December 31, 2010

Hello, 2011

Dear Twenty Eleven,

It's so good to finally meet you! I've heard very good things about you and I'm very excited about the year we'll have together. I must admit I was predisposed to like you anyway; after all, you are an odd number, and I do prefer odd numbers to even. But I think we'll get along in many other ways as well.

I regret that we meet in such circumstances. It's not always easy to have to say goodbye to a bad year, in fact I wish they were all good years, but it does give me the chance to meet new years, like you. I understand not all years are the same, and I know there are a lot of factors about years that cannot be compared, but it's still obvious which years are good and which years are bad. I hope that meeting under such circumstances does not tarnish what good we can do together.

Before we begin, I'd like to make clear my objectives for the next 12 months. First, I need a new job. It's something I've been working at for a while and something I hope can be cleared up in no time. You'll like the work I've done so far: clean and updated resume, positive outlook and great interview skills (one I get an interview, that is). Second, I registered to run a half marathon. I have less than 3 months to prepare, but I've already paid $65 so I can't back out now. I'm going to need a little support on this. Third, there's a long list of projects of various sizes, ranging from finally fixing my car to building back my savings account (also, a long list of purchases of various amounts I need to make, ranging from good running shoes to a new computer) that I'm going to need to tackle. I hope they won't be too daunting for us. I also have a strong desire to increase the frequency of my posts by about double. But this shouldn't be a difficult task.

I look forward to the hope that turning over a new leaf brings us both. I feel confident we'll attain our goals and that time will fly, in a good way.

Finally, I want to extend my gratitude. You've stepped in at a crucial time, at just the right moment, and I'm thankful you're here. Now, let us both look forward to many happy times to come!


Lindsay Marie

December 29, 2010

100% Real Chicken!

Go to a fast food restaurant. Or drive around and check out billboards. Or just turn on the TV and watch some commercials. I guarantee you'll be promised 100% real chicken. Or real cheese. Or real beef. Real food. At restaurants.

Am I the only one who thinks it's silly that restaurants feel the need to advertise that they sell real food? Are the ones that advertise real meat implying that the ones that don't are selling fake meat? Is there any chance that we're eating fake food products? If there isn't any chance of that, why would some restaurants advertise that they sell real food?

This is a scary thought. The thought is made more scary having just finished The Jungle. That is a scary book, especially because it's all real. Sinclair went undercover in a Chicago slaughterhouse in order to write the book. He got a job, toiled as a worthless cog, saw the insides of the meat industry, and wrote so the rest of the world could understand. And understand they did. Well, kind of. The Pure Food and Drug Act and Meat Inspection Act were passed, which was a step in the right direction, but his goal was a bit loftier. He wanted to expose the lies of America for what they were: lure people with the promise of wealth and the American Dream and crush their hopes for a decent existence. But that book was written waaaaay back in 1906, over 100 years ago. No way food is still produced the same way, especially after all the regulations we have now.


That's what I'm not sure of. Sure, sausage isn't made from the scraps of beef on the slaughterhouse floor anymore (I think...), but would we be proud of how our meat is made? Probably not. A new report came out showing the amount of antibiotics in the livestock we eat: an insane 80% of all antibiotics consumed in the United States is consumed by livestock. Americans only consume 20% of all antibiotics in the country. But if we feed our animals all these drugs, aren't we consuming them in the end when we eat the animals?

And what does 100% real mean???

Turns out I'm not the only one asking this question. There's a Facebook page wondering what McDonald's served us before if now they're serving us "100% real" chicken. It seems that the more I learn about the food I eat the more questions I have. Now I understand why there are people who only eat "dead" plants (like, apples that fell from the tree on their own accord) and why there are people who will spend 4 times the regular cost of produce for organic. There has to be a happy medium somewhere, a way to eat food responsibly and healthfully without going into debt. It seems the search for answers continues.

December 19, 2010

Guns On A Plane

The concessions we make, as Americans, when going through our airports has gotten a little ridiculous. I was fine taking off my jacket. I was fine even taking off my shoes. But I'm not fine taking off my underwear, or letting TSA agents see my naked body through an x-ray scanner. Many, many people, however, don't feel the same way, and will put up with all the infringements on our rights the TSA forces upon us because it's the quickest way through security and dammit we want to fly. Many people even feel safer exposing their bodies in the scanners because they believe if a terrorist were to try passing through the security measures the TSA would catch them.

Here's why that last part isn't true:

This article tells of an Iranian-American man carrying a loaded pistol through an x-ray and onto a plane. This article shows how the metal detector and TSA pat down aren't enough to keep bombs from planes. This article tells how airports catch testers when they're tipped off about a covert test. What this all boils down to is 20 security failures out of 22 tests in Newark, 50 failures out of 70 tests in Los Angeles and 45 failures out of 75 attempts in Chicago. That means that if each of those failures were a terrorist wanting to blow up a plane there would be hundreds dead. That means our security measures just aren't cutting it.

So, if security isn't doing much in the way of protecting Americans while flying, why should I submit to the ineffective and degrading procedures? I can't bring my face lotion on a plane. I have to buy special toothpaste in small packages before I fly. I have to choose between having a stranger see me naked or another stranger touch private and sensitive parts of my body in order to fly. Some Americans say that's what it costs to be free. But I sure as hell don't feel free.

But here's something that makes me have hope: Ron Paul introduced the American Traveler Dignity Act. In it, he suggests that Americans need not give up our rights or our dignity in order to fly. The act intends that:
"airport security screeners are not immune from any US law regarding physical contact with another person, making images of another person, or causing physical harm through the use of radiation-emitting machinery on another person. It means they are subject to the same laws as the rest of us."
Paul further suggests we allow the airlines themselves the opportunity to provide their own security. After all, they have arguably a bigger investment in keeping Americans alive and safe on their planes because if they were slacking they would lose business, while the government can say, "oops, sorry" and not really lose anything but a moment of silence if we have another terrorist attack. Bottom line is Americans shouldn't have to give up their rights for the right to travel by airplane.

December 8, 2010

Ode To The Internet: A Tradition

Old news: I move a lot.
Newish news: Every time I do, I miss the Internet so much I decide to dedicate a post to all things wonderful about it.

I probably wouldn't have done so with this move, but this wait for the Internet has been the most brutal yet. My new roommate and I planned ahead specifically because we didn't want exactly what happened to happen. We discussed our internet options, chose a carrier, made the call, ordered the supplies, and two days after move-in a box arrived and we had our modem. I excitedly texted her to say I would set it up and get everything working. It was better than Christmas.

And that's when bad things started to happen.

Seconds after I got the box open I saw a letter with GIANT BOLD LETTERS instructing us to not install it until our installation date and time. It was a week away from December 1st and my heart jumped at the thought of having to wait a whole week, after we'd been so careful. Scrolling the page for a date, my stomach sank when I found it: December 7th, 8pm. Not one week away, but TWO FUCKING WEEKS AWAY! It made no sense. I frantically texted my roommate again explaining the situation, hoping she'd have some magical answer to make what I read irrelevant. Alas, it was not the case.

In an attempt to get around this ridiculous installation date, she called our carrier (AT&T, we'll see about you) to try to enlighten them of the fact that we've received our modem and would not only like to set it up now, but like to pay for a whole two more weeks of service. And the bastards said no.

Finally, after two weeks of being frustrated with my phone's limited capabilities, bringing my computer over to every friend's house with wireless (and, in a show of desperation, even one that didn't), and going to coffee shops and buying a tea in exchange for the interwebs (which is all in all a very pleasant experience, save for the terrifying 2 minutes in the bathroom hoping no one would steal my POS laptop because I just had to pee and the thought of packing everything up to go 10 feet away seemed ridiculous), December 7th arrived. I sent another excited text to my roommate (and maybe a few other people...) and happily began preparing dinner, waiting for 8pm to come.

It came. The Internet, however, did not. I felt so helpless. It had been set up by my roommate's friend and she wasn't even home and I was starting to lose it. I didn't know what to do. A whole night went by with us, again, internetless. Which is not to say it was a bad night. On the contrary, we ate enchiladas, drank wine, watched TV and played cards. But when I woke up I was determined: I would have internet today. I braved the angry howls of my roommate's cat, who was hiding under her bed and letting me know my intrusion into her territory was most unwelcome, to check all the connections. Everything was solid. Again, I felt helpless. I was ready to call AT&T and let them know of my frustrations when my roommate came home on her lunch break and tried a different phone jack.


But there's a problem: the other phone jack is in the living room, and she needs everything set up in her room for her desktop, which does not have a wireless card. With a non-functioning phone jack in the room the Internet needs to be in, the Internet Ordeal is not over. As a temporary solution, there are very long cables connecting the modem and router from the phone jack in the living room to the desktop in the bedroom. It's not pretty, but it's functional, and that's about all I'm concerned with right now.

And so I have my Internet. My fun (Reddit, Fark, Damn You Autocorrect), my love (this here blog) and my sustainability (back to the job hunt) are back. No more stealing a connection from the neighbors, no more shitty loading times when trying to watch a video and no more disconnect from the world. I'm back online, and I love the Internet.

December 5, 2010

Eating Animals: A Review

This guy knows what's up. And so do I.

I've embarked on a mission. Since middle school I've restricted my meat intake, cutting out cows, pigs, sheep (not that I ever even ate sheep) and fish (but I didn't even like fish anyway). Then I discovered I really liked fish and kept my meat-eating to fish and poultry. Then I more or less discovered (rediscovered? remembered? acknowledged?) the pain and suffering most poultry endures to become food, so I decided to (mostly) stick to free range birds and sustainable fish. Then I discovered how expensive it is to eat animals and by default became a vegetarian-when-alonekind of person who ate chicken and fish when someone else was doing the grocery shopping.

Then I read Foer's book, Eating Animals. I learned cows are treated the best of any animal we eat (which is still awful), pigs are treated better than they used to (which is still awful), and birds and fish suffer the worst (which is awful). Which is interesting because I and probably others restricted our diets to poultry because we figured cows were too... human... to eat. Chickens are birds and fish are fish, and they're much further removed evolutionarily from us mammals. But as Foer rightfully points out, they still feel pain and their ethical regulations are kind of nonexistent, with stuffed bird cages stacked one on top of the other and fish left hanging on hooks for hours at best. So when you look at it that way, the best thing to do is to be a vegetarian.

Actually, the best thing to do is to be vegan, but that takes resources unavailable to many people. And, let's face it, I'm not giving up cheese.

As Foer mentions several times throughout his book, what you eat is a choice. You choose to order chicken or beef or fish or no meat at all. Every meal is a choice, and every time you choose meat you support the meat industry, like it or not. Foer, obviously, chooses to be a vegetarian and to raise his young son vegetarian.

But here's where I disagree with him: though he never once wrote that the goal of his book was for everyone to become vegetarian, he did say those in the know about the animal industry have a responsibility to inform others of the meaning of their choice. Which means you should inform your friends and family that their turkey sandwich is the end product of hundreds of thousands of birds suffering cruel torture their whole, short lives until dying a slow and painful death, and that's to say nothing of the toxins and bacteria found in the meat. The biggest problem with that plan, though, is it's a surefire way to lose friends and alienate people. And then what good are you to the vegetarian mission if everyone you know thinks you're crazy?

Where I do agree with Foer is that every time you eat you influence others. I believe that is a stronger method of conversion, even if just for one meal, than scaring your tablemates with horror stories of factory farms. When others see your delicious vegetarian meal (creamy mushroom risotto, for example... mmmmm) they'll be more apt to think they ought to give that a try next time. But if you're sitting at the table with a salad and everyone else ordered a juicy steak, telling them the pain and suffering that cow endured right before they take their first bites isn't going to win anyone over.

I think I can sum up America's problem with meat consumption in one sentence: we believe that we have to have some sort of meat on the plate or it's not a complete meal. (For example, bacon and eggs at breakfast, turkey sandwich at lunch, meat sauce on pasta, and pepperoni on pizza.) When we have a vegetarian meal we think we're being so healthy or giving up so much, when we really aren't. The picture below is what I ate while typing this paragraph.


A black bean, corn and onion mix, spooned onto a tortilla with melted cheese, and topped with bell peppers, tomatoes and spinach. I served myself with a side of mango salsa and tortilla chips, and I felt very satisfied.

And speaking of myself (because, after all, this is my blog and I am writing about my own little mission for truth), I made the decision to not make a decision. Ta da! I've read one book on the subject and there are hundreds more equally full of good information. I know what my conscience tells me, but I know what my reality is. For the time being, at least until I can read some more books, I'm going to be as vegetarian as possible. It's actually very easy to be vegetarian: meat is just too expensive to buy regularly anyway, and vegetarian dishes from restaurants are almost always as good or better (vegetarian burrito from Chipotle FTW!). My biggest hurdle is cooking with friends. Most of my friends enjoy eating meat and because I'm not skilled in the cooking-vegetarian-dishes-that-meat-eaters-would-love field I give up easily. I'm comfortable enough buying fish that the EDF says are sustainable or eating fish my friends caught themselves (my lady and I make BOMB fish tacos), I'll still put chicken in my enchiladas until I figure out a good meat-free alternative and I'll still eat eggs (which I'll do my best to buy ethically). My homework includes reading The Omnivore's Dilemma (for funzies I'm re-reading The Jungle while I'm in between researching), experimenting with new recipes and shopping for ethical animal products. It will be a process, but it's been an interest of mine for more than a decade, and one I feel compelled to research until I'm satisfied with my personal answer.