Love Factually, by Duana C. Welch

And now time for another self-help book. As you can probably tell, I’ve read a few dating/relationship books (Marry Him, and Are Men Necessary?, for instance) always with the intent (or maybe just a guise?) for humor. So here goes yet another book: Love Factually, by Duana C. Welch.

Welch brings a more scientific approach to the world of dating woes. Well, maybe not scientific per se, but just a little more fact-based than just feelings-based. And it’s interesting to read her take on this whole situation and compare it to other authors, and particularly to read about the trials she endured in her own dating history. She’s now happily married.

She talks about the importance of making a list of absolutely-required characteristics, and then those that are highly-desired but not necessary. And then when in the dating world, apply these absolutely-required characteristics to each of the (potential) dates that you meet. It can save you both a lot of headache if you don’t try to play games with yourself and say, “Oh, he doesn’t have trait X that I absolutely require, but I’ll ignore it for now and hope that he changes down the road.”

And if at some point you are dating someone, and you feel you’ve reached a point where you’re just not feeling it anymore and think the two of you should break up, just do it! Yes, it is difficult and painful, but if it’s something that needs to be done, then do it now rather than let it linger on. Because every moment you spend with someone who’s not for me is a moment you lose finding the person who is right for you. And don’t hang on to someone just because they’re the best you can get “for now”. Welch refers to these as BTNs- Better Than Nothings. If you have a BTN, you’re not freeing yourself up completely to go seek true love.

These are just a couple of the 10 proven steps Welch describes in her book, that are intended to take the reader from “I Wish” to “I Do”. And this advice applies to both women and men.

Ok, so maybe I read this book to get some pointers, and/or to try to make sure I don’t screw up things. We shall see! So if you think you might be pressed on your luck to find that special someone, give this book a read. I promise you it’s not totally sappy.

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The life she may never have…

I recently read an article about Britney Spears that made me extremely sad.  As many people know, she was placed in a temporary conservatorship in 2008 to take control of her personal and financial affairs.  To say that she went through some difficult times in 2007 would be a gross understatement.  She’s lived nearly her entire life, and indeed all of her adult life, in the public eye and, in 2007, life crashed in on her with a divorce, two small children who were being taken away, the ever-present papparazi and constant negative media attention.  It was all too much, as it would be for anymore, but the general public failed to show any empathy for her.  Instead they mocked her.

Here was a young mother whose life was being turned upside down and people, grown adults, laughed at her.  It was disgusting.  It’s still disgusting the way that people won’t recognize how truly amazing she is, how she’s turned her life around and is stunning and on top of her game.  This beautiful person and overcome so much adversity and deserves respect.  I feel that this song perfectly captures my sentiments.

Here is the first article I read concerning her conservatorship.

It was supposed to be temporary, but apparently it could last for the rest of her life.  Now of course I don’t know what Britney really wants, and I don’t really know if this is a good or bad thing, but my gut instinct is that a permanent conservatorship is not in Britney’s best interest.  I want her to be able to live her own life and to be free, and I don’t think she’s truly happy.  I mean, how happy could you be if you knew that you’d never be completely free to make your decisions, to live life how you wanted to?  I don’t think that Britney is downright miserable, however.  In fact, I think she’s very happy with her life right now- her successful, passionate performances in Vegas, and being able to spend so much time with her kids.  But I’m sure she realizes that something is missing, and that something is the freedom she had before this whole mess began.

I don’t think any of us fans really knows the ins and outs of this conservatorship, but the general feeling is that it just doesn’t seem right at all.  It was supposed to be temporary, so why has it still being going on?  And why is it possibly going to go on for the rest of her life???  Does her father and her lawyers really have her best interests in mind?  Is she really medically unstable and need to be constantly monitored?  Britney, we know you’re in there and we just want to hear you speak out, to tell us that everything is ok and that you’re going to be taking complete charge of your own life.  We all just want the best for you.

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Cecil the Lion

It’s been about a week now since the news broke about the killing of Cecil the lion by a hunter.  And the ensuing public uproar was… amazing, to say the least.  Now, I had never heard of Cecil, but I have heard plenty of stories of cowardly hunters who kill all sorts of wildlife and then get a photo with their kill. As if that’s something to be proud of????

The killing of this one lion has sparked outrage amongst people around the world- I keep seeing pictures and posts about it on social media, which is how I know.  Let me be clear that I am against the killing of any animal, and this, done as just a hungry bloodsport, is sickening.  But what I can’t understand is the blatant cognitive dissonance, the moral schizophrenia.  Cognitive dissonance (or moral schizophrenia, thanks, Gary Francione, for the term) means that people are condemning this behavior while also engaging in it themselves.

Hold up here, you say, people aren’t going around shooting and killing animals.  Yes, actually, they are.  This killing may not be done directly, but the vast majority of people are contributing to it.  They eat animals.  They consume animal products.  In those respects, they are supporting factory farming, which takes the lives of nearly one billion animals a day.  One. Billion.  A day.  Let that sink in for a minute.

It’s just amazing- you try to talk to animal-eaters about the blatant hypocrisy of their actions and they say things like, “But lions are endangered, and pigs and chickens aren’t.”  WELL THEN.  First of all, these lions are a threatened, not endangered, species.  But, fair enough.  With that statement, they seem to be saying that they care about maintaining biodiversity.  Haha, that’s about as far from the truth as one can get.  You see, when people say this, that, oh, “we need to protect lions because they’re endangered and that’s why our outrage is perfectly justified”, they’re really just parroting the popular, informed sentiment.  Because even it’s factually and morally not sound, it’s the popular opinion, so how wrong can it really be??

The sad truth is that these people really don’t care; they just want to be mainstream.  If they really cared about biodiversity, they wouldn’t be happily and ignorantly supporting factory farming, which destroys the land, pollutes the water and air, and just generally makes it difficult for those animals who aren’t outright slaughtered to actually survive.  Animals lose their homes and die.  Plants are unable to grow when the soil has been depleted of nutrients, as a direct result of monocrop farming.  But try telling people, nonvegans, about any of this, and THEY JUST DON’T CARE.  Astounding.

So as not to make this post completely negative, maybe, just maybe, this one killing has made some people stop and think.  Maybe they’ve made the connection between the senseless killing of a lion as port” to the senseless killing of billions of farm animals for “food”.  Maybe they realize that it’s not enough to point the finger of blame at others and say, “THEY should stop trophy hunting” or “THEY should stop flying back the remains from trophy hunting”, or even “THEY should pass laws to make sure this never happens again.”  No, people, no!  YOU need to take personal action, because change begins with each one of us.  Maybe some people have been woken up to their own internal hypocrisy and have decided to go vegan.

If you’re reading this, and you’re not already vegan, I strongly urge you to do so.  It’s not about “now I can’t eat XYZ”, it’s about much more than that.  It’s about making a statement that you’re against this senseless violence (and really, all violence is senseless).  So please, don’t be afraid of being different, of stepping outside your comfort zone.  Take a stand and let your morals align fully with your lifestyle.  You’ll be much happier that you did.

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“Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feyman!”, by Richard Feynman

The subtitle for this book is “Adventures of a Curious Character”, and that could not be more accurate!  In “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feyman!”, Feynman recounts several tales of his mishaps, interesting events, amazingly fortuitous occurrences, and his general life.

He was a physicist, and of course he talks about his life as a physicist, but you certainly don’t need a science background to thoroughly enjoy this book.  I do have a physics background, so I understood some of the more nerdier aspects of the book, but the humor shines through, regardless.  I will warn you, though, that if you decide to read this in a public place, you may just end up laughing out loud and risk becoming the recipient of a LOT of weird looks.

Feyman was one smart dude, there’s no denying that.  I haven’t read many memoirs of scientists/engineers/otherwise technical people, but I feel that Feyman definitely stands out because he actively avoids the stuffiness associated with being a brilliant scientist.  For instance, when he recieves the call that he’s won the Nobel Prize, his attitude is mostly of a “thanks, but no thanks” mentality.    He ends up accepting the prize, only because he’s been told he’d draw more attention to himself if he didn’t accept it.  But for all future engagements, he insists that he be presented and judged for he is, rather than be given special favors because he’s a NOBEL LAUREATE.

Feynman is really keen on codes and puzzles, and tries his best to solve them without the key.  In most cases, he succeeds!  Some of it may be just dumb luck, but a lot of it seems to persistence, and the careful attention he gives to details.  Like cracking the codes for safes, or figuring out the Mayan code.  I found it just really amazing how his perseverance pays off.

Feyman was very much into drumming as well, and he was entirely self-taught.  His drumming began just as a general interest, and he went all the way to performing for a professional ballet in Paris!  This is just one of the many tales that he recounts in this book.

There’s so much that he talks about, and I don’t want to give it all away, so I highly suggest you read this book!  I’d read this book before, but it’s so good that it bears a re-reading or two :-)

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Book review: The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair

So after reading Fast Food Nation, I decided to read another book about the meat industry (I know, it’s gross, but it just further affirms that I made the right decision long, LONG ago to be a consumer of animal products or by-products).  Enter The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair.

Sinclair wrote this book in the mid-20th century, right when factory farming was becoming a boon.  In this fictional book, Sinclair describes a Lithuanian family who comes to America seeking good fortune.  They settle into a district known as Packingtown in Chicago.  Packingtown is so named because it is the hub of meat-packing plants.  Jurgis, the protagonist of this story, is bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and oh-so-eager to get a job at one of these plants.  He thinks that the work that goes on here is wondrous, marvelous, something about which to be proud.

It’s not until later, after he’s toiled, labored in the horrid conditions that he comes to realize why everyone else was so jaded, and why they looked at him, with his jovial attitude, as if he were crazy.  Sinclair does a good job, a very good job, of describing conditions inside this plant.  And there are others, as well.  Jurgis has come to America with a large extended family and, though he wants to be able to support them all, the sad truth is that some of the others must also work.  Being Packingtown, and having no skills or experience to get a white-collar job anywhere, they are also forced into jobs at meat-packing plants, or those related to meat-packing.

Terrible conditions about for everyone, and injuries in this industry are rampant.  While Sinclair’s book has been hailed as opening the eyes of the public to what really goes on in slaughterhouses, I feel that much has not changed.  Surely there are more industry regulations now, but slaughterhouses are still the most dangerous place to work.  Even aside from the whole issue of killing animals for food, one MUST care about human conditions.  Do we really want to support an industry that is so utterly dangerous, and so utterly unnecessary?

Even though this is a book I’d read before, reading those descriptions of slaughterhouse practices made my stomach turn.  It’s so revolting!  Oddly enough, Sinclair had written this book not so much to expose these conditions, as to describe the Socialist movement and his support of it.  But, as is stated in the afterword, what The Jungle was and is remembered for are the slaughterhouse descriptions, because they were so visceral.  One can actually imagine all those things taking place, as hideous as they are.

On the other hand, Sinclair’s description of Jurgis’ foray into Socialism is a bit lofty, unrelateable.  And that’s why readers can’t really hang on to it and make a connection.  I think that left Sinclair a bit disappointed, but I hope he realized that his book still made a huge positive impact, maybe just not exactly the impact he had originally planned.

Personally, anything that sheds the light on the despicable meat industry is valuable and needs to be read and to be seen by the public.  It’s hard for me to believe that even now, in 2015, there are people who honestly believe that the meat/dairy/egg industries have their (the consumers’) best interests in mind.  When will people wake up to reality??

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Ramadan-inspired musings

Ramadan Mubarak to all my fellow Muslims!  Today is the second day of the holy month of Ramadan.  Well, all the months are considered holy, but Ramadan in particular because it is the month is which the Holy Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.

A few days ago, I was thinking about the beginning of this month, and that the end would be marked by Eid ul-Fitr (the larger of the two Eids).  And then a few months later would come Eid ul-Adha, or Bakra Eid.  Bakra means “goat”.  Just thinking about Bakra Eid gets me downhearted.  How am I supposed to reconcile this holiday, which is traditionalized by the “sacrifice” of an animal, with my views as a vegan?

Quite honestly, my vegan outlook on the world trumps everything, and I find that I am uncomfortable and upset at the notion of Bakra Eid, or even that it’s commonly referred to in that way instead of Eid ul-Adha.  I don’t understand why.  Why must an animal be killed (sorry, “sacrificed”) as a blessed offering?  It makes me sick to think of all the goats, sheep, rams, etc. slaughtered for this holiday.  Surely there is a better way to help the poor than to give them meat.  Why can we not build upon the concept of Zakat and actively help the poor?

Don’t get me wrong- it’s absolutely wonderful to have obligatory alms-giving as one of the pillars of Islam, but I don’t think that just giving money is enough.  I also wish that Islamic culture wasn’t so centered on meat.  Providing meat, or the living animal itself, to a poor family shouldn’t be seen as something great and noble.  We should be doing more to ensure that not just the poor, but everyone, has access to fresh, healthy plant-based foods. These are truly sustainable, and they are also affordable and better for everyone.

My suggestion would be hold monthly food drives, make it part of Zakat, in which each donor must provide a healthy, non-perishable vegan food item.  That, or give money that will be used solely to purchase these types of foods.  We really need to end the association of meat = wealth & prosperity, no meat = poverty.

So yes, it’s difficult for me to reconcile my veganism with this Islamic holiday.  But more immediate, it’s difficult for me to reconcile my strong desire for an active lifestyle with the requirement of Ramadan, which is to fast from sun-up to sun-down.  All I’m left with is just an immense amount of guilt.  It’s a common theme in my life.  I feel guilt over so much of what I’ve done and continue to do, and what I know I will do in the future.  Surely I’m not a bad person, but sometimes I wonder what it is that I’m really doing to help others, and to help myself.

  

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Book review: Fast Food Nation, by Eric Schlosser

The latest book I’ve finished (re-)reading is Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation.  If you’ve never before read this book, I highly suggest that you do!  Even though it came out in the 90s, the information presented is still relevant and important.  Particularly if you eat meat/eat at fast food restaurants.

Schlosser describes the evolution of the fast food industry, of the mass production of identical food items; of the desire for low-skilled workers to perform simple, sometimes dangerous, tasks very quickly and for long hours and low pay; of the marginalization of the American farmer and cowboy.

Full disclosure and no big surprise: I’m a vegan.  I of course don’t support the fast food industry at all (as an aside, I do have a very personal connection to it).  Regardless of my stance on fast food in particular and meat in general, I’m sure I’m not alone in my sympathy of the true American farmers and cowboys.  Here were people who made their living directly off the land, worked in harmony with nature, and then their livelihoods were pushed aside to make way for factory farms and mass food production.  To say nothing of the horrid way in which animals are now treated.  They are merely commodities, not individual living, breathing beings.

People think that “I only go to McDonald’s once a week” or “I don’t eat that much fast food” means that they’re choices don’t have any significant negative impact on the world around them.  But they DO.  Read this book and you will understand why this industry needs to permanently be a thing of the past.  And the most effective way to vote is with your dollar.  Your consumer choices.

While I urge everyone to forgo fast foods and convenience packaged foods, I don’t advocate any “humane” meats, cheeses, etc.  You’ve heard this from me time and time again, but the best thing that you can do for yourselves, the planet, and those around you is to go vegan.  Eat whole, plant-based foods.  We need to keep our planet diverse, both in terms of vegetation and in terms of restaurant/food choices.  Schlosser discusses the globalization of big chains such as McDonald’s, now McDonald’s aim is to provide a consistent, crave-worthy, delicious (yuck) taste no matter where in the world one goes.  And if that means adding beef tallow to the fries, so be it.

If you’ve never read this book, it will be an eye-opener for sure.  And if your diet is less-than-stellar, this book will surely make you reconsider your food choices.

Schlosser also references Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, which is another book I’ve read and in which Sinclair describes the horrid conditions in Chicago’s meatpacking district, which are sure to be representative of meatpacking plants everywhere in the US, at least at that time.  So I’ve decided that a re-read of The Jungle is highly appropriate right after Fast Food Nation.

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