Why Eat?

So, like most of America that isn’t in denial, I’ve been trying to lose weight recently.  Why?  Because honestly, life is too short to spend most of it unable to touch your toes.  I can touch my toes right now, but it’s only a matter of time.

Like anyone will tell you, it’s difficult.  Over the summer I lost 30 pounds.  There my progress stopped, and I’ve been fluctuating ever since.  I have a couple theories about why I’m having trouble, and one of them is simply because there are too many reasons to eat.

1.  We eat when we’re hungry.

Well, DUHHHH.  When you’re hungry, you eat.  However, I think there’s a hunger inflation at play here.  It doesn’t make sense that I can eat one grilled cheese sandwich or a full buffet dinner and still feel hungry three hours later.  That’s like putting a hundred-dollar bill into a vending machine and getting the same lukewarm Dasani as the dude putting in 35 cents!  What you eat supposedly matters – so why is my body pretending that it’s all the same?  How can I trust anything if I can’t even trust my own body?

How am I supposed to even believe that I’ve ever been hungry?  I’ve never known hardship; I don’t think I’ve ever notably skipped a meal due to happenstance.  Weird qualifier, but I think it’s an important one; I’ve never been a victim of circumstance.  Meanwhile, my father came to the US with nothing but the clothes on his back and built a life up from scratch – and my body dares to tell me it’s hungry because I didn’t have egg with my rice and spam?  Thas some codswallop, coz!  I call malarkey!  It can’t be true!  Yet my stomach roars and demands to be fed – and I’m trying to retrain it like a naughty dog without developing an eating disorder.

The key here, I think, is recalibration.  I just need to ask myself: which triggers in my body indicate actual hunger, and which ones are false alarms?

2. We eat when we’re bored.

Need time to pass?  Prepping something to eat is one of the easiest ways to do it.  Munching away lets us look at the clock afterward with satisfaction.  Gathering ingredients, putting them together, and finally enjoying the fruits of your labor has helped many impatient children – and later, adults – deal with the trial of waiting.  

Human beings hate to wait.  My father hates to wait, my brother hates to wait – and I definitely hate to wait.  Asking a kid with ADHD to wait instantly places them into a time paradox in which 45 thoughts are had, processed, and possibly even voiced in the span of a few seconds.  Being told to wait has made me a victim of some cruel master of Time and Space chuckling away as he watched me figure out nine ways to make annoying clicking noises at my siblings while my parents tried to pump gas.  So of course, you give a kid a snack, he’s placated.  As an adult with nothing to do, it’s too easy to look for something “to munch on.”

People can’t handle monotony.  In fact, studies show that when you eat out of boredom, it’s not for the pleasure of the food.  When scientists put people in a room and had them watch the same 85-second clip of indoor tennis to watch, they gave these people some M&Ms to munch on.  The second time, they gave them the ability to self-administer electrical shocks.  They were both popular among our bored people.

That’s right. Apparently, my generation can’t even handle boredom without being self-destructive.  Not that human beings in general are known for handling boredom well.  Part of the argument for education for everyone is to keep kids “off the streets,” a euphemism for “not let them be bored because boredom and freedom lead to drugs, alcohol, and/or petty crime.”  True, education is a pretty good answer to that because it teaches brain activity in the face of boredom – quite literally – but I want to follow that ideal to the letter if I can… in other words, challenge my brain instead of filling my stomach.

3. We eat to socialize.

Eating is literally a social event – and a social lubricant.

“Hey, let’s have lunch!”  – That Guy We All Know

I just had lunch with a friend.  We ate pizza, and it was good, but my point is, why do we – including me – feel it’s necessary to eat in order to socialize?  This friend was a good enough friend that I know the pizza wasn’t necessary to have a stimulating experience.  Since getting married, in order to stay in my circle the amount of fun/stimulation required per square hour is pretty ridiculous, so the fact that I wanted to hang with him at all should have been enough.  Yet I can imagine that text.

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Okay, I’m stretching a bit.  What I’m pretty sure happened was that people were awful at talking to each other and needed something in common.  The thought is “Hey, we all need to eat, so let’s all eat.”  It’s actually even a logical thought if it’s seen as a requirement for life; if we’re both going to eat, we might as well eat together and knock it out while we bond.  However, I feel the threat is when that balloons into “We need to eat whenever we’re together.”  (Not the case with you, dude, I was just using an example of socializing while eating).  I’m not like that with my friends – at least, not since college, but I have felt the social pressure to eat.  Part of it is linked to the one about boredom.  If you think dealing with boredom as an individual is difficult, dealing with boredom AND social awkwardness as a group is even worse – and probably what leads to both obesity and gang violence.

The key here is to be with people who have similar goals.  When I was doing P90x with the same pizza buddy, there was a shared unwillingness to negate the suffering we had just gone through with Ab-Ripper X that kept us from going off the rails and downing sundaes.  It’s a lot harder when you’re expected to just show self-control.  Part of me wants to post a picture of a starving person on the wall to remind me not to be overindulgent, but another part of me thinks it will have the opposite effect and lead to me eating even more out of appreciation for not being in that situation.

4. We eat for financial reasons.

This one is huge – especially if you’re raised by immigrants.  You’re taught not to waste food even if you don’t feel like eating it, and that somewhere people are starving, so you should be grateful for what you have.  This isn’t really an incorrect lesson as much as it is a traumatizing one.  After all, you definitely want your child to prioritize survival over pickiness without them being weeded out by Darwinism.

At the same time, this lesson can lead to some problems.  For one thing, buying anything at Costco becomes a commitment – sometimes for the worse.  You can’t go buy a salad because you need to finish all the burger patties before they get all moldy because there’s no more room in the freezer!  You need to eat ALL the bacon!  You need to eat all of the leftovers before they go bad, especially if one of your family members calls it quits and refuses to eat it.

5. We eat for emotional reasons.

Emotions definitely have impacted how people eat.  People use food to deal with their issues instead of coping with them head-on or seeking catharsis.  I’m pretty aware when something like this is happening, but that doesn’t mean I’m immune to it.

However, there’s another aspect of emotion that is much more of a threat to me.  If someone you love cooks up, oh, I don’t know, a whole pan of the bombest fried rice on the planet, complete with egg and Chinese sausage, and then follows that by making french toast, do you refuse such gifts and say “no thanks, I’ll make some wheat toast?”

If you would, you’re a monster, and you’ll live those extra years of life cold and alone.

The food tastes good… because it has love.  More importantly, accepting that love is important.  So important that I not only used two forms of the same word, “important,” in one sentence, but also risked possibly making this sentence a fragment by beginning with “so” as a vague intensifier to make my point.

Yet, I want to live – which means finding a way to make my appreciation apparent in more ways than the happy reception of food.  In fact, I would say that the answer to all of this is a simple-to-say, hard-to-do one: Enrich my life so that food isn’t the crutch, the focus, or the answer.  As human beings, we are past the point where food is the focus of an entire day in order to survive – at least, in my current environment.  It’s time for my life to reflect that.  I should look forward to life, not to dinner.

Do you look forward to your food more than you should?  What reasons make you eat besides just hunger?

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How I Infuse Joy into My Teaching Day.

Life can seem difficult as a teacher; we have notoriously difficult jobs, and that can bring us to put our own morale aside. Students can pick up on this quick, however, so it’s just as important to keep your enthusiasm up as it is to maintain the enthusiasm of your class. Here are some things that I do to keep the beast at bay and bring maximum happiness into my career.

1. Journal Questions

Journal Questions are often a missed opportunity to connect with students… and to have a little fun.  The first 5 minutes of class are for answering the journal prompt – then the second 5 minutes are for sharing, with Fridays for Friday Freewrites.  The important rule that I like to apply to make it fun for me is that I share last.  The students like these questions because they get to share themselves – and find a little bit out about their teacher.  Questions like “What do you believe happens after death?” and “Describe your daily routine as a vending machine.” keep kids engaged.

2. #Custom #Gamification

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Tools like the awesome Classcraft can be tailor-made for your class.  In Classcraft, there’s this feature called the Random Event.  The first thing I did with it was I went through them and added custom events based on information I knew about my students.  I have events based on TV characters, characters from the books we read… no limits!

3. A Change of Scenery

I use a projector in my class to help the students follow along when we read or to model how to do some of the assignments.  One thing I like to do is change the desktop wallpaper every week or so.  Students appreciate the change – and they love when they can connect with something like what show you’re watching lately or a trip you went on based on whatever image you use. You can also use pictures from the news if you want to start a conversation that way.

4. Take risks.

You may have gotten so experienced that you are loath to reinvent the wheel by trying anything new. One thing I’ve learned though is that if you dread it, the kids will dread it. If something is going to be painful, take your own time and remake it. Tell the kids what you did! “I was going to have us read Medea, but then I realized we’d all have more fun with The Merchant of Venice!” Students seem to like when I go out on a limb for them.

 5. Character Study

Sometimes I teach with different voices or accents. This can be taken to an extreme; what if you taught a science lesson as Charles Darwin? What if Atticus Finch ran today’s discussion of To Kill a Mockingbird? You don’t necessarily have to be an awesome actor for this; you just have to commit. Don’t break character for a moment, wear the right clothing… and of course, if someone uses your real name, act confused, but tell them that they sound like a really good-looking person.

These ideas can breathe new life into your work – and provide the morale boost you need to get through the day. Most importantly, they can teach and model for the students how being in the professional world doesn’t necessarily entail a moratorium on happiness; all it can take sometimes is the right combination of factors for your passion to ignite theirs.

 

The Art of the Answer

Hopefully, most adults already know the information that I’m about to share.  I know for a fact that most teenagers fresh out of high school do not.  Therefore, if you are in college, I’m about to give you a huge boost over all of your peers.  This may help you professionally, but it will DEFINITELY save your personal relationships, mostly because the fix is so subtle that most people only notice the effects and not the cause, meaning you get the credit but still maintain your mystery.

If someone you respect – perhaps even like – says something that you didn’t hear or don’t understand, you have been presented with an immediate test of maturity and adulthood.

Person: “Hey Steve! Can you poejopfwfkoepqk…”

Steve: “What?”

Steve has failed the test.  Hard.  “What?” is an innocent question that teenagers are used to asking – and that’s because teenagers don’t know anything.  A young adult will condition himself to answer differently.

“Yeah,” you might think, “but you’re a stuffy English teacher.  I don’t need to use your rules in my personal, casual life.”

You don’t know this because most people don’t know this unless they think about it, which they don’t: “What” and “Huh” as one-word questions both induce maximum rage.  Think about the last time you explained something and someone answered, “What?”

In fact, think about the last time you called someone’s name and they answered, “What?”

Have I proven my point yet?

“What” at the wrong time can derail a conversation and ruin an interaction before you can even begin to think about why it happened.  That’s because “What” or “huh” imply any of these 4 things.

  1. “Uh… what?” You’re stupid.  Your mind is too simple to comprehend what was being said.
  2. “… what?” You aren’t paying attention.  Disrespect.
  3. “What?” You don’t care.  Disrespect.
  4. “What?!” (What.) You’re spitting attitude. Disrespect.

None of these 4 things are good for your personal relationships – especially if they already know you aren’t stupid.

“Huh” is even worse than “What” because it makes you make a stupid face while you say it.

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“Huh” is the reason your parents still think you can’t handle your business.

“Huh” is the reason you being on your phone counts as you being “on the phone all the time” instead of just the one time you were using it in front of them.

“Huh” is the reason nobody thinks you can multi-task.

Try this experiment.  The next time someone calls your name, answer with “How can I help you?”  The next time someone says something that you don’t hear, answer with “I heard something about ____ but I didn’t hear all of it.” or even “Could you repeat the last sentence you said?  I think I misheard you.”

You’ll avert so many arguments that you’re used to having.

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This lesson needs to be taught in schools.  I told my students about this, and one of my students asked, “Why?”

I told her that she didn’t know it yet, but she actually hated people who say it.  “You won’t find this out until you move in with someone and ask them something from the kitchen while he’s in the living room.”

Parenthood will also bring this issue up really fast.  My parents weren’t having it.  “Yes, Mom!” was the answer demanded, and had I more courage I would have met this demand with goose-stepping and the obligatory salute to these fascist dictators.

We weren’t really good about saying that until we were older, but if you wanted to get on my parents’ beatdown list all you had to do was say “What?” when they called your name.  If it was for something bad, you were automatically in trouble for it regardless of the explanation, and if it was for something good, it was immediately canceled.

“HOAN!”

“What?”

“Never mind, you can eat tomorrow.”

Even armed with the explicit knowledge of exactly how our parents wanted us to answer them, we were awful at avoiding our parents’ wrath for this particular offense.

Avoid my mistakes, children.  Be better.  Right my wrongs.

The Rock is Terrifying – Review

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Central Intelligence definitely has all the appearances of a mass-market, mainstream product of the Hollywood movie factory.  After all, you have Kevin Hart – who has been blowing up with his new stand-up movie, 2 Ride-Alongs and 2 Think Like a Mans… and Dwayne Johnson, who has been subtly trying to get my attention in comedy movies for some time now.  Why not just the adrenaline-charged serious action movies, Dwayne?

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Johnson has been walking that typecast line for a while.  With knockout roles in GI Joe, The Fast & Furious series, and remakes like Walking Tall, Escape From Witch Mountain, and the upcoming Jumanji, he has more or less played the same character, with varying degrees of charisma depending on the movie’s requirements.  With his intelligence varying from doofus Pain & Gain levels to the cunning Hobbs introduced in Fast Five, I have yet to see him in a role that required more from him than an angry, determined look and a muscle flex.

Kevin Hart, similarly, has been in the same role for much of his movies: the insecure, self-absorbed goofball that always tries to talk his way out of situations.  I actually began to tire of this character after the second Ride-Along movie, and I was prepared to groan at his resurgence with this new venture.

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Surprise, surprise, Kevin Hart is the straight man in this movie.  His character, nicknamed in high school as “The Golden Jet,” is not only a normal person, but he’s faced with very real passions, problems, and insecurities.  He’s worried that he peaked in high school, and that he is less of a man because of it.  This insecurity leaks into his relationships.

Meanwhile, The Rock has been thrust into the comedic role.  The movie not only calls his sanity into question throughout the entire running time, but also uses close-ups to show… emotion?  On The Rock?  It’s like they gave him one of those charts with the different feelings and what they look like.

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Central Intelligence is hilariously fun.  Kevin Hart is satisfyingly fresh and comical as the straight man because that’s what makes his stand-up funny; he’s a relatable, insecure guy with real concerns.  Seeing that man flustered is too funny.

The Rock is hilarious because he’s honestly terrifying.  Not in his usual way – in a deranged way.  If one of my friends began acting like he does in this movie, I would have run far, far away within the first five or six minutes.  Most of the laughter at Johnson’s antics starts with nervous laughter.  The action is fun, over-the-top, but not 21-Jump Street insane.

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That’s not to say that this is a perfect movie.  No way.  The beginning of this movie reminds me of 17 Again in all of the wrong ways, and features some of the most horrendous CGI of the decade.  The Golden Jet’s love interest is vapid and cardboard, convinced that they need counseling with little to no evidence of any real problem between the two.  Yet somehow, I know that when this title goes on sale I’ll be there to swoop it up.  Definitely worth a Red Box night with the lady.

On a scale of Doom to Fast Five, I give this movie a Get Smart.  It’s funny, full of action, and has some excellent scenes, but has little to actually remember.

Slapfish – (Food Review)

Slapfish in Huntington Beach has some of the most delicious seafood experiences you could ask for.  Especially if you come during Slappy Hour, which is 3-5pm, and then 8 to Closing.  The wife and I were watching David So talk about it, which activated our own curiosity.  Being impulsive and adventurous as a couple, we simply had to go.

We ordered many things, so that we could get the full experience, as well as to justify the long distance.  This was also some photogenic food, so never fear.

First there was the free check-in special, which was some kind of chowder toast thing.  Not really impressive.

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Then came the chowder fries.  The chowder was okay, which oddly enough meant that the fries were the highlight of the dish.  They were crunchy and well-seasoned.  The chowder just kind of made them soggy.

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Value item of the day was definitely the Ultimate Fish Taco – $4.00 during Slappy hour.  The thing was HUGE!  I thought it just looked big, but then I tried to pick it up like a taco and it was heavy, and it held its own shape, because it was indeed a big old slab of fish.  Definitely go for this if you’re pinching pennies and wanting seafood.

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The clobster grilled cheese was deeeeeelicious!  Soft, tender morsels of lobster and crab, and they didn’t overdo the cheese, either.  It wasn’t too heavy.  Butter, bread, American cheese, lobster, crab, yes yum yum yum.  My wife and I were splitting everything so we could try a little of everything.  She offered me the rest of her half of this sandwich.  I replied, “Are you crazy, I’m not trying to die, we have all this food to cover!”  Weirdly though, it came out sounding like “Yes please yum nom nom mm so good I hope this never ends.”  Maybe I have a speech impediment.

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We only ate half of the surf and turf burger, which basically just tasted like a burger.  The flavor of the seafood didn’t feature unless the seafood morsels were eaten separately… which proved to be the way to go, because they were definitely good!

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But yo ho yo ho the best was yet to come!  The lobster grinder! Lobster, crab, and shrimp stuffed into a fresh, toasted, eggy and buttery brioche bun.  I doubted this dish because it looked small but I tasted it and now I believe.  This was 13.50.

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So was this worth the many many miles we traveled to LA?  Having not tried it before, absolutely.  I wouldn’t go back for the sole purpose of going here, but if I’m ever nearby again I’m pretty sure some animal instinct in me would be able to detect it if I got within 5 miles.  I ate enough that I was significantly screwed up afterward.  My eyes glazed over and I fumbled with my words like I had just learned how to trace my name and had gotten lost on my way to the lego bucket.

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Such was my state that my wife thought that I hated the experience until I had recovered and was able to convey to her how much I had enjoyed myself.

Also, the servers were very nice and polite, and the food came out faaast… faster than it would take the average person to finish reading this article.  5 stars for that!  Way to earn the tip!

They also offer a soda fountain with pure cane sugar, but I didn’t partake because my wife wanted me to live.