Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Teenage Rebellion as Mental Illness?

I read an article yesterday by Bruce Levine, a clinical psychologist and author who is critical of current trends where big pharmaceutical companies dictate how to treat what he regards as natural responses to what he calls our ''institutional society''. He advocates looking at the causes of mental illness -- going to the source, rather than medicating and numbing people to more or less hold 'em down.

In his article at AlterNet, he discusses how this generation's teenagers are being diagnosed with a multitude of new ''conditions'' and administered various drugs for quick fixes (no doubt thanks to their parents' nice insurance plans). One of the new categories of disorders he mentions is oppositional defiant disorder (ODD). Wikipedia lists some of its diagnostic criteria as: deliberately annoying people, blaming others for own mistakes, easily annoyed, angry and resentful, and spiteful / vengeful. Any kid meeting just four of these qualifies as being afflicted. Not to be flippant, but these criteria describe most kids I knew in high school (and many adults I've known since).

To load the issue even further, Wikipedia states that, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatic Assocation, if this ODD is left ''untreated'', about a quarter of the kids who develop it will eventually develop the much worse ''conduct disorder'' which entails behaviours such as lying, truancy, vandalism and cruelty towards animals.

In his article, Levine describes the medicating of teenagers diagnosed with conditions falling into the ODD category as a systematic way of ''subduing defiance''. It's usually foisted upon teenagers by men (or women) in nice white coats who've spent anywhere from 8-10 years, themselves, bowing to authority while training to become professionals, all the while accepting handouts from pharma. It's an interesting piece and worth a read, if anything to gain some insight into how the pharmaceutical giants are (more or less) shaping society.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Plus or Minus

In the minus column:

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Richard Heinberg and Technology

An American friend of mine introduced me to the ideas and significance of Richard Heinberg a little over a year ago. At the time, I'd heard of Hubbert's Peak Oil theory, but it was sorta at the edges of my radar at best, and certainly overshadowed by concerns like global warming and its associated environmental issues. I picked up a copy of Heinberg's Powerdown: Options and Actions for a Post-Carbon World, and I spent the next several months reading nearly everything about Peak Oil I could get my hands on via the internet. These days, even some of the more conservative experts and the most mainstream authorities are making public statements about the coming of the permanent decline of fossil fuels. It seems, though, that as long as people are able to afford to keep filling their gas tanks at the fuel pump, that the general public is transfixed by this notion that the planet's oil supply are endless and that life as we've known it during the oil age will continue. Or that, at least, there'll be easy solutions "just in time" so that our rate of consumption need never be affected.

In this month's MuseLetter, his monthly essay on energy, civilization and economics, Heinberg's re-issued an eight year old essay of his on the future of technology. Rather than being dated, it still holds water. Lots. It's definitely worth a read if you have an interest in the impact of runaway advances in biotechnology. He's a lucid writer, and probably one of today's most important voices.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Recipe: Pumpkin Oatmeal Molasses Cookies

I've never been much of a baker of sweets. I have a pretty lengthy (and embarrassing!) history of lopsided muffins, wet cakes, flat things that should be fluffy -- you get the picture.

I stumbled up on a recipe online that was an adaptation of a
Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookie recipe from the Post Punk Kitchen.

My variations:
  • I used extra virgin olive oil instead of canola.
  • I used 1-1/3 cups of sugar instead of 1-2/3.
  • I added a tablespoon of powdered egg replacer instead of the ground flax seeds.
  • I used a 1/2 cup of chopped dates instead of the raisins.
  • I used blackstrap molasses instead of regular molasses.
The result? Delicious, dark little cookies that probably taste more of molasses than the original recipe, hence my referring to them as "Pumpkin Oatmeal Molasses Cookies". I'll be re-homing some of them tomorrow, the little darlings.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Recipe: Spicy Sweet Potato and Bean Burritos

These are simply amazing. I usually make them using black beans and don't always add avocado. This is very roughly adapted from a couple of different recipes found online over the years. It's a hybrid that's taken on a taste of its own.

Spicy Sweet Potato and Bean Burritos

1-2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
3 cups of kidney beans or black beans, canned
1 cup of water (or leftover bean liquid)
1Tbs chilli powder (heapin'!)
1 tsp cumin (heapin!)
2 Tbs soy sauce
4-10 inch soft whole wheat tortillas
2 cups mashed cooked sweet potatoes (with an optional dab of margarine)
1/4 cup green onions, chopped
1 avocado, chopped
1/4 cup salsa
chopped jalapeno peppers (optional)
vegan cheese shreds (optional)

Cook enough sweet potatoes to make two cups (a couple of small ones or a large one). I usually bake them in advance. Set aside.

Heat the oil in saucepan over medium heat. Sauté onion in oil until transparent. add garlic and stir. Add beans, water, chilli powder and cumin. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce head to low. Simmer until beans are very soft, about 10-15 minutes. Stir in soy sauce.

Mash beans in the pot with a potato masher or large fork. Simmer over medium-low heat to cook away any excess liquid, about 20-25 minutes (watch it really closely, though). Taste and add more seasoning if warranted or desired. If you like things REALLY spicy add some chopped jalapenos at this point.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Spread about 2/3 of a cup of the bean mixture down the middle of a tortilla and top with a 1/2 cup of mashed sweet potatoes. Sprinkle with some green onions. Roll up the burrito and place it seam side down (to keep it from opening) on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with vegetable cooking spray (alternately, you can brush on a bit of oil). Repeat with the remaining tortillas.

Bake for 15 minutes or until burritos are crisp and turning slightly golden. Top burritos with avocado and salsa.

Optional: Sprinkle some vegan cheese on top (n.b. I rarely bother, 'cause it's really unnecessary).

Makes 4 servings.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Tim Buckley - I'm Coming Home Again

Yet another reason I adore YouTube -- a rare look at a live Tim Buckley performance from 1968. It's a shame, on one hand, that most people these days know him solely as "the father of Jeff Buckley". At the same time, it's introduced his music to thousands of people who otherwise would likely never have heard it. It's ironic that Jeff probably spent most of his short career establishing himself within the context of his father's music, and that now Tim Buckley's work is establishing itself within the context of his son's.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

After a long time spent a'mullin'...

I'm glad to put (the hot potato that was) 2007 behind me. And I think that I should get back on track with what I'd intended to do with this little nook of the web, which was to follow through with urges and interests by fleshing them out a little in print.

For instance, something I intend to examine further in the New Year are the realities that initially led me to vegetarianism, and (subsequently) to the formal study of ethics and to veganism. It's been a strange journey, meandering through the web of emotional support (or lack thereof) in some online vegetarian communities, as well as through the realm of academia where I've learned to throw together rational arguments that seem to fall flat in the muck of the "real" world where the status quo prevails over logic. I'll likely re-read this later and want to clarify or contextualize.

For now, I'd like to share some of what's caught my attention over the past year. Gary L. Francione is "Distinguished Professor of Law and Nicholas deB. Katzenbach Scholar of Law and Philosophy'' at Rutgers University School of Law-Newark. He's been an effective critic of animal welfare laws and a champion of what he calls the abolitionist approach to animal rights. I intend to explore his work in greater detail over the next while, and to use it as a springboard of sorts to suss out my own thoughts on the issue completely.

So? No sense in jumping into the animal welfare vs. animal rights debate without first providing a link to the slide-show presentation that is an intro to Francione's take on the abolitionist approach to animal rights. Please note that the slide-show in question contains images (and words!) that may disturb you into thinking out side of the box. Or just disturb you.