Sep 302014

So I’ve mentioned a bit here, and discussed with some of you at more length, that I’m deadly serious about losing my excess weight. As I type, September has about four hours left in it, and I’m 13 pounds lighter than I was on Labor Day. I’m now 37 pounds off my all-time high, and 80 pounds from my goal. Onward.

Losing weight and keeping it off means adopting permanent lifestyle choices. That means eating in a way that I can continue forever, as opposed to “dieting.” I’ll tell you straight up: I don’t like most “diet” or “reduced calorie” products. Whatever it is, I’d almost always rather use the real thing, and use it sensibly. That goes for pizza and its ingredients too, and one of my favorite easy dinners is custom-building a pizza at home.

Put it directly on the center oven rack for 10 minutes at 400º, and then check it every 3 until it looks right to you. Pull it out and let it rest for 5 more before you cut it. Behold:


I wish I could send you the smell over the Internet!

When you’re trying to make a pizza that tastes good, but that’s still easy to fit into a sensible diet, the two big monsters on the pan are crust and cheese.

The crust gets much easier to manage if you like it thin. This is a Mama Mary’s gluten-free crust, which checks in at 480 calories for the whole thing. (A comparable Boboli is 1,080—before you put a single topping on it.) The Mama Mary’s crust isn’t a gustatory star, but neither does it call negative attention to itself. It’s a fine product.

The cheese is harder. Shredded mozzarella and/or the Italian blends you get at the grocery store are 325 to 350 calories per cup. If I put cheese to my unchecked satisfaction on a homemade pizza (and I think my taste/eye for such is typical), I end up using about two cups. It’s tasty, but it’s more than I want to eat.

For purposes of an indefinitely sustainable diet, I’ve tapered to one cup for the whole pie. I put about three-quarters of it on right after the sauce, reserving the last quarter to go over the top (or near it). This is a bit of an adjustment, but it’s less of one than you might think, particularly if you like a lot of vegetable toppings.

After you stake defensible territory on crust and cheese, the next thing to tame is meat toppings. Really, in typical quantities, these probably don’t contribute as many calories as you might think. Pepperoni and Italian sausage are both spicy, so it doesn’t take much to give you a good punch. Just take it easy with those. This pizza has 105 calories’ worth of Canadian bacon on it as its only meat topping (and that’s enough to give you some in every bite).

Give some consideration to sauce. Lots of off-the-shelf ones are loaded with sugar. I don’t like the way that tastes, and I really don’t like the calories it adds. This has a third of a jar of Del Grosso pizza sauce on it, for 90 calories.

Do you like olives? Oh wow, I love them. Olives have good fat, but fat means calories. That’s 100 calories’ worth on there. (If you don’t like them, you can pull them off and infuse your meat budget with those calories, yeah?)

Now, the good news on other veggies: peppers, onions, and mushrooms are basically free. They do add some calories, but you’ll hit practical limits on what you can get on the pie before they really add up. This one has a third of a purple onion, two green onions, about three-quarters of a bell pepper, and a quarter-pound of mushrooms. Total calories: 65.

All right, so are you ready for the grand total?

This entire pizza has 1190 calories. That’s just under 149 calories per eighth. Awesome! Sounds like half for dinner one night, and then the other half for lunch the next day.

Is it a low-calorie meal? Absolutely not. But is it easy to fit into a sensible diet I can continue indefinitely? Yes!

 Posted by at 8:03 pm
Sep 292014

“A woman deserves equal pay for equal work.” – Barack Obama, January 28, 2014

Women make 77 cents for every dollar men make for the same work. This is particularly egregious discrimination that we ought to be past by now, don’t you think?



This statistic always gave me pause. For one thing, I couldn’t resolve it with what I knew personally about women’s salaries. Any visibility I ever had into such revealed that they were paid as I’d expect—as professionals, based on experience and ability. Yes, that’s anecdotal, but doesn’t it seem like I’d occasionally see evidence of such a gap?

What really made me doubt it was basic economics. Payroll is, by far, the biggest single entry in a business budget. Where are all of the all-female businesses? Any company that could realize a whopping 23% break on salaries simply by hiring all women would have done so long ago.

So where does the number come from?

This figure comes from adding up the salaries of all of the full-time jobs held by women, and dividing by the number of women; then adding up the salaries of all of the full-time jobs held by men, and dividing by the number of men. That’s it.

It does not control for job type, education, experience, or life choices. For example, women are much more likely than men to leave the workforce altogether for a period of several years to care for a child. Men are much more likely than women to hold high-risk, high-paying jobs, like offshore oil rig work or high-rise construction. These conditions, and many others like them, are not considered at all.

Here is an excellent Freakonomics discussion, including intensive research on the topic that tracks male and female University of Chicago MBAs from 1990 to 2006.

When you say women make 77 cents for every dollar men make, you are comparing the average salary of all full-time working women to the average salary of all full-time working men. There is nothing else in the equation. Adding “for the same work” to it is completely nonsensical.

(And actually,whatever the usefulness of the number, it’s 81 cents on the dollar now.)

When average pay is compared meaningfully—for men and women of like qualification in like jobs—the gap narrows considerably. (Oh, and guess what—sex-based discrimination when qualifications and jobs are substantially similar has been illegal for more than 50 years.)

Is the remaining gap being done to women, or by women? This Forbes piece cites UK research and determines that

“There’s no real discernible gender pay gap up to the age of 30. It is also true that the average age of a first pregnancy carried to term is a little over 30 years old these days. We know that there’s a fatherhood pay premium (fathers earn more than non-fathers), lesbians earn more than heterosexual women (all of these are averages, of course) and never married no children women in their 40s make more (fractionally, a percentage point or two more) than men of the same age. All of this is pointing us towards the idea that it’s the children that are causing that pay gap.”

I suspect that most women who leave the workforce to care for a child—or indeed, most couples who make that decision together—would call it a trade-off that’s worth it. That it contributes to a gender pay gap is therefore plausibly an indicator of empowerment of women, not discrimination against them.

“The point here is not that there is no wage inequality. But by focusing our outrage into a tidy, misleading statistic we’ve missed the actual challenges.” – Hanna Rosin

That’s exactly right. Whether these (much smaller) gaps that remain after ensuring a level field of comparison are “actual challenges” may be interesting and research-worthy, particularly if we are willing to genuinely consider the notion that discrimination is not a major factor.

However, whether because of ignorance, malice, or something else, no one claiming that women make 77% of what men do for the same work is telling you the truth.

 Posted by at 7:07 am
Sep 282014

I started a post last week that got much too long, and it occurred to me that it would make a good post series. Introducing Facts That Aren’t.

Facts That Aren’t posts will examine assertions that “everyone” “knows,” that in fact have extremely limited or highly qualified truth values. Generally these “facts” are propagated by people who benefit if you believe them—for political or commercial reasons, for example.

I’ve done a bit of this on before, but never systematically, with this sort of sustained intent. I haven’t decided whether I’m going to have a regular day of the week for the series, or I’ll just do them as they come. However I ultimately do it, the first entry will be tomorrow, and I’m jumping straight into the inferno. Please join me.

 Posted by at 6:08 pm
Sep 252014
  • Looks like Beloved is the next selection for Alabamians Can Read. Check it out. Pick it up. Join us.
  • I tried two new-to-me drink lines this week: LaCroix sparkling water and Zevia soda. I’ll finish the LaCroix that I bought, but I’m unlikely to get it again. The Zevia, however, is an intriguing product. Zevia is zero-calorie soda sweetened primarily with stevia, but also with a bit of erythritol and monk fruit extract (in other words, no artificial sweeteners). I liked the cola and really liked the black cherry. I’m looking forward to trying more flavors.
  • “I wish I had more shrimp.” “When I was fixing them, you told me you wanted only eight.” “Yeah, but I didn’t know they were going to be good.”
  • Mark McCarter muses about a return of Big Spring Jam. It’d be great, with a little booking care. And think about the proliferation of food trucks and breweries since the last Jam!
  • Played with a colleague’s iPhone 6 Plus this week. When I hold it in my right hand I can’t reach the whole screen with my thumb, and it’s not even close. I think this means I won’t even consider a Lumia 1520 when I replace my phone next month.
  • It’s as boring a college football weekend as we ever have, I think. Tonight’s UCLA-Arizona State game might be the best of the week.
  • I’m getting all the way off Facebook (including the page). I’ve had enough. Still considering timing, but I’ve made my mind up. Maybe I’ll start quacking about the superiority of my behavior, like your jackass friends who don’t own a television and constantly wedge such into conversation.
 Posted by at 9:56 am is using WP-Gravatar