Saturday, February 14, 2015

Bee my Valentine!

Don't bee shy! (the camera loves ya)
This post will be short and sweet, like its main characters. But it won't bee a quickie.

On our driveway, two bumblebees are celebrating Valentine's Day in the best way they know how: making the bee with two backs.

So as naturally nosy primates, we took some photos. (Also available on video.)

Try another angle - beeautiful.
While Valentine's Day in New Zealand was yesterday, I prefer to beelieve there may have been extended courting - some special nectar and pollen, perhaps - and foreplay.

Clearly they have adopted the theme song "Why don't we do it the road", by the Beetles. A bit of research shows bumblebees mating on the ground is normal, but they can continue for 10 to 80 minutes!  One observer reported mating bumblebees can bee moved, so I did.

While much of the public concern over bee populations highlights honeybees, we need all pollinators much more urgently than honey.

So I hope you'll join me in wishing the happy couple a much longer and fruitful...coupling...beefore they buzz off.

Further bee puns may bee left in the comments.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Obesity: Supporting satisfaction instead of surgery

Hot news from down under - a couple of surgeons who perform bariatric (stomach-stapling) operations would like to perform more of them on us, and would like tax money to fund their work. The media is running their advertisement as if it were a public health statement.

I've battled weight problems for my adult life, and I know there is no magic bullet for maintaining a healthy weight. Neither is there a magic scalpel. Cutting open your body to reduce your stomach capacity and all that could mean for your future is not a tenable general treatment.

Battling obesity en masse

New Zealand is, like most developed countries, guilty of more reporting than acting on the growing obesity problem. While this is always a sensitive subject, a recent longterm study showed that while there are obese healthy people, they are much less likely to remain healthy over the years.

So is it true that "Surgery still remains the most capable strategy for inducing robust and long-term weight loss"? May I see the source please? The (US) National Weight Control Registry research does not mention surgery at all in their summary of how most of their participants lost long-term weight.

But I am even more interested that New Zealand's tax money supports industries that support obesity. Fatty cholesterol-rich foods like beef, pork, chicken, eggs, and dairy. "Added-value" processed foods, which take natural raw foods and package them for the highest profit and shelf life instead of fiber and nutrients. Food technology trumps food quality.

Calorie density

Why does this matter? Jeff Novick, RD, MS explains in this article and this video presentation, but in short, calorie density reigns supreme in how much people eat.

Steak doesn't fill you up like oatmeal. Potato chips won't fill you up like potatoes.

Where the money goes

So if we're going to tweak our economic contribution to solve the obesity epidemic, let's not psych everyone into thinking we have to catch up with the Aussies in dangerous life-altering surgery rates.

Let's at least stop being part of the problem, and remove tax funding from those industries harming our national health. Restrict their advertising which often reports positive health benefits or just plain fun...and often arrives in our schools to advertise to our children.

Help make healthy food cheaper, more available, and more acceptable instead.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Secondhand Smarts - community works!

I haven't posted a Secondhand Smarts update for a while, but rest assured I get so many bargains from secondhand shops, TradeMe, etc, that I can hardly keep up.

An extra special nod must go to the bargains I got at last year's school fair. OK, I put in a lot of hours at the White Elephant sale where I got the goodies, but it was a great community event and raised much needed funds for the kids' school. And hundreds of people went away happy with their bargain finds!

Community and charity work can seem thankless at times, but as well as the reality of the help you're providing, you are also making connections that can sometimes reap more tangible rewards. Sometimes you need something and someone else already has exactly what you need. Like these...

Stepping out...

The boy needed some shoes. Look what I found!

Tevas. Good as new. In the right size. For a couple of dollars!

Yeah, this attachment!
I love making frozen banana ice cream. It is pretty hard work for the S-blade on the food processor though, and we've heard that juicers and mincers do an even better job on the frozen bananas. I don't want another whole gizmo in my kitchen, but I have idly considered buying the mincer attachment for our mixer.

I almost let this amazing coincidence at the White Elephant Sale pass me by. I'd even shelved this box and moved it around a couple of times. But it wasn't until a customer said "there are bits missing from this" that we both realised it was an attachment, not a standalone machine. Just exactly what I needed for the machine we have at home, and luckily the customer didn't! $5, for an attachment retailing new for £38.

I can confirm that the banana ice cream product from the mincer is far superior - it can take the totally frozen banana chunks without strain and produce a really really cold treat instead of one that melts almost as served.

The icing on the cake

And cookies, and vegan cupcakes for the Vegan Society stall, and...

My sister's a decorating ace with all the equipment, but sometimes there's no chance to go borrowing. There were a couple of icing sets in the sale, and I knew I wanted to go home with one.

This one was pretty and compact, so it won the toss, and at $4 was quite the bargain. Especially when later at home, I found this was a collector tin retailing for $70.

Yes, there were even more bargains we got at the fair, but enough already! Secondhand is totally smart shopping.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Faking maturity on Facebook: underage accounts

What I've always wanted to know but been afraid to ask. So I'll risk general offense in the hope of getting some answers.

Why the fake account for your kid who is legally too young to be on Facebook? I know you know it's there, because s/he's in your friend list.

Why I haven't and I wish you wouldn't

  1. It's fraudulent. Here's lesson 1 on "it's OK to fake your age to get in where you shouldn't;" what could possibly go wrong...?
  2. It exposes your child randomly to inappropriate material, messages and ads. Facebook's only parental control setting is requiring your child to be 13 - why blow that?
  3. It allows your child to send private messages to other Facebook users.
  4. If I'm your friend on Facebook, your underage child will see our interactions and could potentially participate. Which could mean all THEIR underage friends might see it. Sorry, but ewww. My young adult nieces and my parents are in my network, and that cramps my style enough.
If you wouldn't invite your children to your pub crawl, why invite them illegally onto a worldwide social network?

Is 13 just forever to wait, when all of their friends already have one? 

Is it never too early to start putting yourself out there, counting how many friends and likes you get, with the added bonus of cyberbullying?

Are they growing up too slowly?

I'm only seeing the downside here - please supply some balance!


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Fun with Feminist Hacker Barbie!

If you haven't yet heard about Kathleen Tuite, Feminist Hacker Barbie and her awesome backlash against Mattel's book “Barbie: I Can be a Computer Engineer,” this Wired article is a great place to start.

Then visit the site, view the original pages, and rewrite the book for all our sakes.

(And btw, her mom and my mom are friends, so I'm pretty sure that makes me cool too.)

Here's my bit of fun....

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Pin the sexist shirt on the comet's tail

The amazing news of the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission landing on the comet has burst onto the scene. Even more colourfully, so has the shirt of Mike Taylor, the talented Rosetta scientist who appeared in the media.

(Will we now have the "Rosetta Shirt" to go along with the famed "Rosetta Stone?")

What's the big deal?

I studied tech and worked in tech industries for more than 10 years. Then, as now, the techier it got, the more men worked there, and the more casual the dress code. Not suit and tie, but T-shirts and cycling gear. New Zealand is pretty relaxed. They were not the most politically careful people around.

But not one of those men would have worn a shirt like that to work. If they had actually made such a bad call, they wouldn't have made it down the hall before somebody responsible would have gently but firmly reminded them how inappropriate it was.

If I interviewed for a company where I saw someone wearing such a shirt unchallenged, I would have known there were problems.

So scientist dude Mike Taylor put on a shirt covered in fantasy cartoon body babes, went to work, and made it onscreen without anybody around him noticing a problem. This is a workplace with an ingrained sexism problem. This is a classic real life illustration of this gender-divide study in technical fields. In a way, Mike Taylor has done us a favour by showing how invisible sexism is to him and his field. And I salute him for apologising for his mistake.

Mike Taylor's response is more enlightened than the people who have blamed the feminists for the problem. Apparently the shirt was not the distraction from the major scientific accomplishment - it was those who complained about it.

On the world stage

Like it or not, ready or not, Mike Taylor just appeared on the world stage. In a recent show I was in, the director asked one of the supporting actors to remove a hat supplied by wardrobe. Obviously wardrobe loved the hat, and the actor also loved the hat, and it looked dramatic, so what was the problem?

Well, the hat was so big that you couldn't stop looking at it and pay full attention to the scene. It was like, there were three on stage: the main actor and the supporting actor and her hat, and the scene only called for two. When a piece of clothing, like that hat or that shirt, has its own personality, handle with care.

We should only have been hearing the awesome space message. Some director just had an epic fail.

Copyright Looney Tunes
Reframing the stereotype

What if the white guy's shirt had jolly drawings of black people in rags pickin' cotton? Would objectors have been labelled bullies, as the feminists have been? Would that have been "not actual racism"? Would anyone say, "If black people let something like this put them off, they shouldn't work in the STEM fields."

News flash. Black people are also largely underrepresented in STEM fields. Perhaps secretly white men prefer them in the cotton fields. It's no secret that too many still prefer barely dressed fantasy women to real women challenging them in the real world. Is this an offensive stereotype? Yes. No fun, is it?

Basically, what that says is, "If you can't handle that STEM fields are sexist/racist, you shouldn't work there. Don't complain!"

Even Star Trek changed their motto to "boldly go where no one has gone before." Little by little, oppression could become invisible because it doesn't exist anymore. But it won't happen if we ignore it.  

Friday, October 17, 2014

Why this vegan won't go to Hell

...that's Hell Pizza, in New Zealand, of course.

What the Hell?

Recently, my network feed from my local vegan friends and vegan boards have been dripping with pizza selfies. What's the news? Hell Pizza with the brand new addition of Angel Food's delicious vegan mozzarella cheese. I have eaten Hell Pizza before, but they are expensive and gourmet, and I'm a frugal gal, so although they are just up the road we don't often meet anyway.

But we won't be meeting anytime soon, in spite of the vegan cheese. I'm in a minority compared to the Hell-ravers, and I don't enjoy feeling in conflict with a business coup for a well-loved vegan business, but here we go.

Hell of an advertisement

Hell Pizza's name and image is based on exploitation of Christian ideas. Because only a minority in New Zealand take religion seriously, Hell is able to appeal to the majority by using those familiar ideas lightly with that hint of sacrilege to spice up their commercial presence and grab attention.

That's just how they roll. So no surprises really when they advertise rabbit pizza with a billboard of actual rabbit skins and lamb shanks with a cartoon "lambputee". This little lamb came out right before the vegan cheese deal and pushed me over my personal limit. I will get my pizza elsewhere.
Thanks SuicideFood!

Who the Hell cares?

At the end of the day, none of this matters much. But this sort of advertising represents the sort of over-the-top satire about animal rights often summed up as "MMMMM...bacon".

Some vegans believe that rabbit skin and legless lamb ads encourage us to connect the dots with animal production and use. Unlikely. Hell pays to design ads to increase sales, not make their loyal customers question their food. It's far more likely that the advertising focus groups showed that this level of satire encourages meat-eaters in their recognised defense mechanism.

Few people walk around draped in furs, and everybody knows that the lambs don't haunt the paddocks with prosthetic legs. The absurdity is a shared joke that avoids consideration of the reality.

But...vegan pizza!

I know, I know. Hell has always offered an unusual range of gourmet vegan pizzas, and now they're offering vegan cheese too!

But Hell's ads show me that they are confident in offending the minority of animal rights supporters, just like  Christians (and amputees, and who's next?), and still sell lots of pizza to those who overlook or even enjoy such jokes at other's expense. Controversy stimulates sales, so offending a minority is a win-win situation.


Hell offering vegan cheese may be a shining example of how far veganism has come. Another sign of how far we've come is how other pizza places (Domino's or Pizza Hut) don't even blink when you order a pizza with no cheese - and then perhaps add your own Angel Food mozzarella at home.

And if you're a vegan who still wants to support Hell, please consider, between mouthfuls of pizza, sending a message to them about the message their advertising sends to us.