About Me

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My interests include veganism and vegetarianism, health, ethics, politics and culture, media, and the environment. I have three kids; I teach college part-time, study piano and attempt to garden. I knit. I blog on just about anything, but many posts are related to my somewhat pathetic quest to eat better, be more mindful of the environment, and be a more responsible news consumer. Sometimes I write about parenting, but, like so many Mommy bloggers, my kids have recently told me not to. :) Thanks for reading.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The phantom (or should I say wanna-be?) student

Student takes midterm. Student scores 58.

I cannot find student in my online grading system; since it's generated by the registrar and not by me, I tell the student that she appears not to be registered for my course. She tells me she's having this problem with other courses too, but that the registrar told her it would be sorted out soon.

I naively bought that story and just kept her exam so that I can record it later.

Miraculously, she does quite well on her presentation to the class; I give her an A-, in part because she desperately needs to bring her grade up. (I try to be nice when I can.)

Student takes final. Student scores 55.

I go to record final grades and discover that student is STILL not in the online grading system.

I ask a colleague what to do and am directed to the department secretary who, after a quick call to the registrar, discovers that said student is a) not registered for my course and b) not registered at the University AT ALL.

Stalker student.

A first, at least for me.

She has also asked me for a recommendation to medical school.

Oy. Vey. Holy shit. No way. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!

Kinda funny, though.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Knickers in a Twist

So, Obama and the Democrats narrowly passed a bill to ensure that every American has access to some health care. Undoubtedly, there are going to be problems -- with implementation, loopholes, claims of who is covered, what is covered, how long people wait for appointments, etc.

Just because I am ecstatic over this legislation doesn't mean that I don't recognize there are going to be problems as it becomes the new norm. Any change this big brings problems!

This is going to affect doctors' patient loads and probably malpractice insurance too. We already need more primary care doctors and now we're going to need even more. It's likely that some people will have to give up something (not clear what yet) in order that other people have a wee little bit of health care. There is no aspect of health care that won't be affected, but it's clear that this is a long-awaited attempt to FINALLY give Americans -- living in the land of "I-did-it-myself-I-never-accept-government-help" myths -- a contemporary welfare state where ALL citizens have similar rights to health care.

Change is afoot.

And boy, are some people PISSED OFF.

They have their knickers in a proverbial twist.

It's the end of the republic; the constitution has been abandoned; Armageddon is on the horizon, if not already here. We're socialists now.

I can't help but compare the restructuring of the American welfare state and the accompanying growing pains/economic ripple effects to my favorite obsession, veganism.

*IF* enough people went vegan, there would be ripple effects throughout the economy that are not unlike the upcoming changes in the health care industry.

Corporations like Tyson and Smithfield might go under, or perhaps be pressured to produce only free-range, grass-fed animals who aren't left to stand in their own manure in CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations). This vision is not the vegan dream, to be sure, but it is admittedly a better vision for animals than the current factory farming nightmare.

Farmers, currently under the thumb of these huge corporations, would not have the same incentives to mass produce food -- they would either go under along with the corporations who have been cheaply supporting them, or they would have to find other, more sustainable ways to farm for the few (hopefully environmentally conscious) meat eaters that remained.

Having considerably fewer meat eaters would also affect corn production -- if there aren't animals "needing" to eat it, there's not much of an incentive to grow so much of it. (This is particularly likely since there is so much press lately about the evils of corn throughout our food system; turns out that high fructose corn syrup and maltodextrin and related products aren't so good for us and may be the prime culprits in the obesity and diabetes epidemics. Imagine that!)

Meat would likely become more expensive, making it less of a go-to food and more of a special occasion one. Again, not the vegan dream, but one that is environmentally sustainable and better for our overall health.

Perhaps (though this is probably wishful thinking) working conditions for the (usually poor, minority, or immigrant) workers in slaughterhouses would improve.

Farmland currently used for animals would be turned over to other sources of food (i.e., plants).

With dramatically fewer animals to feed, there would be a huge decrease in the amount of poop they produce. Runoff from factory farms would be lessened, leaving water sources (and crops) healthier.

The current argument that a-vegan-driving-a-Hummer is-less-of-an-environmental-hazard-than-a-meat-eater-driving-a-Prius might have to be reexamined.

Oh, and assuming that people eat well and don't just find ways to stuff different crap into their meat-and-dairy-free mouths, people would likely, as a whole, be healthier. That would have to be a good thing for our new health care system, don't you think?!

I'm not expecting that this will actually happen, at least not anytime soon. But the parallels between the two processes -- restructuring the American welfare state and restructuring the American diet -- are intriguing.

The Democrats get labeled socialists and babykillers and constitution destroyers and big government, pull-the-plug-on-granny freedom haters. The vegans get labeled crazy and excessive and out of touch, elite and obsessive.

I am happy to accept the following labels: democrat-leaning-toward-socialist, almost-vegan, and happily obsessive. I think we'd all be better off if we were, collectively, almost vegetarians and almost socialist democrats.

So, now that "we" have done the work for the new health care system, "we" have to work on the new American food system too.

It's for OUR OWN GOOD. And the good of the planet, and the good of a whole lot of animals.

Can't wait to hear what the opponents yell back.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Representational Art

Most of my five-year-old son's art is, well, not very recognizable. He mostly draws Star Wars battles -- colorful, yes, but hard to tell what's going on, unless you're listening to him as he draws them (he always narrates).

Today, he and I went to visit a friend's farm. We spent quite a bit of time with her youngest goat, currently being bottle-fed and raised in her house (only for a few weeks). Cute as can be. My son was particularly impressed with how much she, uh...eliminated.

So, perhaps it shouldn't surprise me that his first *truly* representational picture was of the the goat, standing on a pillow, and peeing on a towel. He asked me for help drawing the legs, because his white crayon was not showing up on white paper. (The goat is mostly white and so OF COURSE the picture had to be, too.) He did add some brown to the goat, and allowed me to outline the legs and back in black.

So, for your viewing pleasure, I present to you "Meg's goat, standing on a pillow and peeing on a towel."

:) Notice that he also included the goat's umbilical cord.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Why Not to Knit for Children Over 3

"Would you like to wear this sweater that your Auntie M made?" I hold it up -- lovely, grey, textured, cotton sweater, expertly knitted and NEVER worn.

"No sanks," my son replies happily.

"What about this one that I made?" I hold up a dark grey and red striped rugby-style sweater, also cotton, very comfortable and (I think) worn ONCE.

"No Mommy." Another cheerful reply.

"What about the blue one that I made you with the cute doggie buttons? You wanna wear that one?" I nod hopefully, holding it up with its adorable matching hat.

"No! I wanna wear that brown one that NOBODY MADE ME!"

He grabs the drab brown fleece and runs out of the room.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


An internet friend recently wrote a blog about how hard it is for her to accept a compliment, or even more specifically, how hard it is for her to say "You're welcome" when somebody thanks her for something. (See "You're Welcome" at ipstenu.org.)

Her blog got me thinking -- certainly, many people (perhaps especially women) have a hard time accepting compliments graciously. As she wrote, it sometimes seems "more" polite to deflect the compliment -- "it was nothing" -- shrug it off, or say explicitly "you don't have to thank me".

This is particularly true when what you're being thanked for is something you do because you WANT to do it (in her case, being thanked in person by the celebrity she runs a fansite for). It feels unseemly to say "you're welcome" for doing something you really just love to do.

Though I totally identify with the tendency of shrug off compliments, I told her that I'd SO much rather "have" to say "you're welcome" than the gut-wrenching words, "I'm sorry".

Yeah, compliments are hard to take, especially if you *know* you get something out of the task anyway.

But having to apologize is so much worse.

Being able to do both is a sign of maturity and decency.

Ironically, people often apologize for things that they're NOT responsible for ("I'm so sorry it's raining"). Parents often apologize to their children when really, it's not such a good idea (I"m sorry I got so mad at you, but..."). Often, it's TOTALLY OK for a kid to know they got into trouble; parents don't need to apologize for being righteously angry! In fact, by apologizing when we shouldn't we give the dangerous message to our kids that we're not sure if we're doing the right thing. And -- writing from experience here -- those little buggers really know how to manipulate their parents' soft underbelly.

Never. Let. Them. See. You. Sweat.

That said, there's nothing quite as humiliating as having to apologize when you *know* that indeed, you really messed up.

I try to tell my kids that it's best to try to do the right thing, the first time, in order to avoid having to utter the words, "I'm sorry."

And I tell them that "You're welcome" is a gracious way to respond to two of the nicest words we ever get to hear: "Thank. YOU."

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

25 Things About Me

About a year ago, there was this trend on Facebook -- everybody was writing a list called "25 Things About Me". I looked up my list from last year and realized there were already two things I'd change. I've decided to share the slightly revised version with my blog readers.

1. If I could change one thing about myself, I'd be less serious.

2. If I could change one *superficial* thing about myself, I'd have seriously long legs. Love long legs.

3. I would rather work with a hard worker of average intelligence than with a lazy genius any day!

4. I believe far more in hard work than in innate talent.

5. I have a secret longing to play banjo. Seriously, love banjo music.

6. I regret very little that I have done, but quite a bit that I haven't. I'm too cautious and sometimes that has held me back.

7. I read CSI fan fiction WAY too often. Even the bad ones.

8. I love a super-clean house.

9. I hate cleaning house.

10. I've been trying veganism for almost a year; I refer to myself as an "almost vegan" though I probably should just use the term "vegetarian".

11. I think Twitter is WEIRD, but I'm still on it. I use it as a news feed.

12. I am pretty sure I will always have at least one cat. Love cats.

13. Hate beer. Have tried so often to like it, 'cause it seems everyone else does. BUT.I.HATE.IT.

14. I write stories when I should be working on articles, but I never publish them anywhere.

15. My husband is an unrepentant pack rat.

16. I like to purge things as soon as I am done with them. Apparently, in our case, opposites do attract...

17. I would just *just one* opportunity in life to get REALLY dressed up -- hair done, makeup done, some outrageous dress, matching shoes and purse, lots of jewelry, etc. But what big fancy events do academics go to??!!

18. I'm not really sure I'm an academic, even though I'm working as one. (Ssshh! Don't tell!)

19. I like surrounding myself with smart people, as long as they aren't arrogant.

20. I'm really bad at "playing the game" -- telling the line that people want to hear, when I really want to tell them something closer to the truth.

21. I can smell a lie a mile away.

22. I worry endlessly that I'm not paying enough attention to the kids, and some days that is the unfortunate truth.

23. I thought I'd like parenthood more than I actually do. Love the kids, though!

24. I fantasize about having a different life, though I do know how fortunate I am.

25. I've never been drunk. (And see no reason to do that now.)