Rape is NOT an Honor Code Violation

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last week, you’ve no doubt read, seen, or at least heard about this Rolling Stone exposé detailing one young woman’s horrifying experience of gang rape at a UVA fraternity house. I recommend reading the article on an empty stomach, because the story will likely sicken you. It’s the sort of thing you read and wonder how one group of human beings could ever do that to another, particularly human beings who are smart enough and dedicated enough to be attending a high profile university. The focus of the article, however, is primarily on UVA’s and many other universities’ mishandling of rape cases and how the federal government is pressuring them to do a better job or face losing federal funding. While I don’t disagree with the sentiment, I fail to see how that’s really the big deal.
If you asked a mother and father to adjudicate an incest allegation between two of their children, would you expect an equitable resolution and a satisfactory outcome? For those who couldn’t read my sarcastic tone, the answer is no, of course not. You don’t ask strongly interested parties to adjudicate anything; generally, you ask them to recuse themselves in favor of neutral parties, preferably those with expertise in criminal and legal matters. University administrators and classmates are neither. Like the aforementioned parents, they are highly biased and ill-equipped. And understand, I say this as much for the accused as the accusers. An allegation of rape is not something that should be decided by a bunch of overachieving poli sci majors. Even if the case never makes it to the formal legal system, should students be allowed to be labeled as rapists by a kangaroo court? And potentially be expelled, lose scholarships, or be thrown off athletic teams? Such a ruling could unfairly effect the student’s entire life, if, in fact, they’re not guilty. I’m sorry, but the college honor council should not be imbued with that kind of power.
Sexual assault is a serious and despicable criminal act, not an honor code violation. In the FBI’s violent crime statistics, rape is second only to murder and non-negligent manslaughter. Plagiarism and stealing the rival team’s mascot don’t make the list. If a victim chooses to come forward, his or her case should be brought to the police, not the university cheerleading squad. To quote Robby Soave from his article in Reason magazine, “Cheating and raping are not related things. The former is an academic infraction deserving an academic punishment, like expulsion; the latter is a violent crime deserving a rigorous police investigation.” Universities don’t need to get better at handling rape allegations; they need to get the hell out of the way.
via: The UVA Rapists Should Not Have Been Expelled – Reason.com

A Betty Crocker Thanksgiving

As any of you who read me regularly have probably gathered, I am no Betty Crocker and sure as hell not Martha Stewart. It’s not that I don’t like to cook or clean or decorate my house, so much as there are a hundred other things I’d rather be doing. When I do have a momentary lapse into domesticity, it usually turns out okay—that is to say, no one is poisoned, and the fire department isn’t on speed dial. Truthfully, my best such skill is sewing. When I was young, ready-made apparel was expensive, and the clothes didn’t come in “low-rise slim-fit boot-cut” and “mid-rise roomy ankle” and “curvy petite long” and every other fit combination, so there was a real advantage to being able to sew your own. Now that that is no longer the case, and my kids are too old for Halloween Costumes, my one domestic super-skill is now useless.
With that in mind, I decided to wander on over to Pinterest to look for some nifty Thanksgiving Day ideas for my home and family. Here’s what I found at Pinterest Thanksgiving Pins.
Rice Krispie Turkey Legs
Yes! I can do this. These are so cute and fun, and the recipe doesn’t involve baking, basting, roasting, or sautéing. I’m on it.
Pumpkin Skinny Dip
This low-calorie dessert dip is intended to delight your health-conscious Turkey Day guests. Right. Look, if it’s not going to pack a layer of flab on your fanny, I’m not including it in my holiday line-up.
Gourds & Greens Festive Table Decorations
Wait, you mean people actually do this? Other than professional home stagers, that is. Sorry, not happening. Besides, this would totally clash with the Autumn Leaves Chinet.
Sweet ‘n Spicy Chicken Bacon Wraps
OMG, for realz? Do you know how many ingredients this thing has? It takes five pictures just to show the steps! How am I gonna watch Miracle on 34th Street with this going on? Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Five Ingredient Easy Crock Pot Creamed Corn
Yo, domestic goddesses, got a tip for ya: you can buy this stuff ready-made. That’s one ingredient. I’ll loan you my can opener.
Holiday Fork Caddy
Why? Seriously, why?
Autumn Fun Pie Crust
Also known as too-much-time-on-my-hands Pie Crust, this little beauty is just the kind of thing that would make me go, “Help! I’ve been abducted by the Stepford Wives!”.
Pretty Pumpkin Toilet Paper
No. Please. God. No.
Okay, so I’m going with the Rice Krispie things. Except I may not make them turkey-leg shaped. In fact, I may just leave them flat in the pan. Or maybe just eat them straight out of the mixing bowl before they’re cooled. Or better yet, just pour the Rice Krispies in a cereal bowl with milk and eat the marshmallows on the side. Yeah, that’ll work. And then I’ll do what I do every year on Thanksgiving: call Cracker Barrel. They do a mean Thanksgiving take-out. For like seventy-five bucks, you can get everything you need for a family of six (except the Chinet). And my kids are old enough to drive now, so I don’t even have to pick it up. Sweet.
Wishing you the Best Thanksgiving Ever,
😉 Maria

Why Do Teens Want to Argue about Everything?

A couple nights ago, after yet another silly argument between my husband and our teenage daughters over who-knows-what, he looked me and asked, “Why do they want to turn every little thing into an argument? And why do I let them suck me into it?” I had to bite my lip not to laugh out loud. Why indeed! And this is two entirely different questions. The first one, I actually know the answer to.
When I was working on the third book in the Unbreakable series, I had to do a lot of research into trauma and the teenage brain, some of which made it into the novel. One thing I learned is that, contrary to earlier assumptions that all the real growth in human brains takes place before the third birthday, we now know that the adolescent and teenage years are the powerhouse “pruning” years. During this time, the brain begins to weed out the less-used paths in favor of the more-used paths. While this might sound like a shrinking period, it’s not. Think of the young brain as a hunk of clay that needs to be chipped away at to form a beautiful sculpture. During the sculpting phase, the mind is organizing and prioritizing information, ideas, and skills to optimize each individual’s gray matter to suit their particular needs. If the young person is spending much of his time studying math or playing sports or learning the piano, his brain will optimize itself for these activities. That doesn’t mean he can’t acquire completely different skills at some point in life, just that it will be harder.
But there’s also this:
“Scientists have discovered that in the teen brain, the emotional center matures before the frontal lobes. Emotion therefore often holds sway over rational processing. When we realize that the prefrontal cortex allows reflection, while the amygdala is designed for reaction, we can begin to understand the often irrational and overly emotional reactions of teens.”
Unfortunately, as the above quote points out, the amygdala is fully formed a few years before the thinking center of the brain, and as a result, we get the “high-strung” teen, who responds first with emotion, and later, with rational thought. That’s just how it works, folks. Without those emotional outbursts, the mental reorg can’t complete. Junior really isn’t purposely trying to test your patience or hurt your feelings. Even if it seems that way in the moment. As the adult in the room, you have the benefit of a fully mature prefrontal cortex, so use it. The next time your little darling screams at you for not predicting the weather accurately, or dissolves into a puddle of tears over your choice of dinner entrée, remind yourself that there is an artist at work inside that pretty little head, and chunks of clay are flying everywhere. But I know that’s easier said than done. Just ask my husband.
Read more here: The Adolescent Brain: A Work in Progress – Pat Wolfe – Mind Matters, Inc.

Kids Love Realistic Barbie Doll

Here’s a great piece from Time about Nickolay Lamm’s new Lammily doll. Lammily is a Barbie-type doll that looks realistic, or as the kids who first tested her out put it, “She looks like my sister.” The doll is proportioned more like a typical teenager, complete with optional acne, moles, and scars. If you’re someone who has worried about presenting your daughter with highly unrealistic body images, you’ll appreciate Lammily. The video of the childrens’ reactions to the doll is especially interesting to watch. After seeing it, I understand better why my daughters’ most beloved fashion dolls were the ones who looked most like them.
via: TIME | Watch Little Kids React to a Realistic-Looking Barbie Alternative

Double-Blind or Double-Barrelled?

Anyone who’s read the Unbreakable series knows I have strong opinions about Big Pharma. What they may not know is that those opinions are based on my own experience working as a statistician in the pharmaceutical industry. Ten years of massaging the numbers left me a permanent skeptic. Every time I hear someone talk about such-and-such a drug or treatment being backed by “good science” like double-blind studies, I just roll my eyes.
This story in Newsweek focuses on one particular drug, Tamiflu, but it’s just one of many. Trust me, all the positive results are twisted to sound way better than they are, and the side effects are always downplayed or explained away as not related to the drug. Just know this: for every prescription drug you take, every vaccine you receive, every treatment you subject yourself to, it’s the same—neither you nor your doctor nor the FDA knows the true risks and benefits of these chemical concoctions. Caveat emptor.
Read the full article here: Big Pharma Plays Hide-the-Ball With Data

Yes, I’m an Introvert

I saw this on Pinterest today and just had to share. It’s so-o-o me! I live in my head. People often remark that my husband and I seem to have the reverse relationship of most couples—when we’re in public, he is the social one, chattering away with everyone he meets, while I am hiding out, talking to one or two people that I already know well. And I’m fine with that. I think it also describes a lot of writers. Many, if not most, of us are classic introverts. We’re not weird or shy or socially maladjusted; we just prefer to think more than we speak, and particularly before we speak. Some of you extroverted types might want to try that sometime 😉 .
via: Pinterest

Halloween Pumpkin Stuffed Peppers Recipe

Halloween Pumpkin Stuffed PeppersThis fun little treat will entice your whole family to eat their meat and veggies before they dig into the Halloween candy!
Halloween Pumpkin Stuffed Peppers
  • 2 cups cooked brown or white rice
  • 4 large orange bell peppers with stems intact
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1/2 diced onion
  • 1 – 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • garlic powder, salt, and pepper to taste


  1. Cut the top inch off the peppers and clean the insides, saving the tops for later.
  2. Using a small paring knife, fashion eyes and mouth on the widest, flattest side of each pepper.
  3. Place the empty peppers in a baking dish.
  4. Mix ground beef, tomato sauce, onion, cooked rice, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a medium bowl.
  5. Spoon the meat mixture into each pepper, then replace the tops, using toothpicks to hold them in place.
  6. Bake for one hour at 350 degrees or until meat is cooked through.


Gone But Not Forgotten: The Sticky Stigma of Obesity

Weight loss obesity calorie articleA recent collaboration between researchers (University of Hawaii – Mānoa, University of Manchester, and Monash University) considered the attitudes of young people towards those who currently are or were previously overweight, as compared to those who have always been thin. Probably no one was surprised to learn that participants preferred images and stories of always-thin people to those of currently heavy ones, but oddly enough, it appears that previously fat folks, even those who had lost large amounts of weight, were the least popular. One interpretation of this might be that still-heavy folks were seen as weak or hopeless, unable to resolve their weight problems, while those who had managed to successfully lose weight were viewed as lazy slackers who had “chosen” to be fat in the past. Instead of respecting or admiring the effort involved in massive weight loss, the study participants showed disdain for the once-obese, similar perhaps to how we might expect people to react to an ex-convict. These attitudes were further tested after exposure to information about weight loss. Body fatness was alternately described as being easily controllable through diet and exercise modifications, or as a complex issue of genetics, physiology, and environment (the latter being a much more accurate presentation). The researchers found that the popular diet & exercise theory, promulgated daily in the media, caused participants to react even more negatively towards obese individuals. In other words, lightweight news stories by “health reporters”, combined with advertisements for quick and easy weight loss products and programs, contribute significantly to societal attitudes about obesity, while the real research, which shows no easy answers, is continually swept under the rug. I suppose news outlets consider that information (a lot of which is covered on this site) too difficult and complicated for the average consumer to comprehend. Or perhaps science just doesn’t sell as many papers as the typical glossy “before & after” shots. Learn more about this fascinating look at attitudes towards obesity from Time’s Healthland article or the original research in the journal Obesity.

Do you have good fat or bad fat?

Good fat, bad fatWe’re constantly bombarded with information connecting obesity with a variety of chronic and debilitating diseases like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and sleep apnea. The presumption is that the excess weight is the cause of these illnesses, rather than a co-symptom of an underlying problem. A new study out of Texas A&M University shines a bright light on that presumption by showing that a subset of the obese have none of these chronic illnesses, and seem to possess an enzyme that increases their fat deposition while simultaneously suppressing inflammation and improving insulin sensitivity (the exact opposite of what most overweight people experience). Furthermore, the researchers pointed out that a certain percentage of lean folks exhibit the inflammation and insulin resistance normally associated with obesity. While the study’s primary goal was to explore the enzyme in question—in hopes of someday developing a proprietary drug based on it, of course—the real point is that you can’t tell a book by the size of its cover. Just because you see someone carrying excessive weight, you can’t assume that they have high blood sugar or blood pressure or that their heart is a ticking time bomb. In fact, they may be healthier and have a longer life in front of them than their slender companions. Explore the research further at AgriLife Today (Is there a ‘healthy’ obesity gene?), or dig into the nitty-gritty details at The Journal of Biological Chemistry.


Who’s Your Daddy? Apparently, it’s NYC Mayor Bloomberg…

No Sugar Sodas

No Sugar Sodas Allowed

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg once again proves he has a serious God Complex. His latest “food police” proposal involves outlawing sales of any sugar-containing beverage over 16 oz, except for those he deems acceptable, such as fruit juices and milkshakes(!). Put aside for a moment the economic impact of this edict, and let’s focus on what’s really going on here. This guy thinks he knows enough about health and nutrition to tell everybody else how they should live. He actually thinks he’s going to single-handedly do what thousands of educated, talented scientists have so far been unable to do, which is solve the very complex problem of obesity by controlling one tiny piece of the puzzle—what people eat and drink. His arrogance is enough to make me choke on a Diet Coke, and those lovely little chemical concoctions are, by the way, still permitted under his proposal. Mayor Bloomberg, here’s a clue. Some people are convinced that sun exposure will give them skin cancer, while others are concerned about the transdermal absorption of carcinogens and hormone disruptors in common sunscreen products. Some folks think they will die of food poisoning if they drink raw milk, while others are concerned about the loss of nutrients and digestibility of the pasteurized stuff. Some swear off coffee, claiming the caffeine will kill them, while others know that coffee’s been linked to longevity and a reduced risk of diabetes. And we all know someone who consistently drank vodka with breakfast and smoked three packs a day and lived to be 95. The fact is, no health information is absolute for everyone, and even if it was, this is still a free country (at least for now), and that means we should all be free to make lifestyle choices for our own bodies, and then live—or die—with the consequences thereof. In other words, Mayor Bloomberg, last I checked, you’re not the boss of me, and I’d like to keep it that way. Read more about Bloomberg Almighty and his latest crusade against personal liberty in Time Magazine’s Healthland piece or Hot Air’s treatise on the topic.