Archive for March, 2010

Junk Food Production: You Put the Crack in the Coconut, Shake It All Up

Posted in commentary with tags , , , on March 30, 2010 by Editors

It will surprise no one that a new study reveals junk food is as addictive to laboratory rats as heroin or coke. What is interesting, however, is the analogy that the manufacture of junk food is similar to the refinement of cocaine into crack.

“We make our food very similar to cocaine now,” [the chair of the medical department at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, Dr. Gene-Jack Wang, M.D.] says.

Coca leaves have been used since ancient times, he points out, but people learned to purify or alter cocaine to deliver it more efficiently to their brains (by injecting or smoking it, for instance). This made the drug more addictive.

According to Wang, food has evolved in a similar way. “We purify our food,” he says. “Our ancestors ate whole grains, but we’re eating white bread. American Indians ate corn; we eat corn syrup.”


My Name Is Bill by Susan Cheever

Posted in books with tags , , , , , , on March 25, 2010 by Editors

As the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, there are many accounts of Bill Wilson’s life. I’ve avoided them because they seem like the worst kind nonfiction—heavily biased narratives geared to make you think well of the person in question. Why waste your time?

But Susan Cheever’s biography of Bill Wilson isn’t that kind. She clearly thinks highly of the man, yet she doesn’t let that stop her from exploring his life. A hopeless alcoholic by the time he had reached middle age, Wilson married out of his class and never amounted to much in the corporate or professional worlds. His claim to fame is overcoming his alcoholism and laying the ground work for the entire 12-Step movement, a network of fellowships that offer relief for all sorts of dependency problems.

Cheever is the daughter of John Cheever and a respected author in her own right. She deftly brings to life early twentieth century Vermont and New York City. Understanding the mores helps you grasp the enormity of the task Wilson grappled with co-founding AA. He comes across as passionate and dedicated, but also deeply troubled and not just during his adventures with drinking. Cheever postulates about various marital infidelities during his fifty some year marriage, offering what little evidence she can find. More striking, Wilson apparently repeatedly asked for a whiskey on his death bed, during his last few days of life. Wilson was denied, but you won’t be: This biography is no testimonial.

Augusten Burroughs’ Dry: In Pictures

Posted in writers with tags , , , , , on March 23, 2010 by Editors

Dry is Augusten Burroughs’ recovery memoir, but it reads more like a love story. I really enjoyed it. If you haven’t read it, you really should.

If you have read it, you’ll enjoy this: a set of pictures from Augusten’s flickr page that covers the Dry period in Burroughs’ life. I found it oddly spooky to see pictures of Augusten and Pighead, knowing so much about them, but not really knowing them at all.

Here is what Burroughs has to say about the pictures:

These represent a tiny fraction of the photographs I took during my twenties and early thirties in Manhattan and LA. Mostly, I documented the streets near my apartment(s) and my life with Pighead (George).

When Software Development and 12-Step Humor Collide

Posted in humor with tags , , on March 23, 2010 by Editors

Found this in an email at work:

  1. We admitted that we had lost control of our bugs, that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our bugs and our lives over to the care of Triage.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral triage of our bugs.
  5. Admitted to management, ourselves, and our team the exact nature of our bugs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have Dev remove all these defects of code.
  7. Humbly asked Dev to remove our bugs.
  8. Made a list of all customers we had harmed and became willing to test fixes for them all.
  9. Approved investments for such people wherever possible except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to triage and when we were broken promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through meetings and documentation to improve our conscious contact with Triage, praying only for the knowledge of the Bug Bar and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other teams and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Take, Eat by Lee Martin

Posted in favorites with tags , , , , , , on March 21, 2010 by Holly Huckeba

I really liked Lee Martin’s story about food and family. Food allergy is a useful analogy for the effects of addiction: Even when it poisons our body, we crave that to which we are addicted. It is not uncommon to feel love, yearning and loss–sometimes decades later–for things we lose to sobriety. Family as well as food. 

I pulled the car into a parking spot in front of Hovey’s. “We’re just killing time, right?” I said to Deb, and she agreed to go inside.

That wasn’t the whole truth, that part about killing time. I wasn’t aware of it then, but I am now. Somewhere inside me that evening was the ridiculous belief that I could walk into Hovey’s, order anything I wanted from the menu and make myself at home, order a Big Murt and fries and a chocolate shake, and shoot the breeze with the waitress about the holiday basketball tournament at the high school, the Christmas lights at the park, the dark days of winter we’d face together, by golly, in this small, wink-you’ll-miss-it town.

Read the whole story at Sweet

Your Facebook And Twitter Fix

Posted in humor with tags , , , , on March 19, 2010 by Editors

A poll on some blog says that social media may be addictive. As if we needed a totally unscientific study to determine this. However, I bring you this depressing tidbit: of the 1000 people polled, 11% of those under age 25 said they wouldn’t mind interrupting sex for an instant message. Meanwhile, only 6% of those over 25 said they wouldn’t mind. 

How demoralizing would it be to read these sort of coitus interruptus tweets?

The Upside of Stigma

Posted in commentary with tags , , on March 18, 2010 by Editors

Lest you believe that nothing good can come from the stigma of addiction, a new study shows that the United States is making ground in the war on cancer. The reasons? Mostly related to how unpopular smoking has become.

The biggest factor in the change, according to [staff at the American Cancer Society], is prevention: people are smoking less, and we should see continued improvements in this regard due to the decreased rates of smoking in adolescents.

Aftermath by Elane Johnson

Posted in favorites with tags , , , on March 17, 2010 by Editors

Elane Johnson weaves a tight narrative about a horrific accident, but it is her skillful use of a lowly preposition—the word “after”—that powers the story arc and illuminates the story’s unexpected central crisis.

After the skies broke open with a stunning crack about two o’clock in the morning, brilliant flashes of blue flooding the Winnebago like strobe lights; after the rain cut rivulets through the sand, long scratches of some malevolent creature obviously displeased with the earth…

Read more at Brevity.

Swerve by Brenda Miller

Posted in favorites with tags , , , , on March 14, 2010 by Editors

Not every addiction involves chemicals. In “Swerve,” Brenda Miller offers a lovely example of a relationship that’s not quite right in tight, tense, beautiful prose.

A  pound of marijuana in the trunk and a faulty brake light—any minute the cops might have pulled us over, so you were edgy already, and then I ran over that piece of stray lumber without even slowing down. Thunk, thunk, and then the wood spun behind us on the road. Your dark face dimmed even darker, and you didn’t yell at first, only turned to look out the window, and I made the second mistake: What’s wrong?

Read more at Brevity.

Anti-Drinking Campaign Leads to More Drinking

Posted in commentary with tags , , , , , on March 10, 2010 by Editors

So says this Advertising Age study.

It has long been assumed, of course, that guilt and shame were ideal ways of warning of the dangers associated with binge drinking and other harmful behaviors, because they are helpful in spotlighting the associated personal consequences. But this study found the opposite to be true: Viewers already feeling some level of guilt or shame instinctively resist messages that rely on those emotions, and in some cases are more likely to participate in the behavior they’re being warned about.

Why does this surprise anyone? Has anyone ever been shamed into anything productive? One of the reasons we launched Junk is to address just this sort of attitude.

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