Em oi! Vacation comics, days 7-11

The last batch! All are filed under Drawing. Design. Illustration–Caricature. Pictorial humor and satire–Special subjects, A-Z–Vacations.

The monkey on my back is a monkey.

Guy: Is she your sister or your daughter?
Em: Sister-in-law.  She’s 16…exactly how old do you think I am?
Vacation, day 7: Getting Personal in Roatan. (NC1763.V3 L86 2012c)

"A short drink of water" was not my high school nickname.

Em: Why do I gotta walk my ass all over this goddamn boat and no one gives me any ice water *!?#@~~

Vacation, day 8: The cold worsens. (NC1763.V3 L86 2012d)

High Performance Athlete

Em: I keep wondering how one body can produce so much mucus.
B: Well, you’re a high-performance athlete.
Em: I’m pretty sure that’s not what that means.

Vacation, day 10: I will never be healthy again. (NC1763.V3 L86 2012e)

This is, I think, my favorite of all of these.

flying home

Vacation, day 11: Never get on a plane with a headcold. (NC1763.V3 L86 2012f)
Well, that was a trip. Getting these little comics ready took a lot longer than I thought it would.

Here’s the picture of me that Sam was taking in the day 7 comic:

Hey hey we're the--nevermind.

For more vacation comics, check Part 1 and Part 2.

On Paula Deen

That's "HA-yam," y'all.

One of the things that interests me about Paula Deen’s recent revelation that she has diabetes (and is now a spokeswoman for Novo Nordisk) is how personally people seem to be taking it. A number of people on my friends’ list on Facebook (I know, the source of all truth) seemed very upset and seemed to view her diagnosis as comeuppance for the way she lives her life/cooks. Anthony Bourdain, who can always be counted on to say something mean if he is allowed to speak, calls her cooking habits “in bad taste” in light of her diagnosis. A number of people have implied that by cooking dishes with high quantities of butter, sugar, and salt, she was somehow intentionally raising the diabetes rates in this country so that she and Novo Nordisk could cash in.

Well, perhaps that’s a bit drastic as a characterization, but I have to say I’m surprised for two reasons:

  1. Her cooking is, I think, getting slammed unfairly.
  2. These rants very much absolve her viewers/followers of personal responsibility. If someone got diabetes from cooking a la Paula Deen every day, “It’s not your fault, Paula Deen said it was okay.”

I have to admit I’m a bit of a cooking show junkie, so when I say this about point #1: Paula’s meals are quite fattening, but overall I don’t think the so-called “Queen of Butter” uses more butter than Julia “Butter is Better” Child ever did. In fact, while it’s true that Paula never met something she couldn’t deep fry, Julia certainly matches her with butter, heavy cream, and wine. The major difference between the two of them is in the sophistication of their cooking—Paula Deen gets paid to cook “traditionalesque” southern food, while Julia Child was doing French.

Put this way, the opposition to Paula Deen’s method of cooking smacks of snobbery. It’s okay to use cream and butter if you’re making quiche—Julia’s recipe calls for over two cups of cream, as it happens (a mere 1,642 calories—as Julia once said, “If you’re afraid of butter, use cream.”)—but if you’re making Twinkie Pie, go to hell (for the record, Twinkie Pie uses neither cream nor butter). Of course Julia Child practiced portion control (she talks about it in her book My Life in France, anyway; I don’t think I’ve seen her mention it on her show). Oh, but Paula Deen says she doesn’t suggest anyone should eat the way she cooks every day (or she’s said that in interviews, again I don’t think I’ve seen her mention it on her show). But certainly I think it’s difficult to tar one of them on this count without hitting the other.

As for the second point, well… There is the matter of personal responsibility, certainly, and freedom of thought. I rarely make a recipe without halving the sugar, replacing some butter or oil with margarine or yoghurt, and generally trying to lighten things up. (I make béchamal sauce with skim milk. Julia would be ashamed to be in the same room with me.) But my point is that no one is forcing anyone to make Deen’s recipes or to make them as written. If we are going to claim that cooking as she does is somehow irresponsible, then can we follow it by saying it is irresponsible for a restaurant to serve fried cheese curds (a Wisconsin favorite) to an obese person (there are plenty here)? Don’t people have a right to make their own choices on what they eat? In fact, isn’t this one of the earliest rights that people claim for themselves as children barely removed from infancy?

One thing that struck me as interesting about all these interviews Deen has done is that she mentioned that initially, she didn’t really understand what diabetes was or what it meant that she had it. Recall that we are talking about a woman who grew up in a small town in the South, a place that does not have an awesome educational system, and she did not go to college. I know about diabetes because my mother is an endocrinologist. It’s possible that Ms. Deen did not grow up with these privileges and actually didn’t know, or at least didn’t understand, that this could be the outcome of her lifestyle. From my understanding, it is not unusual for people to go through a period of adjustment and denial when diagnosed with diabetes. Plus, people should be allowed to keep their medical problems to themselves, even if they are public figures.

That said, signing on as spokesperson for Novo Nordisk is opportunistic. I have to admit I don’t like drug companies (because of patenting issues, primarily—I’m not a conspiracy theorist). But it may be the case that she genuinely thought she could help reach out to her audience—people who, like her, may not know much about diabetes—and educate them. And make a tidy sum in the process; she’s a shrewd businesswoman. But I don’t think anyone, least of all Deen herself, is suggesting that with diabetes you can do what you want, then take a pill that makes it all better. Novo Nordisk is suggesting that they approached Deen because they thought it could be cool “to change some of her famously tasty, and butter-rich, and really unhealthy recipes.”

I won’t imply that all cooking shows are created equal when it comes to matters of health, but look at some of the things on Food Network’s lineup:

  • Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives: The overweight Guy Fieri goes from place to place and is filmed stuffing his maw with giant piles of meat, cheese, and fried things.
  • Sugar High: Duff Goldman, much as I love him, is another chubby guy carting from place to place EATING, in this case, CAKE.
  • Hungry Girl: Lisa Lillien really rubs me the wrong way. Never has “healthy” eating seemed less appealing (probably because instead of cooking genuinely healthy food, she takes all kinds of shortcuts so people can still eat their greasy terrible meat by-products without the guilt).
  • 30 Minute Meals: Rachel Ray has a terrible smile, and smiling terribly is all she’s good at. But although her food doesn’t seem awful, she doesn’t exactly cook with the precision needed for really healthy cooking. Know what’s the difference between one tablespoon of “EVOO” and three? About 240 calories. That’s the difference between measuring things and approximating.
  • Pioneer Woman Cooks: Ok, I happen to like Ree Drummond, and I have cooked stuff off her website…usually cutting the sugar and butter by quite a lot. She lives on a cattle ranch and never met a stick of butter she didn’t love.
  • Robert Irvine: I only ever see him on Dinner: Impossible, and most of what he does is yell at people. I’m just pointing him out because he’s the only really ripped chef. In the world.
  • Sandra Lee: While Sandra’s Money-Saving Meals is usually fairly healthy, Semi-Homemade sacrifices that for convenience. And while she’s willing to cut calories in food, she spends them on alcohol. I’m convinced she’s not fat only because she doesn’t eat and lives on breath mints and water when she’s not being cryogenically frozen prior to her next taping.

And looking at non-Food Network cooking shows I’ve enjoyed:

  • Two Fat Ladies: Exactly what it sounds like. Two fat, elderly women drink and smoke their way across England on a motorcycle, cracking nasty jokes about vegetarians all the while. I love it.

So what’s my point? First of all, it’s not unusual for cooks to be both personally rotund and cook unhealthy food. Second of all, this industry is ALL ABOUT cashing in on people’s love for highly caloric, fried, cheesed, delicious food. Third, Paula isn’t alone in cashing in on the latest health scare: FN announced a new series called Fat Chef which premiers 26 January. I can only assume that this is a less abusive version of Biggest Loser.

Finally, to blame Paula Deen for advancing the cause of diabetes through her cooking is to miss the whole tragedy of the cooking show. While record numbers of people are overweight, and cookbooks sell well and cooking shows are super popular, most of these people don’t cook. As Michael Pollan puts it, the Average American spends 27 minutes per day on food preparation, and cooking from scratch is all but dead (officially, “cooking” means you have to assemble elements—heating up a pizza, for example, doesn’t count, though making a sandwich does). That makes me a statistical anomaly, since I cook from scratch (I make sauces! I bake things without mixes! I make non-instant rice and lentils!) at least 3-4 times per week. People are not getting fat off of Paula’s deep-fried ham (or haa-yam, y’all) because they are not cooking it. They’re watching her cook, then having dinner at McDonald’s.

So rage against Paula Deen all you want. Unfortunately, it’s not going to help anything.

New Year’s Resolutions

Or, “In Which I Start to Get My Race Schedule Together.”  These aren’t exactly resolutions, since I don’t really make those (does “stop getting injured” count?).  But I guess they’re things I’ve been thinking about since the beginning of January.  I’ve also been thinking about my diet, which isn’t going well.  Bah.

In order for me to explain why signing up for a bunch of races is a bit more troublesome this year than other years, let’s look at some results from races in my 2011 season:

  • Lupton Metrish Invitational (3 miles): 28:54
  • Mad City 50k: 4:57:57, 4th place women overall, 3rd place in my age group
  • Ice Age 50k: 5:58:14, 3rd place in my age group
  • Run to the Rhythm 5k: 22:36, 2nd place in my age group
  • Waunafest 10-mile: 1:23:42
  • Madison Mini Marathon (13.1 mi): 1:50:50
  • Safe Harbor 10k: 45:20, 2nd woman overall, 1st in my age group
  • Literacy Network 5k: DNS
  • Baltimore Marathon: DNS
  • Haunted Hustle Marathon: DNS

I’m pretty good at shorter distances, not awesome at middle distances, and good at ultra distances.  You might also spot a pattern toward the end of the season if you look closely.

Yes, I went down with an ankle injury at the end of September, 2011 and my mileage is only now getting back to where it was (in the 35-40 miles per week range).  So I have been understandably hesitant to fill up my schedule with races, worrying about every twinge, every bump, every step that suddenly could trigger more weeks of PT and swimming instead of running.  But then I got an email from the Badgerland Striders (the group that runs the Ice Age 50 mile/50k/half marathon race in mid-May) telling me that registration for those races has opened.  I am in no condition to do the 50k again (nor do I want to–I’m doing no races this season longer than a half marathon), but they do have a half marathon which a) is through beautiful countryside and b) is on challenging trails and c) fills up really quickly.

There isn’t really a good term for “leap of faith” for atheists, since atheists don’t particularly take things on faith.  And I suppose I do have some empirical evidence that I’m getting better (I run largely pain-free and have been logging about 40 mpw lately).  But regardless of whether it was a good idea, I signed up for the half marathon at the Ice Age 50.  This joins a few other events on my calendar:

  • Lupton Metrish Invitational.  Of course.
  • The 10-miler at the Syttende Mai the following weekend.  B has agreed to run with me!  I’m very excited.  We didn’t race together at all last year except the Lupton Metrish Invitational.
  • The 50-miler at the Centurion Wisconsin in August (yes, a bike race!  I’m excited.)  A friend who is a Serious Cyclist has been giving me advice, so while I don’t expect I’ll place or anything, I think I can put together a training plan and make a good showing of it.
  • Figure-8 the Lakes, also August, probably 50 mile distance (a group ride instead of a race; a relative of B’s suggested she would do it with me.)
  • A fall duathlon, probably the Dousman Duathlon.
  • Half marathon at the Baltimore Running Festival.  Okay, I was injured in Fall of 2010 and 2011, so this is really beginning to sound like a Dutch Book is being constructed against me (i.e., it’s a losing bet).  But I need to try this again.
  • Half marathon at the Haunted Hustle.  Ditto.

I’m kicking around a bunch of other races, but nothing is for sure:

  • Grandma’s.  Dan and Claire said they’d do the half if I did it, but it’s in Duluth.  Also I’d probably have had to have registered in November 2011 or something.  Actually, I looked it up–it’s a lottery and it hasn’t opened yet.
  • Dances with Dirt–nice location (Devil’s Lake, and there’s a half), but it’s in July.  Not good running weather.
  • Waunafest 10-miler–a fun race, but half of it is through an industrial park.
  • A triathlon.  I’m afraid at this point.  You’ll notice I didn’t list my tris above because they were kind of terrible failures (my duathlon was pretty good but not spectacular).
  • Other actual bike races or duathlons.  There are not a ton of duathlons that I can reasonably get to.  I don’t know.
  • Madison Mini Marathon.  Possibly the most over-hyped local race there is.
  • There are a lot of local 5k/10k races.  I’ll probably at least do the Berbee Derby and the Literacy Network runs, since they have good t-shirts and I do them every year (except when I’m injured).  But what else?

I’m open to suggestions, Internet.  I don’t like to travel more than an hour from Madison for a half (Baltimore is an exception, since I’d be going there anyway) and no more than 30 minutes for anything shorter than 10 miles.

To finish, here’s a great picture B took of me (with his iPhone, no less!) before the start of the Ice Age 50k last year.  You’d guess I’m always happy right before a race.  (After a race–different story entirely.)

Oh, about my repeated placing in ultra distance (i.e., longer than 26.2 mi) distances: it’s kind of a cheat.  There aren’t many women my age running those races, so I have a better than average chance of placing.  It seems lots of younger women are busy having kids and careers and things that prevent them from training for 60-70 miles per week.  Most ultrarunners seem to be middle aged, which makes sense–the kids are old enough to amuse themselves for a while on a Saturday morning.  So it’s not me, it’s everyone else.

Em oi! Vacation, day 4

Cezanne Rolls Over in his Grave

It is hard not to observe that the average American these days enjoys a good meal. Food is everywhere, cookbooks are bestsellers (despite the demise of cooking), and there are even two full cable networks devoted to cooking shows. Cruises, as the phenomenal Dave Barry has pointed out, exacerbate the problem, since there’s an actual rule that you cannot be on a cruise ship and not eating. Still, when I get stuck standing in line for a sandwich behind a man who is in his left hand holding the crust of a pizza he just finished consuming before lumbering up to the deli window to order something with extra cheese and extra mayo. And then, before leaving the window, to see the man just leave the pizza crust on the counter instead of turning around and putting it in the waste basket five feet behind him. Well, I start to feel a little snappish toward other human beings.

It’s true.

This particular cruise had all of the rooms named for Impressionist painters. I am damned if I know why. All of the Impressionists were male and white, of course; the only room named after a woman was the Cassatt Lounge and no one went in there. That was weird. The restaurant on the Lido deck (the buffet) was named The Cezanne. It had this painting hung several times on its walls:

Lady in Blue, 1899

That was weird because it was hung at irregular intervals, as though the decorator of the ship had assumed that either no one would notice that there were several iterations of the painting or perhaps was unable to get more than three different Cezanne paintings to cover the entirety of the large room, thus necessitating the repetition. Bryan and I, working on our various projects, sat at a table for an hour or so and contemplated the judgmental features of this particular lady.

This comic is filed under: NC1763.V3 L86 2012b, for Drawing. Design. Illustration–Caricature. Pictorial humor and satire–Special subjects, A-Z–Vacations.  For more comics from this trip, check out: Vacation, Day 1.

To finish things up, here is another photo. This one was taken in Mexico, but I guess it could have been about anywhere. It reminds me of an important principle in my photography, which is that photographs tend to turn out better if I get as close as possible to the subject. Also, they turn out better if I use autofocus, since my poor eyesight means that I sometimes manually focus the lens into fuzziness. Oops.

Some kind of flower

Em oi! Vacation–day 1

The TSA guy let me mail the knife back to myself. This is a service provided by the old ladies at the customer service and information desk at the airport in Milwaukee. They buy the envelopes, take enough to cover postage, and drop the packages off on their way home after work. I have nothing mean or sarcastic to say about the people at MKE. They were super nice and classy. Also there is a Recombobulation Area at the airport.

Do these neuroses make me feel fat?

UGH. So this happens sometimes with stretch denim I guess? I had a (really new) pair of jeans go when I was in Baltimore in October. I guess I’m going back on my diet for now.

Thanks, Delta.
The flight wouldn’t have been SO bad, except that at 21:00 (9pm) my 12-hour cough syrup wore off, so the last three hours of travel were all spent coughing my lungs out. Super lame. After we got to our hotel (about 1:00am) we called a nearby greasy spoon and got greasy, greasy food delivered to us. And we ate it while sitting on the carpet and watching the Discovery Channel. And then we slept for like ten hours, except for me because I woke up coughing at 8am and went for a run.

These are a couple of comics I drew on day one of our trip.  I’ll have some more as the week goes on–it turns out they take a fair amount of time to clean up, since I sketched them freehand in pen.  We’ll file them under NC1763.V3 L86 2012, for Drawing. Design. Illustration–Caricature. Pictorial humor and satire–Special subjects, A-Z–Vacations.

Here’s a photograph which I took with my new camera. I think it is one of the best I have taken of late.
Hey hey we're the monkeys...
It’s at least half not me though–it’s hard to get a bad photo of Sam (my sister-in-law).