Elimination Diets And The Value Of Beans

The latest diet trend, apparently, is the “elimination diet.” I say “apparently” because it’s impossible for an average person to stay on top of dietary fads. Is “juicing” still hot, or have we moved on to the “Dukan diet” or some other variation?

An “elimination diet” is one in which the dieter stops consuming entire categories of foods — say, eggs and dairy products — for a few weeks, to see whether the dietary change causes some positive change in their body condition. If you’ve got a chronic sour stomach or embarrassing gastrointestinal tendencies, maybe ceasing your gluten or nut consumption might help. And, as is always the case with this kind of diet topic, there are enthusiastic proponents of the elimination diet concept who swear that it has dramatically changed their lives for the better.

It’s hard for me to believe that any person who is paying attention isn’t aware of the eventual bodily impact of certain foods. I know that if I eat carryout Chinese food it will suck every ounce of moisture from my body and cause me to wake up the next morning with a mouthful of salt. I know that if I eat chili with beans for lunch my co-workers will want me to stay out of elevators for the rest of the day. I don’t think I need to eliminate entire categories of food to figure out the cause-and-effect chain.

Speaking of beans, they highlight one other problem with the “elimination diet.” A recent study has concluded that eating beans, peas, and other legumes lowers “bad cholesterol,” which is a cardiovascular health marker. In view of the fact that we are regularly bombarded with studies that provide us with often conflicting information about the health effects of eating certain foods — and always at precise portion sizes — how are you supposed to know if your elimination diet has cut out the magical food that might help you avoid a crippling heart attack or diabetes?

I’ve lived long enough to have seen the “food pyramid” revised once or twice, been exposed to countless studies about foods, and seen diet fads go from Scarsdale to Beverly Hills and back again. I’m convinced that if you want to stay trim, the formula is simple — consume in moderation, avoid too many sweets, and get plenty of exercise. For most of us, however, it’s not the plan that’s the problem, it’s the execution.

The Burrower

IMG_1907There must be something about beagles and burrowing. Unlike Penny, who prefers to just plop down wherever and snooze, Kasey will find the nearest blanket or comforter and use her head and paws to burrow down deep and wrap herself up, until she’s as snug as a bug in a rug — even if she ends up hanging off the chair, with head and legs akimbo.

She snores like a longshoreman, too.

When Should Newspapers Use Profanity?

Recently the New York Times carried an interesting opinion piece about when the news media should print profanities, vulgarities, and other offensive terms — the actual words, unmistakably spelled out in black and white, and not euphemisms like the “f-word” or “a racial epithet.”

The writer argues that in modern society the use of profanities has become increasingly commonplace, whether it’s in a diplomatic faux pas or on the floor of the U.S. Senate, and often the use of the word itself is what makes the story newsworthy. Why run the risk that the reader might not actually understand what the word is? In addition, because cuss words have even invaded the titles of books and plays and other literary works, what are newspapers supposed to do when they review those pieces? And the writer also notes that journals in other countries, like England and Australia, are not shy about publishing offensive words in full.

Sorry, but I’m not convinced. We’re exposed to more than enough vulgarity in our daily lives — and so are our kids. Why shouldn’t newspapers strive to maintain a semblance of decorum? The fact that powerful people use profanities may be a news story, but that doesn’t mean we need to have a full frontal exposure to the obscenity itself. I don’t buy that there is a risk of confusion about precisely what the offensive word is, either. When people see the “f-word,” they’re not going to think that the article is talking about fracking. And in response to the argument that Aussies and Brits publish offensive words, my mother would ask me if I would jump off a cliff just because all my friends were doing so. I never came up with a good response to her argument.

I’m sure this makes me seem like a fuddy-duddy, an out-of-touch codger who is arguing for a senseless fig leaf that has no place in our hip, wide-open modern world. But I’ve seen how our culture has grown coarser, and coarser, and coarser as my adult years roll by, whether it is shock jocks on radio or sex- and violence-saturated TV programming or stand up comics who routinely use the “seven forbidden words” without the wit of George Carlin. I don’t like the direction we’ve taken, and each little modification seems to open the door to more coarseness to come.

So, I’m willing to draw a line. In my view, newspapers should aspire to a higher standard, and should draw the line to preserve a small enclave of decency and taste in an otherwise obscene world. Leave the profanities for the internet.

Impulse Buying And Gun Sale Billboards

Highway billboards are the prototypical form of impulse purchase advertising. You’re traveling down the road, you see a billboard for a restaurant at the next exit, and you decide in a split-second that it’s time to pull off to get a cheeseburger.

IMG_1902That’s why it’s jarring and unnerving to see gun sale billboards sprouting up on the stretch of I-71 between Columbus to Cincinnati. Are drivers really making spur of the moment decisions to buy firearms when they see a brightly colored “Guns” billboard? Unlike the vast majority of highway billboards, which advertise the availability of fast food, gasoline, or a place for the weary traveler to stay for the night, guns don’t seem to have any connection to the routine needs of a highway driver — unless the guns sales are motivated by the aggressive driving of their fellow motorists. If that’s the case, I need to be a lot more worried about the jerk who has been tailgating me for the last five miles.

According to statistics maintained by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which give you a rough sense of gun ownership in American states, Ohio isn’t one of the biggest gun purchasing states in the country. In 2012, there were 45.65 NICS checks for every 1000 Ohio residents; the highest NICS check state, Kentucky, had 535.78 (!) checks for every 1000 people. Still, I’d like to think that Ohioans who are buying firearms are being thoughtful about what seems like a very significant decision, and not impulsively buying a gun because a passing billboard put the idea in their head.

Snow On Tax Day

When I left the house this morning there were blizzard-like conditions, when only a few hours earlier the temperature was in the 60s. “Why not?” I thought. It’s Tax Day.

IMG_1905As I drove down to Cincinnati, the odor of rubbery, overcooked broccoli somehow started seeping from my car’s ventilation system. After I parked my car in the Queen City I was pushed to the ground by an angry nun, then kicked in the butt by a dwarf dressed up like Uncle Sam. “Why not?” I thought. It’s Tax Day.

At lunch a packet of mustard sprayed all over my favorite tie, and the people the next table over got into a loud and aggressive discussion about whether Al Franken was a more compelling historical figure than Ted Cruz. “Why not?” I thought. It’s Tax Day.

After my meeting was over it rained dead frogs on the way to the car, then a thick plague of locusts descended, turning the daylight to darkness. “Why not?” I thought. It’s Tax Day.

As I drove home, the classic rock station on the car radio played the song The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Gordon Lightfoot. “What the hell?” I thought. I know it’s Tax Day, but playing The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald is where I draw the line.

Baited Breath

Today as I was driving home I heard a snippet of a press conference given by a police chief somewhere in America. He was talking about an investigation he was conducting in coordination with the federal government, and reassured citizens that no stone would be left unturned thanks to their “duplicitous” efforts. Sounds like the kind of devastating admission that could be used to good effect by the lawyers who defend whoever gets arrested as a result of that joint investigation!

IMG_1674Of course, the police chief should have said “duplicative” — which is probably what he intended — but he botched it. No doubt he wanted to sound highly educated, but instead he gave people who were paying attention a hearty chuckle at a pretty good malapropism.

I received an even better malapropism recently via email. The emailer said he was waiting for something with “baited breath.” I laughed at that one, and thought of all the witty, fish-related responses that his error made possible. Should I say that when he finally got a response he shouldn’t fall for it hook, line and sinker? Add that I hoped he wouldn’t worm his way out of his responsibilities? Observe that if it didn’t work out there were other fish in the sea? Fret about the possibility that the project might hit a snag?

“Baited breath” — as opposed to bated breath — seemed like an especially succulent metaphor because it conjures up the idea of the speaker eating worms, minnows, and maybe even a little chum and tackle. Alas, it turns out that “baited breath” has become so commonplace that linguists think it might soon become the usual form of the phrase. Horrors! Has illiteracy reeled in and ruined another deft phrase that traces its lineage back to Shakespeare himself?

Books, Books, Authors, Food Trucks, Books

Get out your calendars, your book bags, and your wallets. The 2014 Ohioana Book Festival is less than a month away.

IMG_3700This year’s festival will be held on Saturday, May 10, 2014 at the Fort Hayes Metropolitan Education Center in downtown Columbus. The doors will open at 10 a.m. and close at 4:30, and in between the readers among us will be able to browse through a wide array of books, meet authors, listen to writers talk about their craft, and enjoy an interesting assortment of food trucks when their physical hunger overwhelms their intellectual curiosity. You can keep track of the authors, and the Festival schedule, here.

If you’re interested in volunteering at the Festival, you can information about available positions and activities here. Book festival volunteers will receive a cool Ohioana Book Festival t-shirt, as well as the undying gratitude of Ohioana staffers and Board members.