Dear Panera Bread Company.

I only really started looking into the ag world since moving to Louisiana and meeting up with a fellow Wellesley woman that runs a farm down here. It can be such a fascinating and beautiful industry. I’ve spoken to people in the industry about this, but I would be interested in hearing people’s thoughts.

The Adventures of Dairy Carrie... I think I Need a Drink!

Dear Panera Bread Company,

You’ve lost a customer. Now most people wouldn’t offer to help someone out that they don’t like but I am going to be the bigger person here and give you a heads up.

On Friday I stopped into one of your stores to grab a bite to eat after spending the morning at the Dane County Fair watching the hard working 4H and FFA kids showing their dairy cattle. My mother-in-law was along for the ride and since the line was long and she needed time to pick out her sandwich before getting to the counter I grabbed one of your handy menus from a stand. That’s where I found this…

Panera Bread Menu

“All natural” and “Antibiotic free” chicken. Well Ok…. What exactly does that mean? I mean allchicken must meet the standards that the USDA has in place for antibiotic withholding, regardless of production practices.

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When healthy eating becomes unhealthy obsession

When healthy eating becomes unhealthy obsession

This is an interesting article I read last night. Eating healthy and watching for unnecessary sugars, processing, and chemicals is all wonderful, and we should concentrate on nutrition as well as exercise and mental health to attack the obesity epidemic that plagues our nation and is increasingly becoming global, but near-disordered obsession with “health food” is becoming normal in many places.

Interlude 3: A Recommendation – Brandon Sanderson

As a slight diversion from politics and scandal, I don’t know if anyone that follows my blog reads the sci-fi/fantasy genre. I first read The Hobbit when I was six years old, and it was all downhill from that point. I currently have the habit of alternating fiction and nonfiction, as reading any one genre for too long tends to wear on me a bit. Also, my appetite for reading is a bit voracious – I once described it as “chugging” books – so I’m always looking for new authors.

However, I don’t know if you’ve noticed how few really quality female fantasy authors there are. In many cases, even if the authors were probably talented, I was just never able to relate to the characters the women wrote – they were all somehow too stereotypically “feminine” to me with far more introspection and emotional reaction to every situation than I ever experienced.

Male authors are often little better. There are authors such as J.R.R. Tolkien, who just avoided the issue almost completely, and only really told the story from the point of male protagonists with very few female characters. Even The Silmarillion focuses greatly on fathers and their sons, both of Elves and Men.

Then there are others that seem to have no subtle gradients between the haughty, cold, beautiful princess that is eventually swayed by the heroes good will, or the tomboy sidekick that makes sarcastic comments and keeps the male protagonist “in check.” Then you have the female antagonists, who are invariably of the dominatrix mode, and almost always wear red leather and carry some sort of magical whip-like weapon. If an evil person wants to threaten a female character, they simply threaten them with sexual abuse and even the most powerful Sorceress quake in her boots and give up the fight.

Also, so many authors turn to blatant preaching and politicizing in their books when they run out of plot points, but still have books remaining in the series. I don’t know if anyone ever read the Sword of Truth, but while I loved the series in the beginning, it turned into a series largely about sexual warfare and preaching Ayn Randian philosophy. And I love Ayn Rand, but it was just…too much. And it isn’t what I want when I’m reading my escapist fantasy novels.

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Scandal and the Twenty-Four Hour News Cycle

Does this affect his ability to administer?

This is the first question I ask whenever a scandal erupts around a particular public servant. Of course, the nuances are more complicated than that, but honestly, that’s all that goes into my assessment of the person as regards keeping office. Time and again we discover personal indiscretions and “bad behavior” from past leaders that are still considered great, and still achieved phenomenal things for our nation and our world. So where is the line?

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Meanwhile, In England…

The news is bleak and disheartening enough every day. Yes, there are larger issues; yes, there are things we need to accomplish; yes, there is tragedy happening right now somewhere. But we see all of that twenty three hours of the day every day now. I hold no absolutely ill-will for people taking thirty minutes, an hour today to be frivolous and rejoice at the birth of a healthy baby boy into an oft-romanticized royal family.

I remember when I was a little girl, when I would talk to my father about marriage, he would always joke that Princes William or Harry (it always alternated) were holding out for when I got old enough so that I could marry them and be a princess. There’s much talk now about “Don’t call your daughter a princess,” but it did me no harm. It was fun and romantic, and I still grew up to go to Wellesley College and to become an empowered woman.

That said, I wouldn’t trade places with the “Royal Baby” in the least. He is in direct line to the throne: even as a figurehead, he’s born into a world of constant media scrutiny. Celebrities choose their professions, understand the stress that comes with it. This baby had no choice in the matter – he was born into his profession, and now it’s up to him to decide how he wants to handle it. That said, it appears he will have grounded parents to provide guidance for him along the way, so hopefully he will gracefully grow and adapt within his station.

That said, congratulations, Kate and Will!

Missing The Forest For The Trees

This past July 4 weekend, the city of Chicago saw a staggering seventy-two shootings. However, very few people were talking about this violence. The nation continued to focus on George Zimmerman’s trial, Ariel Castro’s abductions, and Aaron Hernandez’s possible murder charges.

Now part of this is the troubling national attitude that “Well, that’s just Chicago,” which shows a dismissive, apathetic attitude that is a problem in and of itself. However, George Zimmerman, Ariel Castro, and Aaron Hernandez: these are all names, they all have faces, and people have all read their background. You can focus on a linear (if not transparent) story line and attribute a single cause-and-effect outcome to them. The concept of “seventy-two shootings” just becomes a statistic, not a collection of stories about people with lives just as complicated, just as real as the faces we see on the television. For many, the number just loses its meaning and becomes a less tangible problem than the straightforward, “ Single Person A harmed Single/Multiple Person(s) B, and we have to figure out how to react and respond.”

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The Lesson of George Zimmerman’s “Not Guilty” Verdict

The Lesson of George Zimmerman’s “Not Guilty” Verdict

I feel as though this Time article hits the nail on the head about a lot of issues recalled during the trial. Race is something that is still very uncomfortable for white people to talk about – almost as though if we open our mouths and acknowledge that racism still exists, we will be implicating ourselves as an irredeemable racist. There is also this sense of guilt for many white people that, because they come from a place of privilege, they aren’t allowed to take part in discussions of racism. Open discussion of race and racism has become taboo, and admission of a system that perpetuates inequality is somehow dirty.

I went to school during a time when our education system had this weird approach to race where you “weren’t allowed to notice” it. If you were asked to describe someone, you uncomfortably went through height, eye color, hair color, and then lowered your voice and quickly rushed through mentioning skin color if you included it at all. Bringing conversation about racism and race relations to a full halt was never going to solve the problems, though. If you treat acknowledging a person’s skin color as sinful, aren’t you also in a way emphasizing that there is something wrong with that race?

People rally behind trials like George Zimmerman’s, and expect the jury’s verdict to have some sort of healing and problem-eradicating effect. As though if they found George Zimmerman guilty, people would be able to say, “Aha! See? Racism is dead!” But that’s not how trials work. And that’s not how issues of deeper-rooted prejudice are solved. Those six women on the jury were never going to solve the persisting racial problems in the United States. That takes all of us becoming less passive, actually opening our own mouths and engaging in the discussion, no matter how uncomfortable it is. I would argue that the discussions that took place from the time the incident happened through the conclusion of the trial just underscored the fact that, no matter what the jury decided, race would continue to be a very big problem.

Not admitting to a flaw does not make it go away, and that admission does not make you a weaker person. Rather it is vital to acknowledge that the problem exists, and to actively work on it. You cannot expect to leave the problem alone until someone else decides to solve it.

We can’t just sit silently waiting for the morning when we wake up to a newspaper headline that announces a magical cure to race problems. We all have to come to the table willing to discuss it openly. And it will be messy, it will be uncomfortable; people will fight, people will lose friends over the discussion. People will probably discover painful truths about their own perceptions and opinions. But it’s the only way to press forward.  We’ve been idling in Neutral for far too long.

The M-Word

Who taught you about personal finances? Did your parents develop a set of fiscal habits when you were growing up and receiving an allowance? Did your teachers in school educate the class in financial responsibility? Did you take some sort of personal economics course?

In speaking to friends and other fairly recent graduates, I’ve come to realize that one of the major financial challenges to our generation is just figuring out how to budget and how to handle money. Many of them received an allowance from their parents, but never developed any system for saving and spending that money. Our teachers certainly never taught us how to budget – they taught us plenty about philosophy and the history of architecture and more obtuse mathematics like calculus, but budgeting was not part of our math class.

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Interlude 2

What is your escape plan?

Recently, this discussion came up, and I would be curious to hear what others say. If you were just fed up with life, burned out, needed to leave everything behind, where would you go, and what would you do? Preferably something actually remotely feasible, but I am interested in all answers.

I don’t think it’s a bad idea, really. It isn’t pessimistic to have a backup plan, and could provide some form of comfort that the option is always there.

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It’s Your Party: You Can Cry If You Want To

Last election cycle, a politician stated, “The U.S. can hardly handle two parties now – why would anyone think adding more would be a good idea?” I believe the person that said it was a Democrat, and that it was possibly Hillary Clinton, but the Internet has not been my friend in helping me source it to confirm the source. So my apologies to Ms. Clinton if I put words in her mouth incorrectly.

Ignoring the fact that, if it was Hillary that stated that she was against “Third Party” bids becoming more common practice, it would actually likely work to her advantage: it would probably be a more Libertarian Conservative Party and would split the Republican Party, the reasoning behind the statement lacks substance.  One of the major arguments used against the normalization of a multi-party system was that if there is such a stalemate in Congress now, surely adding more options would clog up the system.

I don’t think this is accurate, though. One of the major positive aspects of having a two-party system to begin was the ability of one party to balance the other so that no policies got too dogmatic in any direction. At the same time, it was also during a period when everyone was a little more moderate, or at least didn’t encourage quite the same feeling of fearful animosity in their supporters. Then the policymakers for both parties began to not only grow more divided, but also more extreme in their legislation. The clogging in Congress isn’t a result of too many points of view represented in my view, but too few. And that point of view is a strictly negative “Not what he says” rather than, “I agree with him.”

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