October, 2007

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Where to Stand

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

As many of you know, I’m a big advocate of healthy lifestyle and healthy eating. While my healthy lifestyle could use some improvements (I hardly ever exercise – though I did just by DDR for my Wii and am trying to get active on it every day), I do try to walk a lot and take the stairs. And I do put a lot of effort into eating healthily. I don’t count calories and I don’t ban carbs, but I do try and keep my intake of fat, salt, and sugar low. And I encourage others to do so. Obesity, heart disease – thats a nasty-ass way to go, and an even nastier way to live out the rest of your life.

On the other hand, though, I’m very much for healthy lifestyle and healthy diet. Wait, you say, that’s just what you said. Yea, but now I’m coming from the other direction. In my 21 years of breathing on this planet, I’ve met a really scary number of girls and young women with eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia, and girls who compulsively exercise. People that definitely don’t need to be worrying about obesity (but should still be worrying about heart disease, though a different form than the obesity-linked kind – brought about by lack of protein and other nasties).

So on the one hand I stand up and I talk about eating less and exercising more. Then I turn around and talk about eating more and exercizing less.

On the one hand, I hate the pressure so many women feel to have these perfect, skinny bodies and the unbelievable insecurity so many women feel when their bodies aren’t pefect. Many girls can probably relate to this, but many guys might fall over backwards two or three times if really exposed to this in raw form.
On the other hand, I hate the fact that a fourth of our country is obese, and that we live in a cheap, fast, and easy society where we eat what we please and seek cures at 40, instead of preventing the problem at 20. And I hate the denial. ‘I’ll get healthy later’ ‘No really, I feel fine, I must be fine’ ‘I’m big-boned’

One side says I need to be skinny to be loved, I need to see ribs to be sexy, I hate my body.
The other says It’s not my fault, I don’t have time, this is what a real woman looks like.

How do you possibly reconcile these two extremes?? But then, is this just another example of the polarization of America?* It’s a dilemma (Can’t have a dilemma without Emma®) I’ve faced a few times when posting. Often I ignore it, but it still nags. If I post something about forgetting society’s expectations for a super-skinny celeb body, am I nudging aside the obsity crisis? If I post something about healthy eating, losing weight, and working out, am I further pressuring our anorexic female youth?

I recognise that my little posts are not going to make much difference either way in the grand scheme, but the integrity of my writing is important to me, if nothing else, and it’s important that I’m not slicing into my own values unintentionally.

I realise this post is rather unstructured and all over, but I’m short on time, as usual. Anyone have thoughts on this?

By the way, all of this was triggered when I thought of posting a list I came across that I liked. You can view this post-starter here.

* A quick Google revealed I may be using a term that’s been built up to mean more than I realise it does. I’m using it as a construction of English words, not as a concept or term – please translate accordingly.

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Red or Blue

Monday, October 22nd, 2007

So I’m supposed to have this list of posts I’m working down, but I’m hyper, un-tired, bored, and slightly down, and overall feeling disagreeable, so screw my list.

Instead, I will talk about, hm. Jello. I’m eating some sugar-free jello, since I’m trying to eat more healthily, which means less sugar (causes blood-sugar spikes that just leave you craving more sugar). But I swear it tastes faintly of cough syrup. Maybe I shouldn’t have gotten cherry. Probably should have gone with orange.

Here’s something for you to mull over:
Bear Grylls (from Man vs Wild) might have been a cheating little bitch when it came to surviving in the wild, but I tell you what, he was a hell of a lot easier on the eyes (and ears – oh the accent) while fake-surviving than baldy round-faced Survivorman (from Survivorman). And, Survivorman is kind of boring. He doesn’t have nearly the same way of describing what he’s doing in an exciting way.

I feel a little bad saying looks and excitement over skill, but hell, if I ever get stranded in Rocky Mountains do you really think since I watched Survivorman or Man vs Wild I’ll survive? Honestly, I know the only show I take real advice from is Doctor Who. For example, I learned that I should be wary of any hospital run by cat-people, because they’re probably doing illegal and immoral experiments on clones in the basement.
Surviorman is pretty cool for having the same kick-ass hat as me, though. But why has this loser decided to go fishing at night when he just talked about some poisonous fish you can stand on?

After watching him eat a load of coconut, though, I’m totally craving SukhoThai, which may be one of the best restaurants in the world. Wait, this guy just claimed to make a ukulele from a couple of coconuts. I’m pretty sure you can’t do that very easily.

Well, though I’m not tired, and though I’m fidgety (at least partly because of the change in weather, which excites me) and disagreeable, I guess I should go get some sleep so I can do physics in the morning before class.

Oh, but before I go. I’ve decided to buy an iPod nano with my birthday money (yes, I’ve been holding onto it all this time), but I can’t decide between red and blue. What’s your vote?

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To Bagel Guy: Thanks

Wednesday, October 10th, 2007

I have a back-log of post topics building up, and that hasn’t happened in a while.
Here is my list of topics:
- California/Fall Break (half written, saved as draft)
- Communication differences in males/females, from info I learned in my sociology class
- Cell phones in school
- Einstein Bagel Bros
- Slightly randomized post on kindergarten and social convention
(That’s as much for my benefit as yours.)

I’m going to have to get busy posting, really. Especially since some of them are time-sensitive, like the bagel one, the Cali one (obviously), and the sociology one (so I can most accurately recall.)

But today, The Bagel One.

As some of you may know, I eat lunch and/or a snack at Einstein Bagel Bros on University at least 3 times a week, sometimes 4. Sometimes I go twice in one day. I’ve been going to Einstein’s for lunch since the beginning of last year, and have gone, since then, multiple times a week.

Since beginning of spring semester last year, I have ordered the same thing for lunch – Can I have a Veg Out on Sesame Bagel with no onions, please, side? just a piece of fruit, Emma, for here, just water. If I’m doing a snack, that’s always the same too – Can I have a toasted sesame bagel with plain cream cheese please, Emma, for here, just water.

So obviously, I like this place. I’m a ‘regular,’ as they say. I know the building, recognize some of the other regulars, and have the ordering routine down. I know the manager and a couple of the workers, though most don’t seem to stick around more than a couple months. I know when someone is on shift when they usually aren’t. I know when someone’s the new. I know when they didn’t make my order as per the apparent guidelines. I know how they make a lot of their stuff as least as well as, and sometimes probably better than, the workers.

So over the last year and 2.3 months, I’ve gotten to recognise the few consistent workers and the manager. And it seems like one of the consistant workers at least recognizes me as someone she sees a lot, though doesn’t show it in any way. From time to time a worker who’s there for a month or so has gotten to know my name. But, over all this time, only one worker has actually taken the time and energy to really pay attention to the fact that I was in the fucking place giving them tonnes of profit three-four times a week.

I never knew his name. I kept meaning to look at his name tag, but I always forget, and now I’ll probably never know. He was in his mid-thirties, maybe, and at first I was a little uncertain of him because he was so friendly. But, as time passed and he took more and more of my Veg Out orders, he took the time to learn my name and learn my order.

Then he took the energy to recognise I was a regular and go a little further than that. When I came in through the door he’d always yell ‘Hey!’ and when I left, he’d always yell ‘Thanks, Emma!’ – causing me to be very embarrassed, but smile. When there was a group of people blocking the ordering queue trying to decide what they wanted, he’d step to the side and take my order, because he knew I already knew what I wanted – might as well get someone busy making it while these idiots make up their minds. If there wasn’t any fruit or fruit cups left, I’d obligingly go without and take my tray to my table, and often he’d appear a little later and casually slip a fruit cup he’d gotten from somewhere (sometimes the $3.50 ‘meal sized’ one that I wasn’t ‘allowed’ as a side without paying extra) onto my table, saying ‘Look what I found.’ When my food was ready, he’d call out my name, and then bring it over to my table before I could go to the counter to pick it up. He was always friendly and always smiling. Even if he’d never given me free fruit salads, I appreciated him just acknowledging that I was spending a fairly good amount of money and time at his workplace and being friendly because of it.

I wish that some of the other employees had picked up on his example. Obviously, he was really, really nice, which you can’t expect. I don’t need ‘Hey’s and ‘Thanks’s when I enter or leave Einsteins, but remembering my name or making a general comment like ‘nice to see you again’ is, in my mind, something any good business should try to do for regular customers. And if nothing else, they can do some little things.
For example, today I ordered a bagel with cream cheese, and when I got it, discovered that it had but a mere smudge of cream cheese on it. (This was because they had a new employee preparing the bagels.) I didn’t want to complain, or make a fuss; I know she’s new. So I just went up to the counter and asked for a little container of plain cream cheese from the new employee, as I have done in the past. It’s never caused a problem. But, this time the manager overheard me, and walked over with the new employee to the cream cheese, glancing back at me. Then he walks over to me and asks me “Is this something extra, you wanted on the side?” Translation: We’re going to charge you for this 1 square inch tub of cream cheese. “Well, it’s just that there wasn’t much on my bagel,” I replied. I’ve been here a zillion times, I know how much they’re supposed to put on. I know my allotted amount. He looked doubtful. So I held up my bagel, displaying it’s meager cheese-ness. He conceded, and the girl brought me the cream cheese, while he mumbled to her, “Be sure and use the scoop or you don’t get the right amount.”

Now, I have seen this guy hundreds of times. I can tell that he recognises me from the way he looks at me – you know, that recognition you can see in people’s eyes. He’s never once acknowledged the fact that I regularly choose to spend my money at his franchise. The above situation would have been a great way to acknowledge that they recognise me as a valued regular customer. The amount of money I’ve spent with them has far exceeded what they will lose by not charging me for a tiny container of cream cheese – he’s not going to lose monetarily. And obviously I did get my cream cheese in the end. But in my mind, he should have let it slide, not interrogated me. If he doesn’t want to appear negligent, he could make a point of it being a favor, a thanks for my business.

Maybe I’m just old fashioned; maybe you all think I expect too much? Maybe society’s moved forward too much and nobody gives a damn. I guess Einstein’s doesn’t have a lot to lose from not being a little nicer to a regular customer – being near TCU gives them a thriving customer base. But the manager himself could gain. I recognise extra effort, and, in turn, I’ll thank someone for it, usually by way of a generous tip. (I don’t tip regularly at Einstein’s – I don’t really feel like I need to, they make a killing off me – just $5 every few weeks or so. And it’s not like they’re bringing the food to my table or refilling my drinks.) I guess I learned this from my dad – it’s possibly one of his best qualities. He may be an asshole, but if you go out of your way or are even just extra nice to him, he will notice it, and chances are, you will get something from him in thanks – wine, presents, money. (He keeps half-size bottles of wine in the trunk of his car as impromptu thank-yous for people he meets who go out of their way to help him.)

Anyway, the awesome dude from Einsteins told me two Friday’s ago, as he brought me my sesame bagel, that it was his last day, and that he was going elsewhere. I’m generally shy, and don’t think I’d said more than my order and ‘thanks’ to him before then, but I told him I was sad to see him go. After I finished eating, I went up to him at the counter and pressed $10 in his hand (if I’d had $20, he would have gotten that), and thanked him again for always being so nice to me. He was a great guy, and I always enjoyed seeing him at lunch, even if I was too shy to do more than smile at his kind remarks. I must say that if he was there now, I’d probably be bothering to get lunch instead of in here writing this. But becau
se of this morning, I’m in no hurry to go back since I’m not starving.

So, Einstein Brother’s guy who worked on University and befriended a long-haired girl called Emma, if, by some strange chance you ever do end up reading this, which I know is very unlikely, thanks again. Continue being as kind as you are wherever you’re working now, and I hope you are duly rewarded in life.

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You Might Be A Classical Music Nerd If…

Monday, October 8th, 2007

Well, I’m in an exceptionally good mood right now, as I’ve just finished listening to my new CD – Strictly Sousa – a collection of Sousa marches performed by the Dallas Wind Symphony. I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for marches and marching bands, despite being a self-declared hard-core orchestra geek. I always try to catch the WRR 101.1 March of the Day, which plays at the odd time of 7:35 every morning. (But, with my new CD, I need no longer depend on it to get my blood going in the morning!) It might be ‘Liberty Bell’, ‘Washington Post’, and ‘Stars and Stripes Forever’* every morning now : P. (And yes, I know those are the most generically enjoyed ones, but come on, they’re greatness. And anyway, I’m more experienced in string and full orchestras.)

So as for the title: You might be a classical music nerd if….
You collect your mail one night and are overjoyed because it contains
- A new CD of Sousa marches
- Sheet music from your orchestra director, asking you to look it over, come to any practice possible, and play in the next concert because he’s dangerously low on strings
- Your season ticket to the Ft Worth Symphony Orchestra’s Pops Concert Series

So that’s my excitement in life at the moment. Is there nothing classical music can’t do? Well, maybe classical music and programming combined. That might, in fact, be the recipe for life happiness.

All of you will be overjoyed, I know, to hear that Svara is safely back with me as of 7am this morning. My plane ended up getting in late last night, and I had to leave her another night, poor kitty. She seems very relieved to be back at home.

* I just realised I have no idea how to format music titles in writing. Italics? Quotes? If you know, let me know.

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Worried About Kitty

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2007

I had to drop Svara off this morning at the vet’s, and I’m feeling horrible about it. I’ve never had to leave her alone without anyone she knew before – usually my mom or a friend can take care of her if I’m off somewhere. But now she’ll have to spend 5 days all alone. And not only will she be alone, but she’s due for vaccines before she can be boarded, so she has to get those today. And she has a reaction to them. So today, even though she’ll be in the best place, under observation and with people who can help keep her safe is she gets sick like last time, she’ll be alone, and feeling like crap, and wondering where I am, and why I’m not there to make her feel better. And then, 4 more days of wondering why she’s been abandoned without a friend in sight.

Poor Kitty. I know it’s the only option, but I still feel horrible, leaving her all alone in a strange place.

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WARNING: Religious Post

Monday, October 1st, 2007

Often, when I look back through old posts, I’m fairly impressed with what I write. True, a lot of it is psycho-babble, but I’m proud of a few where I, at least, think I make a good point. Of course, I’m probably more than a little biased, as they are by me, and they probably do make more sense to me, since I did write them, but still.

This morning I was contemplating religion while playing sudoku, which made me come into the library and look up some old posts I made on religion. As some of you may or may not remember, 4.5 years ago (god that was ages ago) I wrote a post that lay out the culmination of many weeks, perhaps even more, of thoughts on religion. Almost five years later, I still stand by the main points of this end result. I thought maybe I’d revisit the topic, and try to clarify and simplify from the jumble of words that makes up that original post. So, here’s fair warning. If you didn’t like the original or don’t want a recap, or just hate going back in time, scuttle away. Similarly, if you have a shaky foundation in your own religious beliefs and avoid all other religions/religious ideas in the fear that your faith will be shattered, or just don’t like religious topics, run away quickly!

I was never one very comfortable with the idea of sins and of the absolute word of the Bible. I remember in high school I knew a few people with many different conflicting ideas about what God wanted/didn’t want, what really pissed him off, what was a sin, and how to get into heaven. It all seemed so complicated. But from other things they said, it seemed like it should be much more simple. From the words of those who ‘knew,’ God was described as two things overall: ever-loving and ever-forgiving. And, coming in third, the father, or parent, of humanity. So I started with that – the three things that seemed most likely to be true – God loves us, He forgives us, and He’s the ultimate parent.

This is getting a little somber for me, as personally I like to take religion and God with some salsa and humour, but for now, we’ll keep it simple, and thus somber.

From God being the ultimate parents, you can obviously redraw the idea of idea of Him being loving and forgiving, but you can add that He wants what any parent wants: for us to be happy. I can’t think of any parents I know that, at the end of the day, want differently. Of course there are exceptions, but I’m thinking they’re probably not good models to use for figuring out ‘the ultimate parent’.

From God loving us and God wanting us to be happy, the conclusion can be drawn that God probably is not down with people hurting or killing each other – since that’s usually a pretty big downer on the other person’s happiness.

From the above, the two ideas that make up my whole religious belief:
1. Do Not Infringe on the Happiness of Others
2. To Thine Own Self Be True

1 is pretty self-explanatory. There are some puzzles, such as euthanasia and suicide, but that comes down to (as far as I know) the one and only dilemma in my two little kernels of religion: What is happiness? Is the person’s happiness really decreasing or being infringed upon if they’re asking to be killed because they’re going to die slowly and painfully anyway? Is it if they feel they’ve got no happiness in this life anyway and would rather zip off to whatever’s next? First, it’s obviously different for every situation. Secondly, I don’t believe I’m in a position to know conclusively what’s best for someone else.

The same issue is presented in 2. ‘To thine own self be true.’ That’s Shakespeare, by the way – and one of my favorite quotes. In non-quote-speak, it means do what makes you happy, don’t do what hurts you, don’t do what impedes your own happiness. Obviously, we can’t always be happy all the time, and we all must do things that make us unhappy, like take out the garbage. But looking at a bigger picture, is your lifestyle making you happy? Are your actions making you happy? Is your job or schooling making you happy, or setting you on a path to something that will make you happy?

Therein lies the rub: (that’s misquoted Shakespeare, BTW) to be honest enough with yourself to admit when you’re not happy. It’s so very easy to convince yourself you are, when if you drag away the self pity and denial, you’re really not as happy as you could be or you want to be. Again, it’s different for everyone, and again, I don’t think I can say conclusively what makes anyone truly happy. Sure, I can give you advice about whether I think what you’re doing is really a good idea, but it comes down to looking inward, being honest, and deciding for yourself.

AND THAT IS SO HARD! In my experience, being true to yourself is one of the hardest things in the world. I’m willing to vouch that often we really don’t even know what makes us happy, let alone can admit that we’re not happy. And that doesn’t even touch on the fact that once you do figure out you’re unhappy, you’ve got to actually do something differently to get happy!

And of course, you can’t really get much help. You can get advice, but no one else can really tell you if you’re happy or not, because your individual happiness is different from anyone else’s. I mean, they can, and they might be right, but it’s up to you to recognize that they’re right in yourself. And there are obviously some things that make most people happy, but overall, we all have individual happinesses.

So this is both the greatness and the difficulty of the second idea:
1. It’s individual! There are no set rules. So loving and having sex with a guy makes you happy, really happy. Great! Go forth and be happy! So going to church and reading the Bible makes you happy. Great! Go forth and be happy! So having sex with people for money makes you happy. Great! Go forth and be happy!
I might not be able to see how that brings you happiness. I might feel that it’s impossible for that to bring you happiness. But who am I to judge? I’m not you, I’m not God. If you’re being true to yourself, and honestly doing what makes you happy, you will love life, you will be happy.

2. It’s individual! There are no set rules. The responsibility is on you to figure out your own rules. Sorry, but the Bible just became like the Pirate’s Code: “more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules.” Maybe the ideas presented in there will make you happy, maybe they won’t. It’s here that I can see why so many turn to organized religion. It’s much easier. They lay out the rules, you follow them, and they tell you the rules’ll make you happy and give you a good afterlife, cuz God’ll like you. No need for introspection and brutal, painful honesty.

So what if you’re not happy. Is it a sin? Will God punish you? Will it keep you from heaven (more on heaven later)? Why would it need to be a sin or keep you out of heaven? You’ve just lived your life not truly happy, not experiencing all the great things you might have. I’d say you probably suffered exactly proportionally to how far from actual personal happiness you were. Not really much need for further punishment. Will God be mad? Personally, I highly doubt it. In relation to him, with this omniscience and his universal powers and ability to create life, etc, we’re like 3-year-olds. I see Him being much more sad that we weren’t as happy as he knew we could have been and would have loved more than anything to have seen us be than angry that we did something wrong. Maybe He’ll remark that He hopes we learned something from that experience, and hopes we make better choices next time (if there is a next time), but I can’t imagine much more than that from an ever-loving, ever-forgiving ultimate parent.

Lastly, I’ll touch quickly on heaven. Is there one? Hell, I donno. I’d like to think there’s something just because it makes me sad to think of never seeing my friends
and family again. But if there’s nothing after this life, I doubt I’ll be worrying about it much, either.
Honestly, I think the idea of heaven is dangerous. I’ve met many people who seem to be living just to die because they’re so convinced of this wonderful, glorious heaven. To me it seems like the best idea is to live life like it’s all you get. Heaven is like a bonus round – if it’s there, great, if not, at least you had a great time while you were alive. Relying on heaven seems about as smart as relying on your teacher to drop a test grade – in theory it seems like a great back-up plan, but in reality there’s a good chance you’ll end up leaning on that crutch way too much, and then when it never happens, you’re kind of fucked.

To fill in the extra few minutes I have, I also don’t think there’s a hell. If you really really messed up on Earth, say, intentionally killing some people, my own personal belief is when you get to heaven you will be given the insight, knowledge, and understanding, to really, truly comprehend what you’ve done to the point where you feel 100% honest remorse, sadness, and pain about what you did. You’ll be in a lot of pain when you first get that dose of understanding, but once you’ve truly understood your actions and torn your heart out and wept for what you’ve done, need there be more punishment? The past can’t be undone, definitely not so by hurting you. The next best thing, it seems, is ultimate remorse and pain from understanding and feeling the pain you created. And then, a chance to be forgiven and to heal.

Honestly, I think that’s what happens to all of us if/when we go to heaven. We all get a dose of understanding and insight and feel ourselves the pain we caused others in our lives, whether minor or major. We mourn and hurt for those we hurt, and then we are forgiven, and we slowly heal, and learn.

Well, that’s my religious ramble. It was good to pass the time.

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