Category Archives: Annoyances

Pinterest quackery

I’m beginning to think Pinterest has become the wormhole through which junk science enters the universe.

Sample du jour: an “alkalizing foods” chart telling people they can lose weight and prevent cancer by consuming certain foods to make their blood more alkaline.

Among the supposed “alkalizing” substances: lemon juice.

Those of you who passed chemistry class might, at this point, be giving that sentence an epic side-eye. But wait! You don’t understand! See, you put the lemon juice in water, which raises its pH, so when you drink it, it “alkalizes” your body. Science!

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For those of you who flunked chemistry, let me explain:

Acids have a pH below 7.

Alkaline substances (a.k.a. bases) have a pH above 7.

Neutral substances have a pH right at 7. Pure water, for example, has a pH of 7.

When you add water to a strong acid, you get a weaker acid. When you add water to a strong base, you get a weaker base. You can’t convert an acid to a base (or vice versa) by diluting it. And you obviously can’t raise the pH of a substance by adding acid; that’s like trying to lighten paint by mixing in some more black.

Now for some biology:

Your blood is slightly alkaline, because blood is supposed to be slightly alkaline. The pH isn’t subject to the whims of your diet. If it were, a bag of Sour Patch Kids would probably kill you. The alkalinity of your blood doesn’t bounce around like your glucose level. It’s more like your body temperature: It has to remain within a very narrow window.

Even if your blood’s pH were subject to wild fluctuations, you couldn’t adjust it by means of diet, because anything you eat has to go through your stomach first, and your stomach is full of hydrochloric acid, diluted by your body to a pH somewhere between 1.5 and 3.5. To neutralize that, you’d basically (see what I just did there?) have to knock back a shot of Liquid Plum’r and chase it with a glass of Windex. I don’t recommend this, unless you’re just trying to die young, in the most horrifying possible manner.

What I’ve seen of the “alkalizing diet” isn’t particularly harmful on its face. It’s never a bad idea to go heavier on the vegetables and lighter on the aerosol cheese. But doing that won’t alter the pH of your blood — and it shouldn’t.

Emily

A word on Ebola

Started my morning ridiculing some particularly irresponsible headlines about Ebola, which has now infected a grand total of three people in the United States (two of whom were treating the first one, who picked it up while rushing a sick woman to the hospital in Liberia).

Got to work late (largely because I’d wasted half my morning on Twitter, making fun of the panicky headlines) and was promptly assigned a last-minute story about whether our local hospitals are prepared to handle an Ebola patient if one shows up.

God bless our local public-safety folks, who all said, in essence: “Yes, we’re taking logical steps to deal with it in the unlikely event it happens. No, you’re not going to get Ebola. Now, go get your damn flu shot.”

Here’s a cold, hard fact: In the United States, your chances of winning the Powerball jackpot are significantly higher than your chances of dying of Ebola.

Things that are far more likely to kill you than Ebola:

1. Lightning
2. Your dog
3. Obesity

Are you afraid of storms, household pets, or bacon cheeseburgers? If not, you probably need to quit worrying about Ebola and focus your energy on something more pressing — like whether San Francisco can get into the World Series so I don’t have to root for the damned Cardinals this year.

Emily

My promise to you

So I’ve been spending more time on Pinterest since I dumped Facebook a couple of months ago, and I’m noticing an unfortunate trend that mirrors my experience with far too many cookbooks and magazines:

Vegetarian recipes — especially those of the vegan persuasion — are outrageously inconvenient and/or expensive.

Example du jour: I found a vegan tiramisu recipe tonight that looked promising — until I discovered it took nearly an hour to make and required me to make my own sponge cake and hunt down two containers of vegan whipped cream and some kind of prefabbed “coffee beverage” made of coconut milk.

Crap like this is why going vegetarian is so difficult. If people aren’t asking you to spend hours on fools’ errands, they’re sending you on scavenger hunts for things like vegan Cool Whip.

I won’t do this to you. I promise. Over the past nine and a half months, I’ve posted 39 recipes, I think, and IIRC, only three of them (hummus, tahini salad and nooch nachos) absolutely require the use of somewhat exotic ingredients — all things you’ll want to keep on hand if you do much vegan cooking anyway. The rest can be made on the fly, using ingredients you can find at any regular grocery store.

That was the whole point of Vegan Friday. I’m not a vegan at the moment, but I eat a lot more vegetarian meals now than I did before I started this project, because I have a nice assortment of cheap, fast, convenient recipes in my repertoire — and that was really my goal. When I know I can put a batch of fajitas or a plate of chili mac on the table in less time than it takes to drive through McDonald’s, I’m more likely to eat at home, and I’m betting you are, too.

I was thinking about ending Vegan Friday with the Dec. 26 edition, because my goal was to do it for a year, and I was afraid I’d run out of ideas. But I’m thinking instead of quitting, I might expand it a bit — maybe call it Vegetarian Friday and open it up to lacto-ovo recipes — and keep going. We’ve come a long way since 1992, when I literally had to draw a picture for the waitress while ordering pizza with a vegan scholar bowl teammate. But as Pinterest has demonstrated quite clearly, we still have a long way to go … and I kind of enjoy having a few readers along for the ride to keep me motivated.

Emily

P.S.: If you’re on Pinterest, you can follow Vegan Friday here and Eco-Saturday here.

Random question

Why is it that the macaroni you get in prefabbed boxes of mac and cheese is straight, but the kind you get by itself is curved? Is this a cost-saving maneuver? Like, does it cost extra to curl it? Or will the straight kind only breed in captivity? I’m truly baffled.

Yeah, I have no idea why I thought of that, either, but I bet you can guess what kind of high-quality dinner I made for myself this evening.

Lunch: frozen pizza.
Dinner: mac and cheese out of a box and two leftover pigs in blankets.
Dessert: Franken Berry and a big glass of grape Kool-Aid, prolly.

It’s like I’m not even pretending to be an adult any more.

Speaking of Franken Berry, today’s BlogHer prompt was: “Tell us about your favorite autumnal treat.”

Until last fall, I’d have said caramel apples, but then I found out General Mills waltzes out the monster cereals (Franken Berry, Count Chocula and Boo Berry) for Halloween. I have no idea why anyone would want blueberry-flavored anything, and as much as I love chocolate, I don’t really want it in my cereal, but I have developed an inexplicable fondness for Franken Berry. It’s pretty much the only thing I find tolerable about fall, and it certainly beats the hell out of these pumpkin-spice abominations that have flooded the market lately.

I can’t decide what irritates me more: Ruining perfectly good beer and coffee by lacing them with squash extract, or giving indecisive twentysomething girls who don’t like coffee one more excuse to tie up the line at Starbucks. (If I haven’t had my coffee yet, and you’re the only thing standing between me and it, it’s probably in your best interest to hurry up. Just sayin’.)

Anyway. Franken Berry. Getchu some.

Emily

Sorting it out

The glory of digital photography is that you can take 30 shots to get the one you want, without having to worry about the cost of film or processing. The flip side is that you end up taking 30 shots to get the one you want, dumping ALL of them off onto your hard drive, and keeping them forever, just in case you might need them, as opposed to looking at prints and scanning only the keepers.

This is fine until you end up with so much crap on your hard drive that you realize it would take a full day to back it all up, so you just live dangerously until the inevitable happens and your hard drive goes bad, at which point you start using language that would make Samuel L. Jackson blush as you contemplate dropping the damn thing off the Bill Emerson Bridge on your way to pick up film and a new typewriter ribbon — except you can’t, because you pretty much have to order typewriter ribbons online. Kind of like how you have to download a slide rule app for your iPhone, because video killed the radio star. Or something. You kids get off my lawn.

Anyway, while I was rummaging through a flash drive last night in search of the one folder of images I was sure I’d backed up and absolutely could not stand the thought of losing, I ran across a keeper I’d scanned a little over 10 years ago, when I was still using 35mm:

vega

 

Ron shot this during the weekend in 2003 when we repainted the sign at the now-shuttered Vega Motel on Route 66 in the Texas Panhandle. Last time I was through there, a little over a year ago, the sign still looked pretty good. It’s probably in better shape than some of the buildings at this point.

Emily

 

PSA: Tracks have rules.

As we approach the new year, with its time-honored tradition of buying gym memberships and abandoning them three weeks later, I’d like to address a point of etiquette too many people ignore:

Track lane usage.

If you join a gym with an indoor track, please take a minute to find out the rules for using that track — and then follow them.

Most gyms ask track users to run clockwise one day and counter-clockwise the next. To avoid head-on collisions, find out the day’s direction before you step onto the track.

Blind curves are an unfortunate reality of most indoor tracks. The shorter the track, the more blind curves per mile — so for safety reasons, gyms with multilane tracks usually designate separate lanes for runners and walkers.

When you run in the walking lane, you risk crashing into an unseen walker as you round a curve. This risk is particularly high at the hospital-owned gym I use, where many walkers are rehabbing from injuries and have limited mobility. They can’t get out of the way if a wrong-lane runner suddenly comes barreling around a curve.

You also risk confusing walkers, who may end up in the running lane in an effort to stay out of your way. This endangers both the walker and any runners who might be cruising along in the correct lane, unaware that a slow-moving obstacle is just around the curve. There is a big difference between a 10:00 mile (my top sustainable speed) and a 20:00 mile, and if I come around the corner at 6 mph to find someone dawdling along at half that speed, I have little time to react.

This is annoying at best — I’ve just been forced to alter my pace for no good reason — and dangerous at worst, as it forces me to risk injury by stopping on a dime or changing directions abruptly to avoid a painful collision.

This scenario is even more dangerous on outdoor trails shared by cyclists and pedestrians, as the speeds are faster, and bikes tend to be harder and have more pointy edges than people. Trust me: You don’t want to be involved in the aftermath of running in the bike lane, or vice versa.

For safety’s sake, stay in your lane.

Please pass this information along to anyone who might be thinking of joining a gym after the holidays. A little forethought can prevent a lot of pain.

Emily