Tablet Reading – links for May 1


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Cherry Blossoms

photo of the week by Makio Kusahara

Links about the exploration and pursuit of the new. Raising a kid who doesn’t fear new foods (a link to an entertaining post about a book that I enjoyed); the voices of two inventors – one still alive and one long dead; practical advice on having and pursuing great ideas; the invention of . . . a pronoun (and a new take on gender – I never said that all new things were necessarily improvements . . .). And a humorous video spin-off of a commercial for an invention of the future present.

:: Hungry Monkey (Design Mom)

Given to me by my stepmother (my sole inspiration and role-model when it comes to all things food and whose great wedding present of a curated cookbook collection you read about here) this past weekend at my baby shower, Hungry Monkey is sub-titled “A Food-Loving Father’s Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater.” I accepted the present greedily, like a recovering addict would take to their formerly beloved drug, because all through this pregnancy, I’ve eaten like a stereotypical four year old. I like things that are white and yellow. I want nothing to do with green. Chicken fingers and plain white cupcakes with plain white frosting (or Funfetti, if we’re feeling really adventurous) have constituted their own food groups.

As someone who has lived her whole adult life on spicy curry soupsbrussels sprouts tossed with mustard and capers, and Ethiopian injera, this has been moderately terrifying on a good day and depression-making on the worst. Is this kid so picky I can’t even tolerate any decent food pregnant? Are we going to be resigned to dinners of plain cheese pizza and pasta-with-butter-no-sauce for the next 18 years and eight weeks?

Is it okay to start crying now?

:: Steadicam Inventor Joins the Inventors Hall of Fame (NPR)

BROWN: Well, the prime – the way I see it, the prime inventing act is identifying something you really want which is missing. You know, we gloss over what’s missing, we take for granted what’s missing.

CONAN: Well, a lot of us who are inspired by invention really want a whole lot of money.

BROWN: Well, a whole lot of money is an auxiliary phenomenon to inventing. If you’re a good inventor, you get a whole lot of money. I guess theoretically that’s the idea. But you know what, a good life, a great career, a good marriage in effect are inventions because there is something that you want which may or may not presently exist or may only partially exist. What you have already may need improving or it may not exist at all, you know. So I think you have to broaden the definition; it isn’t just gadgets and gizmos and machines and processes. It’s whatever you want and the finding of it, the getting of it could be considered an invention, you know?

I’d love to encourage people, particularly kids, to think of their lives in those terms, you know, and incidentally, by the way, to think of stuff they want personally as accessible. I’m a big fan of personal inventing. My house is full of one of a kind gadgets that might not be worth even patenting or selling, but are very satisfying to own, you know?

:: For the First Time Ever, You Can Now Hear What Alexander Graham Bell Sounded Like (The Atlantic)

“Did Bell speak with a Scottish burr? What was the pitch and depth of the voice with which he loved to belt out ballads and music hall songs?” Bell biographer Charlotte Gray asks in Smithsonian. He had lived in England, Canada, the eastern United States. He summered in Nova Scotia where people spoke Gaelic. How did all these influences combine in his speech?

And now Gray has her answer. The Smithsonian has released audio recovered from a wax and cardboard disc dated April 15, 1885. In it, you can clearly hear the inventor speak the words: “Hear my voice – Alexander Graham Bell.”

:: How Entrepreneurs Come Up With Great Ideas (Wall Street Journal)

How did everybody else get inspiration to strike—and how can we work the same magic?

To find out, we turned to the experts—the startup mentors who discuss launching businesses at our Accelerators blog, as well as other investors, advisers and professors who have seen and heard countless success stories, and entrepreneurs who have written success stories of their own. They saw inspiration coming from all sorts of sources—everyday puzzles, driving passions and the subconscious mind.

Here’s what they had to say.

:: Sweden’s New Gender-Neutral Pronoun: Hen (

Ironically, in the effort to free Swedish children from so-called normative behavior, gender-neutral proponents are also subjecting them to a whole set of new rules and new norms as certain forms of play become taboo, language becomes regulated, and children’s interactions and attitudes are closely observed by teachers. One Swedish school got rid of its toy cars because boys “gender-coded” them and ascribed the cars higher status than other toys. Another preschool removed “free playtime” from its schedule because, as a pedagogue at the school put it, when children play freely “stereotypical gender patterns are born and cemented. In free play there is hierarchy, exclusion, and the seed to bullying.” And so every detail of children’s interactions gets micromanaged by concerned adults, who end up problematizing minute aspects of children’s lives, from how they form friendships to what games they play and what songs they sing.

:: ADmented Reality – Google Glasses Remixed with Google Ads (Rebellious Pixels via the creators project)

When I saw Google had somehow forgotten to include any ads in their Project Glass promotional video I just couldn’t resist fixing that little oversight for them. So less then 24 hours after Google released their video I remixed and uploaded my own slightly more realistic version of the augmented reality glasses – now featuring contextual Google Ads for your life!


7 quick takes – holy water and easy readers edition


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The Resident Theologian and I spent our first (school-) year  of married life in a cottage-y little townhouse in the beach town of Santa Marinella (featured in pics 1, 2, and 5 of this post of Mama needs coffee. [Thanks, Jenny, for the trip down memory lane!]) Santa Marinella attracts a lot of student family ex-pats because, as a beach town, it has a lot of rental properties available during the school year that are either used by their Italian owners or rented out for three times the school-year rent during the blazing Italian summers. We loved our drafty little nest, our landlords were wonderful, and though I’d had to leave all of our wedding presents in storage (read: my long-suffering parents’ basement) in the States, I feathered our nest through the year with comfort-making things like an IKEA tension-rod-mounted shower curtain, a pot lid (lots of pots, no lids when we moved in), bigger drinking glasses, and even a stick blender that a friend of ours gave us because she never used it (hello, spinach hummus!). And at some point that year, we had our first little home blessed by Fr. Luke Buckles, OP (so wonderful to run into him in this post over at Catholic All Year – if only I could run into him in person again now!).


At the end of those two semesters, we’d figured out that we’d be back in the fall for one more semester, so we packed up books and a few personal things that we didn’t want to cart back to the States for just the summer and we stashed them (with our landlords’ blessing) in a crawl space in our rental. We knew our landlords were renting the place to vacationers over the summer, and we were rather familiar with the habits of summer renters (our landlords’ sheets and an antique linen bedspread had walked off the summer before we first moved in). We were expecting some . . . attrition . . . and had an IKEA run planned for soon after our return to fill in any gaps.


But the night we re-entered our home after a summer away . . . Well, the box of stuff we’d left was intact, still sitting in the crawl space. But our sheets, blankets, shower curtain and tension rod, stick blender, pot lid, drinking glasses, and even our collection of spices – along with other things – had been taken during the summer. I was six months pregnant with our daughter, expecting to give birth before we returned to the States, and I felt like a mother bird whose nest had been torn open and plundered. Our home had been a place of peace and comfort when we’d left. Not now. I wasn’t prepared for the feelings of insecurity and violation. Or the darkness of the anger and frustration. But from somewhere in the middle of the black cloud that I was wrestling with as I tried to fall asleep that night, I remembered the bottle of holy water that had been in our crawl space box of stuff. I went downstairs, dug it out, blessed myself, and then sprinkled it around our house, in every room. And the evil left, and peace returned, and I slept. That’s not to say that the hurt and the anger completely disappeared then – they didn’t, and took some time to heal (finding the 1-euro yellow spray bottle that I’d gotten in Florence and discovered hadn’t been taken helped) – but the sticky ugliness of that black cloud, and the feelings of exposure and violation and peace-less-ness left that night with the holy water.


And this was what I remembered last Saturday, when the kids and I were in foul moods all day. Pretty much our worst ever collective day – but one that we, as a family, had been building up to for a few days. (The Resident Theologian was out at an event on this particular evening, due back sometime after the kids were in bed.) Right before getting dinner together, I really wasn’t sure how I was going to make it until the kids were in bed. So Many Tears. So Much Drama. And a black storm cloud over my head, too. SO Frustrated – and then in the middle of my mental storm, remembered our bottle of holy water. Got it out, silently blessed each of the kids & myself with it, dashed a bunch around the house… Placebo effect? Not so fast – I didn’t say anything about what I was doing to either of the kids, who’ve never seen me do this before – but their moods changed (even in different rooms). And mine definitely did. (And the Resident Theologian made sure to bless himself with some as soon as I told him about it, which was pretty much as soon as he walked in the door that evening.) Neither of us has any idea what was going on except for lots of evil flying around the country that week (Boston bombing, Gosnell trial, etc.), but the tears and drama left our family that evening after a good dousing with holy water. Thank You, Jesus. Love, me.


Now for an entirely different topic. Easy readers. I naively thought that a Level 1 easy reader would be a book containing only words that may be easily sounded out by one who knows the most basic consonant and vowel sounds. Ideally, two and three-letter words with no blends or diphthongs, focusing on the short vowel sounds. Hat, bed, pig, jog, fun. English has lots of these words. I was wrong. So dreadfully, dreadfully wrong. Easy readers (with the sole exception of the mind-numbing BOB books) are just books with short sentences and relatively short “familiar words.” No matter if there’s not a chance that the new reader could sound out any of these words by herself. She’ll get them by osmosis…er…worksheets…er…by hearing endless repetitions of “sound it out” from her parent or teacher. When. She. Can’t. Because sounding them out requires knowing too many rules all at once.


So, like the Little Red Hen, I am going to do it myself. I already fired off one story (with a plot! and dialogue!) containing only two and three letter words, no blends or diphthongs (except limited use of the word “the”) before lunch one day a couple weeks ago.


Pictures are a bit more of a hurdle. But we will figure something out.

For more Quick Takes, visit Jen over at Conversion Diary. (She’s back!)

Tablet Reading – links for April 24


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cherry blossoms

photo of the week by Florin Garoi

Some links on food, some good food blogs, a post on prayer, some book list links, and a Downton Abbey (parody) fix. Bon appétit!

:: Want to Forage in Your City? There’s a Map for That (NPR via Nourished Kitchen)

Avid foragers Caleb Philips and Ethan Welty launched an interactive map last month that identifies more than a half-million locations across the globe where fruits and veggies are free for the taking. The project, dubbed “Falling Fruit,” pinpoints all sorts of tasty trees in public parks, lining city streets and even hanging over fences from the U.K. to New Zealand.

The map looks like a typical Google map. Foraging locations are pinned with dots. Zoom in and click on one, and up pops a box with a description of what tree or bush you can find there. The description often includes information on the best season to pluck the produce, the quality and yield of the plant, a link to the species profile on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s website, and any additional advice on accessing the spot.

:: Are Happy Gut Bacteria Key to Weight Loss?  (Mother Jones)

The very qualities that improve palatability and lengthen shelf life—high sugar content, fats that resist turning rancid, and a lack of organic complexity—make refined foods toxic to your key microbes. Biologically simple, processed foods may cultivate a toxic microbial community, not unlike the algal blooms that result in oceanic “dead zones.”

In fact, scientists really do observe a dead zone of sorts when they peer into the obese microbiota. Microbes naturally form communities. In obese people, not only are anti-inflammatory microbes relatively scarce, diversity in general is depleted, and community structure degraded. Microbes that, in ecological parlance, we might call weedy species—the rats and cockroaches of your inner world—scurry around unimpeded. What’s the lesson? Junk food may produce a kind of microbial anarchy. Opportunists flourish as the greater structure collapses. Cooperative members get pushed aside. And you, who both contain and depend on the entire ecosystem, pay the price.

:: The 2013 Best Food Blog Awards (Saveur via Simple Mom)

In Saveur’s ongoing mission to chronicle a world of authentic cuisine, we find what we’re looking for more and more in one place: online. Of the tens of thousands of nominations that came in this year—blogs great and small, visual and textual, humorous and profound, technical and amateur, exuberant and austere—we found not just great writing, great photography, and a great commitment to the importance of food to storytelling and community-building, but also some blogs that truly spoke to us. We’re thrilled to shine a light on the sixty-eight unique blogs that are finalists in the fourth annual Saveur Best Food Blog Awards—and even more delighted to announce the winners in each category. Congratulations to all!

:: The Time I Almost Stopped Praying… And Then God Showed Off ( via New Advent)

I took those thoughts home with me and spent the next several months grappling with them. I began to get specific and did my best to be bold in my asking, “I want another child Lord! Bless us again!” And the more I prayed the more I began to have peace, but not peace that made me feel confident that my prayers would be answered, rather peace with “any answer.” My heart’s desires began to change and so did my request. I no longer just wanted another child, I wanted God’s Will for the growth of our family. My heart began to conform with the heart of my Father, I started to want only what He wanted, all because I started to really tell Him deep down what I wanted. I had found the grace to be open to His grace and was ready to accept His plan for our family, whatever it might be.

:: Some updates, and five amazing books to make you feel better about your crazy life (Conversion Diary)

As I bounce along this rocky road of health recovery and adjusting to having 50 or six or however many kids there are in this house now, I continue to find books to be a huge stress reliever. In particular, I love true stories of people who have gone on wild adventures and lived to tell about it. Maybe it’s because I am the least outdoorsy person in the world, but any time I read of people staying strong while being tested to their physical limits, it always fills me with amazement at the indomitability of the human spirit…and makes me really, really, really glad to be sitting in my house, no matter what kind of craziness happens to be playing out in my own life at the time. For those of you who could use a little escapism right now, here are a few books I recommend for this purpose.

:: Twitterature – April 2013 Edition  (Modern Mrs Darcy)

This is the place to find short, casual reviews of what people have been reading lately.

:: Watch Downton Abbey Resurrect Matthew in Musical Parody Performed by Broadway Stars (Vanity Fair)

The long wait until Downton Abbey’s fourth season seems less bleak today thanks to a musical parody that has found its way to the Internet. Directed and co-written by John Walton West and featuring music and lyrics by Jason Michael Snow, the production, filmed at Studio 54 in New York, depicts the cast and creator of the costume drama as they develop a musical episode à la Greys Anatomy or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The result features one thrilling tea-centric duet between Carson and Mrs. Hughes, a gloomy mourning number by Mary, and a hen-fest parlor-room sequence featuring the Dowager Countess and Martha Levinson.

Tablet Reading – links for April 18


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Lonely tree

photo of the week by bernadg

My mental title for this is “Tablet Reading – the Feverish Dreams edition.” Thoroughly appropriate considering that our family is in week two of a battle with the flu or something like it (one member recovered, one close, one still under, and one unscathed). Thoroughly appropriate also considering that the links themselves seem like products of feverish dreams. “Mostly Dead” moves from being a Princess Bride joke to having some real-life relevance. Someone is seriously suggesting that we open wide marriage to any number of people of any gender – because, of course, “the definition of marriage is plastic.” (Note: if you stretch a thing – anything – too far, it breaks.) Scott Hahn writing about the sacrificial aspect of the Eucharist as a part of evangelization (nothing unusual so far) – in America Magazine, the Jesuit periodical. Let’s just say this is a first. (For the magazine. A very hopeful sort of first.) Finally, a video about washcloths in space. Watch it and you’ll see why it made my Feverish Dreams links post.

:: Sam Parnia – the man who could bring you back from the dead  (The Observer)

“It is my belief,” he says, “that anyone who dies of a cause that is reversible should not really die any more. That is: every heart attack victim should no longer die. I have to be careful when I state that because people will say, ‘My husband has died recently and you are saying that need not have happened’. But the fact is heart attacks themselves are quite easily managed. If you can manage the process of death properly then you go in, take out the clot, put a stent in, the heart will function in most cases. And the same with infections, pneumonia or whatever. People who don’t respond to antibiotics in time, we could keep them there for a while longer [after they had died] until they did respond.”

Parnia’s belief is backed up by his experience at the margin of life and death in intensive care units for the past two decades – he did his training at Guy’s and St Thomas’ in London – and particularly in the past five years or so when most of the advances in resuscitation have occurred. Those advances – most notably the drastic cooling of the corpse to slow neuronal deterioration and the monitoring and maintenance of oxygen levels to the brain – have not yet become accepted possibilities in the medical profession. Parnia is on a mission to change that.

:: Legalize Polygamy! No. I am not kidding.  (

The definition of marriage is plastic. Just like heterosexual marriage is no better or worse than homosexual marriage, marriage between two consenting adults is not inherently more or less “correct” than marriage among three (or four, or six) consenting adults. Though polygamists are a minority—a tiny minority, in fact—freedom has no value unless it extends to even the smallest and most marginalized groups among us. So let’s fight for marriage equality until it extends to every same-sex couple in the United States—and then let’s keep fighting. We’re not done yet.

:: Mass Evangelization  (Scott Hahn in America Magazine)

What was it, I asked Chris, that transformed Jesus’ execution into a sacrifice? He was dumbstruck. I told him that for many years I could not answer that question. But St. Paul and the church fathers led me to the answer.

The transformative moment was Jesus’ offering of his body and blood at the Last Supper. Jesus spoke of that offering in sacrificial terms, commanding his apostles to keep it in perpetuity as his memorial: “Do this in remembrance of me.” He called it “the new covenant” (or “new testament”) in his blood (Mt 26:28), echoing Moses’ words as he ratified the Old Law with a sacrifice (Ex 24:8). The apostles, too, looked upon his memorial in sacrificial terms: “For Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Cor 5:7).

Holy Thursday is what transformed Good Friday from an execution into a sacrifice, and Easter Sunday is what transformed the sacrifice into a sacrament. Christ’s body was raised in glory, so it is now communicable to the faithful. Indeed, it is the same sacrifice he offered by instituting the Eucharist and then dying on Calvary, only now his sacred humanity is deified and deifying. It is the high-priestly sacrifice that he offers in heaven and on earth.

:: If You Try to Wring Out a Washcloth in Space, You Will Fail  (

Water, in space, will not flow. It will not cascade, or drip, or fill a cup. Instead, unimpeded by gravity, water tends to collect in floating blobs that are works of beauty and science at the same time.

Tablet Reading – April 10


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photo of the week by Anita Berghoef

Three links about relationships – with friends and family, God, and your significant other (-to-be). A book list. And another good reason to do your own cooking.

:: How Not to Say the Wrong Thing (Los Angeles Times)

Susan has since developed a simple technique to help people avoid this mistake. It works for all kinds of crises: medical, legal, financial, romantic, even existential. She calls it the Ring Theory.

Draw a circle. This is the center ring. In it, put the name of the person at the center of the current trauma. For Katie’s aneurysm, that’s Katie. Now draw a larger circle around the first one. In that ring put the name of the person next closest to the trauma. In the case of Katie’s aneurysm, that was Katie’s husband, Pat. Repeat the process as many times as you need to. In each larger ring put the next closest people. Parents and children before more distant relatives. Intimate friends in smaller rings, less intimate friends in larger ones. When you are done you have a Kvetching Order. One of Susan’s patients found it useful to tape it to her refrigerator.

Here are the rules. The person in the center ring can say anything she wants to anyone, anywhere. She can kvetch and complain and whine and moan and curse the heavens and say, “Life is unfair” and “Why me?” That’s the one payoff for being in the center ring.

Everyone else can say those things too, but only to people in larger rings.

:: I Didn’t Do Anything (Simcha Fisher)

I hadn’t been doing anything, and this is where it landed me.  Sick, hurt, angry, half paralyzed, and looking around for someone else to blame.

Most Catholics will agree that praying does all sorts of wonderful things for us.  But have you ever thought about what happens to us when we don’t pray?  We don’t just maintain some sort of neutral spiritual state until we begin praying again, believe me.  A little neglect leads to a little degeneration, and the next thing you know, you’re a whimpering heap on the table, wishing and hoping for the knife to come and put you out of your misery.  Even though you didn’t do anything.

:: Is Pornography Cheating? (


Oh, sorry…I guess I need to write more. Well, I guess I can explain it a little better.

Girls can usually see this issue for what it is. We guys, on the other hand, rationalize, make excuses, or are just simply too addicted to our lust to admit what is staring at us from the computer screen.

Pornography is cheating on your family, cheating on your spouse, and ultimately cheating on yourself.

I really believe that pornography is the “silent killer” of our generation, stripping men (and a growing population of women) of their vitality and potency to become the men they’re called to be.

:: 7 Books I Read Over and Over Again (Modern Mrs Darcy)

I’ll re-read a book for one of two reasons: because I love it, or because I need it. This list features a healthy mix of both.

:: The Sugar Hiding in Everyday Foods (via Mark Bittman)

We’ve written about the dangers of sugar many times, and we know that sodas are chock full of it. But what about everyday foods? Today we bring you an excellent video by Buzzfeed revealing the astonishing amount of sugar in foods we don’t associate with being necessarily sugary. What do you think has more sugar: baked beans or Monster Energy Drink? You’d be surprised.

Tablet Reading – April 3


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Fresh Eggs

photo of the week by A. Laczek

This week’s links – on love, homeschooling, the benefits of being a giver, and another reason to say yes to butter.

:: A Special Vocation: To Show People How to Love  (

But how can a disabled person show us how to love in a way that only a disabled person can? Because the Cross of Christ is sweet and is of a higher order. Christ’s resurrection from the Cross proclaims that the love he offers us, the love that we, in our turn, are to show others, is the REAL reason he endured the Cross in the first place. Our stony hearts are transformed into this Christ-like love, and thereby empowered to change hatred into love, only through the Cross. And no one shares in the Cross more intimately than the disabled. And so the disabled become our models and our inspiration. Yes, I give much to my son, Dominic. But he gives me more, WAY more. I help him stand and walk, but he shows me how to love. I feed him, but he shows me how to love. I bring him to physical therapy, but he shows me how to love. I stretch his muscles and joke around with him, but he shows me how to love. I lift him in and out of his chair, I wheel him all over the place, but he shows me how to love. I give up my time, so much time, for him, but he shows me how to love.

:: 18 Reasons Why Doctors and Lawyers Homeschool Their Children  (ChildrensMD)

I’m going public today with a secret I’ve kept for a year—my husband and I are homeschooling our children. I never dreamed we would become homeschoolers.  I wanted my kids integrated and socialized. I wanted their eyes opened to the realities of the world. I wanted the values we taught at home put to the test in the real world.  But necessity drove me to consider homeschooling for my 2nd and 4th graders, and so I timidly attended a home school parent meeting last spring.  Surprisingly it was full of doctors, lawyers, former public school teachers, and other professionals.  These were not the stay-at-home-moms in long skirts that I expected. The face of homeschooling is changing. 

:: Is Giving the Secret to Getting Ahead? (New York Times Magazine)

Grant’s book, incorporating several decades of social-science research on reciprocity, divides the world into three categories: givers, matchers and takers. Givers give without expectation of immediate gain; they never seem too busy to help, share credit actively and mentor generously. Matchers go through life with a master chit list in mind, giving when they can see how they will get something of equal value back and to people who they think can help them. And takers seek to come out ahead in every exchange; they manage up and are defensive about their turf. Most people surveyed fall into the matcher category — but givers, Grant says, are overrepresented at both ends of the spectrum of success: they are the doormats who go nowhere or burn out, and they are the stars whose giving motivates them or distinguishes them as leaders. Much of Grant’s book sets out to establish the difference between the givers who are exploited and those who end up as models of achievement. The most successful givers, Grant explains, are those who rate high in concern for others but also in self-interest. And they are strategic in their giving — they give to other givers and matchers, so that their work has the maximum desired effect; they are cautious about giving to takers; they give in ways that reinforce their social ties; and they consolidate their giving into chunks, so that the impact is intense enough to be gratifying.

:: Let Them Eat Fat: In Praise of Fatty Food (Wall Street Journal, via Perfect Health Diet)

Paradoxically, the most conclusive argument for eating sumptuously delicious fatty foods can be found in Michael Moss’s well-intentioned but scarifying new book, Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, where he uses the telling phrase “sensory-specific satiety point.” As Mr. Moss defines it, this is “the tendency for big, distinct flavors to overwhelm the brain, which responds by depressing your desire to have more.” 

Whoa! This is big. The author, however, misses the far-reaching implications. He focuses on bashing the use of the “sensory-specific satiety” concept by the evil processed-food industry, which goes to great lengths to get you to overeat fatty fried junk by purposely avoiding the “sensory-specific satiety” point that stops the craving. 

In other words, sensory satiety is our friend. Voilà! The foods that best hit that sweet spot and “overwhelm the brain” with pleasure are high-quality fatty foods. They discourage us from overeating. A modest serving of short ribs or Peking duck will be both deeply pleasurable and self-limiting. As the brain swoons into insensate delight, you won’t have to gorge a still-craving cortex with mediocre sensations.

:: We Are Never Eating Bad Together – Abigail Stauffer

The song, “We are Never Ever Eating Bad Together” is a take-off on Taylor Swift’s breakup song “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” and features lyrics like “we could eat all kinds of ancient grains instead of wheat.”

Holy Saturday – the Harrowing of Hell


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An excerpt of today’s reading from the Office of Readings for Holy Saturday in the Catholic Liturgy of the Hours – from an ancient homily for this day:

I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated. For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead.

On marriage equality


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wedding rings

photo by Rodrigo Valladares

Marriage in current popular understanding is nothing more – or less – than two people making a public commitment to “share their lives” for the foreseeable future. That is, to share some degree of some or all of the following categories: time; living space; reproduction/adoption, custody, and care of children; income and expenses; financial assets and liabilities; the rights and responsibilities of next-of-kinship; and oh, right, sex and romance. And that little thing called love . . .

Which of these categories are shared and to what degree they are shared is, in this pop culture understanding of marriage, up to the individuals involved.

So if two people love each other enough to want to live together for the foreseeable future, sharing living expenses, responsibility for replacing empty toilet paper rolls, trips to the ER, holidays with each others’ exasperating relatives, and wrenching end-of-life decisions, why is there a big hullabaloo over whether or not to give them the legal recognition of a marriage license if that’s what they want?

Because marriage has never been for them.

It’s always been for their kids.

We just happen to have forgotten that over the last few decades, thanks largely to contraception, no-fault divorce, abortion, and a lack of oversight for reproductive innovation, all of which have helped reduce sex to a sort of crave-able gymnastics in which babies and even bonding can be set neatly aside when not wanted . . . except when one or both show up on one side or the other, uninvited. Or fail to show up when they’re finally sought.

Meanwhile, marriage has been reduced to something that exists for personal fulfillment.

Marriage. Established so that when a man and a woman have sex, any baby conceived (“intended” or otherwise) will grow up knowing Dad as well as Mom (the mother having historically been something of a foregone conclusion). So that, barring death, there will be a stable two-adult environment for the feeding, clothing, nurturing, disciplining, and educating of this child from infancy through full maturation. So that this child will have both a stable, long-term male and a stable, long-term female model for how to relate to each gender, and for how each gender relates to the other in what is likely to remain a hetero-normative society.

Yes, more same-sex couples are increasingly parents, too – adopting, conceiving through IVF, hiring surrogates, etc. But this doesn’t resolve issues – it just raises more.

The argument for same-sex marriage hinges on the distinctiveness of gender – that this man is barred from marrying because he is a man who is only attracted to and loves other men with the type of attraction and love that marriage seems to call for. Or this woman is barred from marrying because those she loves and is attracted to are other women.

And it has to be an argument based on gender. If the argument is simply, “I love this person and no other,” and the gender of the other is incidental, then discrimination based on sexual orientation is not really the issue.

But somehow the distinct, irreplaceable nature of gender has become central when it comes to the argument for marriage – that gays and lesbians are barred from marriage simply because they are attracted only to those of their own gender – but completely written off when it comes to children.

On the one hand: If a woman is only attracted to women, not to men, the argument is that she should be free to marry a woman. Gender and its distinguishing features – the ways in which women are different from men – is central.

On the other hand: A mom and a dad; two daddies; two mommies – the important thing, the argument goes, is two people who love each other. Gender and its distinguishing features – the ways in which men are different from women – is irrelevant.

Gender: central or irrelevant?

Marriage isn’t for us. It’s for our kids.

Tablet Reading – links for March 20


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Mountain River, Downstream

photo of the week by Mihai Tamasila

The first day of spring. In honor of spring cleaning, two takes on the gender balance of housework. A response to the midlife realization of dwindling options. And our bodies and our emotions – how you feel is not just in your head; it can be in how you stand. And sit.

:: Cleaning: The Final Feminist Frontier. Why men still don’t do their share of the dirty work. (New Republic)

“Which is all to say, it’s seen as socially admirable and masculine for a man to be on diaper duty or to sous-vide a steak, but there are no closet organizing tips in the pages of Esquire, no dishwasher detergent ads in the pages of GQ. Considering the strides that have been made in getting men to share the labor in other traditionally female domestic areas, why has cleaning remained the final frontier?”

:: How to make a dude sweep the floor (correctly), without you even having to tell him ( [alert: salty language]

“Later, Travis wonders why Alice can’t just constantly leave him notes to tell him what he has to do? Sure thing mister, right after she cuts the crust off your PB&J. Fortunately, there are people who have figured out how to share household work equally, and they offer some concrete solutions for navigating this depressing scenario that feels more retrograde than Mercury.”

:: Behind the scenes of a mid-life crisis (Conversion Diary)

“But believing something and living it are always two different things, and it wasn’t until my little mid-life crisis that I realized just how much hope I placed in having options. Rather than resting in the life that God has given me, and trusting that he’ll give me whatever opportunities I require to do what I’m meant to do in this world, I still relied on having lots and lots of choices for the future in my back pocket (you know, as a backup, just in case God dropped the ball with his plan and I had to take over). And when I realized that many of those choices were gone now, with more disappearing with each passing day, it was a startling moment of coming face to face with my own attachments.”

:: Fashion and Emotional Anatomy (

“And do you want to know what I think is just so totally weird? Is the fact that it is now cool to stand and hang around like this. Like it doesn’t matter. Like what we do with our bodies is not having an effect upon us at the deepest level. Cellular. Emotional. Mental. Physical. Spiritual. Even Peanuts knows that how you stand affects you emotionally. Like, it matters. It really does.”

:: Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are – Amy Cuddy (TED Talk)

“Body language affects how others see us, but it may also change how we see ourselves. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy shows how ‘power posing’ – standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident – can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain, and might even have an impact on our chances for success. Amy Cuddy’s research on body language reveals that we can change other people’s perceptions – and even our own body chemistry – simply by changing body positions.”

We have a pope!


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Angels drop flowers on the Vatican following the billowing of white smoke and the peal of bells.

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina, is now Pope Francis, Vicar of Christ.

Some of his own words from his days as a cardinal . . .

:: The Attraction of the Cardinal book presentation, April 27, 2001 (Traces Magazine)

He who encounters Jesus Christ feels the impulse to witness Him or to give witness of what he has encountered, and this is the Christian calling. To go and give witness. You can’t convince anybody. The encounter occurs. You can prove that God exists, but you will never be able, using the force of persuasion, to make anyone encounter God. This is pure grace. Pure grace. In history, from its very beginning until today, grace always ‘primerea,’ grace always comes first, then comes all the rest.

:: The Eucharist, Gift of God for the Life of the World (Catechesis at International Eucharistic Congress; June 18, 2008)

“I will close by saying that the holiness of the Church does not arise from personal or social privilege but rather from service. Let me explain. The world has the impression that the Church is always defending its power. It may be that in certain personal cases this is true, but generally it is not the case. By defending its identity and infallibility, the Church defends the conduit through which the gift of life to the world passes—the gift of the life of the world to God. What the Church is defending when it defends its integrity is its own identity. This gift, the most beautiful expression of which is the Eucharist, is not a gift among others but the most intimate and complete self-giving of the Trinity given for the life of the world, a gift made by the Son who offers himself to the Father.”