How to Stop Apologizing:

How to Stop Apologizing:

1. Know when it is a good time to be sorry. It’s appropriate to say something when someone has received bad news, or you’ve really made life difficult for someone else. However, a lot of the time an apology is not required. Learn to know the difference between the two occasions.

2. Notice who you tend to apologize to. Are there certain people who undermine your confidence, or who leave you feeling as if you’re always wrong? In those situations, you’re allowing someone else to act as if they’re more important than you.

3. Try to notice when you’re starting to apologize. Habits are often hard to recognize. They’re usually automatic, and we’re only semi-conscious of patterns we fall into, and things we tend to say. For example, do you repeatedly find yourself saying sorry for someone else’s mistakes? Do you tend to just say sorry to stop an argument?

4. Try and look for the roots, or the need, you’re covering up. For example, perhaps an authority figure (parent, teacher, older sibling, coach) used to get angry if you didn’t “just shut up” or take the blame. Alternatively, you may feel you can’t really share the way you feel – so you just apologize and repress your true emotions.

5. Related to the above, consider how your drive to apologize to others is likely to affect you much further down the road. For example it is likely that you’re building up a heap of grievances, or you may pull back from get close to those you love.

6. Decide to establish and enforce your boundaries, and to say “no” to others – without also saying “sorry”!

When Tomatoes Were Blamed For Witchcraft and Werewolves:

When Tomatoes Were Blamed For Witchcraft and Werewolves:

People have feared tomatoes for 600 years.

An illustration of tomatoes from an 1893 catalogue of seeds.

An illustration of tomatoes from an 1893 catalogue of seeds. BIODIVERSITY HERITAGE LIBRARY/CC BY 2.0

No other vegetable has been as maligned as the tomato (and it is a vegetable, by order of the United States Supreme Court). We call tomatoes killers. We call them rotten. We call them ugly. We call them sad. To find the reason why, you have to go back to the 1500s, when the humble fruit first reached European shores (and it is a fruit, by scientific consensus). Through no fault of its own, the tomato stepped into the middle of a continent-wide witchcraft panic, and a scientific community in tumult.

Between 1300 and 1650, thousands of Europeans (mostly women) were executed for practicing witchcraft, in a church-and-government-sanctioned mass hysteria academics call the “witch craze.” Women were burned, drowned, hanged, and crushed after trials in both secular and religious courts; and lynched by vigilante mobs. By the most conservative estimate, Dr. Ronald Hutton’s count of execution records, between 35,184 and 63,850 witches were killed through official channels—at least 17,000 in Germany alone. Sociologist Nachman Ben-Yehuda estimates the combined death toll could have been as high as 500,000. It was a massive, concerted, prolonged crusade.

At the time of the tomato’s importation around 1540, diligent witch hunters were particularly interested in discerning the makeup of flying ointment—the goo witches smeared on their broomsticks (or on themselves, pre-broomstick). This potent magical gunk did more than enable airborne meetings with the devil; it could also transform the witch—or her unwilling dupe—into a werewolf, as described in case studies by prolific witch-hunter Henry Boguet, who noted that witches particularly enjoyed becoming werewolves in order to attack the left sides of small children, and to stalk through cursed and withering cropland.

The title page from John Gerard's <em>The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes</em>, 1633.

The title page from John Gerard’s The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes, 1633. OUHOS OU HISTORY OF SCIENCE COLLECTION/CC BY-SA 2.0

The key ingredients, recorded by the pope’s physician Andres Laguna in 1545, were agreed by consensus to be hemlock, nightshade, henbane, and mandrake—the final three of which are the tomato’s close botanical relatives. Why any woman would keep this ointment around in such a dangerous climate, we can only speculate; the best guesses are drug addition, atropine-based painkiller, and they didn’t. In contrast, tomatoes’ similarity to deadly nightshade is plain to the untrained eye: the plants are practically identical. And although tomatoes were clearly edible—the Aztecs ate them, after all— it’s hard to tell the difference between yellow cherry tomatoes and hallucinogenic mandrake fruit.

Then as now, the overlap between people suspicious of new foods and people suspicious that an adventurous neighbor might be a servant of the devil was pretty high. Try a tomato and risk turning into a werewolf, or being branded a witch? No thank you. Tomato eating was best left to places like Spain, where the Spanish Inquisition had at least temporarily declared belief in witchcraft (and therefore accusations of witchcraft) heretical.

But even men of science—men who would never believe in something absurd like magic—found the tomato exasperating. Until the Enlightenment took hold, botanists relied on a thousand-year-old categorical framework established by Galen, a physician who lived in Ancient Rome. When new and unfamiliar American plants arrived—corn, blueberries, chocolate—naturalists didn’t know what to do. They scrambled to figure out ways the new imports were actually old plants that could slot into the existing system. The alternative was terrifying: accepting that the great Galen had never heard of these plants would imply, as David Gentilcore describes in Pomodoro, that the ancients hadn’t known everything; that perhaps the world was in some sense unknowable; that the Garden of Eden hadn’t existed.

The ointment for witches' brooms was believed to include close botanical relatives of the tomato.

The ointment for witches’ brooms was believed to include close botanical relatives of the tomato. NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY/PUBLIC DOMAIN

Given the tomato’s similarity to an existing plant—nightshade—it could have escaped the controversy. However, bits of Galen’s writings referred to plants or animals whose identities had never been nailed down, and American arrivals seemed like candidates to fill the gaps. One such mystery plant was the λυκοπέρσιον, which translates to wolf-something—maybe “wolf banisher.” It transliterates to “lycopersion,” but during the Age of Exploration was mis-transcribed as “lycopersicon”: wolf peach.

Galen describes it as a poisonous Egyptian plant with strong-smelling yellow juice and a ribbed celery-like stalk. At least as early as 1561, Italian and Spanish botanists, no doubt aware of witchfinders’ werewolf suspicions, were kicking around the idea that the wolf peach and the tomato could be one and the same.

This classification was controversial. Not only was the tomato far from poisonous, but as naturalist Costanzo Felici observed in 1569, it couldn’t have come from ancient Egypt and Peru. As seed traders waited for the vernacular to establish itself, their manifests might list tomatoes as golden apples, Peruvian apples, love apples, wolf peaches, and more.

A woodcut showing two mandrake plants.

A woodcut showing two mandrake plants. WELLCOME IMAGES, LONDON/CC BY 4.0

The debate was eventually settled by Joseph Pitton de Tournefort, Louis XIV’s botanist, who accepted the tomato’s werewolfish “lycopersicum” name in his hugely influential three-volume 1694 Elemens de Botanique . (Surely you’ve noticed that “lycopene” sounds an awful lot like “lycanthropy.”) He went so far as to call the tomato the “Lycopersicum rubro non striato“—the red wolf’s peach without ribs.

The name stuck, Tournefort’s treatise was definitive, and his definition dovetailed with existing beliefs, especially in England, where physicians had dismissed the tomato as unworkable. According to James I’s apothecary John Parkinson, though tomatoes could “coole and quench the heate and thirst of the hot stomaches” in places like Spain, Italy, and the Caribbean, England was already clammy enough. Eat tomatoes in a cool, rainy climate, and you’d find yourself on the wrong side of the medieval equivalent of “feed a fever; starve a cold.”

English barber/surgeon John Gerard had gone so far as to say tomatoes were “corrupt” in his 1597 Generall Historie of Plantes. “Rank and stinking,” he clarified, in case a reader was tempted by the Spanish and Italian recipes he included (fried with salt and pepper, or eaten raw with vinegar).

A live engraving of Joseph Pitton de Tournefort.

A live engraving of Joseph Pitton de Tournefort. WELLCOME IMAGES, LONDON/CC BY 4.0

Much of the English population agreed, as did their descendants in what would become New England. Tomatoes were pretty, but gross and just maybe satanic even according to scientists. Adventurous eaters like Thomas Jefferson were welcome to partake, but the rest of us were better off not risking our stomachs. A contingent of English emigrants in America rejected tomatoes all the way up to 1860, when the U.S. Civil War finally mainstreamed tomato-eating—an aversion that gave rise to the medical shorthand “the tomato effect,” a description of effective therapies avoided for cultural reasons.

That’s not quite the same as a culture-wide belief that tomatoes were poisonous, which probably never occurred. Andrew Smith, author of The Tomato in America, could only locate three references to tomato deadliness in his survey of pre-1860 American literature—and in all of them, the authors insisted they themselves weren’t afraid. The most prolific American anti-tomato lecturer was a Harvard-trained doctor named Dio Lewis, who spent the 1850s blaming tomatoes for everything from bleeding gums to hemorrhoids—because, he argued, tomatoes’ medicinal powers were so strong it was easy to overdose. For the most part, the people who didn’t eat tomatoes just didn’t like them, in the same way most of us don’t make dandelions and ants a staple of our diets.

But it’s hard for facts to get in the way of a well-established superstition. One contemporary urban legend ties the tomato to a rash of lead poisoning—acidic tomatoes leeching the lead out of pewter dinnerware to drive 16th-century aristocrats mad—but tomatoes aren’t acid enough, pewter dishes were never common enough, and lead poisoning accumulates too slowly to be linked to a specific meal. In another frequently-repeated tale, debunked by Joan R. Calahan in 50 Health Scares That Fizzled, Colonel Robert Gibbon Johnson astonished a crowd in Salem, New Jersey with his brave ability to eat a basket of tomatoes and live. There’s even a fabricated story that George Washington’s chef tried to poison him with tomatoes.

Illustration of tomatoes, c. 1920.

Illustration of tomatoes, c. 1920.

More recently, when NASA distributed tomato seeds that had been to orbit, the L.A. Times freaked out about the imagined potential for poisonous mutations, and the panic went international. When NASA did the same with basil, nobody cared.

A lawyer from my hometown of Winchester, Massachusetts told me a few years ago that there was a law on the books banning tomato gardens—an artifact of early 20th century anti-Italian racism, meant to keep the neighborhood cleanly Anglo-Saxon. A search through the town clerk’s annual reports from the town’s founding to the present makes it clear no such bylaw ever existed. But my lawyer believed it did, just as many law blogs happily (and inaccurately) report that the General Laws of Massachusetts forbid putting tomatoes in chowder.

My lawyer didn’t realize she was repeating a werewolf myth, done up in sheep’s clothing. It slotted Massachusetts zoning codes into an older story of Puritan sumptuary legislation which regulated minute personal behaviors and set the stage for the Salem Witch Trials, and it replaced werewolves with southern Italian immigrants—who were, according to bigots in the early 1900s, dangerously swarthy, overly sexual, unpredictably violent, and presumably slavering.

The thing that didn’t change was tomatoes. With tomatoes, we made up our minds a long time ago.

By Romie Stott

‘Lucky 13’ Tips for a Safe Halloween:

‘Lucky 13’ Tips for a Safe Halloween:

Halloween Collage: Kids, Candy, Colored Contact Lens & Spider (350x421)

Whether you’re goblin or ghoul, vampire or witch, poor costume choices—including decorative contact lenses and flammable costumes—and face paint allergies can haunt you long after Halloween if they cause injury.

Enjoy a safe and happy Halloween by following the “lucky 13” guidelines from FDA, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  1. Wear costumes made of fire-retardant materials; look for “flame resistant” on the label. If you make your costume, use flame-resistant fabrics such as polyester or nylon.
  2. Wear bright, reflective costumes or add strips of reflective tape so you’ll be more visible; make sure the costumes aren’t so long that you’re in danger of tripping.
  3. Wear makeup and hats rather than masks that can obscure your vision.
  4. Test the makeup you plan to use by putting a small amount on the arm of the person who will be wearing it a couple of days in advance. If a rash, redness, swelling, or other signs of irritation develop where the makeup was applied, that’s a sign of a possible allergy.
  5. Check FDA’s list of color additives to see if makeup additives are FDA approved. If they aren’t approved for their intended use, don’t use it.
  6. Don’t wear decorative contact lenses unless you have seen an eye care professional and gotten a proper lens fitting and instructions for using the lenses.

Safe Treats

Eating sweet treats is also a big part of the fun on Halloween. If you’re trick-or-treating, health and safety experts say you should remember these tips:

  1. Don’t eat candy until it has been inspected at home.
  2. Trick-or-treaters should eat a snack before heading out, so they won’t be tempted to nibble on treats that haven’t been inspected.
  3. If your child has a food allergy, check the label to ensure the allergen isn’t present. Tell children not to accept—or eat—anything that isn’t commercially wrapped.
  4. Parents of very young children should remove any choking hazards such as gum, peanuts, hard candies, or small toys.
  5. Inspect commercially wrapped treats for signs of tampering, such as an unusual appearance or discoloration, tiny pinholes, or tears in wrappers. Throw away anything that looks suspicious.

For partygoers and party throwers, FDA recommends the following tips for two seasonal favorites:

  1. Look for the warning label to avoid juice that hasn’t been pasteurized or otherwise processed, especially packaged juice products that may have been made on site. When in doubt, ask! Always ask if you are unsure if a juice product is pasteurized or not. Normally, the juice found in your grocer’s frozen food case, refrigerated section, or on the shelf in boxes, bottles, or cans is pasteurized.
  2. Before bobbing for apples—a favorite Halloween game—reduce the amount of bacteria that might be on apples by thoroughly rinsing them under cool running water. As an added precaution, use a produce brush to remove surface dirt.

Eye Safety

FDA joins eye care professionals—including the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, the Contact Lens Association of Ophthalmologists and the American Optometric Association—in discouraging consumers from using illegal decorative (colored) contact lenses. These are contact lenses that have not been approved by FDA for safety and effectiveness. Consumers should only use brand name contact lenses from well-known contact lens companies.

If you have never worn contact lenses before, Halloween should not be the first time you wear them. Experts warn that buying any kind of contact lenses—which are medical devices and regulated as such—without an examination and a prescription from an eye care professional can cause serious eye disorders and infections, which may lead to permanent vision loss. Despite the fact that it’s illegal to sell decorative contact lenses without a valid prescription, FDA says the lenses are sold on the Internet and in retail shops and salons—particularly around Halloween.

The decorative lenses make the wearer’s eyes appear to glow in the dark, create the illusion of vertical “cat eyes,” or change the wearer’s eye color.

“Although unauthorized use of decorative contact lenses is a concern year-round, Halloween is the time when people may be inclined to use them, perhaps as costume accessories,” says FDA eye expert Bernard Lepri, O.D., M.S., M.Ed.. “What troubles us is when they are bought and used without a valid prescription, without the involvement of a qualified eye care professional, or without appropriate follow-up care. This can lead to significant risks of eye injuries, including blindness.”

Charge of the Light Brigade:

Charge of the Light Brigade:

In an event alternately described as one of the most heroic or disastrous episodes in British military history, Lord James Cardigan leads a charge of the Light Brigade cavalry against well-defended Russian artillery during the Crimean War. The British were winning the Battle of Balaclava when Cardigan received his order to attack the Russians. His cavalry gallantly charged down the valley and were decimated by the heavy Russian guns, suffering 40 percent casualties. It was later revealed that the order was the result of confusion and was not given intentionally. Lord Cardigan, who survived the battle, was hailed as a national hero in Britain.

The Charge of the Light Brigade

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

1.Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!
“Charge for the guns!” he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

2.”Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there a man dismay’d?
Not tho’ the soldier knew
Someone had blunder’d:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

3.Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.

4.Flash’d all their sabres bare,
Flash’d as they turn’d in air,
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
All the world wonder’d:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro’ the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reel’d from the sabre stroke
Shatter’d and sunder’d.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.

5.Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro’ the jaws of Death
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.

6.When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wondered.
Honor the charge they made,
Honor the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred.