Whose input goes into the USDA food pyramid?

four versions of the U.S.D.A. food pyramid from 1943 to present
USDA food pyramid (1943, 1992, 2005, 2011)

A question I’ve had for years is: Whose input goes into the USDA food pyramid/guide? In conversation, a few people have told me that meat, dairy and wheat farmer organizations hire big-money lobbyists to heavily influence these recommendations. As something of a cynic, that’s always seemed quite plausible to me; but I’ve always retained some doubt. I mean, would a federal agency really compromise the quality of its dietary advice for decades in order to placate some farmers? Well, it kinda looks like the answer is yes. Continue reading Whose input goes into the USDA food pyramid?

Does sentience make us special?

From the time I was a kid, I was told I was special. I was special because my parents loved me. I was special because Caucasian Jesus loved me. I was special because I was born in the Muthafuckin-U-S-of-A. Et cetera. And I’m not alone. I suspect most of us grow up feeling somehow special, somehow significant. We all feel like the star of our very own Truman Show. One reason we spend so much of life being pissy is because we don’t understand why other people don’t treat us like the rock stars we feel we are. Continue reading Does sentience make us special?

Which is worse for the environment–wildfires or suppressing them?

I was scrolling through the notes app on my iPhone recently and saw this question I posed to myself but never answered: Which is worse for the environment–wildfires or fighting them? Sitting in a chain coffee shop, quaffing caffein and eating a bagel, I figured, What better time to research that question than right now? Continue reading Which is worse for the environment–wildfires or suppressing them?

Why redneck women are so hot: the theory of Natural Light selection

I whiled away my teenage years and much of my twenties in Northwest Florida where rural communities are plentiful as are the redneck women and men who inhabit them. And a question that came up again and again was: Why are there so many beautiful women living out in the middle of Bumfuck Nowhere? I mean, you stop in one of those towns where the gas station is also the general store–you go inside and it’s like a mini Walmart/redneck petting zoo–and this mud-caked pickup truck pulls up beside you, and out hops this gorgeous woman with long, flowing hair, a golden tan and a six pack that Ciara would muff-dive Monica for; and she’s wearing camouflage and hunter orange; and the guy riding shotgun has a beer gut, neck hair and a half-empty Natural Light can for a spit cup; and you think: What the fuck? Continue reading Why redneck women are so hot: the theory of Natural Light selection

Jakob E. Wagner, Wisconsin Antigo High School prom shooter, and the Tragedy Troll

Jakob E. Wagner's Instagram Profile
Jakob E. Wagner’s Instagram Profile

Jakob E. Wagner, of Antigo Wisconsin, shot two people at the Antigo High School prom this past Saturday night. His motive is still unknown. Chances are, by the time it is known, the national media will have moved on. After all, a so-called “mass shooting” where the only fatality was the shooter is hardly big news. But, while the news media might have the attention span of a 3 year old on crack, the internet rarely forgets; and its bottom-feeders are usually the last to move on.

Continue reading Jakob E. Wagner, Wisconsin Antigo High School prom shooter, and the Tragedy Troll

Rise of the professional troll

Jaime Cochran aka @asshurtmacfags
Jaime Cochran, aka @asshurtmacfags, on HuffPost Live in 2012

I’d never heard of professional trolls until I watched a Kali Muscle video on YouTube recently. After his antics ended, YouTube made its usual “you might also like” suggestions. I clicked on one purporting to be about how nobody should take Kali’s exercise advice. But the video wasn’t about that. It was just some twenty-something guy doing a voice-over to a video by the person I’d just watched, talking shit, making a lot of ad hominem remarks, but saying nothing instructive or constructive–basically, a shitty imitation of MST3K  schtick. I’d stumbled upon a professional troll. Continue reading Rise of the professional troll

Good Christian, good Muslim, good person?

What makes a good Christian or Muslim or Jew?
What makes a good Xtian/Muslim/Jew?

In day-to-day conversations, both virtual and face-to-face, I frequently hear people refer to the concept of the “good Christian” or “good Jew” or “good Muslim” or whathaveyou. They are usually referring to themselves and the person with whom they are speaking. Sometimes they use terms like “christlike” or “godly” or some variant of those. And it always bothers me when people talk like this.

It bothers me because these terms mean so many different things to different people. They are amorphous. They can mean anything and, throughout history, often have. When one makes reference to the “good Christian”, what they are really referring to is a shared idea peculiar to a certain group of people in a certain place at a certain point in time with similar experiences, similar religious beliefs, similar political leanings, etc. Continue reading Good Christian, good Muslim, good person?

Body-for-LIFE: the original 10 champions (Where are they now?)

The original 10 Body-for-LIFE champions with Bill Phillips
The original 10 Body-for-LIFE champions with Bill Phillips

I tried to do the Body-for-LIFE challenge when I was eighteen. I lasted about a month before I went back to binging on beer and pizza. Tried it again a couple times in my twenties with the same result. Each time, I stuck with the program for less than a month.

It’s a strict program. If you go to websites that grade diets and health programs, it is usually near the bottom–mainly because it is so demanding that only a fraction of the people who start actually make it the full three months. Well, I recently decided to do the program one last time. If I fuck it up this time, I guess I’ll just resign myself to being a fat POS forever. Wish me luck.

Anyway, for now, at the start of the program, I’m reading Bill Phillips’ book, watching some of the videos he made, even leafing through some of my old issues of Muscle Media. My favorite of these is the video that documented the very first Body-for-LIFE challenge: Body of Work. It takes you into the lives of the 10 winners of that challenge. And their stories are very inspiring. But, as I wander down EAS memory lain, I keep wondering: Where are they now?

Well, I decided to find out. Continue reading Body-for-LIFE: the original 10 champions (Where are they now?)

Socrates & Daedalus in the Platonic dialogues

Daedalus with Icarus
Daedalus fashioning wings for himself and his son, Íkaros, so they might escape the Labyrinth Daedalus had constructed

In Book VII of Plato’s Politeia, at 540c, Glaucon declares that, with his words, Socrates’ has “made the rulers consummately beautiful (καλόν) men…just like a sculptor.” Earlier in Book VII, at 529e, Socrates refers to the works of Dædalus as worthy of study. As stated in footnote 135 of Sachs’ translation of the Republic, Plato mentions Daedalus (Δαίδαλος) several times in his dialogues: at 97d in Meno and at 11c in Euthyphro. In Texts on Socrates, West also identifies 121a of Alcibiades I (p.55, n.33). In reading these various texts*, I noticed recurring references to Daedalus, and it made me wonder: Are these references random or do they form a logical pattern of some sort?

Continue reading Socrates & Daedalus in the Platonic dialogues

Religious spam: Yes, religion is bullshit, and its purveyors are assholes

I like to write about religion. I like to read about religion. I even sometimes enjoy conversing with religious folk. But I am not religious. Religion is bullshit and its purveyors often unabashed assholes.

Religious spam is a case in point. As the administrator of a blog, I get a lot of spam. I even get spam from spammers offering to spam for me. Every day, I delete countless robo messages. Some of them consist of complete sentences hawking this or that product. Most are just random broken phrases stuck together and surrounded by links to who-knows-what website. I’ve come to expect this daily deluge. But here’s something I didn’t expect: religious spam. Continue reading Religious spam: Yes, religion is bullshit, and its purveyors are assholes