Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Pay It to Get It

"Why didn't he say hello to me?" he groused. 

As casually as I could, I shuffled sideways. 

Did you perhaps consider, sir, that if it means so much to you to have an interaction with this "he," there is the option of, say, hello-ing him first?

If I feel the smart of injustice (I am thin-skinned, so it happens rather often), I try to recall the Chofetz Chaim: One cannot change others. One, however, can change oneself, which, in turn, can inspire others to change themselves. 
In "The Science of Paying It Forward," by

What did we find out? The bad news was that the willingness to help suffered from what social psychologists call “the bystander effect”: When participants observed a low level of helping, it increased their own likelihood of helping; but when they observed a high level of helping, they did not themselves help — they appeared to feel that their own sacrifice was no longer needed. This finding was consistent with many previous studies of “social loafing,” “free riding” and “diffusion of responsibility.”
The good news was that receiving help reliably increased the likelihood of being generous toward a stranger, and that participants who benefited from generosity were also less susceptible to the bystander effect when they themselves observed high levels of helping in their group.
We conclude that observing an act of kindness is likely to play an important role in setting a cascade of generosity in motion, since many people can potentially observe a single act of helping. But we found that it was receiving help that sustained the cascade as it spread through the group.
Our research suggests that the next time you stop to help a stranger, you may be helping not only this one particular individual but potentially many others downstream. And who knows? In the end, maybe what goes around will come around.
To get the world to be nicer, be nice first.

The pure righteous do not complain of the dark, but increase the light; they do not complain of evil, but increase justice; they do not complain of heresy, but increase faith; they do not complain of ignorance, but increase wisdom. 

—Arpilei Tohar (1914), p. 2. Rav Avraham Itzchak Kook 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Battle of the Bulge: Food Combining?

When I first discovered LT, reportedly based on the principles of the Rambam, I was expounding on it fűnek fának (Hungarian phrase which roughly translates as: "She told it to every tree and every blade of grass"). 

As I was enthusing the concepts to my sister-in-law, she nodded and countered, "Sure, sounds like Fit for Life."

"Right!" Ma said. "A friend of mine lost a ton of weight years ago on that." 
To pad my knowledge database, I requested the one lonely copy from my library. Since I am incredibly gullible, I was relating the Gospel of FFF until I did a wee bit of googling . . .  

The basic premise of LT and FFF is food combining, which is also present in Aryudevic and Chinese medicine: Certain foods should not be consumed with other certain foods. FFF describes the reasons for it having to do with digestive enzymes canceling each other out when attacking proteins and starches. According to contemporary medicine, that is not so. Officially, FFF has been discredited.

Yet the ancients were unfamiliar with the pH levels churning around in our guts, but they still advocated food combining. I have noticed a difference, too, in how I physically feel when I eat fruits alone, and when I don't regularly combine proteins and starches. 

I few weeks ago I began to heartlessly combine once again, and even though I was being quite aware of portion size I noticed a difference as opposed to when I do keep my chicken and potatoes separate. 

But on the other hand, various systems classify certain items in different categories; LT considers beets and carrots, for instance, as medium-starchy vegetables, while FFF views them as starches. Then there's what Aryudeva thinks.

There is no clear consensus! 

But there are some easily quantifiable conclusions: Since food combining bans protein and starch at the same meal but grant carte blanche to vegetables with either, more low-cal green goodness is consumed—always a good thing. 

It's not that any food (except for junk) is forbidden, it's just that they shouldn't be eaten together. Because one is aware, one ends up consuming less calories in one meal. "I can't eat this now, maybe later or tomorrow." Self-control and delayed gratification is vital to weight maintenance, and they both result from food combining consciousness.

LT has really helped me with weight maintenance; I lost yontif poundage without going hungry, a sensation which I had always believed to be necessary in order to shed some digits. It's not that I can never have cereal with milk or a slice of pizza ever again, just that it's only for when I have already reached my ideal weight and I keep it to one portion (unlike FFF, which bans the combo completely). 

There are enough proponents as well as detractors of food combining to leave it a murky topic. (Marilu Henner confused me even more by saying that protein can be eaten with starch as long as there are legumes or vegetables; I gave it a whirl as well.) 

But you know what? Food combining works for me. And for Ma. I'm gonna go with Marilu's "laboratory" method (check out Part 1 and Part 2 of her segment); I'm "collecting data," and that concept is a keeper. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Die Hardly Working


For those of us out there who still have overactive imaginations.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Guilt is Good

My current guru, Brené Brown, the "shame researcher," explains the difference between shame and guilt. 

Shame is: "I am a horrible person." 

Guilt is: "I did a horrible thing." 

See the difference? 
Guilt is an effective means for improvement, as opposed to shame. Instead of flagellating oneself after a goof-up that one is pathetic, disgusting, etc. etc., one can calmly accept one can do better, and march forward, instead of looking back. 

This very much applies with parenting; it has been verboten for some time now to refer to a child as "bad" for this reason. Focusing instead on unacceptable behavior—"You were very naughty"—can show results, while the previous merely reinforces despair and fatalism. 

When I first came across the difference between shame and guilt (my copy of I Thought It Was Just Me was lent out and I can't type up specific passages), I was struck by the pattern in our Yomim Noraim liturgy.

"Ashamnu, bagadnu, gazalnu, dibarnu dofi—we have sinned, we have betrayed, we have robbed, we have spoken slander." We don't say, "We are sinners, we are betrayers, we are robbers, we are speakers of slander." 
If I say that I am a sinner, then there is no hope for me; I am what I am, as much as I am Jewish and female. But if I confess my sins, acknowledging them as actions in the past, admitting my culpability, then I can become someone better.


Best Hungarian saying, which I will say yet again: You look back, "you turn to salt." Sólet.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Guest Post: Luke, a.k.a. Eilu v'Eilu

"Arise ye from your slumber” which is the purpose of the only biblical mandate of Rosh Hashana—the blowing of the ram’s horn.

I was in my office building lobby waiting for the elevator door to open. I waited for the person next to me to enter and then, in return for my courtesy, she felt compelled to hold the door for me. Kindness begets kindness, but if either of us were glued to our phones nothing would have happened.

We go to our children’s schools to watch them put on school productions. A brilliant comedian once observed, "We put our smart phones in front of our faces and record everything. You are standing right in front of them and you can watch it in real HD, instead we record it and put it up on the internet and you nor anyone else will likely ever watch it again." We focus so much on preserving memories for posterity that we miss the actual wonderful experiences in real time.

We are attached to things that are supposed to bring us into the future while we are completely sleeping through the present.
"Arise ye from your slumber" and see the person in front of you, today.  

Monday, September 22, 2014

Dressing For Men: Well Shod

Waiting for public transportation in the early morn', it is often safer to avoid eye contact. No one feels particularly human at that hour, except for me. 

I opt instead to focus on footwear, and no matter how many times Luke quotes The Shawshank Redemption, I am firm in belief that shoes make the difference. 

Exhibit A: 

Young man, neatly dressed. On his feet were a pair of trim, streamlined loafers with a horse-bit accent. Ah
Exhibit B: 

Standing next to him, another young man, but on his feet were, urgle, a pair of black New Balance sneakers. The type that 80-year-old men wear to shul because their feet have given out. 
This guy? Still in his 20s. 

I kept glancing back and forth between the two pairs. 







This is unacceptable. I don't care how comfortable they are. He wasn't not limping, so I'm guessing he isn't recovering from bunion surgery. 

I'm not unreasonable. I don't demand designer, just a wee more discretion when it comes to shoe fit. I've managed to discover flattering footwear for the familial menfolk in my life with just a few extra minutes of research. Rockport, for example, possess a number of options that aren't murder on one's feet yet are still fit to be seen in public.

If you insist on wearing sneakers anyway, don't get sneakers that are pretending to be something other than sneakers. Get sneakers that look like sneakers, that aren't ashamed of themselves.

Sneakers are actually "in" right now (there is even a "sneakerhead" movement), so dress shoes aren't even necessarily required. So get something fun, with a pop of color!

I get it, I know, shopping can be a drag. But so's dating, right, and that hasn't stopped any of us. You want to find the one? You've got to look first. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

"Turned Down For WHAT!?!"

I liked the sledgehammer touch. 


Not all Shadchanim are created alike, ladies. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Concentrating on Kavanah

In my constant, ever uphill battle to achieve some level of davening nirvana, I have recently fathomed that prayer is a form of meditation. 

High school had been a wonderful davening era, where I would plunge into the depths of the words themselves, wipe my mind of all extraneous thought, and simply commune, complete with a residual buzz following. 
Via ktahs.org
I swiftly lost that ability, and have been struggling these last 10+ years to acquire it yet again. But I would try through gimmicks, through shtick, through shortcuts. It is only now that it has dawned on me that there is no easy path to focus; one simply must focus

In an article about using mindfulness methods to treat A.D.H.D. ("Exercising the Mind to Treat Attention Deficits" by Daniel Goleman), meditation practice is explained:
To do so, researchers are testing mindfulness: teaching people to monitor their thoughts and feelings without judgments or other reactivity. Rather than simply being carried away from a chosen focus, they notice that their attention has wandered, and renew their concentration.
The first minute or so of davening can go so well. "Yeah, I'm focused! I'm enunciating every single word, boo-yah!" Then my train of thought frantically unravels . . . "Oh, shoot. Why was I thinking about that friend I had when I was 5? How exactly is she relevant to this conversation?" 

This is the moment of choice. One can become frustrated and give up, monotonously rattling off the rest of shacharis with self-loathing, or one can calmly brush the idle ruminations aside and recenter one's concentration.   

"All or nothing" is a bad habit, and it has certainly held too much sway over my tefilah practices. Bit by bit, bit by bit.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

One Day, One Room

House, M.D. "One Day, One Room":

Cuddy is trying her best to get House to fulfill his clinic hours, a task he loathes. One of the patients, Eve, turns out to be a rape victim, and House attempts to pass her on to another doctor, as his lack of decency and tact would surely be a detriment. But she insists she wants House. 
Eve says she wants to talk, and House tries every which way to deflect a serious conversation. She keeps on asking him questions about his own experiences. 

House: They're out there, doctors, lawyers postal workers some of them doing great some of them doing lousy. Are you going to base your whole life on who you got stuck in a room with?

Eve: I'm going to base this moment on who I'm stuck in a room with. It's what life is. It's a series of rooms and who we get stuck in those rooms with adds up to what our lives are. 

Circumstances beyond our control—although, in higher Entity's control—place us into situations with different people. The only control we do have is in our choice of behavior and our choice of words. 

Whether it is a government bureaucrat, an annoying neighbor, or a bad date, I try to remember that I can learn something from everyone, from anyone, even someone I would rather avoid.

As for more pleasant companionship, am I making the most of my interactions? Am I gleaning all I can by being in this moment, by maintaining concentration on the here and now? 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Fat Chicken or Fat Egg?

. . . what if we’ve confused cause and effect? What if it’s not overeating that causes us to get fat, but the process of getting fatter that causes us to overeat?
The more calories we lock away in fat tissue, the fewer there are circulating in the bloodstream to satisfy the body’s requirements. If we look at it this way, it’s a distribution problem: We have an abundance of calories, but they’re in the wrong place. As a result, the body needs to increase its intake. We get hungrier because we’re getting fatter.
I can't quite believe the sort of foods I now thrive upon. Not so long ago, and I really do mean not so long ago, most vegetables were on my "I don't like it" list, simply because I refused to try them, not even because I definitely didn't like the taste. 

Many profess disbelief at my enthusiasm for my diet ("Okaaaaay," they reassure me as though dealing with a ranting fruitcake threatening to jump off a bridge). But they don't understand that I don't experience hunger or cravings the way I used to. They can't comprehend that by shunning potato chips, I don't even want them. I have no teivah for them anymore.

"Always Hungry? Here's Why" by David Ludwig and Mark Friedman explain that it's not just calorie counting. It's about food quality. Bad foods produce excess insulin, which in turn causes weight gain. 
Fats were demonized in the '70s, so "fat-free" and "low-fat" processed foods were peddled instead (quite successfully). The problem is that simple starches were utilized to ensure that the product actually remained appetizing, resulting in a demonic food-ish creation, while "good" fat sources were left out in the cold.
If this hypothesis turns out to be correct, it will have immediate implications for public health. It would mean that the decades-long focus on calorie restriction was destined to fail for most people. Information about calorie content would remain relevant, not as a strategy for weight loss, but rather to help people avoid eating too much highly processed food loaded with rapidly digesting carbohydrates. But obesity treatment would more appropriately focus on diet quality rather than calorie quantity.
To be smug, that was my initial weight loss step: Eat only healthy. It won't be initially easy, since bad foods are, in essence, like crack. There will be some torturous withdrawal side effects. But soon, one day, you will crawl out of bed and actually feel like having some orange pepper. Really. 
My kingdom for sugar snap peas!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Authoress: Norah Lofts

When it comes to historical fiction, my, does Norah Lofts deliver. 
Her main talent is the multitude of characters she invents, yet she manages to grasp the various intricacies of personality and character, in vivid, tangible detail. 

I am always in awe how she delves into the thought process of her creations, how this word or that experience triggered what feelings, and what it causes them to do. 

Knowing for myself how hard it is to plant oneself in another's shoes, never mind their heads, this is a truly spectacular feat of writing. 

A number of her books deals with historical characters. The first book of hers I read, The Lute Player, delves into the lives of Berengaria and her husband, Richard the Lionhearted, through the eyes of a fictional illegitimate sister and a court minstrel. That book hooked me on Norah big time. 

Even her tale of the supernatural, Gad's Hall, and the sequel, The Haunting of Gad's Hall, spends more time on the day-to-day experiences of a family. Those two books were more cautionary tales against running headlong into marriage rather than satanic possession. I wonder if that was her ironic point. 

The trilogy composed of The Town House, The House at Old Vine, and The House at Sunset travels hundreds of years over the occurrences in one building—the good, the bad, and the terrifying ugly. She has certainly scared me off quaint ancient architecture. 
But I'll keep on coming back for more.     

Friday, September 12, 2014

See You on the Screen

"But he's going to be out of town for the next couple of months," the shadchan said apologetically. "Would you be willing to . . . Skype?" Her worried tone makes it sound like she's asking me to marry him unseen.

I've never had a need for Skype, so I gamely downloaded it and created an account. On the evening in question, I happily got half-ready for a date. 

Let's see, nice sweater . . . I could wear pajama bottoms, but what if I have to stand up for some reason? Shlumpy in-house skirt will do. Hair could be in better shape, but it looked fine enough on the video feed. My hand reached out automatically for the bottle of perfume, but then I cheerfully recalled that Smell-O-Vision isn't around yet.

Merrily barefoot, I arranged myself comfortably on the couch, making sure the background was pleasant, decorative pillows and elegant curtains peeking flatteringly into the frame. I arranged some scholarly-looking seforim on the sofa arm, and fiddled with the video settings to see if I could make the background cozily warmer in tone.

Bloop bloop . . . 

After chatting for almost two hours, we bid each other a polite goodnight, and I blissfully pranced off to bed, free from the sometime residual nausea that follows being chauffeured by a fellow with questionable driving skills. Additionally, I felt a wee bit more free to be "myself," that I did not have to worry about comprising my ride home, or end up being abandoned in a ditch. 

Seriously, people, this has to be exploited more, at least for the initial meetings. Heck, all my first dates should be Skype dates. 
Via reddit.com, by TimeTraveling Mouse

Thursday, September 11, 2014


My niece, now fourteen, is at that awkward age of clothing shopping. I remember that I couldn't find anything that made me look civilized until I was 18, so I do not envy her. 

A family bar mitzvah was coming up, and after surfing frantically online and emailing requests for skirt length and asking if seamstress could lengthen this or that, my sister finally went to an actual store, and saw a skirt that was appropriately flary for my niece. 

Meh, she thought, it looked so unimpressive on the hanger. 

But then, my mother's motto reverberated in her head, like a divine voice from the heavens. "Just try it on!" (That was the sum of their conversation when I was a kid).

So my niece tried it on. And it worked. She pranced home with a desperately needed outfit, all without online complications. 

It often happens when I go to sales that after amassing a gigantic pile, I casually pick up yet one more thing from the rack. Doesn't look like much, but what the heck, and I toss it on top of my selections. More than once, that "pity" item is the only thing I end up purchasing.
Success in shopping comes down to four simple words: Just try it on

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Inner vs. Outer

Sometimes it is a follow-up to compliments on one's appearance: "How come a gal like you is still single?" 

They don't mean, "Why is a gal of your intelligence and wit still single?" They mean, "Why is a gal who spends enough time in front of the bathroom mirror making facial contortions while applying paint still single?" 
There seems to be a misconception floating about that the bird with the prettiest plumage (although, in the natural world, it is the male) gets snapped up the fastest. But look about the jungle. Are the all the "older" singles physically unappealing? Are all, for that matter, the married or betrothed individuals so incredibly stunning?
It is one of the hard truths of romance: Desirable people attract other desirable people, while the rest of us — lacking in attractiveness, charisma or success — settle for the best partner who is willing to consider our overtures. In the scientific literature, this idea is enshrined in the concept of mate value, which determines who gets to mate with whom. In popular culture, it is reflected in the choice of comely contestants to vie for the equally comely spouse-to-be on TV shows like “The Bachelor.” Pairing off, it seems, is just one more example that life isn’t fair.
But is this cynicism justified? In a paper that we published this month in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, we offer evidence for the seemingly naïve notion that in most romantic contexts your unique appeal is more important than your mate value.
Ah, thank ye, Paul Eastwick and Linda Hunt: "So You're Not Desirable." Yes, physical attractiveness is rated by an initial meeting. But that's not all that is rated. 
During an initial encounter, some people generally inspire swooning, others polite indifference and others avoidance. Desirable qualities like attractiveness, charisma and success — the features that differentiate the haves from the have-nots — are readily apparent.
Yet alongside this consensus is an equally important concept: uniqueness. Uniqueness can also be measured.  
When asking a long-married couple what is the secret to their marriage, do they ever say, "He aged fabulously, keeping his looks. After all, that's what makes a relationship." 
Personality affects the physical rating. From my perspective, personality really affects the physical rating. Some guys sashay into the initial meeting, oozing charisma, but I pull back. I don't care for oozing charisma. Even though he may resemble a male model, he has all the charm of an unwanted cockroach. 

But that's me. To another female, he will be irresistible. 
. . . it is crucial to keep in mind the obvious (but underappreciated) fact that most people do not initiate romantic relationships immediately after forming first impressions of each other. One recent study of a representative sample of adolescents found that only 6 percent reported that they and their partners formed a romantic relationship soon after meeting.
It seems most likely that it is the consensually desirable people who pull off the rare feat of quickly leveraging an initial positive impression into romance, while a vast majority of us get to know our romantic partners slowly, gradually, over time. Most of us have networks of opposite-sex friends and acquaintances. And even though we would never consider many of them as romantic partners, for a handful, all it would take is the right moment and a spark. These are the contexts that produce most romantic liaisons — and as our recent work shows, these contexts reveal very little consensus with respect to mate value.
In my case, it has happened that my date can't stop smiling when he initially picks me up, but then a few hours later can't wait to unload me. Even the gal who spends a lot of her life shopping, weight maintaining, cleansing, exfoliating, tweezing, makeuping can't catch a break. 
Perhaps I've always known this, and that is why I have never thought or said, "Golly, no wonder she's single, she looks like she just fell out of bed." Singleness and shlumpiness are two separate things. I've also never understood it when single girls complain, "I can't wait to get married; then I won't have to blow my hair/get my nails done/have to be dressed up anymore."
When I can look more like the image on the right I'm just happier. Men aren't in the equation.
Yet again, "Whatever you do, you do for yourself."     

Monday, September 8, 2014

Battle of the Bulge: This, Too, Shall Pass

I had bought them myself, vanilla rugelach that Ta took to his morning minyan for tikkun. The men had mostly favored the chocolate instead, and Ta had returned with leftovers. 

After my lunch, I looked at them. They looked back. Could I have just one? Was I capable of taking just one, and being satisfied?
Via kosheryourway.com
I snapped open the container, carefully selected what appeared to be the gooiest of the bunch, and brought it to my mouth. 

Oooooooh! Every synapse on my tongue howled in bliss! 
I tried to nibble on it slowly, but it was gone! ImustImustImustImustImustImust have another one! My hand reached out. 

And then pulled back. 

My head was still reeling, my blood sugar was begging, and the sweetness still pranced about my palate. But I staggered backwards out of the kitchen as every fiber of my being wept. Please! Just one more! One more! 

I hurriedly found a chore to occupy myself with, ignoring the internal wailing. Soon, however, I realized that I had actually forgotten about that delectable vanilla rugelah. In about fifteen minutes, the craving had passed, just as I had read it would. 

I guess there is a reason why those "Gam Zeh Ya'avor" rings are so popular. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Body Scrubbing

At one point I dabbled with a body scrub, which ended up being a huge pain. The apricot pit bits got wedged into my shower floor and clogged up the drain. Alternative?

Earth Therapeutics Hydro Gloves easily exfoliate skin. Add a squirt of body wash or rub 'em against some bar soap, and they lather up beautifully.
There are also exfoliating bath towels, which are longer to make back scrubbing easy, like the Salux Nylon Japanese Beauty Skin Bath Wash Cloth/Towel. They are quite loved, but I don't find them as easily negotiable as the gloves. 
The Earth Therapeutics Exfoliating Body Sponge and Buf-Puf Double-Sided Body Sponge were, in my opinion, a wee too harsh. 
This idea can also be for the dudes. Don't be afraid of polishing the skin, men! (No one has to know. Or that you follow up with moisturizer afterward.)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Future Me

"Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." 

Every person is composed of two separate beings, David DeSteno writes in "Stop Trusting Yourself": Present Me and Future Me. As we know, Future Me is sort of like a deadbeat dad—rarely fulfilling Present Me's expectations. 

And we always fall for it! Why do we, repeatedly, think that this time Future Me will come through for us?
Jews struggle with this constantly as we really, really want to improve (especially now that it's Elul) and we make all sorts of New Year's resolutions. There are those who succeed. Then there are those . . . 
While today you feel confident that you’ll be able to honor your planned monthly contribution to your retirement savings, window shopping at the Apple Store next week may change all that. The result? A broken promise to yourself.
The worst part is that you didn’t see it coming. Which raises the question, why do we continue to trust ourselves? The answer resides in another type of cognitive bias. People generally like to think of themselves as trustworthy, so when their actions don’t live up to that ideal, their minds simply erase the failure.
There was an example of a study where participants were told to flip a coin, at which point they would be assigned, based on the outcome, an easy or difficult task. 90% (believing themselves unobserved) "ensured" they got the easy task. 
All the participants in our sample had earlier stated that cheating on the task would be immoral. But when evaluating their actions afterward, most not only continued to view themselves as fair even when they weren’t, but also readily condemned others for cheating in the same way. Their minds quickly whitewashed their own untrustworthy actions. They didn’t ignore what they did; they just created a story for why it was O.K.
Our minds have a happy talent for validating bad choices. "I had a good reason!" it argues. 

In this time of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur bearing down on us, how often have we "whitewashed" a commandment-violation with excuses? 

"I couldn't help screaming at my mother. She just gets on my nerves sometimes. I just had to let loose." 

"I didn't mean to push past that old man, but I was running a little late and had to get out of there." 

"Well, I may have embarrassed that girl, but she wasn't dressed tzniusdik. She had to be told." 

If we had no trust in ourselves at all, then there definitely wouldn't ever be any progress. DeSteno's solution lies in mobile technology: monitoring leads to accountability. Even if one succumbs, he points out, there will be that failure on the books. 

We Jews have always believed our lives to be recorded. The question is, if the Heavenly Judge will buy your defense. 

When reading through Tanach, there are many incidents when a person thought they were doing the right thing, but Hashem knows that their reasons weren't the right ones, and the unpleasant consequences unfold accordingly. 
Which of our excuses are kinda shvach?