After the majority one must incline." 

The shiur-giver said that the purpose of these nissim was not to be validations of Reb Eliezer's position, but rather to invoke understanding from those who would not see his viewpoint. Then they said, "Yes, we see where he is coming from, but that is not the issue; a majority has ruled." 

It wasn't important that he was right. It was they should have the consideration to comprehend his standpoint.

Being "right" often means belittling others; but we, as a people, are willing to let big matters stand aside for the sake of being good. Aharon, brother of Moshe, would lie through his teeth to bring peace between people. And that was okay.

In the 2008 film "Flash of Genius," the main character, Bob Kearns, becomes so absorbed that the credit for his invention was unjustly taken from him that he eventually alienates his wife and his children. 

Nothing should be more important than one's family, to whom one owes all their "goodness." Yes, he was cheated. Yes, it was wrong. But was it worth the price to make things "right"? 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Melting Pot

In the Jewish Action, there was a lovely article by Charlotte Friedland called "Mixed Breed" that should be read by one and all.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Does Anybody See What I See?

Middos are relative. 

Frumkeit is relative. 

"Good looking" is relative. 

"Normal" is relative. 

"Bright" is relative. 

"Tall" is relative. 

Maturity is relative. 

"Educated" is relative. 

"Nice" is relative. 

Welcome to the dating world, where only the medicated survive. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Hey Bright Eyes

As I previously addressed, I prefer not to color my waterline with black pencil since I think it makes eyes look smaller. 

Previously I had the Tarte EmphasEYES Inner Rim Brightener, which is nude/soft beige. It lasts okay. 

I decided I wanted to get a white pencil for extra drama, à la this ad:
My fetish for bling aside, check out her waterline. WHITE pencil.

Nars Larger Than Life Long-Wear Eyeliner in Santa Monica Blvd was my first try. It goes without saying that of course the only pencil I would try would be matte, and most have a pearl or shimmer finish, so there is a somewhat narrow selection.

I swiped it along my hand, and I was amazed that no matter how I smudged it with my finger, it did not budge. The question is if that bond will be there with a damp base like the waterline. 

Hmph. No matter how many times I ran it up and down my eyelid, only a fraction of color deposited there. Time for an exchange.

Enter Make Up For Ever Kohl Pencil in Matte White 2K. This one was much better than the Nars for the waterline—is actually colored it.

While watching a tutorial on YouTube by Zukreat, I picked up this tip: After applying nude or white pencil to the waterline, set it with a like-colored eyeshadow. So for this, I would use my white Illamasqua shadow; for the Tarte nude-hue, I use the eyeshadow for highlighting my eyebrow arch. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

While I'm Dreaming

While this blog is Star Wars themed, my actual superhero obsession is Batman. Before Christian Bale showed up.
Batman doesn't need radioactive spiders or alien parentage. Not only that, he's not so cheerful about taking the bad guys alive. Those goody-goody two-shoes superheros can be tiresome.  

So when I stumbled across this survey of "What Your Superhero Crush Says About You," I scrolled through to see what my thing for Bats means. 
Not only is Batman a crime fighter, he's also a billionaire playboy. "You may be attracted to wealth," says Lombardo. "And you probably enjoy the challenge of getting the man who everyone else wants."
Possible Pitfalls: "There will be a lot of competition for his heart, so he'll frequently be tempted by others," says Lombardo.
Wait a sec, that is not me at all! 

I scrolled through the other superheros. The other options weren't so much better. Apparently, they all have really annoying pitfalls.

Eh. I wasn't made to stitch the holes in a superhero cape. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Master of the Good Name

After listening to an apropos Charlie Harary shiur (a few times) during the 9 Days, his overall message was constantly replaying: Moshiach coming is not based on our passivity. It is based on our activity.

And, the day after the tannis, I was listening to Matisyahu's Spark Seeker. It is a constant theme in his music, but it can always bear repeating. Like a chunk of the lyrics for "Bal Shem Tov": 

It's your life to live, I can't live it for you
It's your time to give, and I can't give it for you
It's your fear to lose, I can't lose it for you
Death or life, so choose, and I put both before you
So, find your word of truth, you've got to find your word of truth

Search heaven and the seven seas
Answer lies inside you

You know it won't come easy
You've got to find your own truth

The first words of the song, as you may notice, is "Rosh HaShana."

I had thought this concept was so original, until, as I was reading along with yesterday's parsha, Nitzavim:

(Devarim 30:11, from the Artscroll Stone Edition Tanach) For this commandment that I command you today — it is not hidden from you and it is not distant. It is not in heaven, [for you] to say, "Who can ascend to the heaven for us and take it for us, so that we can listen to it and perform it?" Nor is it across the sea, [for you] to say, "Who can cross to the other side of the sea for us and take it for us, so that we can listen to it and perform it?" Rather, the matter is very near you — in your mouth and your heart — to perform it. 

No wonder the song begins with "Rosh HaShana." 

The meforash clarifies (if clarifying is needed) that: Far from requiring superhuman efforts or supernatural revelations to be equal to God's expectations, that goal is very much within reach — if people but make a sincere effort to grasp it. 

I was then reminded of Avraham Fried's song, "Ki HaMitzvah," and went scrabbling over YouTube. I found the clearest version, funnily enough, on Grooveshark. (It didn't let me link directly to his song, but if you search for that same exact spelling as above it pops right up.)

I gotta be me . . . because it is all up to me. As Charlie Harary said, redemption won't come from making comparisons to what others are doing or should be doing or shouldn't be doing. It is me.

A git gebensht yur to all.   

Friday, September 14, 2012

Postive Energy

30 Rock, "Lee Marvin vs. Derek Jeter": Liz is complaining to Jack about attending a singles event at the Y.
Liz: This whole thing is unfair. You're juggling two beautiful women while I have to pay to have kickballs whipped at me. This is gender inequity out the yang.

Jack: This has nothing to do with the slight difference in our genders.

Liz: Yes, it does. The older you get the more distinguished you are. Meanwhile, I'm reading a book called, Hiding Your Arms, Hiding Your Anger: Dating Over 35.

Jack: Lemon, I am successful romantically because because I am confident, open, and positive. You are negative, pessimistic, and in danger of becoming permanently sour.

I have mentioned beforehand that I am anti-positive. But that is for my own internal machinery. For outward purposes, I have developed an Oscar-worthy cheerful demeanor. 

It all comes back to "Put On A Happy Face," aka Suck It Up.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

This is Deep Clean

As I mentioned beforehand, I am in love with my DDF electronic face brush. I give it credit for banishing my summer (and winter) breakouts by thoroughly removing all dirt and residue, leaving my skin eager for night treatments.
That's actually a Clarisonic in her hand, but one day soon, it shall be mine.
Dermatologists are torn, however. Some praise it as the skin savior, others that it's just hype. I know my own dermatologist (and by my own, I mean the guy from shul that I pounce on during kiddush) was less than enthusiastic. 

To be fair, my skin is not sensitive or delicate. I've been throwing AHA and retinol at it for years, which it has usually accepted calmly and unworriedly. 

I can no longer see myself without an electric face brush. Some say that the bristles allow treatments to plunge deeper, making them more effective. Others say to use it occasionally.

The one week I used it sparingly my skin freaked out. I got two blemishes after quite a few months of skin clarity.  

So I'm hooked real bad.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Eating Without Paying

I was taking a course on the ancient classics, which, of course, includes The Odyssey.

For those unfamiliar with The Odyssey, here's a short synopsis:

Odysseus is the king of Ithaca, one of the many Grecian kingdoms at the time, and is unwillingly conscripted into war against Troy. The war itself takes ten years (described in The Iliad); then, after ticking off the sea god, Poseidon, for killing his son Polyphemus (one of the Cyclops), Odysseus wanders for an additional decade until he arrives home.  

In the interim, his wife, Penelope, is harassed by an army of men vying to marry her and take over Ithaca. They spend years in her home, slaughtering the island's cattle and drinking her wine and attacking the womenfolk while she can do nothing. 

Then Odysseus gets back. Hee hee. They dead.
My professor explained how the crime of these suitors was called (I am getting this totally wrong) ne polnon edore (or something like that), "eating without paying." There was a certain level of behavior expected in the ancient world, even amongst gentiles; guests would be treated very well, but not to the point where they could pillage the host's home. 

"Eating without paying" is ingratitude. And ingratitude is punishable by death. 

That was no different in the times of Dovid, when he was still battling for the throne (Shmuel Aleph, perek 25). There was a wealthy man by the name of Naval, whose shepherds were protected by Dovid's soldiers. Dovid sends a messenger to him, requesting supplies in return for this consideration, and Naval refuses, claiming never to have heard of Dovid. In response, Dovid simply straps on his sword and takes along one hundred men to kill Naval and wipe out his line.  

However, his wife had beauty and brains. Hearing from her servants of her husband's defiance, and knowing what the fate of her household would be, she quickly gathers provisions and rides out.
Dovid hears her pleas, receives her gifts, and accepts her word that Naval is a fool. Ten days later Naval is dead from a sudden illness, and Dovid proposes marriage. 

Ingratitude is a toxic emotion, according to Dr. Andrew Weil. For happiness, one must feel gratitude. 

And there is so much to be grateful for. An indoor bathroom, for one.  

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Teach Me

Perhaps for the desire to maintain my sanity, I have decided that for each ineligible bachelor I meet, I am supposed to learn something

After all, my brothers met and wed the first girls, whereas my sister and myself had to slog through the mire of dating possibilities. My brothers, perhaps, were not meant to achieve inspiration via that conduit.

While I do not date with stupendous regularity, I am beginning to notice patterns and categories. The "Immature Jackass," the "Nerd with No Upside," the "He's Nice But Not for Me."
Sometimes there will be a few curveballs. The ones I have problems labeling, which makes things . . . interesting. I try to gauge if this "Original" is for me. I certainly overanalyze in general; this sort of debate ties up my cerebral cortex for days . . . until he is no longer an "Original," and gets boxed in the appropriate category of "What Was I Thinking?" 

Elisabeth Fairfield Stokes discusses a long distant romance. How it almost was, how it fell apart, then met the man she married. 
Sixteen years passed. I finished a graduate degree in something else, married the man who seemed unfazed, amused, even, by what seemed to be my inability to get out of my own way. We moved for his job, bought a house, I began teaching, we had children. I was at times suspicious of happiness and stability; I’d lie awake, listening to our girls breathe, feeling the steady rise and fall of my husband’s body next to mine, my own breath coming too quickly, as if I’d narrowly escaped a fate that was unclear but terrifying. Scenarios of other people I could be with, other lives I could be living, played themselves out in my sleeplessness, searing near misses. But I was safe.

And then he, that long-ago, coffee-shop boyfriend, called my name across a beach last spring. I turned, searching, my younger daughter on my hip; I recognized his voice. I was nervous, making my way across the sand, talking with him, standing next to him again. He was a place holder for a time in my life, a part of myself, that I didn’t understand.

He was always handsome, and when, in parting, I said softly, “You look the same,” and he said, “I know,”
I saw instantly that it hadn’t been any more complicated than that he was kind of a jerk, I was kind of a freak, we had both been pretty immature, and that was all it was, all it needed to be. The punitive “What was I thinking?” became the much more compassionate “What was I learning?” And the answer was: everything. I was learning everything about what I wanted in a husband, a marriage, a life.
I have those moments of when I feel cheated, that I "wasted" time, effort, and makeup on a guy that came to nothing, followed by frantic relief that I managed to finagle myself out of a potentially problematic situation. As Elisabeth said, it's not so complicated. 

We are all staggering about aimlessly and calling it tactical navigation; we should never fool ourselves into thinking that we can control and know everything. From the moment we are born we learn; we should learn until we die.

A failed romance does not throw suspicion on our mental abilities. People like to say as singles get older they get pickier; it's not that. We are learning. We know ourselves better, we know what suits us better, we know what will complete us. 

To some extent. Because there is still a lot we all have to learn.       

Monday, September 10, 2012

An O Girl in the NY Times

I love dissecting the Sunday Review section of the NY Times. There is often a thought provoking article or some such. 

There is a segment called "Townies," featuring vignettes of city life. Avital Chizhik was printed this week—woo for the observant! 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

We Love Everyone! Except . . .

Achdus. One little word, yet it means so much. Simple, really, to include everyone, no? 

But there seems to be a little problem with translation. If, say, one of the descriptions of achdus is "tolerance," then there is a wee bit of a glitch. 

According to 

[tol-er-uhns] Show IPA
1. a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one's own; freedom from bigotry.
2. a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions and practices that differ from one's own.
3.interest in and concern for ideas, opinions, practices, etc., foreign to one's own; a liberal, undogmatic viewpoint.
4.the act or capacity of enduring; endurance: My tolerance of noise is limited.
5. Medicine/Medical, Immunology .
a.the power of enduring or resisting the action of a drug, poison, etc.: a tolerance to antibiotics.
b.the lack of or low levels of immune response to transplanted tissue or other foreign substance that is normally immunogenic.

It would appear that "tolerance" is not limited to the people that can put up with one; tolerance means being able to withstand quite a bit, even malicious bacteria. 

That is why it disturbs me when individuals claiming enlightened Judaism scorn other "brands" of the faith.

Those who consider themselves at the ideal location for "frum" (where you stand is the "u"; everyone else is "fr," "far right," or "m," "modern") that does not mean disparagement is permitted, on either side. Some find it hard to swallow what they consider "modern"; others cannot stand the "far right." 

Many don't even realize their intolerance. Take for instance, the classic line, "Some of my best friends are ________." Yeshivish? Chassidish? Modern? Observant?

Below is a segment from "The Daily Show," filmed at the Democratic National Convention. How tolerant are democrats? Watch and see. 

That was some serious mussar (yes, even with the bleeped-out bits). 

Chaverim kol Yisroel. 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Concealing Dark Circles

I take after Ta's side of the family. I have his skin coloring, his mother's nose, and his father's dark circles. 

All of Zeidy's sisters have matching sets of black dents underneath their eyes. 

I tried all sorts of treatments. First I purchased anything that claimed to do away with the circles. Then an "expert" claimed that the only way to treat dark circles was with Vitamin K. I had yellow, stinging goop beneath my eyes for months, and bupkis. No, no, no, said another "expert." Vitamin K was only for dark circles caused by lack of sleep; for genetic dark circles, the only thing that works is caffeine-based products. I got a coffee-smelling gel that did nothing after a year.

I threw in the towel. I still apply an anti-aging cream at night, but I no longer bother if it treats dark circles.

One of the reasons I was inspired to wear makeup on a daily basis was when a nervous voice in the elevator inquired, "Are you okay?"

"Um, yeah . . .?" 

"You look so tired! Are you sick?"  

Concealer, please! 

Makeup Geek has a tutorial that was of great help to me.

Until I saw this video, I only used concealer without setting powder, so it would crease. (The list of the products she uses can be seen here). 

Before one begins, there is the option to apply shadow primer first. It really helps to prevent the concealer from creasing (I usually only do this before Shabbos or an event). 

My concealer of choice is Clé de Peau Beauté Concealer in Ivory. Before my readership starts shrieking that $70 is INSANE for a concealer, bear in mind my last one lasted for years. But there are plenty of other options.
The Amazing Cosmetics AmazingConcealer MUG uses is greatly loved. TheBalm TimeBalm is also well reviewed, as is Bobbi Brown Corrector. Ma absolutely swears by Yves Saint Laurent Touche Eclat, but I find the product too liquidy for my needs.

I like stick concealers since I find them to be usually more pigmented than others. I alternate between my ring finger and a concealer brush by Revlon that I bought for $1.99 from Amazing Savings. When using fingers, remember the ring finger only, and tap, do not tug. Dab the product on; rubbing it will only move the product around.

To set the concealer to prevent creasing and to ensure longevity, one can use a translucent setting powder. But in my case, with MONSTER dark circles, I need a little more coverage on top of concealer. 

I purchased bareMinerals Multi-Tasking Face, a concealer powder in Well-Rested ("yellow ivory/ eye brightening"). For purple circles, like the ones I have, yellow (on the opposite end of the color wheel) neutralizes the "bruise" appearance.
It sets the concealer incredibly well (it won't budge over yontif), and it adds the extra coverage and brightening my eye area needs. 

To apply the powder under the eye, I would recommend using a fluffy eyeshadow brush, which gets into all the nooks and crannies. (I learned this from MakeupAdikt, who used to have YouTube tutorials but seems to have gone AWOL). Make sure the bristles are soft. I'm currently using Sonia Kashuk's Blending Brush that I found around the house.
To apply, make sure to windshield-wipe the brush back and forth to really work in the powder. Then it won't crease.

One can also use the bareMinerals Multi-Tasking Face alone. It works very well solo. This past summer I just applied it over my tinted moisturizer that I would dab around my eyes for SPF protection.  

I came across this video much later, where she highly recommends another shade of the bareMinerals Multi-Tasking Face, Summer Bisque.  

She gushes that this stuff is amazing, and I concur.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Eating? It's Overrated.

At least, that is what you are going to feel like after reading this. There is some "colorful language" in there, but after what they tell you about orange juice I would curse too.
To add to processed food horror, there is this charming story from 60 Minutes, going behind the scenes of the "flavorist" industry. You'll never want synthetic chicken soup flavor again. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

How To Date in Space

Sparrow recommended the author Lois McMaster Bujold, and I requested from my library Cordelia's Honor. The book opens as Cordelia's environmental research base on a strange planet has been annihilated, and she ends up teaming up with a mutinied-against captain of the enemy. Her origins are from the more chilled-out Beta Colony (ergo her "nationality" is Betan) while he is of Barrayar, a militant and duty-bound planet and society.
Tromping towards another base, they have no choice but to get chatty about each other's cultures and dating practices. 
"They don't have arranged marriages on Beta Colony, do they?" 
She stared. "Certainly not! What a bizarre concept. Sounds almost like a civil rights violation. Heavens — you don't mean to say they do, on Barrayar?" 
"In my caste, almost always." 
"Doesn't anybody object?" 
"They're not forced. Arranged, by the parents, usually. It — seems to work. For many people." 
"Well, I suppose it's possible." 
"How, ah — how do you arrange yourselves? With no go-betweens it must be very awkward. I mean, to refuse someone to their face." 
Ha! An army veteran and captain of a battle cruiser is squeamish at the thought of breaking up with a girl. I don't think I could break up with anyone to their face. I would just say, "What the heck, let's get married. I guess I'll get used to you after a while." 

The two then tell over tales of their "friends," who had bad relationships with the cultures' system. 
"She was rather — socially inept. Everyone around her seemed to be finding soul mates, and the older she grew, the more panicky she got about being left out. Quite pathetically anxious.
"She finally fell for a man with the most astonishing talent for turning gold into lead. She couldn't use a word like love, or trust, or honor in his presence without eliciting clever mockery . . ." 
He eventually betrays her, turning her off from relationships, indefinitely. 
"So you see, I think your old Barrayarans may have been on to something after all. The inept — need rules, for their own protection.
Then it's his turn, about an 18 year old girl marrying a 20 year old boy; he's not home much because of his army work, and she gets bored and makes new "buddies." 
"He had built up a false picture in his mind, and having it suddenly shattered . . ." 
There are pros and cons to almost every situation. 

While some think that the shidduch system should be frog-marched out and shot, I happen to think it is fine in its proper form. Which rarely exists today. I can firmly state that what often masquerades as a "system" is actually a perversion of the original intention (certainly not how my grand-folks operated in the old country). 

As for people meeting on their own? All well and good, providing they are mature and ready for such relationships. I don't think it is a good idea for teenaged boys and girls to mingle, since commitment could occur way too soon, before they have had any responsibilities or understand the import of their actions. 

So when is the magic age when boys and girls should be thrown together? How does a community segue from segregation to integration? Not so simple, either. 

Each version has its own merits and pitfalls. Mayhap, with a little evolution, something will come along to integrate the two.  

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Don't Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

I remember it well. I was in fourth, maybe fifth grade. While I didn't always exert myself in school, this time I decided to study like nobody's business. I sat over the books, and really pounded the material into my brain. I returned the test paper with a dramatic flourish, knowing that I had aced it. 

I got a 67. I was crushed. 

From that day forward, I told myself, I would keep my expectations in check. I couldn't handle the letdown. 

"Oh no," some hippy will chirp at me. "You must always think positive." 

"I'm not against being positive," I respond. "But I'm more for being realistic."
Oliver Burkeman discusses this in his article, "The Positive Power of Negative Thinking." 
According to research . . . visualizing a successful outcome, under certain conditions, can make people less likely to achieve it . . . Or take affirmations, those cheery slogans intended to lift the user’s mood by repeating them: “I am a lovable person!” “My life is filled with joy!” Psychologists . . . concluded that such statements make people with low self-esteem feel worse . . . Even goal setting . . . isn’t an undisputed boon. Fixating too vigorously on goals can distort an organization’s overall mission in a desperate effort to meet some overly narrow target . . . employees consumed with goals are likelier to cut ethical corners. 
The mindset of those who lived way-back-when, before modern medicine and deep freezers, preferred the path of the "OMG, OMG, we're all gonna die." 
The Stoics recommended “the premeditation of evils,” or deliberately visualizing the worst-case scenario. This tends to reduce anxiety about the future: when you soberly picture how badly things could go in reality, you usually conclude that you could cope. Besides, they noted, imagining that you might lose the relationships and possessions you currently enjoy increases your gratitude for having them now. Positive thinking, by contrast, always leans into the future, ignoring present pleasures.  
Focusing on the positive, funnily enough, leaves one hoping for that yet to be had, rather than basking in the bliss of the already gained. "Be positive! You'll find 'the one' soon!" That's not being positive. That's reminding me of the fact that I am soulmate-less. Being positive should rather be complimenting me on my shoes. At least those I found already.
From this perspective, the relentless cheer of positive thinking begins to seem less like an expression of joy and more like a stressful effort to stamp out any trace of negativity . . . A positive thinker can never relax, lest an awareness of sadness or failure creep in. And telling yourself that everything must work out is poor preparation for those times when they don’t.  
Constantly expecting the worst (like the other week, when I was a telephone standby juror, I dialed that number every evening with a shaking finger and a grim sensation of impending doom), and not having it happen, brings such a wave of gratitude one cannot believe. "Oh, thank You, Eibishter, that it all worked out!"   

Monday, September 3, 2012

I'm Over Here

"Are you texting us? Because we're the ones talking to you."

Oh, snap! Courtesy of Law & Order: Criminal Intent "Rispetto." Detective Goren said this while trying to get information from a business associate of a suspect, who was blandly flipping through his emails while being interviewed.
The episode was named for the Italian word meaning "respect." Certainly when I am sitting at a table with another person I would prefer if they didn't whip out their toy while I am telling them a story and proceed to have a texted conversation with someone else while emitting unconvincing "uh-huh"s to prove they're listening.  

I would also like to express my belated condolences upon the demise of Criminal Intent. You will be missed. 

Oh, Bobby . . . (As in Robert Goren, not my grandmother).