Friday, February 29, 2008

An Interview!

A coworker’s daughter is taking a journalism class and needed to interview a blogger for a paper. The last week word has gotten around that had I stared a blog, so I was asked if I would be her interviewee. I was flattered so I said yes. She needed the paper within the hour after I received the e-mail, so the answers were fairly brief. I am working on several blogs right now that require a bit of research and no doubt will need revision, so for today’s blog, here’s the transcript of the interview:
1)What is a blog?
1) Short for web log, a blog is an unregulated forum for people to publish their opinions, commentary, news and information about their personal lives on the internet. While these are the most common forms blogs take, the medium is fairly young and still evolving.
2)Why is there this fascination with blogs?
2) Why are reality TV shows popular? We’re curious about each others lives, sometimes to the point of voyeurism. We’re also looking for connections with other people who perhaps share similar concerns, tribulations and ideas. Lastly, many blogs are informative and funny and who doesn’t like to laugh?
3)How did you find out about blogs?
3) Like most people, I had a friend who had started one, as her online journal, though I had heard of blogs years before in the news (television and periodicals) back in the dark ages when blogs were questioned as a legitimate source of information and commentary.
4)Why did you decide to start a blog?
4) A news blog may be more editorialized, or personal and contain more commentary than information and usually has far less content in general. While several people may share a blog, as a rule most blogs are single person-sourced, limiting the ability to news-gather. Also, while not always true, news blogs don’t do much independent research; most regurgitate from news websites or other news media.
5)What is the difference between a news website and a news blog?
5) I had lots of thoughts about lots of things and already wrote for myself to organize my thoughts and my worldview (kind of putting my philosophies on paper to see what I believed) and decided to test my worldview against the world at large. Instant publication is tremendously satisfying and it’s great to get comments (good or bad) from people. I was surprised how connected I felt.
6) Is your blog focused on your commentary and opinions on one particular subject, or your online personal diary on lots of subjects?
6) It is views and commentary, but as random as I am concerning what I’m interested that day. As for my daily routines, I find them boring, I can’t imagine anyone else wanting to read about them and for that matter, I find blogs that are just recitations of one’s day boring. It’s what you think and feel and how you react to things that’s interesting and blog gold, not the events themselves.
7) Do you think its important for a blog to have photographs/audio/music/videos to enhance it?
7) No, it’s not important. Sometimes, sure, it can enhance the experience, but mostly it’s just jewelry and not important to the content of the blog (unless, of course the blog is all about music or such.) It might give a little insight to the author, but too much of a good thing is too much. Think of it this way: does the cover matter when it’s a good book?
8)What specific types of blogs are there?
8) I mean this literally: any subject you can think of, there is a blog devoted to it. Sorry to be so general, but a specific list would take hours to compile. There are an estimated 100,000+ blogs started every day! Think about it.
9)Do you consider blogs a form of journalism?
9) They can be, but unlike a news agency which has a reputation to uphold and a financial stake in that reputation, blogs don’t. Blogs live on their popularity. With precious few exceptions, I wouldn’t consider anyone’s personal blog as a source of authority.
10) Do you worry about your personal safety, if you discuss your opinion on controversial subjects?
10) Great Question! It’s certainly in the back of my mind. I do have some controversial opinions, on evolution, religion, politics and I haven’t gotten them all down yet, but I admit I am holding back a little since my blog is so new from putting it all out there. There are zealous people in the world. I’m a bit afraid, but then again, there’s no assurances of safety in life in general. I’ll put them out there, but I’m going slowly, testing the waters.
11) Should everyone blog?
11) Should they? No. It’s a neat experience to be sure and many take it up, only for it to suffer as a fad in their lives and some have persisted for years. It all depends on the person. Some are remarkably well thought out and written, with engaging thoughts and neat facts and others are complete crap from layout, to writing style to content. It’s a whole spectrum that reflects the population of the world’s diversity in interests, skill and opinions, with all the good and bad that implies, but better to have it than not.
12)Is there anything else you would like to add?
12) Only that the neatest thing about blogs is their lack of rules. The door’s wide open and what blogs might be in the future is unguessable. And NOT knowing the future is what makes life so very interesting.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Perspective...

I was listening to “Science in Action” pod cast from the BBC (just love the BBC. Just as biased and snarky as American media, but so subtle and polite about it. Informative and makes you pay attention in order to catch the digs at the US. Delightful!) where they featured a laboratory in France that had created a self-healing rubber. That’s right. Self repairing. Tear the rubber in half, then put the broken ends back into contact and within an hour the atomic bonds between them will repair (totally simplified, just trust me) to nearly the same strength as before. Holy Science Fiction Batman, that’s cool! That got me thinking about the world we live in and how amazed our ancestors would be at the world that we live in. But then I paused. I think we constantly underestimate those who came before, that we somehow think their lack of technology makes them inferior, less clever, less sophisticated than we are with our technological majesty. The achievements of those who came before us should not be lightly dismissed. Their accomplishments, especially in light of continual revelations of their relative technological sophistication, should be all the more impressive because of their lack of technology. Not just the monuments we all know and love, though they are not to be discarded either, but as well their forms of government, methods of trade and travel and even the nearly modern cosmopolitan of their cities. I think a traveler from the past would, with minimal instruction, recognize and understand a great deal more than we might think they would. Any notions of their belief in us as gods I think would be quickly dispelled simply by watching us interact with our world. If you think their lack of education would be an impediment, consider for a moment how specific our education is to the systems and technologies of the world we live in. While the math we learn helps in the development of logical thinking, the majority of it beyond the simple maths we use for our finances becomes very specialized towards modern engineering and scientific theory; in truth, the overwhelming majority of us barely use any of the math we know, much less even have a conceptual grasp of the mathematics that govern our technologies and directions of research. Person for person, this isn’t all that different from someone who doesn’t know any math other than that needed to count sheep for barter. Uneducated doesn’t equal unsophisticated ( I mean in terms of reason, intellectual capacity and critical thinking skills. The other use deals with coarseness of tastes and I don’t think anyone can argue that we’re all that better than our ancestors. We have access to our entire civilization’s and our history’s art, science and literature, yet sex, violence, voyeurism and meaningless competitions wildly dominate our free time. The only real difference between the Roman bread and circuses and today is that we pay for them.)

My list of 10 things they would and 5 they wouldn’t be amazed at:

#10: The extent to which we take care of our handicapped
Not just those wounded in accidents but birth defects as well. The amount of resources we can and do expend making mobility, communication and quality of life possible might boggle the mind of someone who simply couldn’t afford to care for the wounded or deformed. The fact that a blind person can lead a normal and quite productive and quality life on their own without depending on alms or family might seem an amazing kindness. How much we can communicate even with the most severely mentally handicapped might just astound them just as much as the fact that we “suffer” them to live at all. I think our ancestors thought someone deformed and mentally handicapped was broken and unfixable, and considering the times and abilities as little as 100 years ago, one can’t really blame ancient peoples for this worldview. Introducing an ancient to an autistic child who can only communicate via a computer and quite eloquently at that might astound them, not just that we invested the time and resources to do so, but also the discovery that the disabled have been valuable human beings all along.
#9 Bigness
We constantly bemoan how our world, via communications, population and travel, is always growing smaller. An historical time traveler would most likely have the opposite view. Think on the wide, empty spaces between cities in the ancient world. While they seemed immense, how big are they really when compared to the sprawl of London or New York? And not just in two dimensions, but three!!! Modern buildings are gigantic compared to ancient ones, spacious nearly to excess. Not only that but many urban cities extend underground. The greatest ancient cities were no slouches in the large department, some coming very close to a million inhabitants, but even so, the amount of sheer 3 dimensional volume our cities take up and the number of inhabitants they support is unprecedented. The very ability to cross the globe offers horizons undreamt of by even the worldliest of ancient traveler. Add to that the dimensions of the very small, the microscopic and quantum, then pitch into the pile the unplumbed depths of the ocean and the world is suddenly filled with layers of space previously unknown. Put this world of vast oceans, continents and cities in perspective with the universe itself and even the staunchest of ancestors might tremble in awe at its mind boggling grandeur. Lord know we do, or should.
#8 Transportation
I doubt the whys and hows of most of our methods of transportation would much interest most peoples of the past. We live with them and are blissfully ignorant of the infrastructure elements concerning fuel, routing and maintenance, though the intricacies of any of them; railroad, shipping, commercial trucking, commercial and passenger air travel, are worthy of admiration considering the effort, planning thought and manpower needed to make them all reasonably safe and efficient, much less work at all. The fact of them, however, would cause ancients’ jaws to drop. The size of ships, the speed of trains and rail and the very ability to fly, much less carry people and freight, would challenge the very notions of human ability in one used to wooden barges and ox-drawn carts, with all the limits on speed and cargo capacity they imply. How much stuff we move and how quickly is pretty impressive. I also think they would be surprised at how generally safe our travel is, not just from accidents, but from piracy as well.
#7 Abundance
Some where in the world, at this very moment, is someone rescued from or who has fled from some relatively undeveloped area of the world, someone who has lived a life of privation, who is walking into a grocery store for the first time. Their reaction is likely to be the exact same as anyone plucked from the general pool of our history. The amount and quality of food available in the developed world is…at worst, a well earned reprieve from the norm of history. Malnutrition is waning on earth as the norm for mankind. The cleanliness and abundance of drinkable water would only be half as astounding as how much clean, drinkable water we use to bath, launder our garments and even wash our cars with! While the smells we regard as “clean” smells might seem bizarre to our intrepid ancestor, I don’t think it would be long before they noticed the abundance of cleanliness and perfume in our world. We (rightly so) shake our heads at roadside litter and moan about how dirty our homes are, yet to an ancestor, how immaculate, how free of dirt and refuse our lives are. And lastly, the abundance of knowledge, if we took our friend to even a small library. Repositories of knowledge were nearly legendary in former times due to their scarcity. A small library holds more tomes than at times were in existence for a 1000 years at a time.
#6 Beauty
Perhaps this is a bit subjective on my part. I think an overall increase in human beauty, while in the eye of the beholder, would be noticeable to a time traveler. Advanced (even just existing at all) dental care, clean, groomed hair and flattering clothes coupled with general good health and a more romantic and attractive view of coupling over the last few centuries has produced a generally more attractive population. This is my opinion, to be sure, but even the least (subjectively) attractive among us has the benefit of grooming, wardrobe, makeup, diet and exercise. It is these things I believe that our ancestors both lacked and had no time or need for that contributes most to this assertion, with genetics as a lesser, but nonetheless important factor. Controversial, no?
#5 Light
Few are the places in our world that have no artificial light. While even our ancestors had artificial illumination (except those poor nuns making lace) think on how much forethought and effort had to go into having light even briefly in the night. Collecting wood and tinder or vessels and oil( and just think on that!!! Killing a beast and rendering its fat!) or making candles (again…beef tallow anyone?) and even when you had it, the threat of fire was ever-present. We just flick a switch. How simple. How easy. This might be second only to flight in the more god-like powers we posses: the ability to light up the night, and what’s more, bejewel it with color, sparkle and beams of radiance. Not only are we no longer afraid of the night, we make the most of it. How much has progress been stymied and slowed by the ancient fact the only productive thing to do at night was sleep? Think on it.
#4The lack of Kings
And warlords for that matter. It would have to be explained to our visitor how (in theory at least) the most successful nations of historical late have had a largely self-governing populace. I’m sure all isn’t what it seems, but it will do for this demonstration. While there are still wars, fought with weapons of terrible scope and potency and some nations still bully others, just as much we might be learning to talk our differences out and manage our resources a bit more responsibly in order to prevent war. Maybe what I’m trying to say is how surprised they might be that our leaders didn’t fight to be where they are, weren’t born into the position or anointed by priests (usually after one of the preceding two) but were appointed for the most part by the public and that their stays in office are limited by consent in order to minimize the temptations of power that humans are so susceptible to. Who in the past got to CHOOSE their king?
#3 Free Time
I don’t think our intrepid visitor would much understand what we do with our free time, at least in regards to how we entertain ourselves electronically, though sports, music, and sex would be familiar. What would floor them is how much of it during each day we have, as opposed to former times when most every minute of their short, brutish lives was spent on the business of survival.
#2 Our Abilities at Prediction
Weather, earthquakes, tsunamis, tornados, volcanoes and even unto identifying and at the least mitigating the spread of infectious diseases among other natural disasters would seem, up there with flight, pretty darn godlike. The principles behind these phenomenon are not difficult to understand, they just require observation. Now our visitor would know what we do with some of our spare time. (someone from as little as a century ago would be impressed by this one.)
And #1 Our Music
One has to admit that there’s been a lot of innovation since Apollo first plucked at a lyre. Music is second to none as a thread of continuity in our species. The quality and diversity of our music is only the tip of the iceberg for our friend from ages past: the sheer quantity we’ve accumulated in the last few centuries outstrips the number of ditties in the previous entirety of our species. This too is another one of our free time pursuits they’d totally get. The invention of instruments and the time to practice! Without denigrating the music of villagers paying flute and drums outside of Babylon, think of their reaction upon hearing an orchestra play Beethoven (Or John Williams for that matter!)
What they would NOT be impressed by…
#1 Television and other electronic media. I might be wrong, but while they would think it amazing, the sights and sounds and duplication of human visage, the actual content would utterly baffle them, as it requires such long term immersion in the culture to grasp the references and even the point.
#2 Landing on the Moon. Impressive as first, I fear their first question would be upon learning it’s a dead planet would be, “You went back?” I think they’d find things here on Earth far more impressive than a lump of rock.
#3 Our Weapons. Other than explosives, because they are impressive, all the rest are easily grasped as fancy, more efficient versions of clubs and stones that keep our hands a bit cleaning while staining our souls just as effectively.
#4 Our Modern Art. They wouldn’t get it either.
#5 Our attitudes: With such power to shape our world (without the human cost of slavery at last) and amidst such abundance, they might be terribly puzzled that we still fight at all. To someone from the distant past, we live lives of luxury, plenty and security that would choke the greatest Pharaoh with envy. How we live is almost exclusively reserved for descriptions of a very rewarding afterlife, and our complaints about these lives would probably fall on incredulous ears and the ideological and religious wars we fight in the name of nation (a relatively new concept historically) would seem a waste of such precious treasure and lives. In fact, you don’t have to bend space and time and see with eyes of the past to feel that exact same way.

So, just my opinion; something for you to ponder. I am in love with history, not a teacher of it, so any mistakes are my own, as are my interpretations. Many thanks to Dan Carlin and his “Hardcore History” pod cast for the inspiration to 1) admit how much I love history and 2) think of history outside the box and outside the book.

Monday, February 25, 2008


I love dairy. Cheese is but one god in my lactic pantheon, but oh what a god. One of many flavors and types. Like mythologies, cheese has minor deities of both good and evil. Extra sharp cheddar: good. The wedge of horror Jon’s parents tried to pawn off on me that smelled like an asslip and toejam sandwich: evil.

Years ago my mother, who’s not slender, for some odd reason decided to fat free just about that mysterious time in our culture when instead of eating less, it was universally decided that we’d remove the fat from our favorite foods, replacing them with hydrogenated solids for bulk, then doubling the salt and sugar content so they wouldn’t taste completely like ass. Into our house came a seemingly innocuous package of fat free, all vegetable cheese slices. How interesting! Isn’t science so darn clever. A quick scan of the nutrition info (this is back in the dark ages of nutritional packaging, circa 1991, when labeling was bereft of the breakdown of fats, percentages of whatnot and recommendations of this and that. How far we haven’t come.) revealed a perfect health food. No fat, no calories, no nothing really, including nutrition. It was like solidified diet soda! Cheese flavored at that! How awesome. What better way to take advantages of this cheese from the future than to slap it on some hamburgers of some 30% fat!!! Guilt-free at last, as we would adorn them each with a slice of beneficial living. Into the broiler went those cows that gave their last full measure of devotion to my lunch, the slow crisp and sizzle filling our house with the aroma of its smoky drip and a mouthwatering indifference to the suffering of animals. Browning and popping, the time came to flip the burgers and adorn them with orange-yellow absolution. I did so, gleefully braving the spattering grease, which spat and fussed as if filled with the angry spirits of all wronged bovines. On went the miracle cheese product, glowing like the promise of the 21st century in the sultry radiance of the broiling element.

Is there anything in human history quite like melted cheese? I think not. For what would pizza be without cheese (aside from healthy, I mean) but a half-assed sandwich? It is only on Christmas morn that children’s faces light brighter than when a string of steaming white reaches from a slice to cling to their lips. Who of us has not pursed their lips and pulled away the slice to test the stretch of its gooey succulence? And think well on the mighty quesadilla, a southwestern invention. It’s very name glorifies the nobility of its flavors: from the Spanish, Queso, meaning “cheese” and dilla, meaning “stuff my bad ass with.” Ham and no cheese is simply tragic pork on rye. A baked potato is blasphemy unless its holy trinity is fulfilled: Butter, Sour Cream and CHEESE. How much broccoli or cauliflower would never have been eaten by children, leading to malnutrition in our great nation, if not seduced by sauces of creamy, silky cheese. Can you even imagine how history would have changed without macaroni and cheese? Hitler would have won the war.

Block cheese, shredded cheese, canned cheese, cheese stuffed with peppers and peppers stuffed with cheese, soft cheese, hard cheese, cheese blends, why cheese shows the way, exemplifying the harmony achieved in diversity. Can we be any less than this holy thing? And when one cries about the spiritual damage we do ourselves by not only eating animals but robbing from them as well, well, I say unto you, where else is the cycle of life completed, what else is the essence of balance and a return to harmony, than when in nourishment to my poor soul, a cow is once again whole, ready to ascend to whatever bliss a cow’s soul may know, when reunited is their flesh and their milk. In the end we give back what was taken. In fact, every burger without cheese (called a hamburger no less, a further insult to bovine sacrifice) is a cow’s soul damned to wander the earth. Perhaps you too have heard the pitiful mooing on a dark night. Know the horror cheeselessness has wrought. Yes, I too weep my friends.

But to this yin if of course a yang. Cheese is fat. Sure, salt, enzymes and rennet too, but the overwhelming majority is fat. And too much of a good thing is indeed too much. Moderation is always an ideal philosophy, but perhaps we clever animals can use our wits to have the sin without actually sinning.

So, we find ourselves back in my mother’s kitchen with me preparing the buns for our lunch while the James T. Kirk of cheese is…

Not melting. Hmmm, gee it’s been five minutes already. Yeah, uh huh, the broiler’s on, about 550 degrees and damn, that stuff isn’t even breaking a sweat! No drooping, no discoloring or oil separating, all the signs of imminent cheese melting simply aren’t there. Puzzling. Well it should be fine, I’m sure. It’ll be at least five more minutes before the burgers are ready anyway, it’ll melt by then.

Five minutes later…holy crap. It’s still there, untouched, like saints in a bonfire. Still five more minutes later, smoke from the drip pan is rolling from the broiler, collecting just below the kitchen ceiling like a tempest of saturated fat. There’s nothing for it; the burgers must come out or doom will befall our lunch. A deep breath and I reached in, eyes stinging from the billowing wrath of all cow gods from antiquity, pull our now very done burgers from the shimmering heat, before a reddish-golden comfort, now the color of strife one sees in the eyes Hollywood demons and placed the tray on the stove for inspection.

My mother and I stood in shocked silence. Still wroth, the burgers sizzled angrily, but the cheese, oh the humanities the cheese! Unmelted. Untouched. The once warm glow of nutritional redemption had become the yellowed disdain of bad teeth, or the haughty orange of an ancient Cheeto excavated from a couch cushion. Science had indeed produced a miracle, but not the one we had pinned our lunch, our health, our very dreams of body-mass index on. It had produced an abomination of physics, an aberration of natural law, a mote in God’s eye. What have we done, my mother and I silently asked ourselves.

Tentatively, I reached out. To one side our buns slowly collapsed under the weight of forgotten mustard and mayonnaise, as if cringing from the slices of hellspawn. I touched the mysterious slice before me. It was cool to the touch even after the fires of our oven. My mind jerked to the descriptions of Sauron’s Ring by Tolkien and I despaired. I steeled myself and broke off (yes, broke, for the firmness of the slice had been unaffected by the heat, as if the monstrosity had been newly freed from the wrap after tenure in the fridge) a small piece of Newton’s Bane. Wide-eyed, my mother watched as I brought the small, yet potent chip of unknown to my lips. Years later, she would recall how she feared this would be her last view of her brave son. Trembling, I put the chip into my mouth and bit down.

It all became clear in a shattering instance of epiphany. Firm, only somewhat yielding, the chip was pulverized by my chewing. No smooth melting, no silky dissolve characteristic of real cheese, the texture of warm plastic was apparent. The taste, to this day is difficult to describe, but the best I can do it that it tasted like cardboard feels. Uncomfortable and indifferent. Yes, indeed it was from the future, but a terrible apocalyptic one, a future gone wrong, wherein Vegans had wrested nutritional control of the world and sated the ignorant masses with inferior replications of their misguided tastes. A horrible, barren world of butterless brown rice, unseasoned legumes and the death penalty for creating salted pork; a caloric 1984, where Ray Croc sits side by side with Satan on the throne of evil. I felt like Sarah Conner to this product’s nutritional Terminator and I wondered.

We all too easily peeled off the waxen offenses, grabbed the remainder of the package from the refrigerator and removed them all to the outside trash, too shaken, too afraid of this harbinger of a terrible future of polyunsaturated fascism. Melting some pepper jack in a saucepan on the stove, thinned with copious amounts of whole milk and a generous glob of sour cream, I pondered our recent experience while I stirred the lactose talisman to soul buffering smoothness. Had this mishap of science fallen into our hands as a warning, or a prophecy? I could still feel its malevolent presence outside, only to be relieved of it in two days when the trash would be collected. I did not sleep well those two nights and still felt a small pressure of fear that slowly mellowed to a nameless unease that haunts me to this day.

Years later I discovered the disturbing persistence of this dire messenger. A careful examination of the launch video reveals the “foam” that broke off and doomed the shuttle Columbia was in fact several packages of the same cheese that had resisted all my powers of cooking as well as reason. Here, some 20 years later, science had indeed created the very substance so horrifying in my youth, applied in a noble and innocent application. I shuddered, remembering the certainty of that awful future I glimpsed on that terrifying day, in both hope and dread. Do we create the future or are we doomed to certainty? As I curl up at night, munching on a ham and swiss sandwich, reading Revelations from the Christian Bible, I am warmed and hopeful of images of pestilence, war and famine. A small comfort that this may yet come to pass and displace that awful vision of a true hell on earth. In Jesus name we eat bacon cheddar curly fries, amen.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Nutrition and stuff

Nutrition labels certainly make you work for it, don't they? I had put on some weight this past winter, as I usually do, but this time I seemed to gain more than usual, enough I was worried I might be pressed to lose it this summer (there's nothing like a 110 degree kitchen to shed some weight quickly. Trust me, fat chefs are in the minority. Why they're proportionately more famous than thin chefs is beyond me.)
I have some bad habits, to be sure. I smoke. If there is anything that's truly vicious, it's the slow, insidious erosion of health nicotine addiction merrily layers upon your body like a Hungry Jack biscuit of cancers. The lack of energy and wind from smoking was impeding exercise, so I knew I had to quit smoking. I worried though. The last time I quit smoking I gained 45 pounds (which had everything to do with Ken's Wok in Norfolk, VA having the tastiest Crispy Garlic Chicken on earth and being one mere block from where I worked.) So I knew I also had to change the way I ate, lest heart disease, diabetes and a much more limited wardrobe reduce any gains I might make.
There are two kinds of chefs (not just fat and skinny): those that truly love cooking so much that it permeates every facet of their lives. Not only do they create masterpieces at work, but their efforts at home rival the finest restaurants in the world. Then there's me: after busting tail all day or night in the aforementioned culinary sauna, the last thing I want to do is cook for myself. Hot Pockets has made a fortune off of me. The walk to and from the China King buffet just ain't long enough to burn off Crab Rangoon soaked in General Tso's chicken (dreamy!) If it can't be prepared in 2 minutes in a microwave and doesn't have enough preservatives in it that I could rub it on a wound as an antibiotic, I'm not interested.
So, eating junk, whether out or in, was a serious impediment to all my plans of being reasonably healthy (of course I'd love to be Brad Pitt, however reason dictates small steps and reality is a harsh mistress: I'm 35, not Brad.) Incidentally, it's expensive too! One wonders how I can afford cigarettes. Oh yeah, I live in NC: they give away welfare checks for cigarettes. So, step one: change my eating habits to start weight loss in anticipation of quitting smoking (was I putting quitting off? Of course I was...still am, but not forever. It will happen. This is my year. That's right, mine, not yours. Sorry, it's my turn.)
So where to start? Oh yeah, I need to buy food. Sad when your refrigerator has an echo. I walked in one morning to a crew of spelunkers gearing up in my kitchen. "Um...what are you doing?" I asked. "We're touring your pantry." Ouch. People have definite expectations about my kitchen. I turn out some pretty awesome food at work. They expect a rack of polished knives, gleaming copper cookware, a pot of stock simmering on the stove, boxes of fresh herbs in the windows and pictures of Bobby Flay and Emeril on the wall. I have one word for you: Digiorno, baby.
So off to the store. I knew where I wanted to start: detox. I looked at my current diet and saw what was missing and what I needed and what I had in abundance. While I had a lifetime's supply of Sodium Benzoate in my cells, I lacked vitamins. I had the price is right showcase showdown of fats, but no protein. On and on. I wanted to start incorporating things I needed and start flushing out the residues of sloth (sloth is excellent...tastes like Breyers Mint Chocolate Chip.)
So, how to get rid of toxins and which toxins anyway? Ionic foot bath? Those Japanese foot pads? Colonic? What about those pills you take that scrape plaque from your intestines? Funny how you start even a little research into those and suddenly everything smells like snake oil.
So, a colonic. No doubt I have years of impacted icky clinging to my intestinal walls, impeding the absorption of nourishment and providing haven for bacterial orgies. So if a power washer can clean moss and mildew off of my deck, it stands to reason, right. No. [ I must pause for a public service announcement: I strongly recommend cooking your lunch over LOW heat when writing your blog.] Firstly, any legitimate use of the term "impacted fecal matter" implies a serious medical condition, which can quickly kill you. Secondly, while meat can take longer to digest than other foods, it doesn't stay in your intestines for years on end. No one has ever been autopsied with a 10 year old piece of meat (or gum) in their guts. This is actually the source of the phrase "This too shall pass." Thirdly, the only licensed use of the machines that hose your insides out like a colon carwash is for pre-surgical or testing (think x-ray) use. They are not licensed in the US for a potentially dangerous procedure of dubious medical benefit. Yes, that's right...dangerous. People have died from the introduction of bacteria into their intestines, most likely from improper sanitizing of the equipment. So, one begins to wonder (especially as I could find no endorsements from any doctor online as to the validity or benefit of introducing a hurricane to my guts) who are the people practicing this form of colonic waterpark? How did they get this equipment? What exactly are their credentials, where did they get them and for pete's sake what do you call them? Aquacolonic technician? Hydrointestinal therapist. I don't know anyone personally who's had one, but I hear tale of people who swear by them and even I must admit, after the discomfort (for the love of it all, an enema is uncomfortable, I can't imagine a kiddie pool up my bum) it might be refreshing. I would be curious to know if this feeling would be enhanced by Fresca. Sorry, believers, it's just not enough for me. If I must stick something up my ass (outside of a consensual, recreational context) I'm going to have to insist on it being done by a doctor for a necessary medical reason in a hospital where I can be reasonably sure of its sanitation and a whole hospital awaits if something does go wrong.
How about those pill thingies that remove that hideous plaque that supposedly coats the insides of our bowels with industrial horror? Surely you've seen those pictures, of long, ropey, yellow ahem "movements" that people taking these products for some unimaginable reason fish out of their toilets, pose and photograph (often with objects adjacent to show size) and then post on the internet as testimonial for my friend Jon to call me over and say "Hey Neil, look at this!" OK. Ew. The main ingredients in these products are a type of clay and another chemical whose name now escapes me,similar to gelatin. Once in the body they combine and with the dietary guidelines for all intents and purposes make a cast of your intestines, which comes out looking both appropriately horrific and bizarrely impressive. Basically, it's the chemicals you take that transform into that thing I was forced to look at. As for the "plaque" they claim to remove? Not a single known autopsy has turned up this mysterious ropey yellow things coating someone's intestines. Pure snake oil. Those of you who fished one out of your toilet? How do ya feel now?
Those baths and foot pads? They never mention what toxins exactly they're supposed to remove, which is annoying as I firmly believed I was riddled with all the poisons of the developed world...but...uh, what exactly are they? But...but...those baths, can't you see them drawing out the toxins from your feet, turning the water an icky, 20th century brown? Well, yes and no. Yes, the water turns brown, but it's been shown that once you add the special "ionic powder" the water turns brown anyway, regardless of whether your feet are in or not. Crap. Snake oil. What about those pads? Full of vinegar that soften your skin overnight and pull off all the old, dead skin on your feet, so of course they'll look dirty, as if they sucked all the shallowness from our souls. Duct tape does that too (the dead skin part. Yes, duct tape fixes many things. It can improve a relationship...wink...wink...but it can't fix it or your soul.)
Also, with these two products, they never state the mechanism wherein toxins in your body bypass your liver and kidneys and are sucked through your feet. And here comes my point...our bodies come perfectly equipped to handle the overwhelming majority of "toxins" and other indigestible goodies we consume.
The liver is a truly amazing organ that literally transforms harmful (or unneeded) chemicals into fairly inert products that are then filtered through the kidneys and out they go in our urine. Some toxins aren't even absorbed into the body and pass out with our feces. Yes, there are some modern chemicals that do tend to stay and can cause problems, especially in large doses and/or with prolonged exposure. Don't use solvents like acetone or gasoline to wash your hands. Not good. But overall, our exposure isn't as much as we fear and on the whole our marvelous bodies, while they betray us whenever we treat them to Ben and Jerry's, are always cleaning us and looking out for us.
So, I thought to myself, "Self, why don't you focus on eating better and start off with foods that support and enhance the body you already have. What could possibly replace those marvelous products you now know you will never use? Oh yeah, fiber."
Yes fiber. Beans, whole grains, brown rice, yada yada. I've already covered far more about the digestive nether regions than either you or I truly wanted to, so I'll cut to the chase, because it's not about making a long story short (except in Jon's case) it's about whether anyone wants to hear it in the first place (insert bubble here: private joke: uninitiated may ignore.) Fiber: add slowly to diet, drink lots of water. Bummer when you find this out a week into it, after you've spent that week taping your blankets down so you can live through the night. As it turns out, I like food that's good for you almost (almost) as much as junk. But that, that is another post. Part Two Later.

Friday, February 22, 2008

I guess I should opinion on Something

this being my own personal soapbox and all. How about some politics? Lesse...I feel the United States is ridiculously behind the "times" in regards to having a non-white or female head of state. History shows clearly that menstruation doesn't affect leadership skills and both good and bad leaders come in all shapes, sizes and ethnicities. That being said, I simply won't vote for Hillary Clinton for these reasons:
1) If she fulfilled two terms, that would mean that the same two families have been in the White House as chief executive for 28 years (excluding Bush vice presidency from 1980-1988.) I am politically uncomfortable with the presidency used as either a battleground for a family feud, or as a subtle extension of political philosophy beyond term limits (by this I mean that no matter what the stated differences are between them, the net result of either family in office has been the same, but that is another post.)
2) If Republicans ever regained control of Congress, embedded (and irrational) hatred of the person of a Clinton would leave Congress a wasteland of legislative immobility.
3) I am completely opposed to the apparent economic philosophy that the income of individuals and businesses is somehow public monies for politicians to redistribute and spend. This too is a separate blog.
I am hesitant to vote for OBama because:
1) I feel the reasons for not socializing medicine and health care FAR outweigh the reasons for doing so. There are better and more long-term ways of reducing the cost of healthcare. This is actually a strike against both Democrats.
2) I can't find as much specific information as I'd like, but no doubt this will change with time.
Does it sound like I"m leaning Republican? Yes, I suppose I am. McCain is certainly contentious, yet there is no doubt he is an experienced politician an an upstanding person. It is easier to look at his voting record and political aims than Obama (though I don't count Obama's newness as a strike against him, per se. Simply that it's harder to discern his specific political views.) Incidentally, I can't stand people accusing politicians of "flip-flopping" on the "issues." It's as if no one is allowed to change their minds in the face of changing circumstances and experiences. As if the flexibility to see new and different points of view is somehow a personal and political liability!!! I count growth in one's worldview as a tremendous strength, a sign of reasonable character and empathy. I'd rather see a person grow than see someone adhere to dogma simply for the sake of tradition or political expediency. So, McCain's growth as a person puts him in the front of the line, for all I agree and disagree with him.
Huckabee...I have had quite enough righteousness in the White House to last a lifetime, thank you. Disagree as you will, but religious people are no more protected from mistakes than anyone else and revelation is no substitute for reason when it comes to decisions of life and death and how we deal with the rest of the world. (Yes, this is yet another blog-to-be.)

This gets easier

So far no catastrophe from clicking on random buttons. Sweet. I do wonder, though, if somewhere someone's garage door is mysteriously opening and shutting.

Here's the first entry...

Easier than I thought, though I just recently discovered podcasts and am now a podcast whore. I wonder if I'll turn into a blog whore too. Still trying to find where I put other bits of information. Hmmm....I wonder what this button does?