Saturday, April 4, 2009

Two irksome things

Two things have really, really irked me this week. Well, it was really one thing that irked me for the last two weeks and one thing that's irking me as of today, but if you take the average it all works out.

People who assign moral value to their caloric intake. Last week I bought a package of peanut butter cups out of the vending machine. In a valiant display of self-sacrifice and generosity I offered one of the said peanut butter cups to a companion, who responded, "No, thanks, I'm being good today." Will someone please tell me how not eating a peanut butter cup makes you "good?" Does the fact that I then ate both make me a sinkhole of moral filth and contagion?

I'm sure it's part of our essentially Puritanical streak (this is New England after all) that whispers to us that anything pleasurable is evil. But you'd think they'd appreciate the fact that by consuming 260 delicious calories of peanut butter-and-chocolate confection, I was giving jobs to all of the hard-working people involved in making, packaging, warehousing, transporting, and selling said candy. I was also giving jobs to all the people involved in managing, stocking, and cleaning my gym, where I burned off that 260 calories in 45 minutes on the treadmill.

The real reason we assign these moral values is this: It makes us feel superior. If my friend had said "No thanks, I'm trying to lose five pounds," then the unspoken admission would be that she is self-conscious about her weight. By making the refusal a moral issue, she doesn't have to admit that it's about her weight at all--it's about being "good," which is more noble than being worried about how she looks. The fact that we think of food in terms of "good" and "bad" at all shows that we're a lot less healthy than we ought to be.

2) Writers who can't be bothered to cite things properly. I've got a freelance gig copyediting a textbook. There is a famous quotation in this book that was cited in the references. This citation listed the author's name incorrectly. It also listed the date of the publication from which the quote was taken incorrectly. The publication from which the quote was taken was an anthology of quotations. Not only could these experts in their field not get the name of the author right, they also couldn't be bothered to take 5 minutes and look online for the original source. (I know it only took 5 minutes because I did it and fixed it for them.) I realize that morally speaking this does not compare with eating peanut butter cups, but I think it's shockingly sloppy for someone writing a textbook, and I have no patience for this kind of laziness and shoddy scholarship.

Now I've got that off my chest, I can settle back down to my Doritos and the Chicago Manual of Style.

Oh, and here's my rainbow, courtesy of Rabbitch:
Your rainbow is strongly shaded violet.


What is says about you: You are a creative person. You appreciate beauty and craftsmanship. You are patient and will keep trying to understand something until you've mastered it.

Find the colors of your rainbow at

It is also to Rabbitch that I owe this:

Thank you, Rabbitch. Thank you.

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