Thursday, July 31, 2008

HIV discrimination

Even if you have not been able to donate to the AIDS Network*, there is something easy and quick that you can do to help people with HIV/AIDS. Write a quick note to Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt asking him to allow HIV-positive people to travel to the United States.

Background: Congress recently repealed a law barring HIV-positive people from traveling to the United States. This law -- according to the American Medical Association and the World Health Organization -- had no medical basis. The repeal of the law put the decision of whether to bar or allow travel to the U.S. for HIV-positive people in the hands of the Secretary of Health and Human Services, who is responsible for maintaining a list of diseases that preclude people from visiting the United States. This list is supposed to be based on medical factors such as ease of communicability, but it continues to list HIV/AIDS -- even though HIV is not a highly contagious virus. You can write to HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt by clicking on this link.

*although I encourage you to do so

Hope and meaning

This article highlighting new forms of nonviolent protest against the barrier wall in the West Bank gave me a glimmer of hope.

But then my tendency toward nihilism appeared and I thought, "K, nothing has come of it. There is no cause for hope. There is no meaning in struggle."

Nihilism (where no meaning exists) quickly transformed into absurdism (where meaning may exist, but it is humanly impossible to find it): "Has justice been done? Will it ever be done? Is the world so filled with sin that the best news you expect is not an end to an injustice, but simply that people might hold onto a shred of dignity in the face of continual demoralization?"

If I am lucky, the absurdism will shift into theistic existentialism by tomorrow morning and faith by the weekend.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Who's got the fever the the flavor of a Pringles?

When I was a child, my mother tried to explain to me that Pringles are not real potato chips, but I did not understand. After all, they were shaped like potato chips, and their flavor elicited the same indifferent response from the pleasure centers in my brain. (Cheese puffs, on the other hand, really pumped up my dopamine levels.)

Now, it turns out, even Pringles is trying to disassociate itself from potato chips. The brand recently won an exemption from Britain's value-added tax (VAT) of 17.5% that is added to potato chips. After all, Pringles argued, its products are just 42% potato, and that in the form of potato flour. The rest of it is "corn flour, wheat starch and rice flour together with fat and emulsifier, salt and seasoning."

Mmmm. Yum. Doesn't that give you the fever?

Photo by Alvin Chua, used under an attribution-only Creative Commons license.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

And more miles

I keep forgetting to bring my camera on training rides, so I can't prove to you that I cycled miles and miles of hills this weekend. I don't know exactly how many of them were uphill and how many were down, but it was 183 in all -- approximately. My computer went on the fritz a couple times and I had to restart it. I was only going to bike on Saturday, a 90-mile trip, but I decided to go out on Sunday again to prepare myself psychologically for the big ride (now in nine days), as well as to work my muscles beyond fatigue do that they might be a little stronger by then. Jeanne, who led Saturday's ride, says that riding can be difficult, but it's not as hard as being on antiretroviral treatment or, worse, getting no treatment at all when you're HIV-positive.

Beside discovering this weekend that Cross Plains is a really beautiful place to bicycle, I also found that my water-resistant sunblock is not sweat-resistant. Thankfully, most of the pink has faded to brown by now and doesn't threaten to peel.

Here's a great piece that CBS Sunday Morning did on bicycle commuting.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Lots and lots of miles

I didn't realize how long it had been since I posted until I logged in today. No, I have not died -- that is not the reason for my silence. Rather, I had a realization a couple weeks ago that my 300+ mile bike ride is the second weekend in August and I had not gone above 25 miles in a day all season. So I have been spending a lot of time riding my bike since then. The first 60-mile ride was really good until mile 40, after which I just wanted to curl up and take a nap. It was on a Saturday, and it took me almost the whole week to recover, by which I mean make my commute in the usual amount of time. (It is usually about 40 minutes of active pedaling, but last Tuesday it took me almost 55 minutes of active pedaling to get to work.) The ride this past Saturday was much more agreeable and I felt like normal on my way to work today. Oh yes, and if you want to know why I am riding so much, go to this page.

Here are the things I saw on Saturday's ride:
-a wild mother turkey and about five of her babies, who were smaller than chickens but still had adult feathers and flew -- flew, I tell you!
-A sandhill crane couple and their one offspring grazing in a field (they generally hatch two eggs each year, together, but usually only one chick survives)
-A sandhill crane flying

But the nature odyssey next to the ditch that runs parallel to the railroad tracks on Madison's east side was more stunning. A bazillion toadlings -- I do not exaggerate, it was at least a bazillion -- smaller than crickets were hopping all over the sidewalks and grass borders. I really annoyed N by gasping and yanking him back every time I saw a toad on his side of the sidewalk, my automatic reaction to prevent a tiny toad from being flattened.

But the crown discovery was a four-inch long snapping turtle that was ambling down the sidewalk near his house. It was heading toward the road, so N picked it up and moved it to the big field of grass next to the ditch from whence it must have come. The snapping turtle was of course not very pleased with being picked up, but having only tiny jaws instead of the big threatening ones usually associated with its species, it could do nothing but withdraw into its shell and pee profusely.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Botulism Buzz

Being a UW Extension-certified Master Food Preserver, I am of course interested in all things botulism-related. Here's a great piece analyzing the causes of last year's botulism outbreak in commercially canned food.

Sonic (not the Foundry)

When we were in Louisiana, we stopped at a Sonic Drive-In the afternoon after visiting Baton Rouge because I was becoming intolerably cranky and needed a coffee or a nap, and I was not going to fall asleep in the car, so coffee it was. We had a little trouble finding a fair trade coffee shop, as one might imagine, so I just had to close my eyes and hope that the coffee beans purchased by Sonic came from cooperatives in Central America (though Africa and South Asia would have been fine, too).

While at Sonic, I snapped about a bazillion pictures because it seemed so quintessentially other -- you know, from the other America, the one that is not in Wisconsin. It being other made it novel and fun, rather than just another source of so-called food that is corrupting America's taste buds and hooking our children on refined carbohydrates and other such things that, when taken in excess, can be called poison.

Needless to say, I was oh-so disappointed to here that Sonic is coming to Madison. How the mystique will be shattered!