Saturday, September 25, 2010

Yet Another Study Raises Concerns for BPA

Just this past week a study was published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives raising new concerns (and supporting past concerns) about the negative effects of BPA on human health.

One of the major research findings was that humans are exposed to higher levels of BPA than previously predicted.

In an effort to protect our health, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency determines reference doses for chemicals. A reference dose is the maximum daily exposure level, which is expected to not cause any significant risk for human health.

For BPA, the EPA determined a reference dose of 50 µg/kg/day. However, the study published by Taylor et al demonstrated that in order to achieve the levels of biologically active BPA that have been detected in human serum, the rhesus monkeys had to be given a dose that was 8 times the EPAs reference dose.

The results bolster scientists’ concerns that we truly do not know all of the sources of BPA exposure. Aside from plastic bottles and canned goods, there are new routes of exposure that continue to be identified such as thermal (carbonless) receipts.

The study also directly compared BPA studies using mice and rhesus monkeys, and demonstrated that, in fact, rodent studies are a valid model for human effects. To date, the biggest argument used to discredit the massive amount of data showing BPA can have negative effects on human health, had been that rodents were not a good model.

With all this new evidence, I wonder how long until a real regulation gets put into place to protect consumer health. I’m also excited to see what the counter argument will be. Stay tuned!

[Image credit: brian.gratwicke]

Friday, September 17, 2010

Recipe Fridays: Eggplant with ginger and tomatoes

One major cuisine I've failed to incorporate into my cooking repertoire is Indian food.  It just seems like there's such a high startup cost!  In order to make anything tasty, you need a billion spices, and it still turns out much worse than the carryout you could have gotten in 1/10th of the time. (To be honest, Chinese food probably seems the same way to many people, but since I grew up with it, I find it more manageable.  I think ethnic cuisines have a high fixed cost - low variable cost structure.  Someone should write a paper on this.)  However, there's one dish I make that's vaguely Indian inspired that also happens to be super easy, and turn out delicious every time.  So if you, like me, have an irrational phobia of Indian cooking, try whipping this recipe up for all (ok, most) of the satisfaction with none of the hassle.

Eggplant with ginger and tomatoes
  • 2 large eggplants
  • 2 large or 4 small tomatoes
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger
  • Vegetable oil
  • Salt, pepper, and chile flakes to taste
Heat 4 tablespoons of oil in a large pot.  Chop the onion finely, and add to the oil.  Without skinning, cut the eggplant into 2-inch chunks.  When the onion is translucent, add the eggplant and saute until the eggplant is brown in places.  Chop the ginger very finely, and add to pot, sauteing for 2 minutes longer.  Turn heat down to medium-low, roughly chop the tomatoes, add to pan, and cover.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for at least 30 minutes, or until each piece of eggplant is soft.  You may wish to add more oil, or a couple tablespoons of water if mixture begins to stick.  The eggplant tastes best with lots of oil and when left to cook for 45 minutes to an hour, but that depends on your time and nutritional constraints!  Add salt, fresh pepper, and chile to taste.  Enjoy with rice, or, when cooked for a long time, spread on crusty bread.

Monday, September 13, 2010

How to pick up chicks: A reasonably informed response to pick-up artist guides

It is really hard to meet men I want to date. I hear that men also have trouble meeting women. (I smell an arbitrage opportunity here!) Hence, the abundance of guides on "picking up women" all over the internet. Some of these guides have really disrespectful attitude towards women, which makes me wonder about their true intent and efficacy. So, here are some of my tips for sparking a woman's interest - all should also work with men!

  1. Ask - and remember - her name. This is really simple, but is an easy way to show respect and interest. If names give you trouble, try repeating it right after she tells you (i.e., "It's nice to meet you, Rachel"), and repeat it a couple of times in your head.
  2. Actively listen to what she's saying and ask appropriate questions. People love talking about themselves, and feel extra special when someone is really engaging with what they're saying. Don't use her conversation as a way to change the subject to yourself. When I recently told a guy in a bar that I liked books, he used this as a way to start talking for 15 minutes about his own collection, which was not particularly endearing. A smoother dude would have asked me more about what I liked to read, or maybe the most recent book I had purchased.
  3. Make eye contact, but not too much. The main thing here is not to stare at the woman's rack while you're talking - it really bothers most of the women I know. However, don't lock eyes too intensely either. If she's backing away, fidgeting a lot, or keeps looking away, you are probably being a little too strong. Eye contact, look away, eye contact, glance away, etc.
  4. Don't swear profusely, say bigoted things, or indulge in excessive vulgarity. Dropping F-bombs is not going to impress anyone, and being sexist, racist, or homophobic will not score you any points. This is your first conversation with this person, so put your best foot forward.
  5. No negging. Negging is a common pickup artist tip where you catch a woman's interest by insulting her. Don't do this - it's stupid, rude, and makes you look like an inconsiderate jerk. Compliments are totally the way to go. You already know this to be true, so just trust your instincts. Anecdotes of successful negging are just that - rare stories. If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all.
  6. Make her feel great. This is your antidote to negging - instead, give her a nice compliment, laugh at her jokes, take interest in her conversation, use her name, buy her a drink. This is a classic sales strategy and common sense: everybody loves a charmer.
  7. Accept no as an answer. Don't be too persistent, and allow her an easy escape from the conversation. If she's not interested in you, it behooves you to be as polite as possible and not make her uncomfortable. Not only is this the right thing to do (harassment is bad!), she might also have friends with her who might be more receptive to your advances. If this sounds like bad advice, read this harsh piece about too-persistent men. Don't be that guy!
  8. Follow up with a call. If the stars align and you get her number:
    1. Call when you promised or within three days.
    2. Call once, leave a voicemail. This is really important - calling half a dozen times is inappropriate. Just leave a voicemail with your name, a reference to where you met so she can remember the context, and your number.
    3. If she doesn't return your call, try again, but only once. (See #6 for rationale.)
  9. Ask her out on a date. In a world of online dating and a hookup culture, it seems that people are increasingly afraid of the face-to-face rejection inherent in dating. Rejection is a normal part of the dating process, and picking yourself up and moving on is a big part of improving your game.While and hookups can be great, a dinner date is a really good way to get to know someone through a relatively sober and private conversation. It sounds intimidating but there's nothing to be scared of - and it gets much easier with practice!
These might seem really simple, but I've seen so many men (and women!) blow their chances by messing up on common courtesy. Any more basic tips out there for meeting people?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Femonomics crowd-sourcing: Helping a friend in an abusive relationship

Scenario: You have a friend.  Maybe you've just met.  Maybe you've known her for a long time.  Either way, she trusts you, and you care about her.  One night--maybe it's the alcohol, maybe it's that she's tired of waiting for his calls--she opens up to you.  She tells you a story so heartbreaking, that your tears flow just as freely as hers.  Her boyfriend hits her.  He's put her in the hospital.  He's left her by the side of the road with no money for a bus home.  He dictates who she talks to and when.  She's been cut off from her friends.  It's making her sick.  Maybe you know the guy--maybe he even seems like a perfect gentleman--or maybe you don't, but you've never even seen a hint of what she's telling you before tonight.  Looking into her tear-stained face, you know why she's telling you.  She's worried if she doesn't get away now, he will kill her.  And you know it too.  So together, you make a plan.  You engineer her escape.  You tell her it's going to be hard, it's going to hurt, that she'll want to go back.  She says she knows all this.  She's ready.  You turn off her phone, together you pack a bag, maybe you take her to a friend's house, maybe she stays with you, maybe you find a hotel.  I'm helping her, you think.  I can save this girl.  She looks at you, grateful.  Together, you feel strong.

And then, suddenly, just like flipping a switch, she changes her mind.  Maybe it's the next day, maybe it's only an hour later.  Maybe she's talked to him, heard his apologies.  She wants to go back.  She needs him.  She tells you nothing she told you is true.  He doesn't hit her, she says.  They just fight sometimes.  He's flawed, but she loves him.  She wants her phone, she wants to go.  Don't block her way.  You look her in the eye.  Tell me he's never hit you, you say.  He's never hit me.  Tell me he's never left you by the side of the road.  Never.  Put you in the hospital?  Never.  Told you who you can talk to?  Never.  I just wanted attention, she says.  Thanks for your concern.  Now let me leave.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Life Skills: Packing Light and Smart

Another great post from guest VikingKitten - a veteran traveler with some tips on keeping your suitcases light!

We travel a lot, so we know what you’re thinking:  You don’t want to be THAT person—the notorious over-packer who takes 5 suitcases on a week-long trip, but you also don’t want to leave anything important behind.  Here’s our top 10 tips for packing light while still covering all the bases:

1.   Make the room to bring a camera:
You’ll regret it if you don’t.
2.       Check the weather before you leave:
This point cannot be emphasized enough, but always remember that weather can be unpredictable.  Make sure to take advantage of layers, and consider bringing a jacket, umbrella, and hat.
3.       Choose clothes in travel-friendly fabrics:
Knit, cotton, and denim travel better than linen or silk, particularly if ironing won’t be an option.  Opt for easy-case fabrics that will retain their shape without the fuss.
4.       Bring versatile shoes:
The average female traveler packs 5 pairs of shoes—what a waste!  Bring a couple pairs of versatile, comfortable shoes in neutral colors, and at least one pair that can handle water/rain.
5.       Make your own travel-size toiletries:
Don’t waste space packing your huge shampoo bottles, and avoid wasting money buying travel-sized bottles of all of your favorite toiletries.  Instead, fill up reusable travel-sized bottles, like these with your existing shampoo, lotion, conditioners, and other toiletries to save both space and money.
6.       Use plastic bags to avoid potential spills:
Speaking of toiletries, make sure to put any bottles containing liquids that may leak into plastic bags to avoid a disaster.
7.       Try space-saving bags:
Affordable bags such as these get great reviews from frequent travelers who want to save space.
8.       Stick with color schemes:
Color schemes make outfits easier to coordinate.  Neutral colors are better because they are easier to mix and match and can handle many climates.
For women in particular—it’s always wise to pack a dress in a neutral color, which can be dressed down during the day with sandals and dressed up at night with heels, jewelry, and a cardigan.
9.       Remember your chargers:
For your phone, camera, laptop, etc.
10.   Pack a scarf:
Scarves are an underrated travel accessory: versatile and worth the space.  They are good for cold weather (for warmth) or for warmer weather (to dress up an otherwise bland outfit). 

And finally, some inspiration:

Any more tips readers? What are your tricks for keeping everything in the carry-on?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Femonomics reads the internet so you don't have to: Eminem's Love the Way You Lie

You may have heard that Eminem and Rihanna have come out with a new music video of "Love the Way You Lie." This has generated a lot of buzz, and in some cases controversy, for it's depiction of domestic violence. The video portrays a complex relationship where the abusers aren't completely unsympathetic and the victims are not faultless human beings - in other words it's a lot like real life! Some people are arguing that the video makes violence look sexy, which would be a not-so-great message. Others note that the message seems to be that violence is not a choice, but more like a natural disaster, over which no one (not even the abuser) has any control. This discussion is complicated by the fact that both singers have lived through abusive relationships, Rihanna having been violently assaulted by her then-boyfriend last year and Eminem having been both a perpetrator and receiver of abuse in past relationships. Also, the whole dialog is taking place on the internet, so decency and politeness is at a minimum.

Here's the video. It is not similarly offensive to Eminem's other work, but there is somewhat graphic violence and swearing.

I have to admit, I like the duet, the rhythm, and (so help me) the obvious rhymes. My primary takeaway is that this is not being portrayed as a desirable relationship, but rather as a cautionary tale. And not to equate Eminem with the great playwright in terms of art, but couldn't the same charge of romanticizing violence and death be leveled at Romeo & Juliet? I can see however, where people are misinterpreting this as glorifying (and sexifying) domestic violence. The actors playing the couple are Dominic Monaghan and Megan Fox, both of whom are really, extraordinarily gorgeous. These two would look smoking hot at a pie-eating contest - even though pie eating contests are completely gross! Monaghan gave an interview where he explained the intention in creating the video was to both give a believable portrayal of violent relationships, and to send a strong anti-violence message.