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Food wars (Part 1)
Posted in thoughts on 17/07/2014
Now that I am no longer a student, I find I have some need not to eat like a student. I’d like to eat proper food, perhaps even food I myself prepared, with some thought for things like health and ethics. This is starting to feel like Herculean task. What on Earth is healthy and how do you know what is ethical? In this post I will write about eating healthily. I’ll look at ethics in a follow-up post.
On the health side, there seem to be a host of “healthy” diets being propagated. The adherents of these diets, which have names like “paleo”, “low carb”, “Banting” and “mediterranean” are more fervent proselytisers than most missionaries. They claim to rely on studies and books, but I have trouble distinguishing them from mere ideologies.
I do not have the time or inclination to wade through the mess of opinions, half-substantiated claims and assumptions that underlie these fad diets. Nor can I wait entire lifetimes for these diets to truly prove their worth. Unlike with, for instance, smoking, I no longer think that just sitting down and reading the relevant information will make how to eat healthily much clearer. For many things there are no real answers. Some things are clear and you need to act on those, for the rest you will need to use heuristics.
I think the following simple approach should be effective. There are three principles:
1. Change the easy things first: This is simply because I am lazy and have better things to do. If I tried to give up all carbs, I’d starve as I would not know what to eat, so I focus on making the carbs I do eat of a better quality.
2.Then change the most clearly harmful things. It seems everyone agrees that sugar (refined carbohydrates) is the most destructive fiend. Thus, for instance, cutting out fizzy drinks and juices.
3. Everything in moderation. This is a simple risk management strategy. Eating a moderate amount of something that turns out not to be too healthy is unlikely to do a lot of harm. Eating nothing of something that you need could be very dangerous. Similarly for eating lots of something that turns out to be harmful. This is why I am sceptical of the Banting diet (proposed by Tim Noakes) – it has virtually no carbohydrates and lots and lots of saturated fat. If the diet is founded on facts, great. But there’s a large risk that we find that over the long term too few carbs are harmful.
If you have any ideas on how to eat healthily, feel free to leave a comment, particularly if you can substantiate your claims.
Smoking a bit too much actuarial science
I was recently at a party where some students were smoking. I’ve become quite a believer in the futility of telling people why they should not smoke. Sometimes, as I see people smoking, some of these arguments come unbidden, and I can’t help but indulge in the futile practice.
On this night, however, I was sorely tempted to say, “Don’t you know that if you take out life insurance, you will be paying smoking rates, even if you’re only a casual smoker.” But of course, these people were years away from caring about life insurance premiums.
I kept quiet. Clearly too much actuarial science has an adverse effect on the brain. Perhaps I should consider quitting actuarial science, maybe become a beekeeper, and try not to think about whether beekeepers have higher disability insurance premiums.
Posted in Christianity, thoughts on 11/05/2014
As homosexuality becomes more socially acceptable, the pressure to make it theologically acceptable will increase. Indeed, Christians have been at the forefront of the marriage inequality movement for a long time (see my post on the MCC) and a “Queer theology” has emerged which seeks to justify same-sex relations Biblically.
The campaign for marriage equality (against marriage inequality) has been likened to the movement against slavery. I think this a good analogy. Christians were at the forefront of this movement too and an important part, no doubt, of the success of the campaign was the denunciation of Biblical interpretations of the Bible that allowed the system of slavery to continue. The Bible didn’t change – it still contains references to slavery with no obvious disapproval (even some instances of approval). But we chose to see those passages differently.
Queer worship in Cape Town
Posted in Christianity, thoughts on 28/04/2014
It is a sad fact that homosexuals do not feel welcome in most churches. But it is encouraging to know that Christians have been at the forefront of the marriage inequality movement for a long time. The Metropolitan Community Church, for instance, was founded as early as 1968 and has been campaigning for marriage equality ever since. It has also no doubt contributed to the emerging “queer theology” that seeks to legitimise their stance. I attended a service of the Good Hope MCC in Cape Town last Sunday. It was Freedom Day, the birthday of SA’s democracy.
The Good Hope MCC meets in a historical Church building on Green Market Square in Cape Town and they hung a huge yellow banner declaring that all “queers” are welcome. The pastor was a slight woman who not only preached, but also sang while playing the guitar, straight from the pulpit. The toilets were designated unisex. I have the memory of there being rainbow decorations everywhere, but this may be more of an impression than actual fact. The message, in any case, was very clear: you are welcome.
But it was also very clear that this message was not directed toward me. I’m a heterosexual male, perfectly welcome in a traditional church. No, this message was directed to the LGBT community. Indeed, I felt like possibly only one of two heterosexuals there (the other being a friend I had brought along). This was also an impression, not an established fact. The MCC church is there for LGBT people. Every announcement and virtually every statement made was geared toward them.
And why should the MCC not focus on LGBT? In virtually every other church they are either not mentioned at all, or they are informed that they are living in sin. The plight of LGBT people in the new South Africa is still acute. There are, for instance, Lesbians being murdered or correctively raped in some communities. Would other churches take as active a stance to stop this?
The Good Hope MCC church is perhaps the only place that LGBT people in Cape Town can connect with a community of believers without judgement. And they do so alone. Shouldn’t heterosexuals and LGBT people be able to worship together? Is it not deplorable that in 20 years into South Africa’s democracy, the church is in a kind of apartheid, heterosexuals here, LGBT people there? Perhaps, in another twenty years, it will seem simply absurd.
Girl or woman, boy or man?
Posted in thoughts on 26/04/2014
After my previous post, in which I described my process of looking for a romantic partner, one of my friends asked me why I used the word “girls” instead of “women.” I am a self-avowed feminist and my friend, I think, could not understand why I would use such sexist language. In the feminist community it has been taken for granted, indeed it is a kind of commandment, that one should not refer to a grown woman as a girl.
Where to meet girls accurately?
Posted in Christianity, thoughts on 21/04/2014
As someone looking for a virtuous girl, I have been working under the assumption that Church is a relatively good place to meet girls. After all, girls that go to church are likely to be (or want to be) of a virtuous nature. But I must admit to at least one flaw with this strategy, which was brought to my attention by Daniel Kahneman’s excellent book “Thinking, fast and slow.” First impressions last.
Is the message itself offensive?
Posted in Christianity, thoughts on 18/04/2014
I want to ignore those (often unintentionally) hateful Christians who cannot accept homosexuals for a little while. Let us talk about those Christians who
- Truly believe homosexuality is a sin, but
- Do everything in their power to love their homosexual neighbours.
There are not many such Christians, but they should not be judged along with the rest. They are sincere and honourable. But I am not convinced that their stance is not ultimately harmful.