Tuesday, February 18, 2014

When Science Is Fiction

["Let Inga Tell You," La Jolla Light, published February 20, 2014] © 2014 

Both my husband and I enjoy reading science fiction although Olof’s preferred focus is outer space while mine involves health and beauty tips from women’s magazines which are especially bountiful this time of year.  I love this stuff.  The sheer creativity!  The total illogic!  The charming lunacy! And above all, the exclamation points!  All of the advice in these magazines is, of course, attributed vaguely to “science,” research,” or “experts.”  After culling dozens of “tips” from the January glossies, here are some of my favorites:

Bring the beach home.  Ocean air is pumped with negative ions which may amp up blood oxygenation leaving you calmer and happier.  Create instant ocean air by investing in an ionic purifier and running it for 90 minutes before you wake up.  As someone who has lived 262 steps from the Pacific Ocean for decades, I can only imagine what a crabby nut job I’d be if I hadn’t been sucking up ions all this time.  In fact, why aren’t all La Jollans, cocooned in ionic bliss as we are, deliriously happy?  Are those scheming pinnipeds and crafty cormorants siphoning it all off before it gets to us?  With every negative ion in me, I believe this needs to be investigated.

Exercise tip:  Making photocopies at work?  Do squats in front of the machine.  I am so trying to imagine this at my former workplace which was 90% male and where the photocopier was in the main hallway.  I’m not sure but I think H.R. had a specific policy against flashing the co-workers.

We recommend Sephora’s compact with 16 eye shadows made with antioxidant-packed cocoa.  So, are you supposed to eat them?

Write yourself a peppy note.  Nurture your inner optimist by scribbling a sentence or two about your favorite moment (or hour) of the week on a kitchen chalkboard, e.g “Girls night out + doubled over with laughter + lobster mac n’ cheese = a memorable dinner.  Must do it again soon!”  OK, so how are the kids going to feel when they pass by the chalk board where Mom has written, “Did Dad in the laundry room on top of the washer during spin cycle!  Gave each other massages with fabric softener!  MUCH better than Viagra!”

Eat garbanzo beans to fight gray hair.  These beans, also known as chickpeas, provide tons of protein along with the trace mineral manganese.  It’s known to prevent changing pigmentation, a.k.a. gray hair!  So how many truckloads would you have to eat per day to fire your colorist?  Maybe stop by CVS and pick up some manganese instead?

Eat cilantro to prevent hair loss:  It works as a purifying agent to rid the body of toxic metals which can stop nutrients from getting to your scalp, resulting in hair loss.  OK, so why isn’t every guy in America downing cilantro shakes?

Eat lentils for hair growth.  They’re an ideal source of iron, which is so important for full, lustrous locks!  This is especially key if you have thin hair!  Hmm, maybe that should be a cilantro-lentil shake.

A good excuse to eat chocolate:  People who do so have less belly fat.  [Inga begs to differ.]  Researchers think antioxidant-rich dark chocolate may curb cortisol, a hormone that triggers abs flab. Snack on two squares a day.  OK.  How big are the squares?

Train your fat.  Workouts don’t just help you ditch extra weight – they can also teach your fat to behave better.  …Studies suggest that 12 weeks of vigorous aerobic exercise can make a type of white fat – the kind under your skin that you can pinch – act more like healthier brown fat.  The difference?  Brown fat doesn’t just sit still:  It burns energy to produce heat, which results in better blood sugar control and a healthier body composition.  I predict the next diet craze will be “What Color Is My Fat?”  You read it here.

But I’m not an unreasonable person.  I’m willing to cut “science” and “research” and “experts” a lot of slack if they happen to conclude something I want to hear.  The Dec-Jan AARP Magazine, for example, reported that drinking two cups of hot cocoa a day for 30 days significantly improved (yes, they did say significantly) memory in older adults.  Cocoa “boosted blood flow to the brain, particularly in those whose flow was impaired.”  I would definitely put myself in the impaired flow category so do I get to drink three?  And if I wanted to make a late bid for Mensa, ten?  It didn’t say what this did to the waistline of the memory impaired, but what’s the point of being svelte if you’re senile?

So my plan for 2014 is to sit in my negative-ion-rich front yard chugging cocoa, eating eye shadow, and penning peppy notes.  All, of course, in the name of science.

Monday, February 10, 2014

A Grim Fairy Tale

[Let Inga Tell You, La Jolla Light, published February 13, 2014] © 2014 

I was recently reading a fairy tale to my tiny grandchildren:

Once upon a time, sweeties, in a land closer than you think, there lived magic flying machines called commercial airplanes who made it their business to take the people from one end of the kingdom to the other so they could see new places, or visit their family, or do work.  The commercial airline people loved their jobs, and wanted to make all the people who flew with them happy. 

If your airplane left late, the airline people felt so bad about it that they insisted on serving free champagne for the entire flight.  If your flight was late or cancelled, you could run over to a different company of airline people and they were deliriously happy to take your ticket.  No change fees, no hassle, and plenty of seats.   In fact, you could often have an empty seat next to you.  Yes, darlings, really. 

But then a great big ogre called deregulation lumbered into the land.  At first the kingdom’s inhabitants didn’t realize it was an ogre because it was wearing sheep’s clothing.  OK, maybe grandma is mixing metaphors here.   But the ogre was offering sheep, er, cheap seats.  Who could argue with that?  The kingdom dwellers thought it would be just the same as before, only cheaper.  They totally forgot the old adage, there is no free lunch.  They couldn’t have fathomed how literally true that would be. 

When prices were set before the big ogre came, the way the airline people could compete was by providing service, like fluffy pillows, full meals, and actually being really nice to the passengers.  But now that the prices were not set, the airline people competed only by fares.  When fuel costs went up, the airline people flew fewer and fewer flights with teenier and teenier seats and less and less legroom.  The 6’3” business flier kingdom dwellers, like your grandpa Olof, suddenly found themselves sitting with their knees around their necks.  No, you’re absolutely right; it isn’t very comfy.  The kingdom dwellers were astonished to find that those fluffy pillows were now inflatables and cost $8, a “sandwich” consisting of two thick slices of stale bread and a thin sliver of turkey cost $10, and the airline people, who used to be so nice, had been replaced by graduates of the Evil Troll Travel School. They thought nothing of leaving the kingdom dwellers sitting on the tarmac for nine hours without food, water, or working bathrooms.  This became known as the Prisoner of War Model of airline travel.

Even though there were far fewer airplanes flying, the airline people began cancelling lots of flights, often citing “weather.”  Global warming aside, there suddenly appeared to be a lot more weather than there used to be.  Your grandpa Olof got Marriott Gold status on Houston alone.  But ever since the ogre arrived, all the airplanes were full so that if your airplane got cancelled due to “weather,” or its imaginary twin, “mechanical problems,” there were no seats for three days unless you camped at the airline gate with your bags and did something called “standby.”  And good luck with that.

Of course, it would make sense to go non-stop so you wouldn’t have to spend three days in Houston but the airline people also implemented the “hub and spoke” model not coincidentally styled after a torture device popular in the Middle Ages.  

But the airline people did do one nice thing:  they prohibited smoking on airplanes, replacing it with the constant ping of iPad games.  Sort of like water dripping from a faucet except you can’t put a bucket under it.  And even worse, the evil troll airline people, feeling that they were not punishing  the kingdom dwellers enough, are considering allowing cell phone use on airplanes.  Even the sky marshall folks will not be able to keep up with the on-board homicides if they do, as kingdom dwellers, forced to listen to bored passengers’ banal droning for six straight hours, will finally snap and beat them to death with a tray table that was not in its full upright and locked position.  The TSA people will respond by removing tray tables from airplanes on the grounds that they could be used for terrorist purposes. 

The experience has become so miserable - and ironically, not all that cheap - that lots of kingdom dwellers don’t fly anymore except under something called duress.  Some of them are kingdom dwellers who remember when the airplane trip – yes, in coach! - was part of the fun of getting there, and where their now-mandatorially unlocked baggage wasn’t free shopping for baggage handlers, peanuts weren’t considered a meal, and water wasn’t a deadly weapon.  I know, sweeties, it’s hard to imagine.

My little granddaughter shuddered.  “Didn’t mommy tell you not to read us scary stories right before bed?”

Monday, February 3, 2014

**There's More Cookin' Than The Food

["Let Inga Tell You," La Jolla Light, published Feb. 6, 2014] © 2014 

My husband is having an emotional affair.  There, I’ve said it. 

Actually, if we’re being perfectly honest, it’s THREE emotional affairs and they’re all with cooking show honeys. I will refer to them as the Southern Sweetie, the Pioneer Person, and the Italian Temptress.   

It all started when Olof had minor surgery in 2012 that went really wrong. For a month, he lay in bed sipping his liquid diet and incongruously watching the Food Channel.  I guess it was eating by proxy. 

You’d think that would all have changed once he could eat actual food again.  But I know for a fact he’s still cruising cooking shows. Other people try to sneak a look at someone’s cellphone or email but I’m trying to get a peek at Olof’s DVR.  Which I would if I could figure out how to use it.

Of the three, the one that really worries me is the Southern Sweetie.  After walking in on the show some twenty times, I was dismayed to learn that the total number of episodes in the series had been…six.  There’s not a whole lot of deleting going on here, a classic sign of food porn addiction.  But I soon discovered that the problem wasn’t a fixation on the food.

Inga: “I didn’t realize you liked Southern cooking.”

Olof (transfixed to the screen):  “Is she cooking?”

No, Olof is completely infatuated with this young hottie’s 100-watt smile, her big blue eyes, her blond hair, and her southern accent that is thicker than the maple syrup she uses in her pumpkin scones. 

Every time she says “mah” (my), Olof falls deeper under her spell.  When she starts creatin’ a casserole, or “buildin’ mah bourbon pecahn pah,” Olof’s eyes go completely out of focus.  When she looks right into the camera, flashes that killer smile, and says (hopefully of the pah) “it’s super moist,” Olof has gone to another dimension.

The premise of the six shows is that in each episode, she’s teaching some clueless codger who has never even boiled water how to make a “romanic” meal for some lady love.  She is all encouragement as she coos at the codger with her drop-dead smile, “You could be a little more vig-rus with yer whiskin’.”  Olof would love to be a little more vig-rus with HIS whiskin’, believe me. 

It’s total culinary seduction.  No guy fails with her.  Cook “cun-try haym n’ pataytas” with her and everything will be unicorns and rainbows.  It will be like the first time you had sex.  Only better.  The girl will be happy too. 

She may have her blond hair in a demure pony tail at the nape of her neck but I’m sure Olof is fantasizing that the second that camera is off, the pony tail comes out, the blond hair cascades down the back, and she and the codger are locked in a hot embrace over the curried cauliflower florets.  If this show returns, I guarantee you Olof will be first in line for the codger casting call. 

As for the Pioneer Person, I’m sorry to say that as attractive and appealing as we both find her, what Olof is really lusting after is the cheddar.  I swear she must have a skip loader backing up to her house every Monday with 500-pound palettes of cheese and butter, i.e. all the stuff our primary care doctor, Dr. No, won’t let us have.  I get that she is feeding ranch hands in addition to her own family but a typical recipe starts with a roux of flour and six sticks of butter, followed by whole milk or cream, and a couple buckets of shredded cheddar all melted into a decadently gooey sauce that is poured over a vat of pasta and served alongside individual two-pound steaks.  Given that this is a cattle ranch, you kind of suspect that you saw the steak in a different form in a previous scene. 

As for the Italian Temptress, even I agree she is drop-dead gorgeous and has a radiant smile.  (Olof is a sucker for smiles.)  She’s also suspiciously thin. This isn’t the saturated fat fest of the Pioneer Person but it isn’t exactly diet food either.  I’m guessing that off-camera, she spends seven hours a day on a Stairmaster interspersed with kale cleanses.  It’s the only explanation.   Fortunately for me, she doesn’t have time for Olof with all that Stairmastering.  Besides, she’s got a husband who may or may not be Italian.  You don’t mess with those guys unless you want to end up as an ingredient in a tray of Party Perfect Lasagna. 

I just want to make clear to all three of them, especially the Southern Fried Vixen:  you can’t have my codger!  And as for Olof, I’d like to point out that I have a nice smile too.  Olof?  Olof?