Weekend Diversions 4.29.16

Hello! I spent the past hour planting lettuce seeds for the garden, so I am in an especially good mood. I was feeling a bit flat when I woke up, and a good yoga session was only moderately helpful in lifting my spirits. Gardening -touching the dirt, making a safe and warm place for the seeds, fantasizing about produce-laden meals to come -transported me instantly into a happier place. I love thinking about all the life within each seed, the potential to grow from a hard fragment of nothing (lettuce seeds are especially small) into vibrant and hardy plants. Watching the seeds progress through their life cycle puts me into a state of wonderment. I find it unbelievable that something without a central nervous system can react so acutely to its surroundings. (And yes, I have read the research that says plants have feelings, secrete human hormones, fear the sound of a caterpillar munching -this synchronicity with the world only makes plants more fascinating. Bean plants, as Michael Pollan shows in this video reach for poles many feet away from them, and can achieve their mark using some sort of sensory mechanism. How do they do it? Nature is miraculous.)  So now I’m all happy about nature and wish it were a tad warmer here in Chicago so I could frolic in the garden and admire the kale, spinach, peas, garlic, Asian greens, beets, and kohlrabi that are already growing strong. Perhaps when I am done with this I will put on my jacket and inspect them all.

For the reading:

The food industrial complex: An economic analysis of why people eat more processed foods than fruits and vegetables. Basically, the government subsidizes large companies that produce products used primarily as animal feed or the base for processed food (corn, soy, rice). These crops are relatively easy and cheap to grow, and government assistance makes them even less expensive. This means that food made with these crops are also less expensive than their time-intensive, unsubsidized, healthier counterparts. The food lobbies for these crops also have much more political power than, say, organizations that protect broccoli or Brussels sprouts. Big agriculture is enmeshed in the American economy, influencing dietary guidelines and advertisements. This unmitigated influence is part of why we are facing epidemic proportions of obesity, diabetes, heart disease. Although it once may have seemed economically prudent to help out farmers growing cheap crops to feed the American people, this expense is outdated, however. Now, giving massive amounts of money to farming conglomerates is increasing the costs of healthcare and hurting our country’s bottom line. This article paints a clear picture of the economic and health related implications of continuing agricultural subsidies.

The uncomfortable truth about tipping, explained with stick figures: As a longtime waitress (and as someone who has definitely walked away from a haircut or manicure or bell hop unsure if my tip was adequate), I was excited to read about tipping guidelines across multiple industries. This article confirmed my suspicion that most people tip a set amount, unrelated to the degree or quality of service received. This is why I can be given a similar percentage tip from two adults having a quiet dinner who leave their table as clean as can be expected after a meal of barbecue and pizza, and from a family with four children who color on the table, break crayons, drop mac and cheese all over the floor, spill drinks, make experiments in their water cups (children routinely pour barbecue sauce, parmesan  cheese, salt, etc. into their beverages), and run around the dining room as if possessed. That it takes two or three times longer to clean up the mess from a family like this is only rarely reflected in my tips (or those of my co-workers).

Rant aside, this is a quite well-researched article about tipping habits (from customers) and tipping expectations (from workers). The author, Tim Urban, also has put together a nice chart showing how much you should tip from different people, and notes as to when a bigger tip might be appropriate (see scenario above for an example). Urban also goes into profiling of customers (who tips the best and worst). I found it sort of accurate to my life, but really my experience has shown that people can be surprisingly generous, even if they are from a category that is a stereotypically known to tip poorly. I have been given good tips by teenagers and horrible tips by groups of men; as well as the reverse. My policy is to treat everyone well, so that I can rest assured that a bad tip is not a reflection on my service.

The article is a little bit long to, but a lot of the space is taken up with illustrations, and Urban’s sense of humor makes it a quick read. Also I am sure I will be referencing his chart on tipping guidelines next time I am in an ambiguous situation.

When should kids start learning about sex and consent?: By refraining to talk about sex to children, many of the experts interviewed in this article believe, sex becomes a taboo that is often either avoided or misused. And, delaying sex education until middle or high school only compounds the problem. Kids are given a bunch of information (some of which they may know, some of which may be new), explained with varying degrees of thoroughness, and then sent back to their lives. Sexuality is not part of the greater education structure; it is set off, and minimized. This results in confusion and negative conceptions of sex; the minute sexual education many students receive does not promote healthy sexuality.

I especially like the closing statement, which quotes the stances of sexuality educators Elizabeth Schroeder and Evan Goldfarb:

“I think we should teach [sexuality] the way we teach every other topic in school,” says Schroeder. “Start basic. Build that scaffolding in a way that is age and developmentally appropriate.” Both Schroeder and Goldfarb give as an example the way schools approach math education. “My son is learning algebra now in the eighth grade,” says Schroeder, “but it’s not the first time he’s getting math. It’s antithetical that we wouldn’t do the same with sexuality.”

Sexuality is a part of life, and crucial in many ways to achieving healthy adulthood. It is an almost universally necessary skill and yet it is shoved under the rug of society. I am heartened to know that there are people advocating for greater education and understanding.

This post is a bit longer than I was anticipating, so I am going to cut it off here and save my other reads for another day. Take care, have a wonderful weekend! (And, if you are able, spend some time enjoying the outdoors.)



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