Thursday, August 30, 2007

Hangin' With the Mancub Part !!

So after spending the day together a couple of weekends ago, I decided that the mancub really needs some toys. Since we won't always have the option of going outside and I don't want to rely on the TV too much to play babysitter, I figured it was time we got set up for a boy creature of the toddlesome persuasion. So I headed over to Tuesday Morning and stocked up on fun stuff. I got:

1. a TON of books! SO cheap - $3 and $4 for books I had seen at Borders for $12 and $16. Got about a dozen fun titles, especially pop-up books since I remember loving those even when Nivek and Semaj were little and I would read to them. The mancub is still not too sure about this reading thing so sitting still is a little bit of an issue. I figured a bit of pop-up magic would help keep him interested.

2. A wooden pirate ship and crew.

3. A bouncy playground ball, like the red rubber kind you used to play kickball with at recess.

4. A soccer ball. When he plays with balls, he always shouts out the names of soccer players and yells "Goal!!!!"

5. A wooden farmyard set with a barn and play animals and equipment.

6. A wooden train set, the simple kind with the little magnetic train cars and the track you can set up in a figure-eight.

7. Some toy cars.

8. A set of play musical instruments (xylophone, harmonica, kazoo, castanets, flute, etc.)

9. A wooden castle and royal family.

10. A tub of jumbo lego-type blocks.

11. Some CDs of kids' music. I got a 3-CD set of "102 Children's Songs" and two Lullaby CDs, since he has trouble falling asleep. (He has never slept alone and he also demands that the light be on. I haven't tried to sleep with him yet and I really don't see me and the two Snoring Lions sleeping together in one bed with all of the lights on. Not sure how we're going to break this habit - Supernanny, where are you?? - but stay tuned.)

I brought all my loot home, hoping that T-Bone wouldn't be too freaked out with my expenditures, and set about assembling the barn and pirate ship. I decided that we should wait until we move to put the castle together but I wanted him to have a couple of cool things to play with now. The pirate ship was super-easy - just one pre-drilled screw to secure the crow's nest to the mast. But the barn was a real headache because it is solid wood with no pre-drilled holes and the screws are flat-ended rather than being pointy. We don't have any power tools so when Muscles (one of T-Bone's aliases) came home, I solicited his help. After a few hours of struggle, we declared the result "good enough" (looks find now but will probably need to be drilled a little tighter soon) and called it quits.

T-Bone was thrilled and excited and showered me with praise and gratitude when he saw all the toys. He was so happy and kept thanking me for all my love and getting really goofy lovey-dovey. [sigh] So adorable! We were both really excited to bring the Mancub over and see his reaction. On Saturday T-Bone went and picked him up from his mom's house. Before they even reached our apartment, T-Bone had called me to tell me that the Mancub loved his new CDs so much that he had flung off his seat belt and was trying to dance around in the backseat! (T-Bone had made a hasty dive toward the shoulder and re-secured the Mancub, this time with strict instructions that all dancing must be done in one's carseat.)

I could hear them barreling up the stairs and then a few moments later, the door flung open. The Mancub toddled in and gave me a huge grin. We waited, just letting him discover the new toys on his own.

It didn't take long. The first thing he found was the farm set, which we had left set up after we'd assembled it. He began naming all the animals and he got them all right, even the ones that had me and T-Bone going, "Er, I think it's a cat? Or maybe a mouse?"

In a matter of minutes he had hauled out all of the tubs I had bought to store the toys in. His favorites were the balls and the musical instruments, particularly the flute. He also loved the cars. I made the mistake of leaving the soccer ball in one of the tubs. He grabbed it and tried to bounce it on the floor; it made a hearty thud and I thought the neighbors might not appreciate having their ceiling pounded so I told the Mancub this was an "outside ball" and I hid it on the highest shelf in the closet. Throughout the afternoon he would occasionally stand at the bottom of the closet and whimper for his ball but even then he didn't go into full-blown howl.

I also noticed that his speech and comprehension seemed much better than last weekend. He was speaking in sentences rather than words and enunciating much more clearly. It was really remarkable, more than can be accounted for just by saying that I am getting used to how he speaks.

Anyway, at some point T-Bone snuck off for a nap. When he rejoined us, he also had a great time learning what all the toys were. While Daddy was sleeping, the mancub and I had had a quick tutorial and I had shown him how to use the flute, harmonica, and kazoo. T-Bone picked up the kazoo but for the life of him, he couldn't figure out how to play it. He blew and blew and just couldn't figure out why it wouldn't work.

"Mancub, show Daddy how to use it," I said.

The Mancub took the kazoo and soon had it humming. He handed it back to his daddy and T-Bone blew. Still nothing but the hiss of air. The Mancub giggled and showed him again. Finally I revealed the secret but the whole episode was really cute.

When he finally wore himself out, the Mancub once again crawled up on my chest. He brought a little toy car and his flute and lay quietly sucking his thumb and pinching him knuckles. But he couldn't fall asleep, so I carried him back to the bedroom and we lay down. After about ten minutes, he drifted off to sleep. T-Bone took a quick shower and dressed while I watched the Mancub and tried to help him breathe as best I could. He was lying with his back to me and at one point he woke up. Not seeing anyone, he sat up quickly and whimpered. "Sh-sh-sh," I whispered. Once he knew I was there, he lay back down and went right back to sleep.

T-Bone was going to take him home after his shower. I decided to clean up the toys so that there wouldn't be any tears when T-Bone carried him through the living room on their way to the car. I gently uncurled his fingers from the flute and tiptoed out to the living room, where I put everything away as quietly as I could. After T-Bone was dressed, he woke the Mancub and carried him off still blinking and drowsy.

Thankful Thursday

I just had a long talk with an old friend from high school who is going through some tough times, so I thought I'd make a little list of things that I am thankful for just to remind myself of how good I have it. And not Pollyanna stuff like, “I’m thankful for the mildewy grout in my tub because at least I have a tub in which to bathe myself.” [cue violin] Just little things that genuinely give me a tiny thrill when I think about them.

I am thankful . . .

1. for my secret place, a shady park bench on a footpath behind the Hebrew Home, where I can sneak away and read my book on my lunch break.

2. for persistent friends who call me to check in when I haven’t called in awhile.

3. for my large ankles. Some might not call them ladylike but I love my large bursal sacks for protecting my ankle joints.

4. for my palm tree. I have never successfully kept a plant alive before. I am extraordinarily flattered that this one has decided to stay with me.

5. for the tiny sliver of window I can see through the glass front door at my office. We don’t have much natural light but fortunately we have a glass front door and the salon across from us has a glass front door and even though the angles are funny, I can still see a tiny crack of one of their windows, enough to have some idea of what the weather is like and where the sun is in the sky. I love that little slash of window.

6 for the stormy weather. I love steamy rainy afternoons in the summer. They make me feel excited. I love to curl up by a window or lean on the railing on our little covered balcony and watch the rain, listen to the thunder, feel the laser-green thread of a crackle in the air.

7 for the policeman who didn't give me a ticket when he caught me cutting through the service road yesterday so I could get to work on time. I swear I had never seen the "Service Road - Residents Only" sign. I saw it today, though - it has white writing on a green background and it looks just like those signs that point to the nearby school/library/rec center. No wonder I didn't see it. Pretty tricky, Montgomery County. Anyway, thanks copper man.

8 for my wedding ring. T-Bone and I picked one out last week and I love it so much. Might have to return it because it will take a couple of months to pay for. But part of me says, "You waited over two years. You deserve it!" We'll see but at least I have it for a little while and if I do return it, at least I know what I love!

9 for back scratches. I've been having an allergic reaction to my current soap, which I'm really bummed about because now I have to start the search for a new soap (plus I love the way my current soap smells) but T-Bone gives me back scratches and they feel so great.

10 for my stepmom. Now that I am a stepmom, I am learning just how difficult it is to navigate the role when you love someone so much but you don't really have any rights or any say in what happens to them. I really admire my stepmom for doing it so gracefully. Love you Granny Lynn!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Hangin' with the Mancub

So it’s been awhile since I last posted. Let’s see . . . what’s been happening?

Dr. Kat is leaving tonight to go to London for six days!!! Yay! I’ll be working tomorrow and Tuesday but I get a four-day weekend. Not sure yet what I’ll do with it. Hoping we’ll get to hang with the mancub for part of it.

The mancub’s surgery is still scheduled for September 5th. As I understand it, he will have his nasal conchae scraped. The nasal conchae are bony protruberances that curl out from the side of the nose into the nostril. They force inhaled air to move in a slower whirling pattern down into the lungs so that the air can be warmed, moisturized and cleaned by the mucus membrane. The mancub’s are somewhat enlarged, which may account in part for his terribly horribly heartbreakingly labored breathing while he’s sleeping. He struggles so hard to breathe while he’s sleeping, you just feel like crying. And then he stops breathing and you nudge him or shake him to try to stimulate breathing. Sometimes he gasps a long shuddering breath and sometimes even moving him around makes no difference. You just see his chest heaving with no breath coming in. It’s horrible.

Anyway, so he’ll be having the conchae scraped down a bit. In addition, his tonsils and adenoids will be removed and he will have tubes put in his ears. I am still not clear on whether his language delays are due to hearing loss as a result of ear infections or whether he has language processing issues or both.

His pediatrician put him on an anti-biotic, which seems to have cleared up the infection. He doesn’t seem to have any difficulty hearing. If he doesn’t have an ear infection and doesn’t have permanent damage, why should we put the tubes in and leave his middle ear open to more bacteria entering? I wish I could be present at these pediatrician’s visits. Sometimes I feel like I’m the only parental figure who even knows what questions to ask but I can’t be there and it’s very frustrating. So I have to send T-Bone off with a grocery list of questions and just hope that I’ve explained well enough that he knows what he’s asking and why.

Okay, enough about all that. Let’s catch up on the last couple of weeks . . .

The only exciting thing really has been hanging with the mancub. T-Bone brought him over a couple of Saturdays ago and we had a great time playing. I really wanted to take him to the park because we didn’t have any toys or fun things for a little boy to do AT ALL but it was so swelteringly hot that we couldn’t go. I mean the boy already can’t breathe! So we hung out in the apartment and I wheeled him back and forth on my massage stool, which he loved.

My mom had bought him a stuffed bison on her vacation. I wasn’t sure whether he would like it since stuffed animals are more of a girl thing. But when I held out the little plush toy, he grabbed it and rubbed his hand over the fur. “Nanoose,” he announced. T-Bone and I looked at each other. “Nanoose,” he repeated, holding the bison over his head, and so his first toy was christened.

I had also bought him a bouncy ball from the drug store. Thank goodness we had the bouncy ball! Fortunately he didn’t really bounce it very hard – not very smart to give a little boy a ball to play with in the house, I know, but it was so wide that he couldn’t throw it very hard against the ground. We rolled it back and forth, which he found fascinating.

Then when he got tired, he crawled up where I was lying on the couch and curled up on my chest. He does this cute thing when he's falling asleep - he likes to hold your hand and pinch the loose skin around your knuckles. If he can't find another person's hand, he'll hold his own and pinch his knuckle skin drowsily as he drifts off to sleep. Adorable. So he fell asleep on my chest and I read my book while T-Bone napped in the bedroom.

Aargh, I'm too hungry to continue. I'll tell you more about last weekend once I get sprung from this joint.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Snap Crackle Pop

4:09 p.m. Annoying saying #139 "That's the story, morning glory!" Usage: Follows EVERY story and instruction.

4:07 p.m. She just had me print out a document so she could read it to her friend over the phone and then throw it in the trash. Recycling?! How passe!

3:43 p.m. She keeps crawling up behind me wanting to use the front desk computer. She leans down and grabs the mouse, her mouth level with my ear, and smacks her gum in the wettest, slobberiest, most revolting way possible while simultaneously shouting into her cell phone.

Please help me.

I think I am going insane.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Staff Beating

Am I the only one whose boss drives them crazy? Does anyone else shudder at the sight of their boss? Anyone feel immediately sucked into the vortex of their boss’s neuroses the minute you set foot in the office?

We have a staff meeting every week. I’m serious. Every week. There is one (1) supervisor and one (1) employee and yet somehow it is necessary that we “take a break” from our busy schedule of picking nits from each other’s fur so we can “get a chance to talk.” You know that uncomfortable feeling you felt waiting for Daddy to come home and punish you for breaking Mom’s favorite dish? Yeah, that’s they way I feel every Monday morning. Aww, who am I kidding – by Sunday afternoon, I’m already imagining the following day, when I will once again find myself pinned and squirming under the piercing laserlike ferocity of my boss’s need to freak out before an audience.

She rambles. On and on, saying the same thing over and over again. She nags. She rants. She twists her hands and whimpers, then blabs and blabs and blabs some more. I am so exhausted by it that I can’t even make it funny. She calls it a staff meeting but really it's a therapy session, except in this scenario I am responsible for all of her fears and uncertainties. Oh my goodness. She dictates letters to me at length, speaking at breakneck speed, and then at the end says, "Never mind. Just write something you'd like to receive." She's pushy and says eveything in an argumentative tone, even though I mostly just nod and say, "Okay," with an occasional "Good idea!"

It's like she thinks she's leading a pep rally, as if the more "jazzed" and "enthusiastic" she gets, the more I will understand what she wants me to do. I mean, there's enthusiatic and then there's crazed blathering foaming-at-the-mouth madness.

And let's not forget the piece-de-resistance, the fact that throughout this entire verbal onslaught where she's basically urging me to do all this stupid busy work, like printing out copies of my list of patients to call when I can just read it off of the computer screen - this is another of my huge issues, the fact that she is ADDICTED to paper and resists any suggestion that printing out information readily available on her computer screen is stupid, wasteful and expensive - throughout this whole "staff meeting," she is curled up in one of the chairs the patients sit on in the waiting room with her shoes off, picking at her toenails. Yes! Her whole litany of "Things We Can Do Better!" is punctuated by the click click click of her fingers plucking furiously at her toenails until finally by the grace of God the meeting is adjourned and she scuttles behind my desk and uses MY scissors to cut off the offending nail. EW EW EW!!! I feel so violated!!!!!!

Maybe I'm just being juvenile. But seriously, can anyone give me one good reason that we need to sit down during my lunch hour - oh yeah, that's the part I forgot to tell you. I don't get to go to lunch until we're done and heaven forbid we do the meeting during "patient hours" i.e. working hours in case the phone rings and we have to stop the meeting to speak to a patient. How would we recover?? Anyway, can anyone give me one good reason that two people have to subject themselves to the agony of a Staff Meeting during non-working hours when anytime she wants to say something to me, she just hollers it out of her office anyway????? I mean, WTF??? with a capital F!


An entry in Sandfestival Ruhr, a German sand sculpture contest.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Ten Things I Regret Not Doing

1. Getting really good grades in college. A sister to this regret is Not transferring to another school.

2. Joining the Peace Corps, Americorps or any of the vast numbers of long-term volunteer positions that are available.

3. Continuing figure skating.

4. ?

5. Believing people who told me I could not make visual art or music.

6. Designing a pantyhose that does not run.

7. Using my summer vacations in college to get really good internships.

8. Reacting to things emotionally when I was a kid. I was always proud of not crying or feeling sad, hurt, or lonely. I was very judgmental of people who did. I wish I had let myself be a little more human.

9. Telling people good things about themselves.

10. Resisting the urge to buy all the tons of crap that I have bought over the years because it was "cute" or "cool" or equally stupid reasons. Man, if I had all the money I have spent on stupid stuff . . .

Ten Things I'm Glad I'm Not Doing

1. Sitting in rush hour traffic.
2. Working for the union, CVS, CSAAC or any of my past employers.
3. Procrastinating.
4. Learning to dance.
5. Sleeping in my car in February because I was driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway and it got dark and I was driving and driving with no exit in sight, miles and miles till my gas gauge dipped down WAY past "E" and I was sure the engine would just sputter to a stop right there until finally I followed a long ramp down to a twisty twiny road that went on and on until I knew I would run out of gas in the Appalachian wilderness with no contact to the outside world and never emerge until twenty-seven years later when I would stumble out blind, matted and speaking in guttural utterances, until finally I reached the off-ramp to reality, only to discover that it was locked because the Parkway closes at midnight.
6. Talking to an irate customer with scorchingly bad breath.
7. Screening calls from debt collectors.
8. Explaining to someone I love why I acted in a way that ended up hurting them.
9. Lancing a boil.
10. Waiting.

Ten Things I'd Rather Be Doing

1. Horseback riding in the Grand Tetons
2. Splashing in puddles during a HUGE rainstorm with a bunch of kids
3. Cuddling under the covers with T-Bone in a pillowy luxurious bed while the sweet sounds of wildlife in the morning waft gently through our windows.
4. Floating on an inflatable raft as it bobs up and down.
5. Whitewater rafting.
6. Riding a roller coaster.
7. Singing.
8. Sitting on the porch of a rustic mountain lodge drinking coffee (or Dad's WINE!) with my family.
9. Picking out my new dog.
10. Saying something nice about someone.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

I want to get something off my chest.

I recognize that I am supposed to be better dressed than the doc. As a more subordinate employee, I show my respect through the clothes that I wear. However, even if I was a fellow doc working in this practice, I am quite sure I wouldn't be taking my cues from Dr. K. If I had to write an "Appropriate Attire" memo based on Dr. K's wardrobe, it might look something like this:

1. Wear ratty stained transparent T-shirts that look like your husband's undershirt. Everyone loves a healthcare provider who looks unbathed.

2. Whenever possible, wear a dark-colored bra or a bra with very thick ruffly lace underneath said tiny T. Our practice is focused on women and children. Since most women feel more comfortable with a female doc, let's not leave any room for doubt about your gender. Don't worry about people checking out your rack - just wear a bra that's so loose, your girls slide down your chest like fried eggs on bacon fat.

3. Very very tight pants are a must. This way all of the pelvic anatomy is clearly visible. You don't have to rely on silly old-school drawings and model skeletons when educating a patient about their lumbar alignment; just point to your own protruding bones and bursting organs when making your point.

4. Flip-flop? Flip-hot! Open-toed plastic bath shoes are the greatest thing to hit the pediatric medical attire industry since Grand Theft Auto scrubs!

5. Sundresses are great, particularly if the neckline plunges down to your bellybutton. Here too the "tighter the better" philosophy applies - when your flesh spills over the side of your bodice even though you yourself are thin, it makes your arms look so big and strong and lets patients know you can get the job done!

6. Slips and camisoles are for sissies. It's not you fault if the manufacturer of your dress didn't put any kind of lining underneath the flimsy polyester chiffon! So what if you look like you're auditioning for Girl Gone Wild? Patients love it!

I mean, I'm all for corporate transparency, but this is too much!

Maddie Was Adopted!

The chocolate lab I was sponsoring through the Lab Rescue of the Labrador Retriever Club of the Potomac was adopted! I didn't think she would be because she is older and had gray in her beard. Yay!

Here she is:

Maddie (#7338)

9 year old spayed chocolate female. Good with other dogs, children 10 and over, is afraid of cats. Maddie is up-to-date on her shots and is heartworm negative. She doesn't bark or jump up on people and she has excellent household manners. She is very friendly and likes to hang around with her people. She enjoys her walks, but spends much of her time lying at your feet. Maddie has no history of aggression, growling, biting, or resource guarding. She is housetrained. She is not cratetrained but doesn't need it and has run of the house when no one is home. She rides well while in the car and knows her basic commands (sit, down, stay and come). She will retrieve, but is not at all obsessive about it and doesn't fetch as much as she did in her younger days. Maddie walks great on lead, staying right with you, and knows how to heel. She has had formal obedience training and has a very gentle mouth when given treats. Maddie is good with dogs and lived with another Lab.

Maddie has been adopted!

One Potato, Two Potato . . .

Hello all. Sorry I’ve been incommunicado recently. Just a lot going on with the mancub. He may or may not be staying here. He may or may not be living with us. He may go to this daycare, that preschool, or have a nanny come into his mom’s home. I’ve been a little frustrated that no one seems interested in nailing down a schedule for this child. One of the great things about my childhood was that I always knew where I was going to be when. It didn’t have anything to do with, “Who’s the least busy today?” so I never had to worry that I was making my parents’ life hell or that I was such a burden that no one wanted me.

I know T-Bone agrees with me but it just seems like the mom doesn’t want to commit to anything, presumably so that she can return to her former pattern of calling us in the middle of the night and saying that 1) the mancub is ill and will probably die before morning if T-Bone doesn’t pay X, only for us to go to the hospital and find a very angry ER doc and a very healthy boy; 2) she is sick or injured or “tired” and wants T-Bone to come pick him up; 3) she’s working late tonight (she’s just learning this now?!) and won’t be there to pick up the mancub until “later,” which always means at least 2:00 in the morning; etc. I know that we are letting madness and stress back into our lives by having the mancub here and it’s not that I don’t want him; it’s just that I’m worried.

So I am insisting that we have to have a written-in-stone schedule: he is with us on Monday, Tuesday and every other weekend, no matter what (barring legitimate illness or incapacitation, of course) or something along those lines. Because seriously, it is hell to be a little kid and not know where you’re going to put your head that night. This morning T-Bone told me that the mancub would be with us “2 or 3 days a week” but I said that wasn’t specific enough. I told him that if we give her rope to hang us with, she will use it. There has to be *no* ambiguity – we’re not playing hot potato here; this is a living breathing kid that is learning whether his world is safe and secure and whether he can trust and rely on the people around him.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007


We lost Popper. He was a great man. He always made me feel as if I was just as special to him as his own grandchildren. I've always been an awkward, quiet person but Pop just welcomed me into his conversation, grins and huge bear hugs as if he recognized who I was and liked me, instead of being intimidated as grown-ups often are by quiet, thoughtful children. Wherever you are, Pop, you are loved, missed and will be remembered to the generations to come.

I was reading a "blog-of-a-blog" (author of this blog is a favorite of another author, who is a favorite of mine) and I found this poem, written by the author's friend Sandy and found after she had passed away. I thought it was quite beautiful.

Memento Mori

How do we mark the end of a life?
Quiet the simple words of doing and being.
Set loose the person who rode horses,
Smiled and soldiered, believed and bled.
In the movement of color and the color of movement.
But how can we understand lifeless hands.
With no hammer or chalk, sewing needle or spoon.
Draped with a rosary that swings toward an unseen magnet.
A compass point we can’t feel.
How do we choose a coffin?
What wood, which clothe, brass or base metals,
Will show what was or what we think was.
Now, that the story is ours to tell?
What do we put in a coffin?
A photograph, or a dozen?
Some symbol of eternal life?
The eternity of a life that ended like all,
No matter how many talismans were pasted to the soul.
How do we choose a coffin, darkening the face?
Losing the last of the soul showing in an unseen smile.
Sealing fate with our hands, tightening screws.
How do we bury a life that once was?
Cover it, smooth it, plant it over with grass?
Welcome a new day the air above lifting ever bluer?
How, do we let the living put roots around a coffin, and grow?
--Sandy Crimmins

Monday, August 6, 2007

Do "Food Miles" Mean Anything?

Interesting look at expanding our calculations of "food miles," the number environmentally-savvy folks use to compare the impact of transporting various foods to our tables. A new study includes not just transport miles but also gallons of water diverted from natural sources, miles grain and hay travels to feed the livestock that ends up as food, renewability of food packaging and other factors to calculate a more comprehensive picture of how our food affects the environment.

I never thought before that the food miles calculation doesn't really give us as clear an understanding as possible of the impact of food cultivation. Not sure how we would track all the variables that go into the larger calculation - sounds like a lot of work. Lots of new jobs! But seriously, it gives one pause when considering whether mandatory food mile labeling is really helpful.

August 6, 2007
Op-Ed Contributor
Food That Travels Well
Austin, Tex.

THE term “food miles” — how far food has traveled before you buy it — has entered the enlightened lexicon. Environmental groups, especially in Europe, are pushing for labels that show how far food has traveled to get to the market, and books like Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life” contemplate the damage wrought by trucking, shipping and flying food from distant parts of the globe.

There are many good reasons for eating local — freshness, purity, taste, community cohesion and preserving open space — but none of these benefits compares to the much-touted claim that eating local reduces fossil fuel consumption. In this respect eating local joins recycling, biking to work and driving a hybrid as a realistic way that we can, as individuals, shrink our carbon footprint and be good stewards of the environment.

On its face, the connection between lowering food miles and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions is a no-brainer. In Iowa, the typical carrot has traveled 1,600 miles from California, a potato 1,200 miles from Idaho and a chuck roast 600 miles from Colorado. Seventy-five percent of the apples sold in New York City come from the West Coast or overseas, the writer Bill McKibben says, even though the state produces far more apples than city residents consume. These examples just scratch the surface of the problem. In light of this market redundancy, the only reasonable reaction, it seems, is to count food miles the way a dieter counts calories.

But is reducing food miles necessarily good for the environment? Researchers at Lincoln University in New Zealand, no doubt responding to Europe’s push for “food miles labeling,” recently published a study challenging the premise that more food miles automatically mean greater fossil fuel consumption. Other scientific studies have undertaken similar investigations. According to this peer-reviewed research, compelling evidence suggests that there is more — or less — to food miles than meets the eye.

It all depends on how you wield the carbon calculator. Instead of measuring a product’s carbon footprint through food miles alone, the Lincoln University scientists expanded their equations to include other energy-consuming aspects of production — what economists call “factor inputs and externalities” — like water use, harvesting techniques, fertilizer outlays, renewable energy applications, means of transportation (and the kind of fuel used), the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed during photosynthesis, disposal of packaging, storage procedures and dozens of other cultivation inputs.

Incorporating these measurements into their assessments, scientists reached surprising conclusions. Most notably, they found that lamb raised on New Zealand’s clover-choked pastures and shipped 11,000 miles by boat to Britain produced 1,520 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per ton while British lamb produced 6,280 pounds of carbon dioxide per ton, in part because poorer British pastures force farmers to use feed. In other words, it is four times more energy-efficient for Londoners to buy lamb imported from the other side of the world than to buy it from a producer in their backyard. Similar figures were found for dairy products and fruit.

These life-cycle measurements are causing environmentalists worldwide to rethink the logic of food miles. New Zealand’s most prominent environmental research organization, Landcare Research-Manaaki Whenua, explains that localism “is not always the most environmentally sound solution if more emissions are generated at other stages of the product life cycle than during transport.” The British government’s 2006 Food Industry Sustainability Strategy similarly seeks to consider the environmental costs “across the life cycle of the produce,” not just in transportation.

“Eat local” advocates — a passionate cohort of which I am one — are bound to interpret these findings as a threat. We shouldn’t. Not only do life cycle analyses offer genuine opportunities for environmentally efficient food production, but they also address several problems inherent in the eat-local philosophy.

Consider the most conspicuous ones: it is impossible for most of the world to feed itself a diverse and healthy diet through exclusively local food production — food will always have to travel; asking people to move to more fertile regions is sensible but alienating and unrealistic; consumers living in developed nations will, for better or worse, always demand choices beyond what the season has to offer.

Given these problems, wouldn’t it make more sense to stop obsessing over food miles and work to strengthen comparative geographical advantages? And what if we did this while streamlining transportation services according to fuel-efficient standards? Shouldn’t we create development incentives for regional nodes of food production that can provide sustainable produce for the less sustainable parts of the nation and the world as a whole? Might it be more logical to conceptualize a hub-and-spoke system of food production and distribution, with the hubs in a food system’s naturally fertile hot spots and the spokes, which travel through the arid zones, connecting them while using hybrid engines and alternative sources of energy?

As concerned consumers and environmentalists, we must be prepared to seriously entertain these questions. We must also be prepared to accept that buying local is not necessarily beneficial for the environment. As much as this claim violates one of our most sacred assumptions, life cycle assessments offer far more valuable measurements to gauge the environmental impact of eating. While there will always be good reasons to encourage the growth of sustainable local food systems, we must also allow them to develop in tandem with what could be their equally sustainable global counterparts. We must accept the fact, in short, that distance is not the enemy of awareness.

James E. McWilliams is the author of “A Revolution in Eating: How the Quest for Food Shaped America” and a contributing writer for The Texas Observer.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Anger in the Workplace

Here's an interesting article about how people view angry female co-workers versus how they view angry male co-workers. Amazing that in our culture of the 24-hour pop-psych confessional, we can still have unconscious prejudices.

Workplace Anger -- Who Wins?

NEW YORK (Reuters) -- A man who gets angry at work may well be admired for it but a woman who shows anger in the workplace is liable to be seen as "out of control" and incompetent, according to a new study presented Friday.

What's more, the finding may have implications for Hillary Clinton as she attempts to become the first female U.S. president, according to its author Victoria Brescoll, a post-doctoral scholar at Yale University.

Her research paper "When Can Angry Women Get Ahead?" noted that Clinton was described last year by a leading Republican as "too angry to be elected president."

Previous research has indicated that anger can communicate that an individual feels entitled to dominate others, and therefore perhaps is. But Brescoll said such studies focused on men.

"As Senator Clinton's experience suggests, however, for a professional woman anger expression may lead to a decrease rather than an increase in her status," Brescoll wrote.

She conducted three tests in which men and women recruited randomly watched videos of a job interview and were asked to rate the applicant's status and assign them a salary.

In the first, the scripts were identical except where the candidate described feeling either angry or sad about losing an account due to a colleague's late arrival at a meeting.

Participants conferred the most status on the man who said he was angry, the second most on the woman who said she was sad, slightly less on the man who said he was sad, and least of all by a sizable margin on the woman who said she was angry.

Salary gap

The average salary assigned to the angry man was almost $38,000 compared to about $23,500 for the angry woman and in the region of $30,000 for the other two candidates.

In a second experiment, the script was similar except that the job applicant also described his or her current occupation as a trainee or a senior executive.

"Participants rated the angry female CEO as significantly less competent than all of the other targets, including even the angry female trainee," Brescoll wrote. She said they viewed angry females as significantly more "out of control."

That impacted salaries. Unemotional women were assigned on average $55,384 compared to $32,902 for the angry ones. Male executive candidates were assigned more than trainees, regardless of anger, with an average $73,643.

A third experiment tested whether a good reason for anger made any difference. The script was changed so that some angry candidates explained that the co-worker who arrived late had lied beforehand, indicating he had directions to the meeting.

Sure enough, the angry woman with a good reason to be angry was awarded a much higher salary than the angry woman who provided no excuse, though it was still less than the men.

The study, to be presented this weekend at the annual meeting of the Academy of Management, a research and teaching organization with nearly 17,000 members, found similar attitudes to anger among male and female participants.

"It's an attitude that is not conscious," Brescoll said. "People are hardly aware of it."

Brescoll said the findings revealed a "difficult paradox" for professional women -- while anger can serve as a powerful tool to achieve status at work, women may have to behave calmly in order to be seen as rational.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Top Ten Dream Jobs

In no particular order . . .

1. Creator of shelter for domestic abuse survivors and their pets

2. Famous satirist

3. Dolphin trainer

4. Reviewer of luxury resorts

5. Animal cop

6. Competetive hot air balloon racer

7. Goat herder on Crete

8. Collage artist

9. Professional figure skater

10. Wise woman who lives in the woods and heals the locals with herbal compresses and tinctures and whatnot.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Equal Opportunity Funnies

Some funny kitties to round out the herd:

Silly Dogs

Cool Dog

You're probably getting tired of seeing dogs. Dogs, dogs, dogs. But this guy was too cool; I just had to share him. I love his dappled fur. Wish I could get T-Bone more excited about dog ownership so he would get over his aversion to having a larger dog. I told him last night that I want a Lab but he's still fixated on an Anyhc-sized pup. *sigh* He wants to keep the mancub here instead of sending him back the Cameroon so I keep telling T-Bone that a bigger dog is MUCH better with small curious children because it doesn't feel threatened by their poking and pulling.

Name: Max
Status: Available for Adoption (adoption info)
Species: Dog
Breed: Catahoula Leopard Dog
Sex: Male
Current Size: 50 Pounds
General Potential Size: Medium
Current Age: 1 Year 1 Month (best estimate)
Activity Level: Moderately Active
Good with People: Very Friendly
Good with Dogs: Yes
Good with Cats: Yes
Good with Kids: Yes
Max was abandoned at a kennel along with his pal Brutus (also on the site). He is just the most gentle sweet dog. He's so friendly but not crazy...he loves everyone! His gentle nature and easy going personality make him a wonderful fit for most any home. And to see that sweet face if person will endear you to him.....this is a special dog and deserves to have a home where he's loved and cared for the rest of his life.