Friday, February 3, 2012

7 quick takes Friday: February 3, 2012

1.      High Culture, meet Low Culture. I just started reading Simon Baron-Cohen’s book The Essential Difference about men, women, autism and the brain (His thesis: male brains are generally better at creating and dealing with “systems” while women are more adept at empathy; this is also related to the incidence of autism in males). It’s a great read so far, AND includes fun little questionnaires at the end to assess your own brains systems/empathy quotient. But I was trying to figure out why his name was so familiar. My husband pointed out to me that his name is very similar to Sacha Baron Cohen (aka Borat). Aha. Guilty as charged.   

2.      That Sunday WSJ article on teenagers that I talked about on Monday accidentally led me to another piece (“You Eat That?”) combining other pet interests: food and culture.
Basically, lots of people eat fermented foods that almost everyone else finds disgusting. And, it turns out, disgust is a universal emotion (if you don’t believe think you believe in such things, please check out Ekman’s work here: )
Seems that (drumroll…) disgust is a universal emotion that has to be learned. Good stuff. Lots of food for thought (sorry for the bad pun). But how come she didn’t even mention Vegemite?
3.      How ‘bout those Giants/Patriots/(fill in the blank?)…Back in the 80’s, during the Mets’ glory days, there was a New York City joke about making conversation. Awkward topics could be quickly jettisoned by raising the routine question “How ‘bout those Mets?” Sports can be a nice, safe, topic—at least within certain communities. But my husband –a person very interested in sports, both personally and professionally—has decided that sports has become too much the focus of men’s conversations—to the detriment of other topics and issues. I’m biased since I’m not naturally that into sports, but I do tend to agree that the focus on sports (or fashion/clothes for many of us women) can mean people never get around to other conversations…Not that I see anything wrong with the Superbowl, mind you (whether you watch it for the game, the ads, or the halftime show…)
4.     So…heard any good music lately? The other day, my 8-year old daughter asked me and my husband whether we knew Katy Perry’s song “Last Friday Night.” We weren’t sure so she launched into the lyrics. She got as far as the first line. “There’s a stranger in my bed” (didn’t even need to hear about the pounding in her head) before we cut her off to explain what the problem was…. So I’m trying to find ways to help my kids think through their musical choices (before it gets to be a Big Issue). I’m not a believer in strict censorship (it’s too hard, anyway, if your kids socialize with others and/or get any radio exposure time), but I would like to help them understand what’s wrong with Katy Perry (even if that doesn’t keep her from writing catchy music and them from recognizing it) . Sometimes, too, the ‘badness’ of certain lyrics is kind of lost on very young children...I still remember arguing with my mom (at about the same age) that Olivia Newton John’s Physical was about gym membership (in my defense, the video sort of took this angle—see!
5.      I’m part of a women’s reading group that gets together to read stuff during Lent. We’ve been trying to figure out what to read this year, which has brought me to review and discuss favorite readings (some of which, sadly, won’t work for our group). So far, my top personal recs are: Jacques Philippe’s Interior Freedom and In the School of the Holy Spirit, Fr. Gereon Goldmann’s The Shadow of His Wings, and (on a lighter note) Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. But I’m looking forward to reading others’ choices, too: I Believe in Love, Consoling the Heart of Jesus, and Cizek’s He Leadeth Me.
6.      Do your kids have nervous habits/ tics? One of my kids does—in a big way. I’m trying to get her to stop but I’m afraid it makes her more self-conscious—and more likely to fidget. This same girl also has a hard time controlling her instinctive (usual angry or irritated) reactions. So I’m on the hunt for ways of helping her. So far, we’re doing a lot of the “can you try that again?” routine. My mom had a great spin on this one. She’d make you leave the room and try to say your angry phrase again without laughing. I could never do it (though my brother Dan, could…so I guess it doesn’t work for EVERY kid…)
7.      At the risk of ODing on food topics, I also had to read the WSJ’s Baked Hot Chocolate piece. (
Looks like a great little recipe, but I’ll need to wait until I have some good quality chocolate on hand. In the meantime, I recommend this recipe from a friend, especially if you’re looking (selfishly) to make dessert only for yourself.
5 Minute Chocolate Mug Cake
4 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 egg
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons chocolate chips (optional)
a small splash of vanilla extract
1 large coffee mug

Add dry ingredients to mug and mix well. Add the egg and mix thoroughly. Pour in the milk and oil and mix well. Add in the chocolate chips and vanilla extract and mix again.

Put your mug in the microwave and cook on high for 3 minutes. The cake will rise over the top of the mug but don’t be alarmed!


To get to Hallie's 7 quick takes, click here: