The two reasons that people like foods that they initially despise are exactly the two reasons that I still don’t like those foods.

I’m known to have a limited palate. It’s not as limited as many of my friends contend, but there are admittedly large numbers of foods that I do not like, including salad, a great number of vegetables, many nuts, most Asian cuisines, most sauces and dressings, and more. I also don’t drink coffee or alcohol.

People have many theories on my limited palate. People like to express these theories to me often.

I have many theories on their more expansive palates, including the belief (backed by science) that we have little control over the foods that we find palatable, so shaming, harassing, or otherwise disparaging a person’s food preferences is insensitive and stupid.

My friend actually purchased a testing kit and confirmed that I am a supertaster, which means that I taste more flavors – and am therefore sensitive to more flavors – than the average person, which goes a long way to explaining my limited palate.

I am tasting all the awful flavors that your less effective taste buds are missing. 

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Recently, Paul Rozin, a cultural psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, has added to the research on food preferences. Rozin is especially interested in why people learn to love foods they initially hated, a phenomenon he calls “benign masochism.”

He has come up with two reasons to explain how this happens:

  1. Repeated exposure
  2. Social pressure

This explain a lot in terms of my limited palate.

Repeated exposure means that in order to learn to like a food that I don’t – say avocado – I would have to suffer again and again until I theoretically began liking it.

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This sounds insane. I have to eat a food that I can barely swallow without feeling ill or vomiting in order to expand my palate? There are far too many palatable foods in the world for me to spend time torturing myself over a food item that doesn’t even grow naturally where I live. 

But it’s the aspect of social pressure that perhaps explains my palate best. I am and have always been a nonconformist in the most extreme sense of the word. Social pressures have never meant all that much to me, oftentimes to my detriment. The thought that I might eat a food that I consider unpalatable in order to better align myself with the people around me sounds ridiculous.

Then again, I am often sitting at the table in a restaurant, staring at people who are enjoying the salad course while I gnaw on a piece of bread and politely readjust my napkin on my lap.

This doesn’t bother me, but perhaps it would make most people uncomfortable.

Maybe it’s a person’s desire to join his friends for sushi after work on Fridays that causes him to find a way to enjoy eating something that the civilized world has always cooked before eating.

Maybe it’s the incessant fawning over guacamole – made right at the table! – that pushes the avocado hater over to the dark side and decide to dip a chip.

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Maybe it’s the pervasive, inexpensive nature of salad that causes so many people to adopt the dietary habits of small woodland creatures.

Rozin’s theory makes sense. If social pressures cause people to walk around with brand names plastered to their clothing and handbags and somehow think this is a good thing, then why would this not also apply to foods that initially make us feel ill?

Rozin also coins the term “hedonistic reversal” – the ability of our brain to tell our senses we’re going to turn something we should avoid into a preference. This applies to the person who decides that the spiciest buffalo wings are his favorite, mostly because he has become convinced that eating foods that most people find unpalatable makes him feel superior.

You know the type. These are the people who eat eye of newt because it’s the newest, latest food trend, and they want to appear cutting edge. Hip. Brave.

They never do. Instead, they often appear cloying. Desperate. Sad.

I’m not that kind of person, either. I hope.

Posted in Food and Drink | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

I want this life.

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The author Julian Barnes would kill me, and defacing books is a terrible thing, but don’t you think this is also an AMAZING idea?

While attending a book club recently, a woman told me that the book they read before my book was Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending.

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“And something really strange happened with that book,” she said.

Almost as soon as the discussion began, the woman became confused. “It was as if they had all read a different book than me. They were talking about an ending that I hadn’t read.’

After some investigation, she discovered that the last ten pages in her book were missing.

The Sense of an Ending has lost its ending.

When I asked her if she thought it strange that the book stopped midsentence and ended so abruptly, she said, “Of course. But the book is called The Sense of an Ending. I thought the author was trying to say something specific by ending it like that. Like maybe this is the true sense of an ending. Without fanfare. In life, things stop suddenly. We don’t get neatly wrapped endings.”

Then I had an idea. The author in me despises this idea.

The rest of me adores it.

Wouldn’t it be amazing to go to the bookstores and tear out the last 5-10 pages in every copy of The Sense of an Ending that you could find? Give every reader the same experience that this woman had when she can to the false ending of the book.

Tear out the ending in The Sense of an Ending.

It’s a great prank. Don’t you think?

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My son’s excitement over a recent visit to the mall is slightly disconcerting

Thankfully, I think it has nothing to do with the shopping and everything to o with the indoor play area.

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Teachers of writing at any level: Read this immediately. Nothing is more important.

The 2014 Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to Patrick Modiano, who had this to say about the writing process during his acceptance speech:

Writing is a strange and solitary activity. It is a little like driving a car at night, in winter, on ice, with zero visibility. You have no choice, you cannot go into reverse, you must keep going forward while telling yourself that all will be well when the road becomes more stable and the fog lifts.

Similarly, here are some other comments on the writing process from a variety of accomplished and respected authors:

Planning to write is not writing. Outlining, researching, talking to people about what you’re doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing.
~E. L. Doctorow

Start before you’re ready. ~Steven Pressfield

It begins with a character, usually, and once he stands up on his feet and begins to move, all I can do is trot along behind him with a paper and pencil trying to keep up long enough to put down what he says and does.
~ William Faulkner

There are hundreds more like this.

Why do I bring this up?

In hopes that all of the teachers who require students to complete graphic organizers or planning sheets or move little pencils across bulletin board displays of the writing process or force their students to work on one piece at a time or assign their students specific topics for their writing assignments will knock it off and learn to write themselves instead of subjecting their students to their bizarre, inaccurate, nonproductive, and likely damaging perceptions of the writing process.

This is not to say that organization and planning should never be used when writing. About half the writers of the world plan in some way. Mystery, historical fiction, and many nonfiction writers plan their stories with great detail before they begin writing, but not all, and even when they plan, this process is often as amorphous and convoluted as the writing process itself. Rarely does it fit into little boxes and pocket charts. 

If you are teaching writing but not writing yourself on a regular basis, you are probably – no, definitely – doing more harm than good. Your ignorance of the writing process – coupled with the way you teach it – is turning out ineffective, uninspired, under confident writers.

You have made the ability to write well and love writing a rare commodity. You have made people like me more singular and valuable than we should be.

The writing process is not some finely delineated series of steps. It is not a codified system of applying words to the page. It does not adhere to structure or schedule or graphic representation. It is none of these things.

If you teach writing to students of any age, my advice is simple:

Write.  

Write. Write. Write. Learn about the process that you are teaching instead of making bizarre and wildly inaccurate assumptions about it or replicating the terrible instruction that you received long ago that never actually turned you into someone who loves to write or you would already be writing and wouldn’t be forcing students to do such ridiculous things.

Just write.   

See how often you use a graphic organizer.

See how much you appreciate being assigned a specific topic.

See how productive you think it is moving a little paper pencil across a bulletin board from one facet of the writing process to another.

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See how much you value the notion of prewriting.

See how un-delineated things like writing and revising and editing are. See how amorphous and undefined the writing process is, and how stupid stupid stupid it is to force students to work on one of these parts of the writing process and not another.

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Please. Just write.

Either that or your choice is simple:

Stop teaching writing altogether. You’re doing more harm than good. Just let your students write, absent any instruction or interruption. Sit at the back of the classroom and read. Or eat a sandwich. Or take a nap.

Your students have a far greater chance of leaving your classroom loving to write than if you open your uninformed mouth and do all the ridiculous things that non-writers think belong in the instruction of writing.

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I don’t know Kathleen Hampton, but based upon her lawsuit, I suspect that ‘entitled and insufferable” are likely descriptors.

Perhaps you’ve heard about the woman who wished to dine solo at a Portland, Oregon restaurant on Valentine’s Day and is now suing the restaurant because she claims she received rude service.

Kathleen Hampton is asking for $100,000 in damages and apologies both in person and in print in ‘the news and local newspapers,” so we already know – regardless of what actually happened that night – that she is insane.

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Insane is probably the wrong word. There are better choices:
Entitled. Myopic. Despicable. Miserable. Haughty. Insufferable. Undatable.  

Hampton claims that the restaurant refused to seat her because her reservation was for two but she was dining alone. She claims that the manager also refused to provide her with takeout service.

The restaurant’s manager tells a very story.

“She made reservation for two and when she got there, said: ‘Oh just by myself.’ We offered for her to sit at the bar with other single diners since Valentine’s Day is very busy and all we know is she got up and left without paying after she drank two glasses of wine.”

It was an amusing enough story on it’s own, but when I read the complaint, which Hampton filed herself, amusing quickly transformed into hilarious. I suggest you read the whole thing (which isn’t very long but is filled with hidden gems), but if you’re pressed for time, the section that Hampton has labeled “WHAT I WANT” is entertainment enough.

WHAT I WANT

I want to be made whole by public apology both in person and in writing in news and community newspapers. I don’t want this to happen to anyone in the inner North/Northeast area. When you don’t have business owners that don’t live in the area they don’t have a vested interest in community. I also want $100,000 to make sure all business owners on N.E Alberta know we are serious about our community

I chose not to reproduce the random spaces or superfluous capitalizations that Hampton frequently uses in her complaint, mostly because the actual demands that she makes say more about her character than any amusement that I might have at the expense of her writing skills.

It’s hard to imagine that people like this exist outside of fiction. Even if Hampton’s complaint is true, it’s hard to imagine why her husband or a family member or friend didn’t advise against these genuinely stupid demands, suggesting instead that perhaps this was not as big a deal as she seems to think and maybe restitution in the form of a free dinner or two at a restaurant of her choice might make more sense, rather than attempting to bankrupt a restaurant for what amounted to rude behavior.

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Is Ted Cruz really this stupid or is he simply pandering to idiots?

Serious, sincere question:

When someone like Ted Cruz continues to reject the realities of climate change like he did last week on Late Night, does he really believe what he is saying, or is he merely pandering to the idiots he needs to win a primary?

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I really want to know:

Is Ted Cruz a liar or an idiot?

If it’s the former,  please add his name to United States Politicians in 2015 Who Denied the Existence of Manmade Climate Change Despite Overwhelming and Undeniable Scientific Evidence in Order to Further Their Political Careers At the Expense of Future Generations. 

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Everyone deserves to have fans.

I’ll be showing this clip to my students. Sportsmanship can mean so much when it’s done right.

It’s rarely been done better than this.

Still, I want to know who won the damn game.

Posted in Recommended Reading/Viewing, Sports | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

The consistently late are the scum of the Earth. Here’s a simple strategy to avoid being late in the future.

I’m a timely person.

I’m timely because I think it’s rude to be late. 

Even worse, I think it’s despicable for a person to be consistently late. The consistently late are a selfish pack of uncivilized heathens who should be pay higher taxes and be forbidden from ever celebrating Thanksgiving.

Consistently late is also a sign that you suck at life. It’s perhaps the clearest sign of all. If you’re a member of the consistently late clan, you should know that we all think this, and we despise you for it. We may like or even love you, but we despise you, too, for your selfishness and inability to act like a decent human being.    

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TIME offers 9 Habits of People Who Are Always on Time. It’s a good list. I particularly like numbers 1, 2, 4, and 8. Adopt these habits and you’ll be much better off.

Allow me to add a tenth to the list:

Prepare yourself to leave the house well in advance of actually leaving the house.

For example, if you’re meeting friends for dinner, and you plan to leave the house at 6:00, don’t wait until 5:30 to get ready, even if it normally takes you about 30 minutes to get ready.

This makes no sense. Frankly, it’s insane.

Requiring 30 minutes to get ready is also insane, but that’s an entirely different set of problems.

If the last thing you do before leaving the house and prepare to leave the house, all it takes is one setback in your preparation process to cause you to be late. One item of clothing that unexpectedly needs ironing. One wardrobe reconsideration. One spill. One hangnail. One malfunctioning hairdryer. One unavoidable phone call. One screaming child. 

If you plan to leave the house at 6:00, why not get ready to leave at 4:00? Just be ready. Whatever benefit you think you are deriving from showering and getting dressed and applying makeup just prior to leaving the house, I promise you that you are the only person noticing it.

More importantly, the people who you are meeting would undoubtedly favor less attention to your physical appearance and more attention to your timeliness.

In fact, valuing your physical appearance over arriving on time is the epitome of selfish.

“I made you wait so my hair could look just right.”

Disgusting, yet it’s essentially what people do all the time.

I’ve proposed my idea to several of my friends and colleagues over the past week, and almost universally, they think it’s a ridiculous idea. “Get ready two hours before I leave the house?” said one. “That’s stupid.”

The only two people who have agreed with the merit of this proposal are the two people in my life who I can depend upon the most to be on time.

One woman and one man. Always on time, regardless of weather or traffic.

Also two of the most impressive and accomplished people who I know.

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This is what happens after you behave well during your doctor’s appointment

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