Friday, September 28, 2012

Wednesday Weigh-In 20120927

My boss got me addicted to Peanut Butter Snickers. And all he had to do was leave an open bag of them in his In Basket where we leave our timesheets. I took one, and then went back for two more. And then I bought two bags at the supermarket to snack on late in the work day.

This must change. But how, exactly?

Waist = 37.25"
Height = 5' 9"

  1. Wikipedia BMI page
  2. Tanita Scale with Body Fat monitor
  3. Javascript must be enabled to view the data.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Sign From the Angels

Caller ID showed that the new call was from my wife's cell phone.  I answered quickly, a little alarmed.  She usually uses that phone only for emergencies, like when the car battery died several weeks ago.

"Hello?"  (If I answer "Hi Honey," she gets confused -- she's still not accustomed to caller ID.)

"Hi Square.  Are you busy?"

I can usually tell what kind of call it's going to be right after "Hi Square."  But  this was a New Call.  It wasn't the call in which "The car's running really rough and the check engine light is flashing;" or, "Where are all the peppers I bought?  Don't tell me you ate them all!  [You idiot!]  I was going to make PEPPERS AND ONIONS TONIGHT!" or, "Simba knocked your favorite plant over and then he crapped in the dirt.  And then dog came over and ate all the dirt & cat poop and then he threw up in the middle of the living room carpet!"

No, this sounded like it was going to be an Exciting Discovery, a winning lottery ticket, perhaps.  Not a measly five dollar teaser, either.  Here's what she said.

"You're not going to believe this, but I was at the store and then I came out to put the groceries in the trunk.  When I opened the trunk, I found two boxes of Angel Hair pasta!"

"What, you mean 'pasta?'  Tinkyada rice pasta?"  We don't buy wheat pasta because of the gluten.

"No, this is regular Prince Angel Hair pasta in the blue box!  How did this get here?  Did someone think this was their car and put it in?  Do you think this is a sign from an angel?  It's Angel Hair pasta!"
"Maybe you had a bag of food to donate and it spilled out?"

"Square, I know my trunk.  There's no way this Angel Hair pasta should be here!  Could this really be a sign from an angel?"

"Wow, yes, it sure sounds like it!

"Oooohhh, wait a minute.  I know where this is from!  I gave the twins a ride to school this morning, and they were talking about a non-perishable food drive.  It must've fallen out of their bags.  Ooooohhhh!"

"Well, it's still a Sign from the Angels, though."


Have you had any Signs from the Angels, lately?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wednesday Weigh-In 20120919

This week's lower weight is a result of emotional upheaval. Whereas some folks overeat when stressed, I tend to get sick to my stomach and eat little.

Waist = 37.25"
Height = 5' 9"

  1. Wikipedia BMI page
  2. Tanita Scale with Body Fat monitor
  3. Javascript must be enabled to view the data.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Book Review: Why Can't I Change?

The book "Why Can't I Change? How to Conquer Your Self-Destructive Patterns" serves as three books in one.  First, as the title suggests, it's a self-help guide.  Second, it's a book on parenting.  Third, it's a book on interpersonal relationships.

The self-help aspect of the book describes attachment theory.  It uses this theory to draw a connection between how we react to stress and emotional situations today and how accessible and responsive to us our earliest caregivers were in the past.  This connection brings us insight into our behavior.  Once aware of our needs, we can circumvent misunderstandings and bring resolution to conflicts.

The aforementioned connection to our caregivers is what also makes this a helpful parenting book.  Those of us who don't want our kids to turn out as screwed up as we are can benefit from knowing how to respond to displays of emotion.  (Hint, not with, "Oh you'll get over it;" rather, "It's upsetting that the boy dumped you.")  The author gives us hope -- we can repair neglectful parenting fairly easily.

And because everyone we deal with, (boss, coworker, spouse, classmate, teacher, etc.) may not have had the most ideal parenting, we gain a bit more understanding, tolerance and perhaps even compassion when dealing with difficult people.

One concern I had is that the author doesn't discuss neurological disorders.  Her description of the "avoidant attachment" type could also describe someone with mild autism.  We are left to ponder whether autism is the result of avoidant mothers ("refrigerator mothers.")  A brief statement explaining that attachment theory applies only to neurotypical individuals should be included.

Overall the book is easy to read.  The author deftly combines theory with anecdotes from her own life and that of her patients.  Exercises for self-discovery and behavior modification are included.  Spelling and grammar are very good with only two minor errors.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Creativity Quotes from "Imagine"

Don Lee on inventing the bacon-infused old-fashioned:
"Basically I experimented with fat-washing because I was bored and nobody told me not to," Don says.  "I'm sure most bartenders would have told me it was a terrible idea, that it would never sell, that I was wasting perfectly good bourbon.  But the laws of chemistry told me that it should work, so why not try it?  I guess my only secret was that I didn't know any better."
- from "Imagine," by Jonah Lehrer, page 117

So it's not such a far-fetched thing to add ghee or extra virgin olive oil to hot tea, then, as I do!

The outsider problem affects everyone....

This is one of the central challenges of writing.  A writer has to read his sentences again and again. (Such are the inefficiencies of editing.)  The problem with this process is that he very quickly loses the ability to see his prose as a reader and not as the writer.  He knows exactly what he's trying to say, but that's because he's the one saying it.  In order to construct a clear sentence or a coherent narrative, he needs to edit as if he knows nothing, as if he's never seen these words before.

This is an outsider problem -- the writer must become an outsider to his own work.  When he escapes from the privileged position of the author, he can suddenly see all those imprecise clauses and unnecessary flourishes; he can feel the weak parts of the story and the slow spots in the prose.  That's why the novelist Zadie Smith, in an essay on the craft of writing, stresses the importance of putting aside one's prose and allowing the passage of time to work its amnesiac magic.
When you finish your novel, if money is not a desperate priority, if you do not need to sell it at once or be published that very second -- put it in a drawer.  For as long as you can manage.  A year or more is ideal -- but even three months will do . . .  You need a certain head on your shoulders to edit a novel, and it's not the head of a writer in the thick of it, nor the head of a professional editor who's read it in twelve different versions.  It's the head of a smart stranger, who picks it off a bookshelf and begins to read.  ou need to get the head of that smart stranger somehow.  You need to forget you ever wrote that book.
- from "Imagine," by Jonah Lehrer, page 132 - 133

I'd love to write fiction, but I can't tell if I would get my story across the way I play it out in my head.  I think this outsider problem is part of it.  But I think I also get too caught up in the detail of specific scenes and pay little attention to the overall flow, cadence, pace of the story.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Long-Term Benefits of High School English

At our daughter's Open House, the English teacher presented us parents with an Assignment: What was your favorite poem, short story, book from high shcool English?  Describe how English helped you in real life.

(Can you imagine a similar assignment from an algebra teacher -- how much bullshit that would have generated?)

We were limited to only ten minutes, and I had to listen to the teacher's open house spiel while thinking and writing, and I had to wait for a pencil to become available.  At first I couldn't even remember anything that I read in High School -- I'm such an avid reader on my own I wasn't sure if anything noteworthy was assigned by a teacher.

So I wrote simply that I built a large vocabulary, and that I learned the difference between "affect" and "effect" and "lay" and "lie."

Then I remembered having to present William Carlos Williams' "The Red Wheelbarrow," so I mentioned that.  And then I remembered more.  I remembered reading Grendel, which was wonderful.  So I mentioned that.  I also wrote that my 12th grade English teacher was an actual  comedian who would perform at comedy clubs in the evenings.

Ultimately, I had trouble ascribing any benefits to the English I studied in High School.  I feel that it was my natural inclinations toward writing and reading that built my vocabulary and established my (above average among engineers) facility with writing.

Did the subject of High School English benefit you at all?  Did any subject?  How?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Dream: Encounter with the Sorcerer

I am on the property of a very powerful and dangerous sorcerer.  A woman is with me.  We enter the house.

It is inevitable that the woman and I will be attacked in some way.  I search the house.

I am facing the sorcerer's chief minion, another very dangerous being.  I know that he will attempt to destroy me.  I have been trained as a healer and a shaman, but I've never prepared for an encounter like this.  I'm not sure what I should do.

The creature raises its left arm with its green, skeletal hand extended out ominously toward me.  I stand tall, relaxed, centered in my power.  Green, thick, fuzzy beams of powerful electrical energy shoot from the hand and zig-zag toward me.  How do I defend against this, I wonder?  I simply hold up my hands as if to block the beams.  And then I find within my heart Peace and Love.  Love is my defense.  I surround myself with it.  I direct Love toward the creature

The beams have no effect on me.  I counter with two successive "Tiger Claw" strikes at its face, first right-hand then left-hand.

The creature collapses into a ball, so I pick him up and put him down somewhere else.

I still have the main sorcerer to contend with.  He is present, but he may be disguised even as an inanimate object, so I look around carefully for anything that seems out-of-place.  Then I see on the floor in front of me a pair of yellow vinyl or plastic objects, each about the size of a hand.  This is the sorcerer, and I am surprised that this form is the best he could come up with.  I stomp on the objects to crush and destroy them.

What I thought would be an easy victory turns out to be a bit of a sticky situation, literally.  The objects ooze a great deal of thick, sticky, viscous fluid, like RTV or rubber cement.  It's on my shoes and lower pant legs.  I stand near the garbage can and scrape the stuff off with paper towels and pieces of scrap paper.

[I woke up with a heavy feeling in my chest, which, seven hours later, still bothers me.]

Wednesday Weigh-In 20120912

It is mushroom season, and I've found puff balls and a huge Chicken of the Woods. I mention this because this week's waist measurement appears to be "inflated" due to my apparent intolerance of these wild-harvested things. My symptoms usually are bloating, loss of appetite, loose stool, stomach discomfort. But this time, I also had chest pain (enough, perhaps, to inspire a dream about a demon shooting death rays at my chest) and severe fatigue.

I'm still not sure what all of this malaise is due to. My list of suspects includes:
  • not cooking the mushroom enough
  • eating parts of the plant that are too close to the stalk
  • not cleaning it sufficiently
  • eating way too much of it in a short period of time
This is really disappointing. I like the taaste and texture of these mushrooms, and I especially like the idea of foraging and finding these gift from Nature.

Waist = 38.0"
Height = 5' 9"

  1. Wikipedia BMI page
  2. Tanita Scale with Body Fat monitor
  3. Javascript must be enabled to view the data.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Dream: Trees in the Street After the Snowstorm

I'm at home at night with my wife.  A severe snowstorm is approaching and then ensuing.  The small trees in front of the house are moving.  They're not swaying but actually moving -- changing position -- going from left to right, from my perspective at the front door.

It's the next day after the snow storm.  I go out the front door to assess the conditions and clean up.  My wife / mother refuses to join in because I did not prepare properly.  I begin to shovel the driveway near the house, but the snow is just a thin layer of slush.  And as the sun gets stronger, the driveway gets clear and then dry.

I set aside the snow shovel and walk to the end of the driveway.  I see one small tree right in front of the driveway, about three or four feet into the street, planted in the asphalt as if it were soil.  Two other trees are also in the street, similarly planted.  One is about 10 feet to the right; the other is 10 feet to the left.

I think it's my duty to cut the trees down.  First, they pose a hazard to motorists.  Second, we can't get our cars out of the driveway.  But my wife has come out and suggests leaving them there.  The cars on the street can easily avoid the trees, and our cars can fit past the tree that's blocking the driveway if we go a bit over the curb.  The town crew can and should take care of the situation.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Dream: Prize Ear Wax

I'm in the bedroom.

My right ear is itchy, so I pick it and pull out a dark piece of something that looks like a dried cherry.  I marvel at this -- how something so large could come out of my ear intact.  It is a prize.

One of our pets is nearby, so I decide to show my prize to it.  This pet is what we call a cat, but it's bipedal and about the size of a toddler.  And it vaguely resembles Fozzie Bear of the Muppets.

I hold the piece up to the pet's nose.  A little piece breaks off and gets stuck at the entrance of its left nostril.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Wednesday Weigh-In 20120905

You can't buy a 64 ounce soda in New York City. But I wonder, can you still buy a carton of cigarettes there?

Waist = 37.25"
Height = 5' 9"

  1. Wikipedia BMI page
  2. Tanita Scale with Body Fat monitor
  3. Javascript must be enabled to view the data.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Wheat = Weight

This article in the latest Natural Awakenings provides a concise overview to Wheat Belly:
By weight, ... modern wheat is approximately 70 percent carbohydrate, in a highly digestible form of a starch known as amylopectin A, which converts more easily to blood sugar than nearly all other simple or complex food carbohydrates. Gram-for-gram, wheat increases blood sugar and causes insulin problems to a greater degree than even potato chips or table sugar.


Also check out the Wheat Belly Blog for more resources, including recipes.