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Archive for the ‘Cranky’ Category

This post goes out to my sisters, my cousins, my daughter, and my female friends, and to the men who care about them.  And as often happens, this post has nothing to do with playing the harp. Or does it? Recently I found a new podcast that I like (The Model Health Show), but it has dumped a big ol’ paradigm shift on me. I have to catch up on episodes because the podcast has been around a while so I’ve been picking an episode here and there.  TMHS #003 (The Truth About Breast Cancer) and #021 (Dressed to Kill) have got my head spinning.

I already knew that the “cancer care” field is a multi-billion dollar industry that has no interest whatsoever in putting itself out of a job. I already knew that cancer prevention will never be given the grant dollars that the lucrative cancer drug and treatment ventures receive.  But oh, what I didn’t know! Enter the podcasts.  Here are just a few of the omg moments:

  • Only about 5% of cancers occur because of genetic causes.  95% are caused by environment and lifestyle. Having a genetic marker for cancer is not a death sentence.
  • Statistically speaking, “normal” treatments (surgery, chemo, radiation) decrease cancer survival rates.
  • Everyone has cancer cells in their bodies all the time. It is normal. Our biology has a system for getting rid of them. We either overload or sabotage the system, hence the disease.
  • The lymphatic system (crucial to cancer prevention) does not have a pump, like the circulatory system has the heart. It relies on the free flow of lymph (no constricting clothing) and the movement of the body to do its job.
  • Among bra-free women, breast cancer rates are about the same as they are in men. In other words, minuscule! (The Fred Hutchinson cancer’s study citing no connection between bras and cancer did not include any non-bra wearers in the study. Looks like a smoking/cancer study that doesn’t include non-smokers.)

Which brings me to… bras.  Most women in our culture wear a bra. We don’t want to “sag.” We don’t want to bounce and “have stuff show.”  We don’t want men staring at our torsos and forgetting we have heads.  We are not all charismatic, trend-setting Kate Hudson. We are not all brave.

Questions and choices dance a ring around me right now. Is this truly like the situation of corsets, which were terribly unhealthy for women but nevertheless worn for hundreds of years? Did the women who first said “no” to corsets feel afraid? Would ditching my bra make me feel like one of those human advertisements, a person in a pizza outfit jumping around on the corner, only my outfit would be a giant boob? And most vexing of all… having grown up in that 60s pre-women’s-lib era where men could slap women on the behind with impunity, having seen the most prurient side of men, having the suspicion that any image of a female breast will stop most men in their tracks and turn off their brains… what oh what do I advise my daughter to wear?

I hate reading/hearing anything about cancer because, like most people, it scares me. Both of my parents had cancer, and one died from it. We all know someone who has it, or who died from it, or who has had a “cancer scare.”  But I am fanatically proactive about my health, and I do not want to live in fear. Is this the choice then: fear of cancer or fear of body exposure? (For further exploration.)

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WHEN WILL IT END?!? Don’t answer. I know it ends late in September. Regular readers of my blog might recall that I don’t particularly like summer weather.  Of course, I have to write this on the one day (the only day?) this summer which has seen us creep into the 90sF. Wimp.

This morning we awoke to a smokey smell and a warm pool of air, both of which were delivered by overnight express from Eastern Washington. They’ve been on fire over on that side of the Cascade range for the past few weeks, as usual for summer. Now it is nearly my bedtime but we are still in the 80s. (For non-local readers, that is weird. We generally cool off at night.) The thunder clouds are starting to roll in.  Tomorrow is going to be a hot, wet, noisy mess.

Screen shot 2014-08-11 at 8.22.48 PM

Source: Weather.com

 

 

But it is great wedding weather! Well, not tomorrow, but in general the warm sunny days have been a real gift for anyone who wants to play outdoors.

Sunny and I take the stage at the Skagit Highland Games

Sunny and I take the stage at the Skagit Highland Games

What I am doing most outdoors is… cooking!  This is the first summer I have really taken full advantage of our grill, which has a little side burner for whatever needs to be cooked in a pot or pan.  My rule this summer has been: if I cannot cook it outside, I’m not cooking.  IMG_3596

The hardest part has been finding ways to use my CSA vegetables without turning on the stove or oven. Houses get hot enough without steaming broccoli or roasting chickens.

 

Screen shot 2014-07-05 at 5.51.15 PM

Source: City of Snoqualmie

Sorry, that’s not funny.  These poor neighbors of ours had a 4th of July rocket land on their wood shingle roof this summer.  It makes me miss the wet, chilly days even more when I drive by the ruins. It makes me shudder.

Stay cool! Think October! Ok. I’ll think October and you go ahead and enjoy August.

 

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We interrupt our regular Harpist’s Output of Sweetness & Light to bring you:

  • explicit language
  • unpleasant truths about what you probably ate for breakfast
  • an unpopular point of view on exercise
  • stuff I like about one guy who is saying what I already knew but with more blushing (me, not him)
  • lots of bullet point lists, exclamation points and italics! Sound fun? Let’s go!

The Background:  I’m not sure I have ever mentioned this, but I have strong opinions about what I eat.  I switched to the Paleo Diet in 2006 and added low-carb to it a couple of years after that.  The benefits I have experienced from this switch could take up an entire post. “Eat this way!” is at the top of the list of things I would tell my 18 year old self if I could go back in time.

I will admit that I have not been completely faithful, because you do not walk away from decades of consuming something more addictive than cocaine overnight.  I struggle. I fall and get up again. But I have no doubts.  Like Gary Taubes says, “Just because it took me 19 years to give up smoking doesn’t mean the body ‘needs’ cigarettes.”

The Discovery: So there I was, Low-Carb Paleo True Believer, running down the street while listening to podcasts, and I hear this guy, Vinnie Tortorich being interviewed.  To be honest, my first reaction was not positive. His macho-Italian voice made me think unkind thoughts.  But everything he said was brilliant and I soon shed the prejudice.

Another day, another run, another interview on a different podcast I like – there he is again!  This time I’m listening well right from the start… more good advice and sound reasoning.  Now, I spend a lot of hours running (yes, without sugar), and I am always interested in new books or podcasts to occupy my mind.  That afternoon I subscribed to Vinnie’s podcast and downloaded a number of the older episodes as well.

Before I continue, if you are sensitive to bad language, crude and vulgar jokes or you’re just easily offended in general, this is not a show you will enjoy. Or a blog post for that matter.  Don’t apologize; I respect your sensibilities and often feel that way myself.  Stick with Jimmy Moore or Robb Wolf  and you will get a lot of the same information without the hot sauce.

I often want to swear and tell people off myself.  But I was raised to be a lady.  By the way, it is said that one of the foulest mouths belonged to one of the world’s finest harpists ever, Alice Chalifoux.  I sat across from her during lunch at a conference once and heard her refer to a group of people as “those bastards.” Mild, for her I’m told. She was in her 80s at the time.

Getting mad: Vinnie (may I call you Vinnie, Mr. Tortorich?) is  “American’s Angriest Trainer.”  He calls himself that because “your good intentions have been stolen from you.” So true.  Ask me about an entire year spent being hungry every day on Weight Watchers, long ago.  Or the fat I gained trying to eat like Ornish.  Or the “cheat foods” I tried to work off by running.  I had good intentions too.

Vinnie rants a lot.  Honestly, I love the rants…  Biggest Loser starvation nonsense, clueless “trainers” at gyms, the tip jars at Starbucks, and whatever pisses him off — I love it.  The INTJ in me craves truth and justice, and I sometimes wish I could say “go fuck yourself!” like Vinnie does, but for the aforementioned lady-like upbringing.   Vicarious venting, that’s what it is.

Anna: Anna Vocino, Vinnie’s cohost,  gets me laughing so hard with her vocal impressions (she does a great Paula Deen).  She contributes in so many ways, keeps Vinnie on track (or tries to), and looks up information on the fly during their discussions.  And how cool is it that her name is “Vocino?” Doesn’t that mean “shout” in Italian? Go, Anna!

Content: Vinnie knows his stuff — except for the moments when Anna has to look it up.  Just kidding – he is a well-educated man and has decades of experience coaching people.  But unlike 99.9% of the coaches you meet, he questioned the low-fat, low-calorie paradigm, that monster born of the McGovern commission’s decision to put wheat profits above human health in the early 70s.  Vinnie was taught that dogma, but he eventually questioned it, and he embraced an unpopular truth – with bared teeth.  There is a great value in the polite, scientific voices you will see in my bibliography, but Vinnie is the first bulldog, in-your-face, you-wanna-piece-of-me? warrior for the cause.  Bravo.

By the way, if you are scratching your head over that reference to McGovern, take a moment to watch this:

Here are some of the things you will learn about on Vinnie’s show.  If you just want read about these things without the vitriol, see the bibliography at the end of this post.

  • Successful weight loss will come from 95% diet, 5% exercise.
  • Avoid sugar and avoid grains. (Personally I also avoid potatoes, legumes and other high-carb foods, but most people will experience a dramatic change in their health if they only do these 2 things.)
  • “Put life into living.”  Occasion treats will not harm you if they are really occasional.  Total deprivation doesn’t work well for most people.
  • You cannot undo the damage of whack-load of sugar with an hour or two at the gym. Hormones (insulin, leptin, ghrelin) rule.
  • Cutting carbs is important, but what people really have a hard time accepting is increasing the fat in their diets.  Not seed oils.  Olive oil and saturated fat (especially from pastured animals) are good for you.  The cholesterol theory of heart disease is founded on politics and economics, not science.
  • There are no fitness shortcuts.  No gadgets, no 20-min-a-week programs, no pills that will make a lasting difference to your fitness.
  • Sometimes people aren’t right about fitness. They just seem right because they are young, or “naturally thin.” Ask yourself whom they have helped and how long the help lasted.
  • There are right and wrong reasons to exercise.  Which reason you choose is going to determine your success.
  • Juice is worse than soda. Don’t make it, don’t buy it, don’t drink it.
  • Skinny does not equal healthy.
  • Getting older is no excuse for poor fitness.
  • A “cheat day” is a bad idea, if you haven’t already figured that out.
  • Olive oil, yes. Energy gels, no.
  • A very small percentage of the population can sustain an extremely-low-calorie diet for life. Very small.

Connections:  Vinnie, on the off chance you ever read this, I want to explain the real reason I love your show (besides the ranting) and eventually came to feel like you were a close personal friend: connections.  (Yes, more bullet points!)

  • Los Angeles – I love hearing you mention places in LA, around where I grew up. Not that I ever want to live there again!
  • You are an endurance athlete. I’m not sure if you know this, but among the Paleo-diet crowd there is sometimes a bit of an anti-cardio attitude.  They call it “chronic cardio” and blame various health issues on running, while completely ignoring the fact that the running culture is a sugar culture.  Although you are not advocating the Paleo diet, what you say is pretty close, and I am always so happy to see those two worlds “collide.”
  • You are over 50! I am over 50!  [Insert secret handshake here.]   How many role models can I look to for inspiration, when it comes to staying fit and feeling younger than my years? Damn few.
  • Ok, this one is just jaw dropping to me.  You talked about Dr. Sarno’s book on your show.  Nobody talks about Dr. Sarno!  I even stopped mentioning him to people because I got tired of being unjustly pitied as some kind of quack-follower.  Someday I’m going to write a blog post about my experience with TMS (Tension Myositis Syndrome), but for now let me just say that this information saved my running and changed my life.  It is real and true.  I am living proof.
  • You are friends with Genie Francis!   No, I am not also friends with Genie Francis.  But long ago, for a short time in my life, I was her double.  I lived in West Hollywood, and I could not go anywhere without someone asking me for an autograph.  In spite of repeated correction, the two elderly Russian women next door ambushed me almost every time I came out of my apartment. They would take my hands and pat them and gaze at me, smiling, muttering to each other in Russian.  “I’m not Genie Francis.”  “Yah, yah…”

Here are some pictures. You be the judge. And tell Genie “Hi” from me.

A younger me, looking like Genie Francis

A younger me, looking like Genie Francis

Young Genie Francis, looking like me

Young Genie Francis, looking like me

You can find Vinnie’s podcast on iTunes under “Vinnie Tortorich”, or at his website: www.vinnietortorich.com

Almost forgot the promised bibliography!  I have decided to borrow one, which you will find here, because 1) it has a lot of the books I would have listed, and 2) he has a really cool site you ought to see.     Update, December 2016… I see my link no longer works. I have written a new bibliography in this 2016 blog post which you will find at the very bottom of the post.

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“Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
-Alice in Wonderland.

I have little use for the impossible, being a very practical sort of person. And six is a difficult number when what you are counting might flutter by only every 15 minutes or so, over the course of hours.

So I count Five Beautiful Things sometimes. Mostly, I count them when I am running.  It is a marvelous distraction from ugly things (trash), annoying things (bad drivers, off-leash dogs), and discouraging things (“When will this summer heat ever end?”).

Wow. This really makes me sound like a new-age, lavender scented, dance-in-the-meadows kind of dreamer. Which I am not.  I like to rant and I hold grudges. I get very cranky about all kinds of things. Sometimes I laugh out loud at perverse or dark humor.  (To wit, have you listened to Welcome To Nightvale? It’s Twilight Zone meets Monty Python. So funny. )

But I have a very restless mind, and sometimes it likes the challenge of a counting game.  Moreover, there is a sort possessive urge in me to put things on lists.  For instance, if I list:  mist in a forest, orange tabby cat sitting on a white fence, Mt. Si with new snow, trellis with vines, pink cloud… I feel like I own them in a way.   And dammit, it feels nice. Who couldn’t use a little more Nice in their lives?

Pink Cloud

Number 5, a pink cloud.

UPDATES

Harp at the Black Dog went really well.  Knowing I was playing for a cause energized me and changed the way I was playing.  If you live in the area, I’ll be there every 2nd Sunday, 10:30-noon to raise money for animal rescue and shelter.

Fundraiser at The Black Dog

 

Knitting – Feels like I’m stuck in the mud.  I make progress, but there are too many projects on the needles! (Three cardigans, two pair socks, and a lace shawl.)  Unable (or unwilling) to set some aside and just finish a project, I rotate through them, changing every week.  Never again, Cynthia!  Bad, bad, bad!  Limits and boundaries are your friend! Here it is in writing in case I need to refer back: ONE stockinette project, ONE lace, texture or color-work project, and ONE pair of socks. That’s what I can handle.  Sheesh, what was I thinking?

Running – In spite of the hottest, most humid summer I can remember as a runner, I have stuck to my marathon plan fairly closely. I am not 100% sure that has been a healthy thing to do.  There have been long runs when I really felt ill from the heat but forced myself to finish. I hate that, because I cannot get a good idea of my real fitness when I feel that bad.  My last really long run before Marathon Day is this weekend, then we’ll see in two weeks. I might really be in miserable shape, or I might find it was all an illusion if the weather cools off on race day.

 

 

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OK. Two months of sunshine is not that much. But I’m done. I want this to end. I want rain. I want to wear sweaters.

Unless you are a very close friend, you will not hear me talk this way to your face.  “Isn’t it nice out?” “Yep. It’s grand. Let’s grill something!”

I won’t rain on your parade. But this is my blog and I can cry if I want to. So no, it’s not nice out. It’s bloody hot and dry and if I liked it so much I would live in California.

Sorry. Little tantrum. But evidently Mother Nature is on my side. In fact, she is burning up about this.  Literally. 

In this picture, taken last week, we see the smoke beginning to flow in from the east. The 100+ wildfires on the eastern side of the Cascade Mountains were sparked by lightening on September 8 and the smoke just keeps on coming.

Clouds of smoke, from fires far away

In the count-your-blessings department, at least my back yard is not on fire.  But can we please have a bit of rain soon?

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I love knitting. It was bound to come out sooner or later.  In certain circles (for example, any places/activities where I take my daughter and have to wait around for her), I am “that lady who is always knitting.”  Right now I have five projects in progress. I’ve been “on Ravelry” since 2008.  What I’m trying to say is, I’m dedicated.

However… (is there any way to say this nicely?) …some knitters get so wrapped up in our cult hobby that they lose perspective and start knitting insane garments.  Let me be clear about this, I do not mind that they knit insane garments, I mind that they believe these are normal things to wear.

I used to only notice this Loss Of Perspective with regard to sock knitting. Sock yarn and sock knitting is very popular right now (non-knitters, trust me — this is an industry to be reckoned with; this is huge).  As far as I can tell, there is no recession in the sock yarn business.

What happens is this: the abundant availability of sock yarn creates a competitive atmosphere among vendors, in which more and more vivid colors serve to increase market share in a sort of fiber orgy of wool fumes.

Did I mention that all these hand dyed yarns make some kind of stripe pattern when they are knit up into socks? It is the easiest thing in the world to get sucked into the color hypnosis and start knitting crazy striped socks, and then proceed to put those high decibel monstrosities on one’s feet, go out in public, and not know one is wearing something bizarre.  It has happened to the best of us, including me.

Loss of Perspective – it can happen to anyone.

If any knitters of wildly colored striped socks are reading, please do not think I am morally or aesthetically opposed to wildly colored striped socks.  But one day (while wearing the very socks pictured here), I suddenly realized that what I saw as  casual day wear, others saw as: Clown Outfit.

Feel free to declare, “I don’t care what others think!” Feel free to see yourself as the artist that you are. Just don’t feel free to cross your legs in public and expect not to be stared at.

Well, just as we were told in 7th grade that marijuana use would lead to heroine, it turns out that the Loss of Perspective is a slippery slope.  One day it is loud socks, the next it is…  


All names and yarn company identities were omitted to protect artistic freedom.

Knitters, keep on being creative and breaking new ground. Non-knitters, be patient. We love our yarn.

(They’re holding sock yarn, by the way.)

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To the Radio Shack Powers That Be:

A trip to Radio Shack has never been what it ought to be for us.  We are a fairly geeky family, and logically should be in RS stores fairly often.  We should pop in to pick up specific items, and we should saunter in to browse all things wiry.  But we rarely do either.

First, let me assure you that this is not the opinion of a lone, disgruntled shopper.  I have consulted family and friends on various occasions, and they agree.  Nor is it the result of single experience.  I have felt this way for years, and have only had my point of view strengthened with each sad visit to a RS store.

At Nordstrom the magic word/phrase is “customer satisfaction.” You can return almost anything.  At REI, it’s “quality.”  (And you can return almost anything there too.)  At RS, it’s PUSHY.  And I never want to return anything because I  barely escaped with my wallet the first time.

Geeky and creative people sometimes just want to look around a store like RS.  But no one is safe in an RS store to “just look around.”  I wonder, when the young salesmen (and why is it nearly always men? do you have a problem hiring women?) attack a shopper with irrelevant offers, do they hope that one big sale will make up for the dozens of people who never want to darken your door again?

After getting therapy for post-personal-boundary-breech-syndrome, one vows to never “browse” at RS again, and to only go there to get a specific thing like, say, a Precision Lubricant Pen (which one cannot easily get elsewhere).  And there one is — ok, there I am — at the counter with a $3.99 Precision Lubricator Pen in hand, ready to pay.  I am smugly – and prematurely – congratulating myself for getting inside the shop, to the product, and over the the checkout without being offered anything extra by any agressive salesperson.  I have my car keys and my iPhone in my hand, and I set them down on the counter to get my wallet open…

NOOO!  It’s like a horror movie, when they lady decides to check out the noise she heard upstairs in the spooky dark mansion.  Don’t go there! Don’t open that door! Get out while you can!  

“Is that the iPhone 4 or the 4S?”

“What?”

“Do you have the iPhone 4 or 4S? Do you have Siri? Because, you know, I could upgrade you….”

“No, thank you.”

“Right now we are running a special and for $…..”  And he was off.

Oh please, let me pay my $3.99 plus tax and go free, I beg you.  I said no thank you. My body language is not even being that polite. But on and on he goes.

It was always some little purchase (lube pens, headphones, batteries) that brought on the massive sales campaign for larger items.  If I actually was shopping for an expensive item, what would RS salespeople want from me then, a kidney?

In such situations as this, there is always one person playing by the rules of polite society (me), and one person playing by no rules whatsoever. If we both had no rules, I would grab him by his nascent chin hairs and tell him to take my $3.99 and shut up or I will put this Precision Lubricant Pen in his eye.

But we civilized shoppers never, ever do that. We value our dignity and our morals above, well – justice? Instead, we let an even longer period of recovery time go by before we can work up the will to enter a RS store again.

RS Powers That Be, the writing is on the wall for you. And it says, “There is a point at which people who don’t like being pressured would just as soon buy stuff online and pay for shipping.”  I am not even going to complain  about your product line (Google “radio shack sucks” if you want that kind of feedback), or the fact that Siri is a joke.  Let’s just start with a simple, easy improvement: respect.

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