Thursday, April 16, 2009

Censorship = More Yummy "Banned Books"?

I like reading "banned books" and encouraging others to do so, especially when they encourage people to freely exchange ideas that might shake up the political and social status quo. Along with those come a few purely entertaining books that may or may not have any "redeeming social value," but that adults ought to be allowed to read, in order to determine their value for themselves. In principle, censorship is a bit like not being allowed to watch the President deliver his State of the Union address, but being forced to watch Fox News tell you what he "really said." Now there's a dangerous idea.

Apparently, has removed certain material from its sales rankings, thus burying it and effectively removing it from public view. For a straightforward explanation of why sales rank matters on Amazon, see this article. First, someone at Amazon explained to author Mark Probst that the company was doing this on purpose, "in consideration of our entire customer base"; now, it appears that in the face of massive protest on Twitter and among bloggers, Amazon representatives are claiming "it was a glitch." A few people think it's a smokescreen for poor accounting practices.

If the folks at Amazon were just being prissy and were truly interested in protecting the sensibilities of their "entire customer base" (which they apparently misjudged as being as prissy as they were), wouldn't they also have removed books on violent, illegal practices such as dog fighting? What about heterosexually explicit books? If there's anything I hate worse than censorship, it's lying and hypocrisy. One of the company's stated explanations must be false. Or maybe it's not Amazon - it's the glitch that was concerned about Amazon's "entire customer base." If you find this disturbing, here are a few things you can do today:

Call or write to Amazon. Amazon executive customer service email is: and the customer service phone number is 1-800-201-7575. Below is a template found on Dear Author: Romance Novel Reviews, Industry News, and Commentary that you can use for starters:

Dear Amazon,

It has come to my attention that you are de-ranking books, supposedly on the basis of “adult content.” Apparently, according to the Amazon Dictionary, this is defined as books that have anything at all to do with GLBT characters, authors, issues, or references, with some general erotica being roped in, as well. In the meantime, however, books on the illegal, inhumane, and horrifyingly violent sport of dog fighting remain ranked and appear on a first page search under “dog fighting”: Further, a search under “playboy” yields as the first return “Playboy: Wet and Wild Complete Collection,” followed by “Playboy: The Complete Centerfolds,” and so on. At what point did “adult content” exclude nude women and dogs killing other dogs for sport?

This is nothing short of discrimination; this is nothing short of censorship. This is nothing a business that claims commercial integrity at even the most basic level would do. Consequently, as a longtime Amazon customer, I look forward to an immediate reversal of this ridiculous policy. Otherwise, I will purchase elsewhere and encourage everyone else I know to do the same.

Add Smart Bitches, Trashy Books' definition of amazon rank to your lexicon. You can even have a hand in its adoption in the Urban Dictionary.

Sign this petition. Because even if it was "a glitch," bookstores and libraries should take great care to protect our right to freedom of expression. When books are censored based on categories like "homosexuality," "GLBT," "erotica," and - "disability"? - then we're on a slippery slope to nowhere good. Of course, if consumers do find those titles, Amazon will still sell them and take its cut of the profits, right?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Ash e-Anar (Pomegranate Soup with Lamb Shanks)




  • 1     c. lentils
  • 1/2  c. rice
  • 1     bunch fresh parsley chopped or 1 c. dried crushed parsley
  • 1     6 oz packet of frozen chopped spinach or 1/2 pound fresh chopped spinach
  • 1     T. crushed dried mint leaves
  • 1     T. salt
  • 1     tsp.crushed black pepper
  • 2     T. sugar
  • 1     tsp. tumeric powder
  • 4      lamb shanks
  • 3-4  c. water
  • 32 ozs. pomegranate juice or 3/4 cups pomegranate syrup


Brown lamb shanks in a large skillet with a few T. extra virgin olive oil and place in crock pot.

Add all ingredients except pomegranate. Cook on low for 6-7 hours. Add pomegranate and let simmer for thirty minutes more.

Serves 6-8.



Monday, April 13, 2009

Farm Fresh Eggs, Tomatoes & Crimini Mushrooms



This was tonight's dinner. Tasty and nutritious! It was 9 PM before we got home from Boy Scouts and grocery shopping, and I was so tempted to take one of the easy routes: McDonald's drive-thru, or Lean Cuisine.

But to confirm and celebrate my rediscovered commitment, I decided to cook.


  • 1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 5-6 crimini mushrooms
  • 1 campari tomato
  • 1 farm fresh egg, shelled (this one had a pale green shell, but really, any fresh egg will do)
  • sea salt & freshly ground pepper
  • whole wheat toast (this is HEB whole wheat "baked from scratch" bread)


  1. Clean and slice mushrooms and tomato.
  2. Salt vegetables lightly.
  3. Heat oil over medium burner; add pepper, tomato slices,
  4. Cover and steam until veggies are slightly tender.
  5. Move veggies to form a ring around the outer edges of the saucepan and drop the raw egg into the center of the pan.
  6. Cover and steam until egg is cooked to your liking.

Try it and let me know what you think.

I am loving SparkPeople's Daily Nutrition Feedback! It's just one more reason to faithfully track everything you eat. Not only does it report on whether you met, fell short of, or exceeded your nutritional goals, it generates colorful little pie charts to show you, visually, just where your calories are coming from:


What to Do When Your Personal Trainer Thinks You've Died

Join me at:

Where I'm starting over. From scratch. Time to stop using, "Well, I quit smoking" as an excuse for "I gained it all back." It's not rocket science; I'm not stupid; and excuses are just that - excuses.

  • Commit to and trust the process. The following quote (and copious amounts of raw jalapeno peppers) helped me to quit smoking, and I doubt they'll fail me now:
    "Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, the providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe's couplets:
              Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
              Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!'"
                        - W. H. Murray in The Scottish Himalaya Expedition, 1951
  • Deliberately form better habits. They're obviously not forming themselves. Supposedly, it takes about three weeks to a month to form a new habit (bad habits may take significantly less time). Some sites that may be helpful:
    Zen Habits at
    My Bad Habits at
  • Eat healthier, fresher, foods in the right quantities (1200 -1550 calories a day). Track nutrients and calories on SparkPeople. Some sites that might help:
    World's Healthiest Foods: Food Advisor at
  • Drink more water (2 liters daily), less coffee (1 cup daily, at most).
    Coffee is a diuretic and a stimulant that burns energy but gives nothing in return.
  • Exercise more, realizing that even just getting up and walking up a flight of stairs once an hour is "more."
    Get up and move, take more walks, just burn more energy.
  • Set small, realistic goals and milestones. Maybe this isn't the year I climb Everest... maybe I'm NEVER going to climb Everest. How about a twenty-mile hike without dying?
    Ultimately, my goal is to weigh 160 lbs. I can do that by November 21, easily, if I follow Nike's advice and "Just Do It."  
  • Be accountable.
    Pictures don't lie. Well, not unless they're heavily photomanipulated. But that would be...cheating. Not to mention counterproductive. 

According to the Food Advisor over at World's Healthiest Foods, I should be eating more of the following in order to boost my daily intake of nutrients I'm likely to be deficient in, and increase my energy:

  • Spinach, boiled
  • Calf's liver, braised
  • Turnip greens, cooked
  • Kelp (sea vegetable)
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Basil, dried, ground
  • Mustard greens, boiled
  • Crimini mushrooms, raw
  • Parsley, fresh
  • Collard greens, boiled
  • Swiss chard, boiled
  • Asparagus, boiled
  • Dill weed
  • Sunflower seeds, raw
  • Venison
  • Oregano, dried, ground
  • Salmon, chinook, baked/broiled
  • Peppermint, fresh
  • Thyme, dried, ground
  • Broccoli, steamed
  • Cod, baked/broiled
  • Kale, boiled
  • Beef tenderloin, lean, broiled
  • Cauliflower, boiled
  • Cinnamon, ground
  • Tomato, ripe
  • According to the records of my gym membership, I'm either dead - or wasting a lot of money each month. Each time I write an exercise related goal, my fingers form the words "going to try to..." What's wrong with this picture? I am going to spend three hours sweating at the gym each week, whenever I can work it in. (Notice how cleverly I phrased that? I could just sit in the steam room...) I will never run a Marathon; I fully intend to die with my own, original knees. But I would like to have more endurance and stamina for the next time I tackle a hike like Cinder Cone, and I'm keeping "do one proper pushup" on my list of life goals. "Live until there's no life left in me, preferably in my hundreds," might be a good goal to add.

    Care to join me? What's motivating you or holding you back? What excuses do you make for dragging your feet or not reaching your goals? Are you as healthy as you want to be? If so, share what's worked best for you.