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Month: November 2016

#GivingTuesday2016

A little while back, I wrote a post about the frivolity of this blog given the fact that so many people in the world are facing such great adversity that they will never be able to ponder things like “who makes the best donut in Chicago?” This #GivingTuesday, I am supporting organizations that are helping improve lives so that more people can have the time and security to enjoy life’s pleasures. See below for a list of all the organizations I’m giving to this Tuesday and how you can help support them as well. And, remember, time can be given, too.

Chicago Youth Centers
Chicago, IL

Chicago Youth Centers (CYC) serves children of all ages in Chicago’s toughest neighborhoods, providing academic enrichment and access to resources students otherwise would not have so to help fill the gaps in Chicago’s present education system. For example, some of their 6 centers now feature Maker Labs, which further encourage STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) and social learning that is the cornerstone of CYC’s efforts. Donate now at chicagoyouthcenters.org/donate/. Or, if you’re interested in volunteering or joining the Auxilliary Board or a local board for one of the centers, shoot me an email at threetimesperday@gmail.com.

CYC-maker-lab-chicago-youth-centers-STEAM

Slow Food USA
Nationwide

“Let us rediscover the flavors and savors of regional cooking and banish the degrading effects of Fast Food.” This is a line from Slow Food USA’s manifesto. Slow Food supports programs such as school gardens to help cultivate the next generation of healthy eaters. Too few Americans are educated on what healthy, wholesome eating really is, and while there are of course socio-economic barriers that must also be tackled, Slow Food is working to spread the message, support farmers, and preserve food as a staple of culture. Become a member at slowfoodusa.org.

Mimi Edelman

Greater Chicago Food Depository
Chicago, IL

What do you think of when you think of the holiday season? While for many of those reading this blog imagine massive feasts surrounded by family or friends in a warm, cozy home, for so many people in Chicago not only is a large meal far from given, a meal at all may be. The Greater Chicago Food Depository, or Chicago Food Bank, is helping ensure children, families, and those in need have access to food year-round and are working to make hunger a thing of the past. Find out how to donate or get involved at www.chicagofoodbank.com. Or, if you’re not from Chicago and wish to donate to your local food pantry, find a list of pantries nationwide by visiting www.feedingamerica.com.

annual-report

Passion Works Studios
Athens, Ohio

Passion Works is a collaborative effort between disabled and non-disabled artists in a community that used to be home to a massive mental hospital that used lobotomies for treatment. Passion Works is a non-profit helping to dismantle the stigma about learning disabilities by providing a place where those with disabilities are able to create gorgeous art. Order a flower, painting, or even a wedding bouquet now at passionworks.org and get free shipping until December 31st!

Official Passion Flower

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What To Do With Those Old Brita Filters (and the Pitchers)

recyclebrita

A few months ago, I got a Brita water filter. Today, I replaced the filter. As I stood there with the empty cartridge, I thought, “this doesn’t seem like something you should throw away or throw in the recycling can either…”

So I did a bit of research. Here’s what you can do with your cartridges:

Mail into TerraCycleTerraCycle turns old Brita filters, pitchers, and faucets into outdoor chairs, bike racks, watering cans, and park benches. Just collect 2 lbs. of Brita products to recycle. Then, using the free shipping label they provide through their website, mail in the box.

Drop off (or mail) for Preserve’s Gimme 5 program. Preserve recycles #5 plastics (which Brita products are made of). Drop your refuse off at one of the 250 drop off locations nationwide or recycle by mail so that your trash can be made into a wide variety of treasures, like mixing bowls, toothbrushes, and bags and totes (just to name a few).

 

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on being skeptical of journalism: part II

This post was originally featured on my blog What the Health Now? before being transferred over to Three Times Per Day.

I have realized recently that very few people understand how to source check. Facebook has become (among other things) a cesspool for ignorant debates of ridiculously biased or misinformed articles.

I don’t wish to use this post to spew judgment, but rather want to raise awareness that there is a lot of bad journalism out there and that it is very important, whether posting an article on Facebook or using it in an academic paper, to check your sources.

Just one of the Facebook posts that inspired this entry.

It’s important to note that all journalism is biased. News sources get to choose the articles they run, which facts they convey, the language they use. However, reputable journalism is based on well-checked facts and is held to a high standard of ethics. 

PewResearch conducted the Journalism Project to help define the 9 Core Principles of Journalism:

1. Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth.
2. Its first loyalty is to its citizens.
3. Its essence is a discipline of verification.
4. Its practitioners must maintain an independence from those they cover.
5. It must serve as an independent monitor of power.
6. It must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise.
7. It must strive to make the significant interesting and relevant.
8. It must keep the news comprehensive and proportional.
9. Its practitioners must be allowed to exercise their personal conscience.

Pew Research, Principles of Journalism, accessed from http://www.journalism.org/resources/principles-of-journalism/.

Where I see most of these sensational news sources, such as The Conservative Times, fail is in 1, 3, 8, and perhaps an over-use of 9. These sources have an obligation only towards a truth which serves their political purpose. They do not wholly embrace a system of verification. In fact, their fact checking is near non-existent. These sources pass opinion off as fact on readers who don’t know any better or who don’t wish to know any better, which is their freedom of speech. As a result, misinformed or intolerant readers stick to these sources that only confirm their pre-existing beliefs. In this way, the sources contribute to an ugly cycle of an ignorant public.

NPR has an Ethics Handbook which perhaps covers the bases of journalistic accuracy in a more digestible way, that can be utilized by readers as well:

Selected Excerpts from NPR’s Accuracy Guidelines

Edit like a prosecutor.
Good editors should test, probe, and challenge reporters, always with the goal of making NPR’s stories as good (and therefore as accurate) as possible.

Take special care with news that might cause grief or damage reputations.

Guard against subjective errors.
When quoting or paraphrasing anyone  – whether in a blog post, an online story or in an on-air “actuality” – consider whether the source would agree with the interpretation, keeping in mind that sources may sometimes parse their words even though we accurately capture their meaning. An actuality from someone we interview or a speaker at an event should reflect accurately what that person was asked, was responding to or was addressing.Be able to identify the source of each fact you report.

Give preference to primary sources.
(i.e. information directly from a first-hand account, such as a witness, rather than a second-hand source who heard from someone or third-hand source who heard from someone who heard from someone…and so on.)

Don’t just spread information. Be careful and skeptical.

Be vigilant about presenting data accurately.
It’s easy to represent data inaccurately or misleadingly, especially in charts and infographics. Double-check your numbers and the way you portray them to make sure you’re imparting the proper information.

Source: NPR, Accuracy, NPR Ethics Handbook, accessed from http://ethics.npr.org/category/a1-accuracy/.

Again, no journalism is unbiased. However, some journalism is more accurate than others. When reading articles or preparing to site sources, make sure you are being a critical reader and judging the articles by the same guidelines news sources should be judging themselves. Is it fair? Are they using primary sources who are accurate cited? Are they clearly injecting opinion that is not supported by reputable facts, i.e. primary sources?

A little education can teach readers tune a critical eye for good, or bad, sources. I don’t mean to harp on NPR, but their thorough and publicly available Ethics Handbook makes it an excellent starting point for learning how to read critically. For example, they even list case studies of when they went wrong, including how they went wrong. Studying these examples can give some insight into what a reader should be looking for.

As always, the key takeaway is this: question everything. No single news source has all the information and can give you the entire story. Accurately informing oneself requires thorough investigation of multiple sources with different political viewpoints and perspectives to truly be well-informed.

Think about it. If you were to, say, get in a fight with your younger sister, would you want Mom or Dad to only ask your sister what happened? Would you even want them to only ask your young brother, who had been standing by? Or, if this hypothetical situation is lost on your because you don’t have siblings or have never fought with them because you’re part god, imagine if you were accused of a crime. Would you only want the judge or jury to listen to the plaintiff?

Be smart out there, people!

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on being skeptical of journalism: part I

This post was originally featured on my blog What the Health Now? before being transferred over to Three Times Per Day.

I get it, journalism is hard. Less and less people are subscribing to newspapers and it’s no secret that people like cheap thrills. But an article in the Chicago Tribune last week stooped low, far too low to not call them out for it.

The article was about a set of bond deals intended to earn money for the Chicago Public Schools system that ended up doing the opposite. In it, the Tribune went to town on some of the only people attempting, regardless of success, to raise money for our underfunded education system.

I’m not going to pretend that I know much about bond trading, but I know it’s kinda like playing the stock market. You win some, you lose some.

Regardless, this post is not about whether the article was worthy of publication or not. This article is about one particularly shitty approach they took to turn their reader against a public figure.

Okay, I am rambling. Time to get to the point. Here is a direct quote from the article (appropriately in Courier font) which you can read in its entirety here:

Cepeda has an MBA from the University of Chicago and spent more than 10 years as a banker before founding A.C. Advisory. She also married into one of the most influential political families on Chicago’s South Side. Her late husband, Harvard-trained lawyer Albert Maule, was a grandson of Corneal Davis, a longtime state senator known for delivering black votes for Chicago’s Democratic machine. Maule later was appointed to the city’s police board by then-Mayor Richard M. Daley.

“Five months before Maule died of cancer in 1995, he helped Cepeda start A.C. Advisory, according to a 2013 Tribune profile. The firm got its first contract with CPS months later, and Cepeda continues to advise the district and the city. A.C. Advisory received about $4.7 million in fees on CPS deals from 1996 through 2013.”

Okay, so lets dissect this a bit. They begin with the fact that Ms. Cepeda has an MBA from one of the best business schools in the world and how she spent 10 years in finance prior to starting her business. But, oh wait, don’t be fooled, they continue– “she also married into one of the most influential political families on Chicago’s South Side.” 

And if that isn’t dirty enough, they KEEP GOING. 

“Five months before [her late husband] died of cancer in 1995, he helped Cepeda start A.C. Advisory, according to a 2013 Tribune profile. The firm got its first contract with CPS months later, and Cepeda continues to advise the district and the city. A.C. Advisory received about $4.7 million in fees on CPS deals from 1996 through 2013.”

That’s right. Now, Cepeda, a Chicago Booth graduate and an accomplished banker, established her firm and got deals with CPS thanks to her husband, who was political royalty in the South Side (Chicago’s utter disregard of the South Side in all things political, financial, and otherwise important can be topic for another post).

But, since they mention it, why don’t we go and check out that 2013 Tribune profile, appropriately titled:

Adela Cepeda carved her own path to success

Yep, you read that right. The Tribune published another article last year in which they praised Cepeda for being a self-made woman. This year, they decided to instead spin her as a husband-made wife. What were you thinking, Jason Grotto and Heather Gillers? But what do you have to say for yourself, Chicago Tribune??
The evidence is much more compelling in your 2013 article. For example, what they don’t mention in the recent article is that she met her husband as an undergraduate at HARVARD. Yes, that’s right. She was accepted as a Latina female to the most competitive university in the world. Ms. Cepeda came to Chicago to be with her husband whom she met at Harvard, and who was an attorney from Connecticut but had a grandfather who was a state senator from the South Side of Chicago. Cepeda, herself, ascended to Vice President of Smith Barney.
The 2013 article reads:

“Five months before Maule died in 1995, at age 40, he helped his wife draw up papers for A.C. Advisory Inc., a firm focusing on municipal finance.”

The recent article says:

“Five months before Maule died of cancer in 1995, he helped Cepeda start A.C. Advisory…The firm got its first contract with CPS months later, and Cepeda continues to advise the district and the city. A.C. Advisory received about $4.7 million in fees on CPS deals from 1996 through 2013.” 

You don’t have to be a comparative literature major to realize this shows a blatant lack of integrity in the 2014 article, which purposefully implies that Maule used his family’s political history to gather clients for Cepeda and that it began a precedent of an unqualified wife handling and receiving big chunks of tax payer dollars.

The good news is, Grotto is off to Harvard in the Fall, where he, like Cepeda, can study finance, economics, and accounting and can give journalism a rest. I’m still not sure what Heather’s excuse for demeaning the success of another woman is, but maybe she got that from her husband as well.

Again, I get it. Journalism is hard and journalists have to try more and more to make a story. But please be skeptical of all that you read, people. And all that you hear, too.

Over and out,

-r

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Why I Returned It All

A few weeks ago, I went cray cray banaynay on the online shopping. I’m not sure where the impulse came from, but I suddenly felt I needed a new wardrobe and there were so many deals and then all of a sudden…!

But as I sat amid boxes this weekend, I made a decision. It was all going back, and I wasn’t going to buy any more.

Enough was enough. I was tired coming home to an apartment that literally always had stuff laying around. I was tired of feeling financially out of control even though I’m not, and I was tired trying stuff on, sending it back, and keeping track of returns.

I’ve mentioned before how The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up had a big impact on me. As I discovered this weekend, clearly it was long lasting. Suddenly, I was craving clean lines and an empty table. Friday, after a report went out at work, I cleaned my entire desk, threw away all unnecessary papers (let’s be real, I was never going to look at them again anyway), and got rid of all superfluous office supplies. Immediately, my productivity improved. Like, immediately. I sent out multiple emails I had had on my to-do list, finished homework in record time, entered all of my expenses, and was out of the office by 4:30 pm.

In today’s day and age, where more women have more disposable income and at a younger age, it is so, so easy to get caught in the trap. As early as 2009, the Harvard Business Review noted that women were driving the world economy. Women, particularly young women, are the most targeted consumer group due to their spending power. As a result, we are constantly having ads pushed in our faces, constantly feeling we need the newest this and newest that and pressured to update our look constantly in order to be successful. It’s easy to get caught in a whirlwind of constantly spending.

And, of course, there is a pleasure that comes with shopping. Researchers in the UK, for example, found that over 50% of women got a “high” when shopping. Sure, I get a “high” from eating Magnolia Bakery’s chocolate banana pudding. And, if it was shoved in my face daily, I’d probably eat a whole heck of a lot more banana pudding than I ever, ever wanted to with dire consequences to my waistline and arteries. We are constantly pelted with advertisements, like those emails alerting us of seemingly constant sales and new products. Instagram and Pinterest constantly show us new things and where to get them.

So how can you “protect” yourself? Remove the bait.

Unsubscribe from every retailer email list that currently emails you. I promise you’ll still save the money even if you aren’t directly alerted of sales. In fact, stop going cray during sales and stop trying to get your cart to $150 in order to get free shipping! Those are traps! Instead, download the Honey extension for your web browser. Shop only when you need to and buy only what you love. As a result, you’ll save money and end up donating far fewer barely (or not at all) used items. ∎

What other things have you done to remove money-grabbing distractions, save money, or gain piece of mind amid the clutter? Share below!

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