The Sweet Pursuit
Former Associate editor Margret Aldrich on the hunt for happiness, community, and how humans thrive

Bitches Brew: Women Make Gains in the Beer World

Beer glass 

When the women I know belly-up to a bar, they’re more likely to order a pint of beer than a glass of wine or a frilly cocktail. I’m a sucker for Surly’s CynicAle and Fulton’s Sweet Child of Vine, both from the rollicking Minneapolis beer-brewing scene. Still, drinking and brewing beer continue to be viewed as primarily male territory.

As it turns out, this split of the sexes is all wrong, says Bitch magazine’s Celena Cipriaso: Women have brewed beer since Babylonian times and female brewers permeate world folklore. Historian Alan D. Eames reinforces the depths of women’s claims on beer, explaining, “From its very inception some 8,000 years ago, every ancient society’s beer-creation myth tells the same story: The drink was a gift from a female deity to the women of that community.”

Cipriaso laments the loss of women’s roles as brewers and beer lovers. “For many years, women have been relegated to the background of the industry,” she writes, “both as targeted consumers and in terms of their place in beer history.”

But now, beer mugs are getting back into the fists of women. Gallup polls indicate that women account for a quarter of national beer sales, and what Cipriaso calls “female beer advocacy” is growing: Regional craft-beer brewers now include women in their ranks, organizations like the Pink Boots Society promote women’s involvement in the industry, and beer-centric social groups like Girls’ Pint Out keep the culture fun. 

A new documentary, The Love of Beer, celebrates the women who are breaking into the Pacific Northwest’s brewing arena. Watch a trailer here and check the website to find out if the film is screening in your city. Cheers!


Sources: Bitch (audio only), The Love of Beer 

Image by Ryan Bieber, licensed under Creative Commons. 


How Doctors Choose to Die

DoctorDoctors have the very best medical care at their fingertips. They read journals that publish the latest medical findings; they know the most up-to-date treatments for various ailments and diseases; they might even play golf with a top surgeon or two. And yet, when faced with death, many physicians forgo intensive medical treatment.

Doctors “don’t die like the rest of us,” writes Ken Murray for Zócalo Public Square, primarily because “they know enough about modern medicine to know its limits.” Most medical professionals regularly see futile care in action—ineffective CPR attempts, unnecessary surgeries, and expensive drug treatments; patients hooked up to hospital IVs and machines for weeks or months before passing.

“I cannot count the number of times fellow physicians have told me, in words that vary only slightly, ‘Promise me if you find me like this that you’ll kill me’” says Murray, a clinical assistant professor of family medicine at USC. “They mean it. Some medical personnel wear medallions stamped ‘NO CODE’ to tell physicians not to perform CPR on them. I have even seen it as a tattoo.”

Our medical system certainly encourages doctors and staff to take exhaustive measures when a patient is dying. The fee-for-service model puts money in the pockets of medical professionals, and desperate relatives often push for recovery by any means necessary. But many doctors recognize there are more important things than the number of days we breathe on this earth. Murray offers one example:

Years ago, Charlie, a highly respected orthopedist and a mentor of mine, found a lump in his stomach. He had a surgeon explore the area, and the diagnosis was pancreatic cancer. This surgeon was one of the best in the country. He had even invented a new procedure for this exact cancer that could triple a patient’s five-year-survival odds—from 5 percent to 15 percent—albeit with a poor quality of life. Charlie was uninterested. He went home the next day, closed his practice, and never set foot in a hospital again. He focused on spending time with family and feeling as good as possible. Several months later, he died at home. He got no chemotherapy, radiation, or surgical treatment.

At-home care can be an attractive, viable option, according to Murray:

Almost anyone can find a way to die in peace at home, and pain can be managed better than ever. Hospice care, which focuses on providing terminally ill patients with comfort and dignity rather than on futile cures, provides most people with much better final days. Amazingly, studies have found that people placed in hospice care often live longer than people with the same disease who are seeking active cures.

That doctors opt out of traditional end-of-life care might make us reconsider the measures we would take for our loved ones or ourselves. Read the moving story “When the Last Guest Leaves,” featured in our current issue, to see how one woman—with the help of her son—chooses a dignified death outside hospital walls.

Source: Zócalo Public Square 

Image by, licensed under Creative Commons. 


Guerrilla Grafters: Turning Urban Streets into Orchards

Apples on branch 

What do you get if you cross an apple tree with a littleleaf linden? The Guerrilla Grafters—a renegade urban gardening group in San Francisco—hope the result is a metropolitan food forest. The volunteer activists splice branches from fruit trees onto the non–fruit bearing trees that line their city streets in an effort to grow cherries, Asian pears, and other fresh produce for local residents, free of charge.

“We have tens of thousands of trees in San Francisco,” says Guerrilla Grafter Tara Hui, in a video shot by *faircompanies, “so that’s a huge resource that we could tap into to provide food.”

Not everyone is a fan of the project, reports Yi Chen on psfk: “In some states, it’s illegal to have fruit bearing trees on pedestrian footpaths as fallen fruits become a health and safety hazard, [and are] also believed to attract insects and rodents.” The Guerrilla Grafters, however, believe that enlisting community stewards to monitor the trees will prevent such problems.

To learn more about the project, and find out how you can replicate it in your city, visit the Guerrilla Grafters website and watch this video of Hui and Booka Alon as they lovingly check their grafts and seek out new fruit:


Sources: *faircompanies, psfk  

Image by Muffet, licensed under Creative Commons. 


The Ethical Guide to Eating Out

DinerAnyone who has waited tables or cooked in a restaurant kitchen knows the backbreaking work, the questionable conditions, and the meager rewards. Now, it’s easy to find the restaurants that treat their employees right with the 2012 National Diners’ Guide, presented by the Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC). The guide outlines the pay and benefits of 186 of the country’s most popular eateries, from fast food to fine dining.

Before you look at the guide to see where your favorite establishment stands, check out some of the reasons why the ROC says the ethical treatment of restaurant workers is vital:

With a federal minimum wage of $2.13 for tipped workers and $7.25 for non-tipped workers, the median wage for restaurant workers is $8.90, just below the poverty line for a family of three. This means that more than half of all restaurant workers nationwide earn less than the federal poverty line.

90 percent of the more than 4,300 restaurant workers surveyed by the Restaurant Opportunities Center report not having paid sick leave, and two-thirds report cooking, preparing, and serving food while sick, making sick leave for restaurant workers not only a worker rights issue but a pressing concern in public health!

Women, immigrants, and people of color hold lower-paying positions in the industry, and do not have many opportunities to move up the ladder. Among the 4,300 workers surveyed, we found a $4 wage gap between white workers and workers of color, and 73 percent reported not receiving regular promotions on the job.

Jaeah Lee at Mother Jones has distilled the ROC’s guide into an excellent Zagat-like reference for diners. (See, at a glance, that Starbucks’ employees don’t get paid sick days, but Chipotle’s do.) And, also on MoJo, Utne Reader visionary Tom Philpott takes a moment to look on the bright side of the report, pointing out that the “ROC isn’t just dishing up the restaurant industry’s dark secrets. It’s also working with restaurant owners across the country to come up with fair labor standards.”

For me, waiting tables at the Tic Toc Supper Club at the end of my teenage years was a crash-course in a range of adult matters: wine bottles are harder to open with a tableful of people watching; wearing a skirt gets you better tips; and the boss will rarely give you more than the bare minimum of what is required by law. Thanks to the ROC, restaurants just might be encouraged to give that bare minimum a boost.

Sources: Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, Mother Jones 

Image by rbnlsn, licensed under Creative Commons.


Midwives Take On the World’s Most Dangerous Country for Women

Afghan midwife and patient 

Imagine that you are nine months pregnant and have to drive seven hours to reach the nearest hospital. You have never seen an obstetrician or midwife for prenatal care and emergency health services are miles out of reach. This is the situation in parts of Afghanistan, where the maternal mortality rate is the highest in the world.

As of 2008, it was estimated that 1 in 11 Afghan women die in childbirth. (In Greece, the country with the lowest maternal mortality rate, the statistic is 1 in 31,800.) With a fertility rate of 6.62 children per mother, the life expectancy for women in Afghanistan—recently ranked “the most dangerous country for women” by the Thomson Reuters Foundation—is less than 48 years.

Now, a national midwifery program is one of several initiatives to drastically improve women’s maternal safety, report Isobel Coleman and Gayle Tzemach Lemmon in Ms. Magazine. Funded by organizations like the U.S. Agency for International Development, the United Nations, and the European Union, the program has trained more than 2,500 midwives. Coleman and Lemmon write:

For women in the country’s most remote provinces, who face the greatest challenge accessing health care in this overwhelmingly rural country, the midwives serve as a lifeline. Of the approximately 500 birth complications that occur daily in Afghanistan, 320 happen in those rural areas. Midwives are also active in cities, making home visits to women too poor or limited in mobility to seek help at clinics or hospitals.

The midwives can affect more than just the maternal mortality rate, they continue:

Along with saving mothers’ lives, the midwives serve as homegrown role models whose economic strength and earning power are changing their families’—and their communities’—views on women’s roles. Midwives can earn around $350 each month, a substantial salary in one of the world’s poorest countries and where per capita GDP is less than $500 per year. The money matters and is playing a role in shifting male attitudes toward women’s work outside the home…. When women begin contributing economically to the family, they also have a greater say in what happens to them and to their children.

 “Most people have a lot of respect for midwives because they need health care,” says Fatima, [a] student in the program. “Midwives save mothers’ lives and women’s lives.”

Source: Ms. Magazine (excerpt only available online)

Image by isafmedia, licensed under Creative Commons. 



Buying the Clothes Off Native Americans’ Backs

Pendleton blanket 

Urban Outfitters pantyWouldn’t you be offended if your cultural heritage was immortalized in underwear? This fall, the Navajo Nation sent retailer Urban Outfitters a cease and desist letter, forcing them to rename more than 20 products the tribe found objectionable, including the “Navajo Hipster Panty” and “Navajo Print Fabric Wrapped Flask,” reports Lisa Hix in Collectors Weekly.

The Navajo Nation holds trademarks for the name “Navajo,” preventing it being used to sell things like mass-produced hoodies and knee socks. And, the federal Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 makes it illegal to falsely market a product as Native American–made. Even so, more and more Native American–inspired fashions are gracing metropolitan runways and glossy magazine pages. From hipster cardigans to luxe handbags to leather bracelets, designs cribbed from America’s indigenous people are making the rounds.

Hix spoke with Jessica R. Metcalfe, a Turtle Mountain Chippewa and professor at Arizona State University who blogs at Beyond Buckskin about non–Native Americans producing “native” fashions:

The problem is that they’re putting it out there as “This is the native,” or “This is native-inspired.” So now you have non-native people representing us in mainstream culture. That, of course, gets tiring, because this has been happening since the good old days of the Hollywood Western in the 1930s and ’40s, where they hired non-native actors and dressed them up essentially in redface. The issue now is not only who gets to represent Native Americans, but also who gets to profit.

For some, the biggest offender is Pendleton Woolen Mill, a company founded on producing Indian trade blankets and robes in 1863 and who is famously pro–Native American. Recently the company expanded to produce high-end coats, bags, and other products. While the designs used on Pendleton products are original to the company and not traditional tribal motifs, the fact that they are profiting from sales of $500 sweaters featuring native-inspired designs can feel like a betrayal.

“Seeing hipsters march down the street in Pendleton clothes, seeing these bloggers ooh and ahh over how ‘cute’ these designs are, and seeing non-Native models all wrapped up in Pendleton blankets makes me upset,” Cherokee writer and Ph.D. candidate Adrienne K., who blogs at Native Appropriations, tells Hix.

It’s a complicated feeling, because I feel ownership over these designs as a Native person, but on a rational level I realize that they aren’t necessarily ours to claim. To me, it just feels like one more thing non-Natives can take from us—like our land, our moccasins, our headdresses, our beading, our religions, our names, our cultures weren’t enough? You gotta go and take Pendleton designs, too?

Pendleton fashion 

Read the full article “Why the ‘Native’ Fashion Trend Is Pissing Off Real Native Americans” online and see more striking examples of Native Americans’ fashion influence, past and present.

Source: Collectors Weekly 

Images: Detail from Pendleton nine-element robe, first introduced as an Indian trade blanket in the 1920s, from Language of the Robe by Rain Parrish (top); Urban Outfitters “Navajo Hipster Panty” (middle); Pendleton Toboggan fashion shot (bottom).


The Lazy Philanthropist

Charity Search

This might be the easiest way to donate money, ever: Like a benevolent Google, the new search engine Charity Search lets you scour the web while effortlessly contributing money to worthy causes. With each search, the engine donates one cent to their charity of the month.

According to the site, Charity Search—which lets you use Google, Yahoo, or Bing as you normally would—is currently donating one cent per search to Invisible Children, a group committed to ending the use of child soldiers in central Africa. Other recipients include charity: water, a nonprofit bringing clean drinking water to developing nations; Genesis School of the Arts, an international program spreading arts education in impoverished areas; and Humane Farm Animal Care, an organization dedicated to upholding animal care standards.

For lazy philanthropists, the beauty of Charity Search is that the only effort needed is changing our homepages, googling as usual, and watching the site’s donation dollar tracker steadily go up.

Our searches can make a difference quickly, too—just think of how many web searches you did today. In the past 24 hours, mine (which included “Rain Taxi,” “BeatBots,” “El Camino,” and “chemical invisibility cloak”) numbered in the dozens. Now, I’m delighted to know these not-so-important searches can add up to charitable cash for some important causes.

Source: Charity Search 

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