Monthly Archives: January 2012

Good thing I already had a bowl of ice cream

While I haven’t read the study, this is an intriguing experimental approach to the study of food consumption! I’ve always been curious why – apart from the everpresent financial or practical reasons – I haven’t seen more studies that eschewed survey data. Keeping the menu the same but manipulating portions and ingredients seems to be a pretty plausible way to control the nutrient ratio with a minimum of intervening factors. Maybe there are plenty of similar studies and I just haven’t run across them? I sure hope so.

Sometimes it pays to be late

My plans for the next few years are murky at best, but in the short term, an option I’m considering is to take a trip out to California (it would be my first!). Here’s the Greyhound schedule for that journey:

This schedule is so streamlined that the longest layover isn’t even enough time to catch a movie. It’s an absurd display of modern efficiency: even for someone without physical limitations it would be a stressful, unpleasant journey.

But what of the alternative? Buy your tickets for the same set of dates, but as two separate purchases (NYC to Denver and then from Denver to LA), and the price shoots up from $126 to $199. In other words, saying that I’d like to sleep in a hotel for at least one night on a cross-country journey will add to the hotel and taxi a surcharge for the privilege of splitting my bus trip into two legs.

I assume that the average consumer would be fairly offended if they noticed this pricing disparity. But I find it humorous for a reason that only frequent Greyhound travelers are likely to know: you can use tickets on any day after they were originally purchased! By not paying for a ticket in the expected way you can take the same route – that is, the very same bus - for less money than if you told them you were coming.

Now, having set up the joke, so here’s the punchline: buying a ticket does not guarantee you a seat on that bus on that time slot in the first place! Here’s hoping you didn’t already know that – I had to learn it the hard way.

(Disclaimer: As long as the route is running that day and the bus is not full, it won’t be a problem. However, I have never been able to get a straight answer as to their policy about this, and if you get turned down at the gate it’s not my fault.)

Mad Men S1

I just finished the first season of Mad Men. I certainly won’t win any points for timeliness, and originality is probably a hard sell too, but I’ll give writing about it a try anyways.

Mad Men is designed to be titillating to a certain audience. By that I don’t mean the sex scenes (which are actually tamer than what I’d expected), but the show’s glamorized portrayal and encouraged fetishization of a particular moment’s flavor of patriarchy. Given the favorable response from that targeted audience, it seems reasonable to deem this a problematic cultural artifact.

But what about when the audience consists of those who would label it as problematic? While viewing it, I could not help but to think that media of this sort can be not only not harmful when viewed with an awareness of patriarchy, but perhaps even beneficial. Dr. Strangelove and Starship Troopers come to my mind as examples of media that can be found supporting both perspectives that must remain in opposition – as terrifyingly, some people think these are pro-war movies!

I am not going to rush to call Mad Men pro-feminist, but the show makes efforts to imply that its depiction of women is wrong. Occasionally it even explicitly addresses why the women in the show are made unhappy by the way they are treated. In the first season, at least, I saw a reasonable mix of patriarchy-challenging and patriarchy-reinforcing content that allows the audience to choose what portion to embrace. It makes me wonder whether this kind of shared-but-opposed content makes for a useful common ground for engagement with non-feminists. That is to say, maybe when a show like Mad Men comes out, we should aggressively point out the ways it can challenge patriarchy instead of just condemning it for the ways it can justify and reinforce it. (Emphasis on “just”.)