Cured meat – the other carcinogen

Today I found a news story online (likely to be overlooked in light of the latest shooting spree coverage) about how a new study shows that cured meats (such as hot dogs) increase the risk of lung disease (such as emphysema), independent of other factors such as smoking.

Link (while it lasts) is here:

What is most amazing and absurd is this portion of the rebuttal by a meat industry representative: “This article in no way changes a basic fact — and that is that cured meats are among the safest meat products on the market,” said institute spokeswoman Janet Riley.

Ha! Maybe that’s true, but what does it say about the rest of the meat products on the market?

suffering is sacred

When I was in high school, I had strong feelings about the whole Dr. Jack Kavorkian media frenzy. I felt that it was a fundamental right to choose your own life and what happens to your body and was furious with those who argued that he should not assist the terminally ill to die quicker and less painful deaths. I didn’t understand why it was even worth arguing about. Now that I’m older and marginally wiser, I can see more of the gray areas in the situation. First of all, the hippocratic oath (which all MDs take) requires that doctors do no harm (and so, it is arguably an ethical violation for a medical doctor ever to assist with suicide), but more importantly, I now think all suffering is sacred.

It’s not that I completely disagree with my earlier viewpoint, I still think sentient beings should have the ability to decide what happens to their own selves, I just don’t think we should necessarily be encouraging or making it too easy for people to end their lives. Our lives are full of ups and downs and, unlike most people, I don’t discount the value of the downs. We may all disagree on the after-death experience, but the empiracal fact is that everyone dies and whether or not you go on afterwards, this makes life precious. All of life is precious. I won’t get into the details with you, dear anonymous internet reader, but I have suffered – more than many and less than some, but enough to know what it’s like. And those experiences of suffering, while painful, were not all bad. They are part of my lifetime and, like all experiences, helped shape who I am. I like to think that they helped me to grow as a person. But even beyond their retrospective merit, they are valuable in and of themselves because when you suffer, especially physical pain, you are really in touch with reality and very much alive. A lot more so than the people who exist mostly within the fantasies of our powerful entertainment complex (TV, movies, work, etc.) – we sometimes can forget that we are even alive, that we are physical beings with so many senses. Continue reading “suffering is sacred”

Don’t be mean – a philosophy

Off and on, I’ve been reading Kate Bornstein’s new book “Hello Cruel World: 101 Alternatives to Suicide for Teens, Freaks & Other Outlaws”, not because I’m the least bit suicidal but because I’m curious. Kate Bornstein is a pretty amazing person who has been through a gamut of strange and wonderful experiences and is truly a person I admire. Kate is a true “gender outlaw” (hir label), male-born and didn’t like being a boy/man and went through a sex change to find out being a woman wasn’t much more fun (so much effort either way) and then decided to just be hirself (a “neither/nor”) and eventually came to write and perform to educate and entertain about hir gender/sexual liberation. You can learn a little more about Kate here.

Also (no, this isn’t all accolades for Kate), I read a review of the book and it sounded interesting because Kate prescribes some very non-traditional alternatives that include taking a vow of silence for a day, throwing away some morals and some self-destructive things (with the idea that whatever gets you through is better than dying). Like many people, my adolescent years weren’t all fun and I battled with depression and occasional thoughts of suicide myself, so although I’m past it now, I can empathize. Kate hirself is a suicide-survivor, so s/he speaks from experience.

When I first got the book, I was a little surprised because there’s a lot of exposition in the beginning (an acknowledgements, forward, introduction, 3 general chapters, then a quickstart guide [another introduction] and then the 101 alternatives). I was expecting a fairly quick read, but it’s quite dense and I only end up reading a few pages at a time. Continue reading “Don’t be mean – a philosophy”

rebel without a shoe

OK, I admit it – I love shoes. I LOVE shoes. If I had my way, I’d have a walk-in closet with just shoes (floor-to-ceiling). I especially love women’s-style shoes, but also men’s-style shoes. There’s only one problem – I’m a poor little vegan and I don’t wear leather (or snakeskin or other dead/hurt-animal products).

It’s pretty obvious that women’s shoes come in a lot more styles, but even so, there are some pretty great men’s shoes as well, especially in the last decade and especially in a major metropolitan area – but try finding something decent in non-leather! Other than the odd pair of sneakers (ugh), all good-quality men’s shoes are at least partially suede/leather – this is in regular stores, I mean (will get to the online veggie shops later).

Then there are women’s shoes, which have a LOT more options, including many non-leather ones (though of course the majority do contain leather), but what is up with the sizing? I understand that women are generally smaller than men and have smaller feet, but are their feet really THAT much smaller? Take this tidbit: in the USA, a Men’s 10 & 1/2 (regular width) = Women’s 12 (wide width). Aside from the idiocy of using different numbers for the same size (which other countries don’t do), is it really true that a woman with the same LENGTH foot as a man has a NARROWER foot? Maybe it is true, but I am a little skeptical, especially considering how many women I’ve noticed wearing shoes way too small for their feet (my favorite is the “mule cliff-hanger” with the heel sticking 1/2 and inch or more off the back of the shoe – hey, lady! that’s not your size!).

OK, yeah, my feet are pretty big compared to most women (hey, I’m 6’2″ – leave me alone) and a little flat-footed (women’s regular width is not what we’d call flattering on me) and most women’s shoes only go up to size 10 and wide widths are not exactly commonplace. So I can look (even finding non-leather beauties), but not try on. I partially blame all the women stuffing into smaller sizes (if they’d just demand shoes that fit properly (wider/longer), my life would be a little easier (maybe the norm would go up to size 12W instead). [I won’t go into how uncomfortable most women’s shoes are here]

As for alternatives, I’ve been forced into the world of online shoe shopping. Unfortunately, anything really interesting and veg-friendly (non-leather) is usually overseas. That means high costs (shipping + exchange rate) and although the men’s shoes usually fit, when they don’t (such as a pair I got yesterday), it’s a major hassle. Shipping one way costs 16$ to the UK, so even an exchange with full credit will cost an extra $32. And many online places don’t have a good return policy – they want to charge a “restocking fee” which is a percentage of the price (instead of a flat cost as would make more sense). Also, shipping is usually based on price, not size/weight as are the actual shipping costs (which sometimes may work in your favor, but won’t for anything expensive).

Forget large-size women’s style shoes from any vegetarian vendor (they only go up to USA size W10 at best), there’s just not enough demand. The best you can do is usually cheap shoes that happen to be non-leather as a cost-saving measure (sometimes regular styles, sometimes more uncomfortable fetish-styles in environmentally toxic, non-breathable PU or PVC).

All I really want is a few pair of large-size, non-leather, high-quality breathable mary jane’s and maybe a pair of sleek short-heel knee-high boots – is that too much to ask?

My shoes