Monday, January 31, 2011

The Bachelor

I'm just going to come out and say it:  I love The Bachelor.  I started watching during Jason's season when we had recently moved to Florida and I was pregnant.  That combo (plus my persistent "morning" sickness) made for a lot more laying in bed and watching TV.  I don't usually get to hear what people talk about or see how they act in these intimate situations.  I really think there is something to learn from watching these people sabotage themselves over their insecurities and instabilities.  Watching personal relationships is fun when it's fake, and it's even more fun when we can kid ourselves into thinking it's real.  I mean, it's real a little bit.  And Jason and Molly got married, so that was real. 

I love the antics of ABC, choosing a girl from the last show to be the new bachelorette, or vise versa.  Hook me network, I love you for it.  Now, the intense lying and cheating and inserting themselves into people's lives to create drama... I could do without it.  I think the network goes a little too far sometimes to create drama that is more malicious than it is entertaining.  And ABC, leave Reality Steve alone.  He's really your ally. 

Thinking about the glamorous life is fun, too.  They get to live in this beautiful house, their job is to look great all the time, they get to go to all of these exotic locations and have once in a lifetime experiences, the bachelor or bachelorette is paid pretty well I think, they stay in the suites of beautiful hotels, and their roots are always done, so they must get some awesome hair and make-up benefits... sounds fun.  I'm sure there are plenty of drawbacks to being on the show, but I never will be and this is stupid TV, so I don't have to acknowledge them.

People complain about how the dates are the same from season to season; I don't care.  Different people mean a whole new deal, even if they are both repelling down a building or gettin' frisky in the turquoise waters of who-cares-which tropical island.  The fantasy suite cards are just as fun every season for me, even if one or the other of them turns it down. 

Episode 5 will be available to me tonight, I think, but I couldn't wait.  I needed a fix.  Where do you go for a Bachelor fix between episodes?  Reality Steve!  Thank you Reality Steve, for keeping me fueled up on info.  Now I can focus on the winner throughout the whole show, and heckle the other girls who I know are eventually getting rejected. 

I'd love to see Chris L. from Ali's season as a future bachelor, and I know who I want to see as the next bachelorette, but I won't ruin it for you, if you don't know which current front runner gets the gentle bachelor booting. 

See, I like to remember that life is The Great Balancing Act.  For instance, when I was first getting hooked on Jason and Molly, I was also completing Anna Karenina.  Now, while I practice my southern accent alongside Brad and Emily, I'm learning Japanese.  And eating frosting straight from a bowl.  Followed by The Spartacus Workout.  Balance, see?

From Japan,

Monday, January 24, 2011

Rahul Parikh: Vaccinated Against Logic

This man, Rahul Parikh, wrote an opinion article on childhood vaccinations and insurance premiums that I happened upon while perusing  He thinks that parents who do not vaccinate should have to pay more because of the risks their children pose to the community.  I have an opinion on his opinion.

Here is the article, in case you want a full context:

Let's jump in:
"Given that, it's hard for me to believe that some parents still refuse to vaccinate their children...frightened by the rants and raves of anti-vaccine fundamentalists..."

This is poppycock.  The parents I know and read about make informed and educated decisions after reading and researching the topics of vaccines and diseases, the benefits they offer, and the risks they pose.  Raves and rants may spur an interest, and act as a catalyst to get people to research and make decisions for themselves, but they do not frighten the majority of non-vaccinating parents into vaccine paralysis.  The suggestion of it insults people and indicates that the author thinks these parents are of uncommonly weak character.

I have experienced the opposite.  I gave birth without medication at a birth center, so the parents I came to know and love provide a unique pool for me to gather insight and information from, as parents who give birth without medication are also apt to give their children less medication, and many of them provide a perfect example for me to comment on this article.  My friends who choose not to vaccinate read books from several different perspectives, talk to their doctors, and vaccinate selectively or not at all.  Those parents must put in a lot of effort to have their wishes respected, including interviewing many pediatricians to find out their beliefs and if they will support a selective or non-vaccinating family.  Some parents I know started vaccinating and stopped; however, none of them said, "My goodness, I'm just so scared 'cause vaccines might give my precious baby the cooties."  The author assumes my friends are idiots.

"Refusing to vaccinate a child is dangerous not just for that child but for entire communities...that parents who refuse to vaccinate their kids should pay substantially higher health insurance premiums.

To indicate how far stretched I find Rahul's logic, I would like to relate vaccinating to breastfeeding.  Breastfed babies have enhanced immunity, get less ear infections, diarrhea, and flu, and have enhanced cognitive and social development, not to mention a huge slew of benefits that do not directly benefit the community, but correlate strongly and directly to the premium pot our author so cherishes and fears for, including lower incidences of gastroesophageal reflux, MS, allergies, and dental problems.  Breastfed babies who get sick less don't put other children in danger as often, and in addition, the breastfeeding mother also enjoys health benefits of lower rates of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, endometrial cancer, postpartum depression, etc., etc.  So, if we follow the author's logic (which I would never want to do), then all non-breastfeeding families should have to pay higher premiums for the risks posed to their communities for both the baby and the mother, despite whatever reasons for which they made the original decision not to breastfeed.  (Not to mention the ecological costs of not BFing!  I diverge a little, but what an interesting question:  Who costs the nation and communities more; parents who don't breastfeed, or parents who don't vaccinate?)  (More on breastfeeding, and my source: )

The perfect analogy is smoking. If you smoke -- and want to turn your lungs black and spend a greater portion of that pot of money on your possible chronic lung disease or any cancers you'll get -- then you may have to pay more.

Why shouldn't we impose the same logic on parents who refuse to vaccinate their children?  The link between smoking and lung cancer is as clear as that between refusing vaccines and increasing the risk of infectious disease."

I'll tell you why, dummy.  Because the smoker who gets sick pays for his own health care, as should the parents of a child who may become sick.  The author wants the parents to pay for the risks they pose to everyone else, not for the risks they pose to themselves (as the smokers do).  So yes, Rahul, the links between smoking and cancer are clear.  The links between refusing vaccines and spreading disease are clear (although my generosity feels stretched at giving the author this claim, as the studies are pretty conflicting and the risks very difficult to measure).  However, the link between your two arguments is not clear, although you're pretty convincing to all those people out there with low critical thinking skills, or too little time to care.  Your arguments link to themselves, but not to each other.  If smokers paid for all of the people they got sick through their second hand smoke, then your arguments would be congruent. 

Actually, if he shifted his smoker/vaccination-deserter argument to actually make sense and commented on the personal health care bills that may arise from the risk taken from not vaccinating, I might actually, well, not agree with him, but at least he wouldn't look like a fool. 

The author goes on to tell a horror story about an unvaccinated child who brought the measles home from Europe.  He uses the same "rant and rave" fear tactic to strengthen his argument that he condemns in his third paragraph.  Just like any politician trying to make his case, he makes one incident the poster for a nationwide proposal, and it works, it scares people, and then you get seven thousand people recommending the stupid article on Facebook, and then twenty thousand people espousing the info as if it were actually their own opinion.  And they never even thought about it.  So it comes to pass that the people calling for change, and for non-vaccinating parents to pay more, is spewing from the mouths of the people the author is supposedly trying to punish - the poor and uneducated, as indicated by his comment, "I don't foresee any quick shift in the trend among affluent, highly educated older parents against childhood vaccines."  He says right there that he's not, in general, talking about highly educated or wealthy people.  What a pig.

"As an aside, perhaps we could make doctors complicit in that choice pay higher malpractice premiums as well. Perhaps then, the combination of proof, medical crimes, stories like what happened in San Diego and a little moral hazard for patients and doctors will help move the needle toward common sense and preventive medicine."

Does this speak for itself?  In case it doesn't, I say this guy was spanked a few too many times as a boy.  He wants to punish everyone for whatever reason he can conjure up, including saying that it should be an actual medical crime for doctors to respect their non-vaccinating parents' wishes.  I suppose he thinks he's clever at the end there, with his "move the needle" stuff.  Perhaps he should learn to demonstrate common sense before he direct the medical and parental community toward it.

The circle closes, and so do I.

This link leads to Dr. Sears' book on vacs, which I think comes from a healthy perspective and shows respect to parents.  The book does not give an opinion or tell parents what to do.  It informs.  In addition, you can find books that do come from a certain perspective, for and against, through links from here.

From Japan,

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Character and the Cold

I drive to school, and the kids I see on the way, all off to school, wear shorts uniforms.  These kids are from 5 to 11 years old, I'd guess, and it's 3 degrees celcius (37 F) out today.  As the winter goes on, I thought I might see them transition from shorts to pants, but midwinter passed already and I'm still waiting.  The little kids are still running down the street in shorts.  Most of them aren't wearing coats either, just their school blazers, and they look cold.

The same phenomena persists at my school.  From their socks to their skirts, the girls' exposed and goose-bumped legs scream to me, "Please give me tights, or stockings, or something!"  I had a conversation with a student that went exactly like this:

Student:  "I'm so, so cold today!"
Me:  "Why don't you wear stockings?"
Student:  "I don't need them."
Me: (pursed lips, furrowed brows, generally confused looking)

I heard that they think not protecting themselves against the cold builds character, but when I test this theory by looking to the adults I work with, I see them either snuggled up in giant coats, hanging out by the heater, or walking in with no coat and jumping up and down because they are so cold.  They all talk about how cold they feel.  A far from perfect case study, but so far, I say, put pants on those kids!  And a down coat.  And some mittens.

I am of the belief that the energy the kids are using up being cold, thinking about being cold, doing things to try not to be cold, could be used on more worthy tasks.  It's the same as with my baby, who wouldn't thrive if he were running around with a wet diaper all day, or hungry, or cold.  The body's resources divert from learning to comfort, and in more extreme circumstances, to survival.  When the body starts to shiver, that's what the body is thinking about, survival.  I know I don't want my kid worrying about survival.  I want him thinking about the colors and shapes he sees, and the world around him, and learning and growing from that.  Bollocks to character.  That's what we have heaters for.

From Japan,

Monday, January 17, 2011

Chris Pine

When I got to my desk today, on a short happy high that I made it to the morning meeting, which I don't necessarily have to attend, but I think it best that I do, I saw a flyer for movies in the theater now.  People don't go to movies much in Japan.  I have never been to a movie in Japan.  But, as the meeting went on that I can't understand, I started to peruse the flyer.  I made the American movies out from the katakana titles.  One title that gave me trouble was actually a movie that I had started watching one night, and I couldn't figure it out because they changed the title for Japan.  They do that a lot.  Like Killers became Kiss and Kill.  Well, the meeting went on, and I kept noticing new, decipherable information in the intimidating mess of hiragana, katakana, and kanji.  denzeru washinton- Denzel Washington.  kurisu pain- Chris Pine.  Chris Pine!  I got excited.  I'll tell you why.

In the summer of 2002 I participated in the Williamstown Theatre Festival as an apprentice.  Chris Pine was an apprentice, too.  There were 60 of us there for the summer in Massachusetts, the festival requires much time and energy, and there's nothing else to do, so we all saw a lot of each other, so to speak.  Chris Pine is a really nice guy and a talented, charismatic actor.  He sure loves the ladies, but we're so awesome, can you call that a flaw?

Skip forward a little... after the festival I moved to New York and the circumstances there broke me.  I went home, feeling as though my passion for everything was dead forever.  I really was a shell of myself, and it took a shrink and 6 months of pills, not to mention some serious working out, to get me healthy.  But, I still wasn't the same for about a year.  It's so funny to me, but Chris Pine played an instrumental part in changing that, so now when I see him anywhere, and he's everywhere more and more, I feel happy for him, and I don't make an effort of it, but I guess I keep tabs on him a little bit, because of how he helped me, which he will probably never know.  Well, he might.  Here's how he helped me...

I went to the movies with my mom, and I think there was a problem with the movie we wanted to see, (which now seems serendipitous) and the only other movie in the time slot we needed was Princess Diaries 2.  I was sitting in the theater, still empty and hurt and probably apt to break out into tears at inappropriate moments, when I saw a familiar face.  At first my brows furrowed and I tilted my head like a confused puppy.  I thought, I think I know that person.  Is that Chris?  No.  Yeah.  It's Chris!  Chris Pine!  I felt so much hope.  I was right next to him a year or so earlier.  And he did it.  He was up there, kissing Anne Hathaway.  It sounds dramatic, but I'm not joking:  Sitting there in that theater I felt my self reemerge, I felt and even envisioned the embers of a fire bursting back into flames.  My passion was back, and I have Chris Pine to thank.  I would have if he hadn't been pretty intoxicated, highly enjoying his party.

Through a strange turn of events, I ended up at his birthday party in LA a few months after I moved there in July of 2005.  He was really nice and I think he made sure we had drinks and such, but the time was not right for a one on one conversation.  We didn't know many people, so we didn't stay long, and that's the last time I saw him in person.  At the party, another mutual friend told us about some deals he had in the works to do a movie with Ray Liotta and another with Lyndsay Lohan.  Both came to pass.  I loved his face-in-the-camera monologue in Smoking Aces.  Nice work Chris.

So, I've only seen two of his movies, but that doesn't indicate the level of my support.  And now I have a Japanese Unstoppable ad pinned to my desk.  Now, it's so much less personal than the first time, in the theater, because he is morphing from a friend into an unknowable movie star, but it's kind of like, anything having to do with him fuels me.  Looking up at this little newspaper still, seeing him walking along next to Denzel Washington, it makes me feel good.  It makes me feel close to something wonderful.  It makes me feel like anything is possible. 

From Japan,

Wednesday, January 12, 2011



I love comments!!!  I dearly appreciate those of you who comment and attempt to comment.

I also know that commenting on Blogger can be a pain in the ascot, if ascots could feel.  Even we regular users have trouble.

I just changed my settings to try to make commenting a lot easier.  You no longer have to be a registered user of blogger, and you no longer have to do the human verification.

As for the "following" troubles...    ???

Love you!!

From Japan,

The Hair and I

I got a haircut at Jane Hair last Sunday, my first haircut in Japan.  My fear of getting a bad cut or my precious hair chopped off, again, put the emergency brake on my regular hair care schedule.  I donated 13 inches of hair one year ago, November, and my two-year regrowth prediction seems on schedule, but one overzealous stylist could ruin our plans; my and my hair's, that is.  However, they did a great job on Peter's difficult hair, so I gained confidence.

I went through the translation rigmarole, demonstrating the amount I wanted trimmed by placing my thumb and forefinger together and squinting up my eyes.  Then, it happened.

I sat down in the automatic chair, they placed a cozy blanket over my lap, a thin paper towel across my face, and I got the greatest hair washing of my life.  The shampoo smelled amazing, and the dude with the bleached blond, spiky hair scrubbed my brains out.  He rubbed, massaged, and whipped my hair about.  My scalp tingled with pleasure and the relaxation oozed from my head, through my unforgotten temples, down my jaw and neck, across my shoulders... my whole body joined in and I really thought, If I could do this every 8 or 10 weeks, I could stay in Japan for another year, and a shoulder massage awaited me still!

Feeling drunk with pleasure, a lady escorted me (supported me, dragged me, I can't remember) to the seat where I received, just what I hoped for, barely any haircut at all.  "The Master" of the salon even finished me off with a blow dry.  An ordinary haircut, a spectacular experience.

I left with a family discount and a fancy bar of soap, a present from "The Master," who also bowed us out of the parking lot. 

After Jane Hair, I travelled to Yamakuni where I had a great weekend with Peter, Knox, M, and A.  We all went ice skating, Onsening (I went twice and almost passed out because I didn't want to leave), ate great and cheap food at the onsen restaurant, worked out, and played in the falling snow!  Things are looking up.  My hair and I predict a bright and healthy future. 

From Japan,

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Sugar and More!

So.  I was creating a lesson on the differences I experience between the good old U. S. of A. and Japan, and I said to myself, "Hey, that's good blog material, right there, that is."  Here is what I was thinking: 

The food is very different.  Desserts are VERY different.  In the US, desserts are cakes, brownies, pies, cookies, ice cream, crème brulee, tarts, etc.  Very sweet and sugary.  In Japan, desserts are made of rice or beans and water and sugar.  Sure, they have ice cream and stuff, but it's more of an international novelty than a staple.  Mochi is where it's at, and it's just rice.  In the stores, to my dismay, I can only buy small boxes of individually wrapped cookies.  I quote myself, "Why are they individually wrapped?  They don't need to keep.  Once I open it, I am going to eat the whole box."  Sugar makes up American desserts, but only dresses Japanese desserts.  Imagine if, every time you ate a sweet, you ate, like, 50% less sugar, and got something nutritional out of it.  It would make a huge difference, over the course of a year, or 50 years. 

After experiencing food in Japan, where the all-around perception is that Japanese food is very healthy, despite the presence of fried food at almost every meal, I have come to think that Americans have the worst weight problems on the planet because of the amount of sugar in American food, not just in desserts, but in everything, thanks to manufacturers, from bar-b-q sauce to rice.  I mention the manufacturers because I really don't believe that the sugar they put into stuff is necessary for any reason, and, although I am a huge proponent of personal responsibility, my current experience shifts my perspective to see Americans as victims of the manufacturers, slaves to their (our) addiction. 

Americans have to make careful choices to stay away from bad food, choices that Japanese people don't have to make because those terrible products don't exist here.  For instance, for many years trans fats have infected our food, which are now becoming illegal, thanks to the state of New York.  So, for years people ate what is now illegal.  It’s not people’s faults, for a large part, that they are overweight and sick, when a great majority of the options available to them breed disease.  Not everyone can be a food scientist, but in today's food culture, it seems that we have to be to keep ourselves healthy, to defend ourselves from the corporations that grow so large that no one feels responsible for what they sell.  Either that, or there are some seriously messed up ethics in the food business...  Actually, being in Japan has already made me soft;  Of course there are seriously messed up ethics in the American food industry.  People do really sick things.  Maybe they are desensitized, they don't feel any personal responsibility, they are desperate to make a dime, despite the means...  Our food culture is sickly Machiavellian.  It makes me feel defeated.  This is why I was vegan, and why I revisit the idea now.  It's the only power I have. 

Why all the sugar?  I don't think it makes things taste better than healthier alternatives, or induces brand loyalty (although all sellers of food can band together and benefit from the addiction it causes), it's certainly not healthy...  I don't understand it.  I recall that things don't spoil as quickly when they have lots of sugar.  Maybe it's included so often and in such quantities for preservation reasons?  That's where the ethics come in.  Someone made a decision that the shelf life was more important than the nutritional value or the harm their products might cause. 

If corporations decide to put something in their food, it takes a long time for people to discover how bad it is and, if it becomes necessary, for the government to step in and regulate it.  It's got to be really bad for that to happen, and takes the formation of independent organizations to create awareness and pressure, but it does happen.  In Japan, they don't have so many products laden with sugar and chemicals.  Why?  Many layers and years cloud the reasons; however, I attribute it to a combination of values, less advertising, and a phobia of preservatives among the people.  That's where it comes back to personal responsibility; people in America just have to stop buying the stuff.  We're just in so deep...  and do crack addicts just one day say to themselves, "You know, this really isn't good for me.  I think I'll stop buying it."  You might think that correlation draws a little too dramatically, but I'm not sure.

Some stuff I just found:
"The trans-fats used to manufacture Oreos added greatly to the cookie’s distinctive taste, consistency and ease of manufacture...."

"Consumption of processed foods (which are laced with sugar) cost the American public more than $54 billion in dental bills each year, so the dental industry reaps huge profits from the programmed addiction of the public to sugar products."

In the last 20 years, we have increased sugar consumption in the U.S. 26 pounds to 135 lbs. of sugar per person per year!

The fierce perspective of the "macrobiotics" website might turn some people off, but I eat that stuff up.  They mention that "sugar manufacturers are aggressive in defending their product and have a strong political lobby which allows them to continue selling a deadly food item that by all reason should not be allowed in the American diet."  I know that the breakdown of such a monstrous industry would, painfully and in plain view, significantly change many people's lives for a short time, but it would also, out of our collective consciousness in the darkness of the body, significantly improve even more lives for a long time.  Also a bit Machiavellian.  So, I propose something preposterous.  The sugar industry gets 10 years to save and invest all of the money it would have spent on political gains, and use it to help their employees when their doors close, or become dramatically fewer.  Where's my Nobel prize?

For myself, I have the addiction.  My sweet tooth would kill you in your sleep if you denied it it's dark chocolate bars, rich chocolate cakes, milk shakes, ohhhhhhhh... I think I am committing slow suicide, and I seriously need to do something about it.

I know my thoughts drift off in many directions where I do not follow, and that many of my presumptions and conclusions may be insufficiently thought out.  Just fast food for thought.

From Japan,

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A New Year (Of, Course)

Happy New Year!!

Today I got up at 7:53am because the am/pm were switched and the alarm didn't go off when I expected.  I still got to school on time, at 8:12am.

Maybe it's cheesy, but I am wondering today what I should do differently this year.  Why today, the 5th, instead of the 1st?  Well, I've been in my pajamas until today.  It's been one long day from Christmas to New Year's until today, the first day that I am required back at work.

I perceive a slight difference in people as I navigate my work place.  People seem refreshed.  Holiday excitement weens them still.  People are talking to me more than they usually do and their smiles are more luminous.  All of this points me toward the truth that real change surrounds me, so how will I respond?

I already spend too much time on self reflection and questioning, to what benefit I cannot see because I'm all up in my own face all the time.  So, what I should do is stop the constant self evaluation and just trust myself a little bit.  I need space and air.  I need open sky.  How does one escape one's self?  By thinking about others or nothing, I suppose.  That's why giving and gratitude are so important, and why meditation heals.  Now to break the self destructive habit of ignoring and avoiding actions that compose a healthy lifestyle...

Forgive my stream of consciousness tangent...

My goal, resolution, and intention for this year is to trust myself more, and give myself tools to do so with confidence.

I am dissatisfied with this statement.  It seems weak.  Let me try again...

This year I will trust myself more.  I will stop seeking approval outside of myself.  I will eat well, go to bed on time, exercise, pray, and meditate.

Now, I diverge...

I'm in Japan, and I'm lucky to always have the stability of my family, but I too am constantly socializing with people that I hardly know, but feel close to because we are experiencing this huge, new thing together.  I do feel a camaraderie with my fellow JETs inconsistent with the short time we have known each other.  I hope they forgive me for my treating them with unearned familiarity.  


Over the past few days, Knox started flying into tantrums where he throws himself face-first at the ground, slams the ground with his hands, and then looks up at us with furrowed brows to see our reaction.  Any time he has ever had a tantrum where he is on the ground I say, "Oh, are you sleepy?  Are you gonna take a nap?"  He always gets up at the mention of a nap.

Knox identified the number of fingers Peter was holding up last night, one to four.  He got a high five for each correct answer.

This morning we opened a card (thanks C and S!) with monsters on it.  It was really cute and I asked Knox to count the monsters.  He is soooo cute when he counts.  I should post a video.  His inflection goes up at the end of each number, and he sounds like it's the most pleasant thing in the world, counting.  "One, two...  One, two..."  He gets a lot of numbers but takes some encouragement with those past "two."

We are getting ready for Hokkaido in February.  We have to get Knox some warm boots, pre-rent some skiing gear because Yuki Matsuri is a really busy weekend, and I am avoiding asking for the days off for no good reason.  Next time we are going tropical.  The packing is so much easier.  If you want to be jealous of us, you should look "Yuki Matsuri" up on YouTube. 

What is your New Year's resolution? 

From Japan,