Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Getting Crafty

I put together this photo puzzle tutorial last fall for photojojo. It ended up not getting published, so I decided that rather than just let it sit in a folder on my computer forever, I will share it with the world. It takes probably an hour to complete one puzzle (depending on the size and amount of pieces). I've given them as gifts and stocking stuffers.

Photo Puzzle Tutorial

I always love a good rainy day activity, and puzzles are a classic. But a 1,000 piece windmill puzzle isn’t exactly my idea of a good time. Instead of putting together a puzzle, why not spend a rainy afternoon creating your own photo puzzle?

What you’ll need:

  • Blank puzzles (available at craft stores, in a variety of sizes with large or small pieces)
  • Printed photos (8x10 and 5x7 work the best)
  • Rubber Cement
  • Scissors
  • X-acto knife
  • Pencil and a marker

Step 1

Pick your photo to puzzle-ize, if it’s not exactly the same size; trim it to fit your puzzle. If your puzzle is bigger than your photo, mark the size of the photo on the puzzle and use the x-acto knife to cut off the extra puzzle. If you don’t want to trim your photo or puzzle, you can add a boarder with construction paper.

Step 2

Once your photo matches the size of the puzzle, flip your blank puzzle upside down, take one row of pieces out at a time and trace them with a marker. Continue until you have all of the pieces traced.

Step 3

Cut along the lines with the x-acto knife, and glue each photo puzzle piece to its matching puzzle piece.

Step 4

Mix ‘em up, and let your friends and family assemble the puzzle to discover your photo.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Big Girls Need Love Too

Childhood obesity is a topic I keep coming back to and a topic discussed exhaustively in all forms of media right now. And while some lip service is also given to the super skinny skeletor models and the eating disorder other end of the spectrum, the obesity epidemic is still the most talked about problem. And yes lots of kids are too fat and lazy and eat junk and watch too much TV/play too many video games/never put down their cell phones, but what about the flip side? Especially for girls the message that they aren’t skinny enough is often the strongest and while it’s coming from magazines and TV and all that in a big way, for many girls being critical of your appearance is something they learn at home.

Peggy Orenstein pointed it out in her article in the New York Times magazine recently— while middle class and affluent parents obsess over organic healthy foods especially for their children, there’s also a strong possibility that they are giving them horrible body image issues at the same time. She uses the president and first lady’s public remarks about their daughters’ weights as an example. But it’s not the same for sons, like most things appearance related this seems to be the territory of girls only.

“Daughters understand that early: according to a study of preschool girls published in the journal Pediatrics in 2001, those whose mothers expressed “higher concern” over their daughters’ weights not only reported more negative body images than their peers but also perceived themselves as less smart and less physically capable (paternal “concern” was associated only with the latter). The effect was independent of the child’s actual size.

A 2003 analysis of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, meanwhile, showed that mothers were three times as likely to notice excess weight in daughters than in sons, even though the boys were more likely to be large. That gave me pause. It is so easy for the concern with “health,” however legitimate, to justify a focus on girls’ appearances. For organic-eating, right-living parents whose girls are merely on the fleshy side of average, “health” may also mask a discomfort with how a less-than-perfect daughter reflects on them. “ ‘Good’ parents today are expected to have normal-weight kids,” says Joan Jacobs Brumberg, author of the book “The Body Project” and a professor of history and human development at Cornell University. “Having a fat girl is a failure.”

Orenstein’s first solution was to opt out completely and have her husband be responsible for feeding their daughter, which isn’t a solution really—while mothers may pass their negative body image on, fathers and men in general aren’t outside of blame. There’s no question that there’s a huge beauty double standard, but an even bigger fat double standard. Unless a guy gets really big, a few extra pounds here and there are not even blink-worthy on men, let alone cause for most women to reject them. But over and over you hear the “no fat chicks” mentality coming even from fat dudes, helped none by the reinforcement that hot ladies go for slubby guys.

There is something totally off base when a gorgeous woman like Tina Fey is believable as a nerdy food-obsessed lonely heart and Kevin James can get a hot wife.

The conclusion to the article is that she decided to just not talk about looks or food in front of her daughter (of course a difficult feat) and while it would be ideal for weight and appearance to be as much of a non-issue for women (or at least a smaller issue) as it is for men, she acknowledges that her daughter will just get the messages elsewhere, which means not talking about it doesn’t really solve the problem. I realize that it’s an over-arching and vague statement but more than moms just pretending that they aren’t terrified of getting old/fat/unattractive, maybe we all should be more concerned with consuming good food and being cool with how we look, not criticizing women for things we tolerate in men. Pretending that the double standard doesn’t exist won’t make it go away, it will just make it grow.

Sidebar: My (15 year old) Little Sister keeps telling me that boys tell her that she must be having sex (she’s not) because she’s gained weight. Where did this flawed biology lesson come from, is this kind of teasing something kids have been doing for a while?

And another thing: Everyone needs to stop with this whole “cougar” and “MILTF” trend; 50 year old women should look 50 not 20, it’s just creepy.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Fair State of the World

It’s birthday week for me, and as such (especially since I’m unemployed) I’m trying to do something fun each day.

Today I biked from my apartment in Park Slope to Flushing Meadows Park in Queens (and back). The round trip was about 24 miles, but it was a beautiful day and although Google biking directions lead me astray a couple of times in Queens and a driver almost killed me in Brooklyn, it was a great trip.

The main appeal of visiting Flushing Meadow Park for me was to see the panorama of New York City (built for the 1939 World’s Fair) that includes (almost) every building in the city in tiny form (it’s updated from time to time), and the Unisphere (built for the 1964 World’s Fair). The Unisphere was cool and the disrepair of the New York State Pavilion was also worth seeing, and the park itself was beautiful and had a lot there (I saw a Bear at the Queens Zoo without even having to pay to go into the zoo!) Unfortunately the Queens Art Museum that houses the panorama was closed today. I’ll defiantly be back to see it, but in the meantime if anyone is searching for last minute birthday ideas for me, you can adopt a building in my name!

Visiting this former World’s Fair Site, reminded me of the other former World’s Fair Site that I’ve been to—one of the most beautiful man made spots I've ever been: The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco. Although World Expos (as they are now called) kind of still exist, the grandeur of the World’s Fairs especially from the Industrialization era where new technology and inventions (like electricity) were first shown off holds a certain excitement that can’t be matched today were everything is (and yes I am aware of the irony) blogged and tweeted and facebooked to death before it is even released. World’s Fairs of the scale that once existed aren’t practical in today’s world, and it might not even be something worthy of being nostalgic for (truly there were a lot of not so great moments) But it’s an interesting part of history to visit on a lovely spring day.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

On fake meat and hexane

If you read Food Babies, you probably also read other food-related things, or the news. And boy oh boy has the whole "veggie burgers are filled with toxic chemicals" story been all over the news in the last couple of days. It's great ammo for meat eaters to tell vegetarians to get off their health-conscious high horses. But I don't think everyone should be so quick to panic, and I especially don't think it should be reason to call it quits with soy all together. Yes, fake meat isn't the best for you food in the world (it is after all still a processed food with lots of preservatives, and processed foods are a little removed from being real food even when they aren’t pretending to be a “beef” burger or a “pork” hot dog.

First, the soy that’s in these veggie burgers is isolated soy, which processed in a different way than the soy that’s in soy milk or tofu which is whole soy. Whole soy, btw can actually be very good for you. Also, it’s unclear if hexane cooks off, or if the amounts in the products are large enough to be harmful or not.

I think there needs to be a whole mess of change and regulations in how our food (of the meat and non-meat variety) is produced. But I don’t know that raising the flag of panic around fake meat is necessarily a good way to go. For a lot of people just starting out with vegetarianism, or life-long meat eaters who need to cut their cholesterol after a heart attack or other life-threatening illness (like many in my family), fake meat can be an easy and tasty alternative. Not that we should tolerate anything hazardous in our food, but I’ll still take trace amounts of hexane over life-threatening amounts of e coli any day.

Mother Jones on the topic

Gothamist on the topic

(cross posted on Food Babies)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Paying to Work?

Last week Atlantic Media decided to start paying interns , including retroactively paying last year’s interns. This is huge news for journalism interns. For college students (and graduates!) who want to get experience at a publication (and often more than one internship is necessary if you ever ever want to get hired anywhere) unpaid internships are de rigueur. And these aren’t coffee-fetching internships (do those even exist anymore?) These are (as many articles have been pointing out lately) what would otherwise be paid staff or freelance jobs. In fact, the students filling these unpaid positions are often in fact paying for the privilege since they complete the internship for college credit which even though the college isn’t providing the education or experience, they still must pay tuition for.

During my time at Popular Photography I was in charge of hiring and supervising (and assigning work to) several interns, all (but one who shall remain nameless, but she should know who she is) of these interns were incredibly smart and hard working, and I did my best to give them meaningful work that they could not only learn from but leaving with something valuable to put on their resumes and clips to show. They all interned for college credit and worked part-time around paying job schedules. But we never gave them a dime, and the work that they did was things that we didn’t have the budget to pay staff or freelancers for.

When I was in college I was an unpaid intern at Metro Times Detroit (and paid for the college credit to do it), I was there part time around two other part time paying jobs, but the experience remains one of my fondest journalistic memories (it was thrilling to feel like a real reporter and be sent out on assignment and pitch ideas, and work alongside and learn from some of the savviest journalists I’ve ever met). I did a lot of small work there for which I wasn’t paid, but when I pitched and wrote two feature stories I was paid (an albeit very small) freelance rate, and walked out with solid clips and experience. I have no doubt that internship helped me as I started my career.

While few publications (like Atlantic media and Mother Jones) offer paid internships, the competiveness of the publishing world (especially now when experienced journalists are working beneath their skill level) shows no sign of letting up, while paying positions (and entire publications) are becoming less available. So paying interns should be common practice, but unless it becomes illegal to hire people and not pay them (it should!) I doubt many if any publications will follow Atlantic’s lead. If fact some of the woman’s glossies seem to be going the opposite direction—auctioning off the privilege of working there; there is currently a $12,000 bid to work next to Anna Wintour at Vogue for a week. While that example may be solely for the morbid curiosity of working with the Devil Wears Prada, internships at magazines like Elle have also been auctioned off.

It’s a Catch 22 as a college student or recent grad; you don’t have the experience to get hired, and the only way you can get the experience is to work for free. While publications can’t (or won’t pay interns like they would real employees—and maybe that shouldn’t since there is often a lot of work teaching on the staff’s part—they could at least provide freelance pay for the work they publish.

Food for Change

It’s a topic I’ve been a-blogging about frequently in the last couple of months, so it’s only appropriate that I follow up with these recent more hopeful stories on the topic of making healthy food more available in food desert areas of the city and country.

Yesterday New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand proposed $1 billion in loans and grants Monday to help build 2,100 grocery stores in areas around the nation that lack access to fresh food.

It’s estimated that the proposal would help about four million New Yorkers who live in areas like the Bronx and East New York, where grocery stores are few and far between by providing the funding for more than 350 stores statewide. This proposal has the potential to solve the problem of access to healthy food in low-income areas and that’s the first step, but as I’ve said before, the second (and perhaps most important) step is making those healthy foods affordable—more affordable than junk food. That’s a more complex step that involves our entire industrial food system, but no measure of availability or education/awareness will have complete results until people can afford to buy the food.

There’s been some good news (not necessarily NEW news, but more new-to-me news) in the education/awareness area of healthy eating and cooking. On the heels of the after school cooking program I volunteered at last week, I found this story about a professional chef teaching kids about healthy cooking. I know firsthand how engrained poor eating habits can be in kids, how reluctant they can be to try foods they think are “weird” or “gross” but I’ve also seen how much (boy and girls, small kids, teens) really get into cooking, creating, and learning about new foods. It’s not going to fix the problem or change the world, but it does give you hope.

Monday, April 12, 2010

An Egg-cellent way to make money?

As a Lacto-ovo vegetarian, I’ve often said that I eat eggs because I believe in a chicken’s right to choose. (I realize that they are more chicken periods than they are chicken abortions, and that the chicken really has no choice in the whole matter anyway, but still.)

Being adamantly pro-choice however doesn’t mean that there isn’t still a lot of grey area for me on the subject of eggs and unborn babies. A recent post on Jezebel about person stories of egg donation got me re-thinking about the subject. One woman who wrote in called it “another side of being pro choice,” the thinking being I guess that if you support a woman’s right to choose to not have a baby you must support a woman’s right to choose to pay to have another woman’s eggs make her baby and the right of the other woman to choose to sell her eggs.

As most people know, donating eggs is much more difficult than donating sperm (the limited amount of eggs a woman has, the possible medical complications, the invasiveness, the recovery time) and thusly much more lucrative. But just like sperm donation values good looks (you can even get your sperm donor to look like a famous person), intelligence, health, etc., egg donation can be highly competitive. Many of the stories of egg donation involve prospective parents who want to design some “perfect” baby from thin, tall, blonde, high-SAT, scoring athletic, musically-talented eggs. Which is part of the reason egg donation has always turned me off.

Sure, you may similarly pick a mate that is smart and attractive, but without knowing the person you don’t know what kind of personality this Arian standardized test-wiz will have. The factors that are valued (race often chief among them) aren’t necessarily what makes a good person, and besides, should you really be designing your kid?

As a single woman, the prospect of making $5,000-$10,000 for something you throw away every month anyways can sound tempting, but invasive medical procedures and moral quandaries over having children in the world that you don’t know aside, it turns out that most women probably wouldn’t even qualify anyways.

So it’s true, being pro-choice means you must support a woman’s right to choose whatever she wants to do with her body, no matter if it’s something you feel is responsible or would choose to do yourself, whether that be aborting a baby they don’t feel they can care for, or having 19 kids like the Duggers, or paying to have bio-chemist Barbie’s eggs planted in her. But, the obsession with having your own (even partially) biological “perfect” child when there’s thousands of kids waiting to be adopted just seems like a waste.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

New School

I’ve thought about teaching for many years, although I’ve always wanted to be a writer and journalist, teaching is something that comes back into consideration over and over. I applied for both Teach for America and New York City Teaching Fellowship at the end of college, I’ve substitute taught at a preschool, I’ve been a Big Sister to a teenager for 2 ½ years, I’ve volunteered with kids a lot.

But more and more I have so much disillusionment with the educational system. No Child Left Behind, the competiveness of NYC schools, teaching to tests, cuts in funding—hearing my 15-year-old Little Sister talk about school makes me wonder how much smart motivated kids actually learn, let alone those who need more help.

Which is why when you see a teacher or volunteer going the extra mile, when you see lives effected, it (cheesy as it sounds) gives you hope. I volunteered this week at an after school cooking program for special ed high school kids. The woman who runs it (a volunteer herself) has been there every week for three years, and the you can see how much these otherwise marginalized kids benefit from it (sure it probably won’t change their lives, but it’s a lot to feel someone cares, to have fun, and to have consistency in your life).

The most inspiring story I’ve read recently is about Catherine Ferguson Academy in of all places Detroit. The BBC mentioned the alternative school recently in reference to its innovative farm and gardens (in the middle of a depressing urban setting). But when I looked into it further, I found that’s only the tip of the iceberg. This from a MetroTimes feature on the school from 2004:

“While Detroit public schools are among the most maligned anywhere, with dilapidated facilities and failing test scores and a reputation that repels many families, there are diamonds in the rough and students who will succeed despite the odds. Amid the turmoil, the Catherine Ferguson Academy — an “alternative” school in the district that offers middle- and high-school courses — has quietly made a national name for itself.

This year the school was named a Breakthrough High School by the National Association of Secondary School Principals. One of 12 schools nationally to win the distinction, Catherine Ferguson earned it based on the following criteria: At least 50 percent of the school is minority; 50 percent of the student body qualifies for free and reduced-price meals; and at least 90 percent of students graduate and are accepted to college.

The academy had no problem meeting the requirements — with 94 percent black students and 5 percent Hispanic, and more than 90 percent eligible for free or reduced lunches, every year Catherine Ferguson achieves a 90 percent graduation rate; 100 percent of those who graduate (85 last year) are accepted to two- or four-year colleges, most with financial aid, says the school’s principal, G. Asenath Andrews.
“Kids transform themselves here,” Andrews says. “We’re just a pot and kids jump in and turn themselves from lead into gold.”

Every year, enrollment is first come, first served for as many as 400 students and 200 babies. There is no academic requirement; most of the girls are in the process of dropping out when they enter. As many as 20 percent drop out every year, Andrews says. (The 90 percent graduation rate is based on students who make it to their senior year.)

Andrews says the difference at her school is personal attention to each student. While Detroit public schools average 35 students for every teacher, Catherine Ferguson has an 18 to 1 ratio. Each student is assigned to a homeroom teacher whom she stays with until she graduates. The homeroom teacher is responsible for looking after the student, the “first line” before issues head to the principal’s office. When the kids don’t show up or don’t do their homework, a teacher asks, “Why? Where are you? What’s going on?”

The farm and the child care sound like a tall order for most schools, but they shouldn’t, and the personal attention shouldn’t either. I feel like there’s so much more we could be doing, I feel like schools like this should be the rule and not the exception. I feel like maybe someday in some way, even if I don’t become a teacher, I’m going to do something to help make that happen. I just haven’t figured out what yet.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

To Please a Woman

Jezebel pointed yesterday to a recent interview Cosmo’s EIC Kate White did with Media Bistro. In it she was asked about the reputation of the magazine being a little outdated with it’s approach to relationships. Here’s what she said:

"I think there are some people who think that it's still that retro magazine from the 70s, all about guy-pleasing. And it really is not that way at all. Certainly a big part of Cosmo — we're the relationship bible, and a big part is helping women navigate relationships and understand what makes men tick because they're so baffling! But we approach relationships with the idea of — we're teaching women and showing them how to please guys, but we're expecting that they're getting that back from the guys — that somewhere the guys are learning that information, maybe from their friends, or from websites, or other magazines."

First I take issue with the whole “men are so baffling!” thing. The men are from Mars women from Venus thing is like the “white people be like this and black people be like this” jokes, it’s just a tired and lazy perspective based on oft-untrue or outdated stereotypes. Sure, there are a lot of differences between men and women, but I don’t think figuring out what a man is looking for out of sex or a relationship is really that difficult, especially if you, you know…ask them.

The biggest problem with her statement is that she expects that guys are magically learning how to please women somewhere. I’m not so sure. And granted men aren’t reading Cosmo, but that doesn’t mean the onus isn’t completely off women’s magazines like hers. More than 95% of their sex and relationship content is about what women are doing wrong and how to make sure he’s sexually satisfied.

What about making sure you are sexually satisfied (whether bestowing the knowledge of how to take care of business yourself or how to make sure that dude you’re so concerned about pleasing in the sack is returning the favor)? What about how to negotiate the tricky ground of equality in a relationship. It’s not news that many women’s magazines make women feel bad about themselves and many men’s magazines objectify women and promote some rather disgusting treatment of women (like how to trick them into sleeping with you).

Still after White’s comment about hoping that men are learning how to please women “from their friends (where’d they learn?), websites, or other magazines” I decided to see what about pleasing women is available for men. Below the cover blurbs from the January and February 2010 issues of both Cosmo and Maxim (what I deemed to be Cosmo’s male equivalent).

Cosmo January 2010 cover:

100% Hotter Sex: Thrill every inch of his body using a move no woman has dared to try on him before

50 Ways to have fun with your guy

The New Male Sex Habit that can hurt a relationship

Maxim January 2010 cover:

Swimsuit Bonus: 16 Pages of Miami’s hottest bikini girls

Double your salary in 2010

Wet and Wild Olivia Munn (with a spead eagle soaking wet photo)

Hangover survival guide

Cosmo February 2010 cover:

The Hour Men Crave Sex the Most

How to deal with a jealous Bitch…when that Jealous bitch is you

What makes a woman irresistible

99 Sex moves: sweet and slow, quick and dirty and everything inbetween

Maxim February 2010:

Amanda Bynes Grown up and uncovered

The 25 Best Beers

Tiger’s Texting Temptress Hot new Photos

The secret to no fail sex

What have we learned? Men drink a lot, like to look at sexy ladies (be they a golfer’s mistress or a barely legal Disney star), have the ability to advance in their careers and need help keeping it up (probably all that beer). Meanwhile, women need to stop being jealous bitches, must make themselves more desirable and come up with all kinds of different ways to have sex. Glad we’ve come so far Kate White…

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Thank you for Pot Smoking

I used to kind of roll my eyes at the “Legalize It” rastas and hippies. I viewed legalizing marijuana as a self-severing “never going to happen” non-political issue. But over the last couple of years I’ve learned more about why this maybe the single more obvious (and bipartisan) issue that if passed could have some of the largest and most wide spread effects.

The medical benefits: while there are lots of jokes about stoners faking glaucoma to get high, there are legit medical benefits to pot and 14 states have legalized medical marijuana, approved to treat a (yes a little suspiciously) long list of ailments including anorexia (it gives you the munchies), anxiety (it mellows you out) and even recently (albeit a little controversy) for ADD in kids. Yet this is an illegal drug. What would legal highs like booze or cigarettes ever be used to treat? Nothing, because they are actually harmful to health, yet still legal because the government has realized the tax potential. The other perhaps more compelling medical benefit of legalized pot is that it would loosen our growing dependence on pharmaceuticals. Legal pot would be cheaper and less toxic than pharmaceutical drugs, and would mean less pharmaceutical waste and residue in water and soil (good for the environment and for every living thing).

The fiscal benefit: I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not, but in the midst of the recession and huge state budget deficits, lawmakers have been looking high and low for things to tax (sugary drinks while misguided was one of the more logical suggestions). In California, where legal (non medical) pot is on the ballot for November, State-run studies have found that taxes on marijuana could raise as much as $1.4 billion in annual revenue (much needed in a state with a failing economy like CA’s). Legalizing pot and regulating it’s production, and taxing it like cigarettes and booze would not only bring new revenue streams (much larger than proposed taxes on other lifestyle choices or vices), but would save billions in arrests, court costs, and jailing minor "criminals" for pot possession and sales.

We spend $68 billion per year on corrections, and one-third of those being corrected are serving time for nonviolent drug crimes. We spend about $150 billion on policing and courts, and 47.5% of all drug arrests are marijuana-related. Cutting those criminals out of the system and giving them legit “green” jobs would not only save billions in the legal system, but help eliminate deadly drug wars with countries like Mexico. You want to help build American jobs? Why not pot farmers (unlike corn, it’s a crop that can be grown in even small urban spaces) or sellers (like the “coffee” shops in Amsterdam).

Why it’s not a liberal issue: As a political issue legal pot is not at all a liberal one, California voters don’t have a recent history of liberal voting (we all know they voted against gay marriage and elected a republican governor). The Netherlands, famous of their tulips, and legal pot and prostitution, has a very conservative government.

As for fears about a dangerous high nation of stoned kids and soccer moms, if the content of weed is monitored in the same way the content of other substances are and the laws in place are similar to the laws around alcohol consumption (age restrictions, intoxication limits and repercussions) then there is no longer an issue, so chill dude.

Now that Bees are legal (L magazine)

14 States with Legal Medical Marijuana

Why Legalizing Marijuana Makes Sense (Time magazine)

Marijuana on the CA Ballot