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Warning! This is going to be a whiny, self-indulgent, screaming-into-the-void type post, and it’s going to be about something really superficial: shopping.

Someday on this blog I plan to write more about my relationship with my body, and how my body and I became enemies, and how we’re trying hard to come to terms with each other and find a way to occupy the same space without killing each other, and what I’m doing to make that happen. But for now suffice it to say that I have forsworn dieting and restricting and food obsession and am trying to love and accept and be kind to my body, for a change. Aaaaand of course as a result I have gained some weight (but I was gaining weight anyway, but with a heaping helping of daily self-loathing, so this is certainly better) and ergo, my clothes don’t fit me any more. I currently have five work appropriate outfits that I try to mix up as much as I can, but since four of them are dresses, there’s not much mixing to do there.*

So I find myself in fairly dire need of professional clothes. The first obstacle between me and my Ultimate Professional Wardrobe was terror of trying things on and subsequently discovering what size I wear these days. I’m not a big weigher (outside of the Weight Watchers context) because I always seem to weigh heavier than I look (or feel – perhaps I truly am “big boned.” Or my bones are of normal size but are made of dark matter. I do remember asking my mom once if I was a fat toddler and she said that I was very “dense”) and I’m really not emotionally capable of seeing the hard numerical evidence of my corporeal growth, so the only quantitative measurement of exactly how much weight I’ve gained is my pants size. And oh my how I dreaded facing that quantitative measurement.

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I have such conflicting feelings about the Chicago Sun-Times. On the one hand, it’s a union paper, and that is good. It’s also supposed to be the more liberal of the two big Chicago papers, and being a progressive who likes to read the daily news, I feel like I should support the paper that has the best chance of being anywhere in the ballpark (hell, universe) of my politics. (In contrast, the Trib officially endorsed GWBush for both elections in which he ran, despite consistently publishing articles that were extremely critical of the administration, because it’s supposed to be the Republican paper and thus, is obligated to mindlessly support the Republican candidate, no matter how absurd and insincere that support may be.) The Sun Times is also published in convenient tabloid format, making it much easier to read on the train (although harder to divide between two people over breakfast).

But then on the other hand, the Sun-Times is a piece of shit paper. The writing is sensationalist, and the headlines aspire to make the NY Post look like the Financial Times. For example, on Monday when the Sun-Times led with the story of Bears linebacker Lance Briggs’ smashed-up and abandoned car, the headline read: Silence of the Lamborghini. Funny? Sort of, admittedly. But come on! This is a supposed legitimate daily, not the freaking Red Eye.*

What motivated me to write this post, however, were the second and third headlines that appeared in my Sun-Times feed reader today, leading me to believe that it’s not the Post that the Sun-Times seeks to emulate, but the dearly departed Weekly World News:

Baby born healthy with 12 fingers, 12 toes

Giant spider web engulfs Texas park trail

*Free commuter paper that deserves it’s own derisive post for it’s sexist articles and vapid reporting style.

I continue with my inexplicable busyness (although I think it’s less inexplicable now), but I wanted to say that I am deriving huge amounts of knowledge, information, and reading pleasure from two blogs that I’m fixin’ to add to my blog roll: Racialicious, a site that explores the link between race and pop culture, and another of author Carmen Van Kerckhove’s companion sites, Race in the Workplace. Really good stuff!

This article has everything!

1. Dehumanizing graphic of a headless fat (female, natch) torso.

2. Alarmist introductory statements about how WE ARE GETTING SO FAT!!!!!!!!!!!11

3. Characterization of obesity as deadly disease.

4. Placement of blame on fat people for not just rising health care costs but also for the US’s poor economic performance in foreign markets.

5. Common sense call for more sidewalks, more geographically and financially accessible grocery stores, less junk food in schools, safer neighborhoods, and individual food subsidies that actually provide sufficient support for the recipients to, you know, buy food. Oh wait – I totally agree with all of that.

6. Random, unsubstantiated diet tips (here, low carb good, low fat bad).

7. Kooky libertarian distrust of government intervention in any way, shape, or form.

8. And of course, the finger-wagging admonition to “Eat less, exercise more.”

I really think there is an “Obesity Epidemic Generator” on the web somewhere, because all these articles say the same thing.

Once again via Lifehacker (or so I thought, although now I can’t find the original link), obnoxiously male-oriented tech mag Wired offers advice on it’s wiki on how to “Make Friends at the Office Who Really Count.” The advice is characteristically entitled and self-important, basically boiling down to “Don’t be an asshole, but don’t get too friendly with the help, either.”

As someone who has worked as a receptionist, a secretary, an ad-hoc IT support person, and the “gal in the next cube,” I would like to offer some advice that does not assume that the value of non-team members or bosses is mainly as pawns in a pitiful little game of “My personal life is devoid of real meaning so I like to manufacture drama in the workplace to make myself feel important.”

Do: Be nice to people, regardless of who they are or what you perceive they can do to help you. Look people in the eye, smile, and use words like “please” and “thank you.” Don’t yell or snap at people. Don’t assume that the receptionist, secretary, mail room employee, maintenance person (or anybody else, for that matter) is stupid; that person might very well be not only smarter than you, but more well educated than you. And therefore, don’t talk to that person with a tone that assumes your intellectual superiority because you might end up looking like not just an asshole, but a very stupid asshole.* Ask people about their weekends. Notice when people are ill or have been absent. Ask people about their families (if they provide you with an opening to do so, obviously). Remember their names. And if, as the Wired piece warns, somebody gets chatty with you (because, of course, that receptionist has just been eagerly waiting for you to say hello to her so she can talk to you, that patronizing jackass in QA who never speaks to her unless he wants something, about the minutia of her day), then chat back! You might learn something, like how to treat your coworkers like equal human beings.

Don’t: Be a sanctimonious, condescending prick.

In potentially related business news, “Trust issues can creep up in the workplace.”

* Here’s a story: I once worked as a receptionist for an executive career counseling service (which led directly into my becoming an ardent labor activist for a living, but that’s another story) where a male coworker repeated insisted that Delaware is a New England state,§ even after I told him that, being originally from Delaware, I probably had a better idea of its geographical regional classification than he did.

§ It’s Mid-Atlantic.

How wonderful when doing something good for the environment coincides with doing something good for your sanity… Gina Trapani at Lifehacker links to this handy page with info on how to unsubscribe from all those stupid, wasteful catalogs.

As someone who lives in a tiny apartment, I can attest to the overwhelming clutter potential of just a couple days’ worth of unwanted catalogs. As someone who is inexplicably busy*, I can attest to the attention drain that these catalogs place on my free time, whether it’s time spent corralling and disposing of them or time wasted reading them while I put off doing something else.** And as someone who lives in a city with an abhorrently inadequate recycling program, I can attest to the importance of focusing on the reduction third of the reduce-reuse-recycle equation.

So sleep with one eye open, Lands End and Winter Silks because I’m coming for you. I’ll keep my Ikea catalog, though, since they only send one a year and it provides endless bathroom reading enjoyment for the whole family.

*I have a 9-5 M-F job and a once a week volunteer commitment and yet still feel like I’m always running three steps behind everything that I need or want to do. And yes, I’ve read Getting Things Done and even have my own geeky little GTD system in place.

**It’s time wasted because living in Chicago, I can almost always buy what I want at a brick and mortar store and avoid the packaging and pollution of mail order, not to mention the hassle of hauling whatever it is home on the train.

Doesn’t this violate HIPAA?

As careful as consumers may be about revealing personal information to product companies, few take the same care when it comes to volunteering private health information to third parties who aren’t their doctors or healthcare providers. Yet, online health risk assessments, offered by growing numbers of employers and insurance companies, ask for even more personal information about lifestyle habits, medical histories, and health. The information is compiled into electronic medical databases and used to identify people to be targeted for health tests, monitoring, education and health care management.

Many are promoted as online medical records to make it easier for consumers to put all of their records and health information in one place for ready access wherever they are. In return, besides free tote bags or discounts on their insurance, participants are given targeted health information to guide them to healthful behaviors. Growing concerns are being raised about these electronic databases, including how personal information is being shared, sold and used, especially as the marketing interests behind them are becoming better recognized.

HIPAA is not my area of expertise. Does it only apply to care providers and pharmacies? Why not on-line medical records repositories? That certainly seems in line with the purpose of the law.

Edit! I have access to a HIPAA expert, and here is what she had to say:

The only entities that are required by federal law to comply with HIPAA are health plans, health care clearinghouses and health care providers, if the provider transmits any health information in electronic form. That means that Google, Microsoft and these state networks cropping up all over the place to provide health information statewide, generally do not have to comply with any privacy laws.

. . .

At this point there are no safeguards on the system. There are no audits of access. . . . I would not use anything on the Internet to collect any personal information about me, especially my health information, and I would tell all my friends and families to forgo that opportunity as well. Those businesses are not required to provide any privacy protections for health information. Depending on the state in which you live, they may be required to protect your personal information like address, phone number, date of birth and social security number.

I think the answer is to assimilate all of my health information on my personal password protected jump drive that I can then carry with me, and have available as I need it. Of course there are problems with that as well. If I get hit by a car, and I’m the only person who knows the password, it’s useless.

So there you have it. Avoid these on-line repositories of healthcare info, get a jump drive, and tell your BFF your password in case you get hit by a car.

No doubt due to being a lifetime of horror/mystery/suspense/sci-fi, when I read things like this, my first thought is always, “What did he know that we don’t?”

I, along with my kitties, believe that every day is Caturday, but regardless…

Three cats in the window.

Three is the magic number. Sunny days, happy cats.

Cat in the sink

In the six years that I’ve known her, she’s never curled up in the sink like that before. Normally she just drinks out of the faucet. I guess an old cat can teach herself new tricks. That one-eyed Popeye face is courtesy of a cat cold she’s getting over.

Via Jezebel via Wired, comes news of a platform shoe designed for sex workers* that contains a gps device that can contact the police or a sex worker advocacy group in the event of trouble. The shoe is part of an art exhibit from The Aphrodite Project, and is described as “a social sculpture: an interactive, wearable device that is a conceptual homage to the cult of the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite, a practical object for contemporary sex workers, and a vehicle for public dialogue.”

I’m extremely skeptical of anybody who romanticizes modern prostitution, and frankly I would bet that in deeply misogynist ancient Greece it was no picnic for women either, no matter how hard we may wish it to be otherwise. Although the artist claims that these shoes are “designed to meet the needs of today’s sex workers,” I’m thinking that maybe if they put this technology in a nondescript sneaker (because I’d bet most johns bent on harming a prostituted woman are going to find a way to part her from her fancy high-tech shoes before they can do anything useful, and I’d bet a sneaker is a more common and practical footwear choice for women trapped in street prostitution. I notice that “comfort” was not a concern here, either) and handed it out for free (because most prostituted women don’t have their own disposable income to spend on their own safety needs), or better yet put their energy into creating a society in which it’s not okay to brutalize and murder women based on patriarchal assumptions of ownership and dominion of women’s bodies, their efforts might be a little more useful. And given the level of control that pimps exert over prostituted women, what’s to stop them from using this ridiculous shoe as yet another way to limit their movement and prevent them from escaping him?

Ah well. I don’t suppose I should be surprised that something created and designed by a prostitution apologist as an art project should be ultimately impractical for prostituted women.

*I intentionally use “sex workers” instead of “prostituted women” (which is my term of choice because 1) advocates for prostituted women, many of whom have escaped from prostitution themselves, prefer that term and I respect their experience; and 2) I believe it to be more accurate (you’re not a worker if somebody else gets your wages – you’re a slave)) here because the woman who embodies the conception of “sex worker,” whether realistic or representative or not, is the designer’s intended end-user for this item.

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