Entries Tagged 'Health' ↓

How to make this amazing (but so far nameless) salad bowl, for great justice

Note 1: In 2020, I’m writing 52 blog posts, one per week, to be self-published every Monday. The first, today’s, is a day late, but you get the idea. :)

Note 2: Until now, I haven’t experimented with this new WordPress “Bebo” version and its Gutenberg block-editor, so there may be formatting / appearance / ux issues at the start of this 2020 series. Please bear with. :)

Note 3: I don’t receive any compensation whatsoever from the ingredients peeps or from the restaurants, stores, etc. that I’m linking. They’re here as examples, and I use all of them myself and recommend them except where otherwise specified.

Good news is everywhere. The anarchist daughter of the GOP’s gerrymandering mastermind just dumped all his maps and files online for public use (Vice, NPR, tweet and tweet by her). Correctly losing trust in sociopathic institutions and replacing it with trust in each other as a result of such inspirational stories, more and more folks involved in the peer support movement or on their own are refusing (conventional) psychiatry, slowly and successfully withdrawing off psychotropic pills after decades of Big Pharma occupation, then telling everyone about it, including last week in the Washington Post. There are even opportunities for celebrating and bonding in these new freedoms: after prison time in Russia a few years back for anti-Putin protest, Moscow-based anarchists Pussy Riot recently released their awesome new song “Hangerz” and announced dates for their first US & Canada tour, in March April May, benefiting Planned Parenthood. Especially with the Internet connecting individuals worldwide like never before, it feels as if there’s never been a better time to create networks and supports for prosocial, expansive lives.

Bad news is everywhere. In the words of multiple Holocaust and/or Auschwitz survivors in 2019 (Rene Lichtman, Ruth Bloch, Bernard Marks), ICE is equivalent to the Gestapo, their current ‘detention centers’ are really concentration camps where genocidaires crush minorities, and those at risk should leave the United States or stay to die. Exiting might not be so easy, however, as an example of the challenge from the past weekend shows: according to the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, more than sixty US residents, many of them US citizens, attempting to return home from foreign travel (a portion of them after attending a pop concert in British Columbia), were, while entering Washington state, interrogated for hours and hours by border patrol regarding their political views and loyalties; some were denied entry, and one activist says a migra source explains that this is a countrywide directive from above. Though exploring outside The Wall remains absolutely advisable for US residents, the threats are truly global, as a firsthand account Friday from Australia’s fire apocalypse indicates as one example of zillions, reporting that in Sydney and Canberra and elsewhere, people are dead, homeless, burned, frightened, suffocated with smoke, and sleeping in gas masks as their prime minister who’s fighting to criminalize protest against climate change vacations in Hawaii and scientists warn the disaster marks an irreversible tipping point. Finally, Iran just launched ballistic missiles at US forces in Iraq, and in response the bulbous TrumPharma monster (see below), aka the Cheeto in Chief, is bragging about having “the most powerful and well equipped military anywhere in the world,” which like Obomber’s “finest fighting force in the history of the world,” is far beyond idiotic, especially since the US doesn’t control ‘its’ military or spy agencies anyway (private corporations do). From all those loser presidents there are no plans for peace ever, disarmament is an unheard term, and especially with the Internet increasingly clutched by corporations that silo users and capture control redirect and sell their lives like never before, many ‘adults’ seem to feel there’s never been a better time to hide under the bed, escape into corporate TV cartoons and scrolling, and slowly or quickly fade away as ex-humans.

Don’t you want to join Team Good News instead of Team Bad News? Upgrading your life, even to the degree of migrating to another country to avoid let’s say lockups and more tactically defeat them from afar, is not “unrealistic” or “you care too much,” but it is a major challenge, and cooking is a great way to begin replacing weakness with the strength required. Based on conversations and my own experience, those only partially stuck in the mindtrap of conformist, complicit lesser evilism often feel that practical routes to a fully authentic, stick-up-for-yourself-and-others life are nonexistent or nearly so, and thus the only choice is to remain in the comfort zone inert, blah blah blah. Thus, folks probably need straightforward suggestions for goals and the steps to achieve them, plus encouragement to figure out their own goals and steps autonomously.

Here’s a good-news goal for upgrading your life: make and eat this vegan, glutenfree salad bowl of mine by following the instructions in this post. Sounds simple and almost a Rembrandt comic book error: too much effort spent on a subpar theme. But, to take a single example discussed and hyperlinked below, the CDC thinks close to half of US adults alive today will at some point in their lives develop type 2 diabetes, so it’s the standard US diet that’s the real subpar error. Eating trash (not the good dumpster-dived kind!) day in and day out is far more culpable in our failure to address injustices than many of us like to admit.

This post is a guide to a kickass vegan/glutenfree salad bowl you can make regularly, quickly, and easily clean up, for an over 9000 power level. As English speakers have said for almost two centuries, you are what you eat. I find when I apply consistent discipline to diet and exercise and gratitude journaling, a lot of ‘mental problems’ thrown on me by The System simply evaporate.

Look at it this way. Here’s a picture of the amazing (but so far nameless) salad bowl. If you’re eating this and similar every damn day, rather than alcohol sugar caffeine nicotine gluten dairy carcasses etc, you’re obviously well on your way toward firing on all cylinders:

This, my salad bowl, is the objective

Versus if you’re eating like this waste of space, this TrumPharma thing pictured here last January offering White House guests McDonald’s and Burger King, pretty soon you’ll be swarming with invading thoughts telling you you’re no good, life is all about predators and prey, might as well win the victory over yourself and love the war of all against all, can’t beat ’em join ’em, that kind of crap:

Eat like Trump, die by Trump

A quick note regading upgrading your diet: if you’re now eating trash — alcohol sugar caffeine nicotine gluten dairy carcasses — and you tweak it in just one way for just one week — alcohol sugar caffeine nicotine gluten dairy carcasses — and don’t see much improvement, please know that firing on all cylinders really requires a whole bunch of bugfixes over a great deal of time; realize developing healthy strength isn’t a ten-second thing but a lifelong journey.

For the Jedi it is time to eat as well

While Star Trek surely outmatches Star Wars, the endearing movie line quoted above from Yoyo (or Yoda or whatever) shows that the supposedly mundane matters more than we often give it credit for. Allegedly inspirational youtube videos featuring bodybuilders grunting, retired professional assassins screaming at troubled audiences about making their beds, and embarrassing synthesized symphonies shaking your speakers frame becoming healthy and strong as a miserable toilsome struggle of straining and ex nihilio willpower, rather than as what would be accurate: a daily, almost pastoral problem of diligently reading up to select suitable dressings, remembering the courage to value going to the grocery store/market over the muddled angst regarding the frenemy crush who rarely texts first, and simply getting organized and planning ahead, not to join the grandiose lemmings at some lesser evilism corporate shoutfest, but to instantiate your real authentic values, one step at a time. In short, keep your (not their) objectives in front and take care of the necessary little things to accomplish them, exhilirating piece by exhilirating piece.

One of the tiny tasks for establishing the capability to make this salad regularly was finding bowls to actually put the salad in. I found these gray concave half-spheres with lids at Tarjay for cheap. They hold about eight imperial cups (roughly 2.3 liters), if you don’t go above the rim with overflowing kale or other nutrition-packed ingredients. They are the perfect size for a giant salad bowl giving you genuine, not grandiose fantasy, health and strength.

Unfortunately, the bowls strike me as rather suspect. Probably they’re bad for the environment and health, just on the general premise that if some commodity seems too good to be true, it likely is. What are these rubbery-ish bowls made out of, anyway? If you understand with specificity why these bowls are problematic, please explain in the comments. I will say these bowls are easy to clean, quite convenient, and their noncolor helps keep the visual focus on the food. So yeah, have some bowls…no not the Black Sabbath kind, not like that, I mean food bowls to put salad in:

Suspect but convenient bowls from Tarjay, plural

Suspect but convenient bowl from Tarjay, singular

My salad bowl is based on the Bliss Bowl from Seattle’s excellent Chaco Canyon Cafe. Sadly, this new year, they just stopped making and selling their Bliss Bowl, and possibly their orange turmeric dressing that goes with it, but thankfully we have my and soon your versions. Mine uses all the same ingredients as theirs, except I replace their brown rice ingredient with the healthier, less carb-y and more protein-y quinoa, which I cook in coconut milk with the super-beneficial spice turmeric added (and celtic salt). Oh, and unlike me, Chaco Canyon Cafe knows how to present a visually stunning arrangement of their ingredients. How can the following not look empowering?

Bliss Bowl from Chaco Canyon Cafe

Another shot of the Bliss Bowl from Chaco Canyon Cafe

Here are the nine ingredients to give yourself every advantage possible. Kale, spinach, red cabbage, cucumber, avocado, sesame seeds, dressing, edamame, and either brown rice (in Chaco Canyon Cafe’s Bliss Bowl) or quinoa cooked in coconut milk with turmeric spice added (in my version). Those links are to individual ingredient pages on the fantastic, you-need-it-now website The World’s Healthiest Foods, run by a not-for-profit foundation and George Mateljan. Not only does The World’s Healthiest Foods disseminate quality knowledge on the nutritional benefits of each ingredient, but the webpages advise how to select those ingredients at the grocery store/market, how to store them (refrigerator? countertop?), how to prepare them, recipes, nutritional data, basically everything you need to know. All the webpages list at the bottom references including peer-reviewed scientific studies. (Science! — for those too stuck on those faraway journals and just now learning that peer review is, lol, ghostwritten by contractors, that even the editor in chief of The Lancet worries half of scientific literature is simply false, and that instead of dismissing your and your loved ones’ lives as mere anecdotal evidence, it’s actually great to undo problematic filters and understand your own experience and that of those around you as worthy sources of knowledge.)

Now the rad dressing. Previously I bought the orange turmeric dressing weekly from Chaco Canyon Cafe, but it seems they’ve stopped making it. The ingredients in their orange turmeric dressing were: extra virgin olive oil, safflower oil, orange juice, garlic, turmeric, apple cider vinegar, sesame seeds, salt, mustard powder, agave syrup, and sesame oil. I don’t know the proportions of those ingredients or anything else about their preparation of their dressing. I’ve switched to Lemon Turmeric Vinaigrette & Marinade with Avocado Oil, available at Seattle’s PCC and made by the goofily named Primal Kitchen. Both contain(ed) turmeric and work well with this salad bowl, fuck yeah. Someday I’ll make my own dressing and post here to tell you about it.

Orange turmeric dressing from Chaco Canyon Cafe, nevermore?

PRIMAL SCREAM DRESSING

Let’s get into this

Each salad bowl serves one really hungry person. It’s a good meal to eat early in the day, and then you can go without eating much the rest of the day besides little things like an orange, a bunch of pumpkin seeds, maybe a small dish of lentils and veggies, etc.

When making this salad, in the interest of saving time, begin by initiating the prep for the two ingredients that take the longest: the edamame and the quinoa. Throw a saucepan on the stovetop and heat enough water in it to cover eight ounces of shelled edamame that you can pour out of a frozen bag into the saucepan once the water is at a roiling boil. You’ll then turn down the boil to a simmer and keep the heating edamame in there for, oh I don’t know, five or ten minutes or something, turning the temperature up a bit as necessary. The linked edamame is non-gmo soy. Probably not the best food in the world, but not bad at all either as far as I know, and an easy way to put a bunch of good protein into the salad bowl. For the quinoa, similarly throw another saucepan on the stovetop, and fill it with the appropriate amount of coconut milk. 3/4 cup of dry uncooked quinoa, a good amount for one of these salad bowls, needs a little more than twice that amount of coconut milk, say 1.75 or just under 2 cups. You want to bring this coconut milk in the heating saucepan to a roiling boil, then turn down the temperature so it’s simmering rather than making weird boiling evaporating coconut milk. The coconut milk will supply some cream-like taste and, unlike water, some protein. Pour the dry uncooked quinoa in, as well as some celtic salt (more trace minerals than regular salt) and a ton of turmeric spice. Stir, and keep stirring as you work on the other ingredients (below). Adjust temperature as necessary. Quinoa is challenging to make correctly; it takes practice; it requires the right temperature and proportions to get as much fluff/volume as possible without burning or otherwise messing up stuffz. All the turmeric-y, celtic salt-y coconut milk will eventually absorb into the quinoa, or otherwise vanish, leaving you with a basically liquidless saucepan full of yummy fluffy warm quinoa. The chief point of quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah), a very high quality grain-like seed, is that it’s super high in protein (among other nutrients). Keep calm, plants have protein.

Heating up frozen, shelled edamame

Turmeric-y quinoa heating and fluffing up in coconut milk

Turmeric, a colorful yellow spice used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine and others, will make you STRONG if you consume it daily, enabling you to defeat enemies within and without. Although the nutritionist Dr. Michael Greger is a pro-gluten guy, whereas for me gluten (including the vegan staple seitan) causes GI problems (and the sources I trust say gluten causes problems for pretty much everybody, just in varying degrees), Greger’s videos/transcripts at NutritionFacts.org on turmeric have plenty of Science!-compliant information about the benefits of the spice. Greger recommends daily consumption, as do other experts. Turmeric improves exercise performance, seems promising for fighting Alzheimer’s and risk of Alzheimer’s, aids with anxiety and depression, and provides many more boons that really all you have to do to comprehend is read and experiment and turn off the blaring alarm bells we all (ok, almost all of us) seemingly have programmed in by TrumPharma-style propaganda insisting food is irrelevant, futility is maturity, curl up and die. Don’t listen to that nonsense, move forward with gobbling turmeric daily, and since it has doubled as a dye for centuries, if you get it everywhere like accident-prone me, try baking soda to remove the stains.

Next, with your ever mightier hands, seize the spinach and kale and tear off little pieces of each glorious green leafy vegetable. Then tear those little pieces into even littler pieces, because that’s quite like chewing your food before even putting it in your mouth. Hurried, we tend not to chew enough, which stresses our digestion as this great Seattle webpage on stress and nutrition explains. Put the tiny pieces of spinach and kale into the bowls. When I took the pictures included throughout this post, I was not yet hip to the idea of tearing ingredients into super small pieces, so my images here don’t reflect that kickass strategy…next time!

Spinach and kale are some of the most empowering vegetables you can eat. As the World’s Healthiest Foods website explains (see links above), both are very anti-inflammatory, and of all plant sources, kale is the firstmost, and spinach the secondmost, rich in the nutrient lutein, which protects eye health, a concern for computer types staring at glowing screens for epic stretches. Eating green leafy vegetables, i.e. kale and spinach, slows cognitive decline and is linked to sharper memory. And holy shit, according to the CDC in 2014, close to half of today’s adults in the United States will eventually develop type 2 diabetes; but, a systematic review and meta-analysis from 2010 suggests “increasing daily intake of green leafy vegetables could significantly reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.” Do you want be conquered, sublated into Team Bad News, victimized by TrumPharma ideology, stuck staring at the wall and mumbling Guess that was my life, or do you want to resist exuberantly by equipping yourself with kale and spinach? Eat kale and spinach, and you’ll turn into a rocket like Popeye. Boom.

Tell ’em, Popeye

Spinach, meet bowl

Spinach and bowl, meet kale

Moving right along, we have hulled sesame seeds. Often these can be easily purchased in bulk, poured from the bin into a cute container you can keep in the fridge for several weeks at least, before they start smelling rancid and need to be tossed. Sesame seeds provide iron, zinc, magnesium, calcium, and other needed nutrients, which human bodies are often depleted of and begging for, in little convenient seeds you can spread atop meals fast, no sweat. I want to tell you more about sesame seeds, but though it’s rainy and dark and cold here, I gotta get to the gym, not to brag but, if you need it, if you’re bleary-eyed on the couch watching forgettable Family Guy-type animated cartoons screech at you with piercing volume, to impart to you that it’s so thrilling, and endows you with such confidence and productivity, to actually build health and strength by doing fun stuff like going to the gym and eating this salad. Beating yourself up or briefly soaring in your skull using scam inspirational videos ain’t gonna help; pursue the little practical details one step at a time — maybe you need to find that old, unused pair of running shoes in the closet? That could be it for today. Accomplish that, then more tomorrow.

Sesame seeds from PCC

Sesame seeds snowing on kale and spinach

Time to rock and roll — no more pathetic Domino’s, engage the red cabbage and cucumber. Of all types of cabbage, World’s Healthiest Foods (see link above) recommends red cabbage (sometimes appearing purple in color) as the most nutritious. In the grocery store’s produce section, it’s a big sphere, purple-ish in my local place, hard and solid, doubles as a projectile weapon to hurl at opponents. Upping intake of red cabbage improves blood levels of beta-carotene, lutein, and total blood antioxidant capacity, while decreasing total cholesterol, total LDL cholesterol, and total oxidized LDL. Red cabbage’s anthocyanins make the vegetable a standout anti-inflammatory food. Domino’s doesn’t do any of that. Prepping the red cabbage is straightforward. Cut the head in half, and then just tear pieces off the halves with your badass bare hands (not so much the outermost layer, which can be inferior and touched by random environmental dirt grime etc). Smaller and smaller pieces, and then put the pieces in the bowl. And, cucumber. Scientific studies suggest cucumber is anti-diabetes food, according to the World’s Healthiest Website, which you totally would enjoy reading and reading and reading. Wash the cucumber off, put it on your cutting board, slice it up and put the slices in the bowl. You want to be on Team Bad News with the TrumPharma thing? Eat McDonald’s Quarter Pounders. Else, eat cucumber. Simple as that. You are what you eat.

Adding in red cabbage (added more later)

Get in there, cucumber

The above ingredients and the following one, avocado, you can add to the bowl in pretty much any order, but don’t forget to keep an eye on the edamame and quinoa on the stovetop burners. I don’t yet have proportions figured out for the kale, spinach, red cabbage, cucumber, sesame seeds, and dressing. Just put a bunch of each in to fill the bowl, gauging by what seems right. Eventually I’ll figure out nutritional information for the entire salad bowl, such as total number of calories and carbs, macronutrient ratios, etc.

My friend the avocado. You want to put a whole avocado in the salad bowl. And you might consider eating a whole avocado a day. They bring the cardiovascular, anti-inflammatory, phytonutrient, and other benefits. Plus they taste awesome. They’re messy as hell when I try to prep them, though. I attempt the “nick and peel” method, but I still get avocado all over my fingers and hands, and little flakes of avocado skin end up all over the floor and everywhere else. Here’s the nick and peel method, from the page on avocado from World’s Healthiest Foods (see link above), a method World’s Healthiest Foods gets from the California Avocado Commission:

Use a stainless steel knife to cut the avocado in half lengthwise. Gently twist the two halves in opposite direction if you find the flesh clinging to the pit. Remove the pit, either with a spoon or by spearing with the tip of a knife. Next, take each of the avocado halves and slice lengthwise to produce four avocado quarters. The use the California Avocado Commission’s “nick and peel” method to peel the avocado. Just take your thumb and index finger to grip an edge of the avocado skin and peel it away from the flesh, in exactly the same way that you would peel a banana.

Avocado added; blurry photo, dizzy with salubrius joy

Almost finished. Once Operation Quinoa has restored peace to the galaxy by allowing you to starve the TrumPharma types around the planet of their power, i.e., starve them of you, because you’re no longer getting drained by their vampirism and making them grow like giant bulbous monsters, but instead, you’re off doing cool things with all this sacred energy from this vegan, glutenfree, salad bowl — in other words, once the quinoa has finished cooking — scoop the quinoa out of the saucepan and onto some paper towels. Pat it dry with more paper towels. Dump it into the salad bowl. As for the edamame, which I don’t have any additional pictures of, once that’s finished, pour it out into a strainer sitting in the sink, shake the strainer to remove excess water, pat extra dry the strained edamame with paper towels, and then into the salad bowl it goes. Add dressing to taste. Stir the whole thing. Your mission is complete.

Who can disapprove of bold yellow quinoa?

My finished salad bowl from directly above, plus a gutter of kitchen tile on left

Now that you and I have made and chowed down on this amazing (but so far nameless) salad bowl, for great justice, we’re on Team Good News and ready to keep charging. I’m off the gym. One last thing. Since I can’t call my salad bowl a Bliss Bowl, as that’s Chaco Canyon Cafe’s version and not mine, I need some clever new name for my version. If — while you help me and others abolish states and corporations and more importantly replace them with prosocial structures — you come up with a name suggestion, please put it in the comments!

Creative Commons License

This blog post, How to make this amazing (but so far nameless) salad bowl, for great justice, by Douglas Lucas, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (human-readable summary of license). The license is based on a work at this URL: www.douglaslucas.com/blog/2020/01/06/how-to-make-this-amazing-but-so-far-nameless-salad-bowl-for-great-justice. You can view the full license (the legal code aka the legalese) here. For learning more about Creative Commons, I suggest this article and the Creative Commons Frequently Asked Questions. Seeking permissions beyond the scope of this license, or want to correspond with me about this post otherwise? Please email me: dal@riseup.net.

My Knee Looks Cool (under the Eye of MRI)

Sometime in October or November 2011 I underwent an MRI to better determine the extent of the damage my right knee took after a fall and the incident surrounding the fall, which I can’t really discuss due to a temporary court injunction. Nevertheless I can show you how cool my knee looks under a big magnet’s gaze.

Whoa, it’s, like, all knee and stuff!

Almost a decade ago I suffered a grade three (i.e. full) ACL tear in the same knee, and had surgery to build a new ligament thingy. So that explains the two titanium screws visible in the pics. Two orthopods told me this 2011 scan is not too terribly conclusive, and for now I’ll have to leave it at that.

Here’re my 27 knee MRI pics as a Flickr set. And here’s a post of mine about the MRI pictures of my brain! If I had an MRI in my backyard, I’d MRI everything.

OMG KNEE!

The skin on this knee bears a big scar from the surgery. I also have a hardcore scar on my other knee from walking into the edge of a truck’s front license plate (don’t do that). My third and final scar is on my chin, just below my mouth. I was bench-pressing and as the spotter happened to look away my suddenly puny pectorals failed and the bar slammed into my chin. Good thing it didn’t fall right in my face! The spotter was really apologetic (after I, cursing, returned from running laps around the gym to lighten the pain). Then I went hom; with blood all over me, I wasn’t Schwarzenegger enough to finish the set. Why not just stick to push-ups, folks?

Tonight a genius idea struck me: my brain MRI pics would look great on a T-shirt. Like so:

T-shirt’s Front

T-shirt’s Back

Except for consciousness, granular things, abstractions, etc., let’s digitize the world!

Creative Commons License

My Knee Looks Cool (under the Eye of MRI) by Douglas Lucas is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at www.douglaslucas.com. Seeking permissions beyond the scope of this license? Email me: dal@douglaslucas.com.

Man Versus Soap

WHY does soap have to be so complicated? The other day my wife handed me some alleged body wash that apparently claims as its primary function “exfoliation” — or “moisturizing” — or some other ludicrous buzzword. Look, soap marketing people, here’s what I want when I take a shower:

  • Stuff to shampoo my hair
  • Stuff to condition my hair
  • Stuff to clean my face
  • Stuff to clean my body

I do not need or want to infuse my hair or any other part of me with complexities, I don’t care about the bottle texts’ creativity, I just want to wash off, okay? Though…I admit…this might be fun to try out:

Caffeinated soap

P.S. I blogged this while about 30,000 feet over New Mexico and Texas!

This is your (my) MRI’ed brain on Babel Krieg

I’m a smart guy, but am I human? To transform the question into something more suspectible to an objective answer: Do I actually have a brain? Due to happy circumstances that I shouldn’t entirely disclose, recently I discovered — free of charge! — that I do indeed have a brain. Actually, I underwent brainy MRIs twice before, but it’s always a celebration to be reminded I have cerebration.

I can haz a brain!

To cerebrate or not to cerebrate, that is the question. Whether ’tis nobler to improve your kinesthetic sense, or perhaps field-guide to improve your mind’s eye instead? Those ways of thinking aren’t valued enough on too many of today’s life-altering tests. Ultimately, the best approach: develop what you could call good metacognition (cognition about one’s own cognition), or what you could call good intrapersonal skills (like social skills, except these govern the warring factions of your psyche). Then your brain might be as big as mine obviously is in these pictures.

More Machine than Man

To tell the truth, I’m no neuroscientist. (Although that was my first declared major at TCU.) Maybe my brain isn’t impressively sized. I remember once arguing with another kid — maybe I was five or six — about IQ tests. His thesis? IQ tests tell you ‘how smart you are.’ My retort? ‘I’m smart — and no damn test can convince otherwise!’ Apparently that means I’m stupid, since some study or other showed convincingly that most stupid people think they’re smart; or, were the tests stupid? Does it matter, for individuals guiding their lives? Just go learn! Now!

NES Contra Final Boss

Campaign to snailmail all 535 United States Congresspeople to ask for a genuine public option

I hereby announce my campaign to snailmail all 535 United States Congresspeople personalized letters before the year is out, in favor of a genuine, government-run public option. So far I’ve snailmailed 4; 531 to go.

Image: Timothy Morgan

(Image: Timothy Morgan)

Here’s sufficient info to learn how to snailmail members of the US Congress, regardless of what your stance is on whatever issue. Here’s a frequently-updated priority list of which US Congresspeople to contact in favor of a genuine public option, though you of course might choose others to write.

Maybe you doubt the efficacy of writing US Congresspeople. I understand, especially when, for instance, the pharmaceutical and health product industries lobbied the US Congress $1.2 million per day in the first three months of 2009 (not counting advertising & other efforts, including whatever’s under-the-table). Despite much information to the contrary, citizen snailmail (especially when personalized) does reach US Congresspeople, or at least their staff, without too much delay. Evidence:


  • In 2009 The Washington Post persuasively reported a professional lobbyist firm snailmailed astroturfed (fake grassroots) letters to US Representative Tom Perriello. So if they expect fake letters to work, you should expect real letters to work. I can’t resist mentioning Shakespeare: as the New York Times put it, “Generated mail is a pretty old idea. In Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar,’ Brutus is persuaded to assassinate Caesar in part by letters of support from the public — letters that were actually faked by Cassius ‘in several hands … as if they came from several citizens.'”

  • On 10 Sept 2006, The Pottsville Republican & Evening Herald published a story about a 10-year-old girl, Taryn Kitchenman, who wrote US Representative T. Timothy Holden a letter. She wrote him: “I was wondering instead of putting [the new playground] downtown right by the old one, could you put it in Arnots [her neighborhood]. I was wondering because we only have one playground and it is not that good. We don’t have swings, we don’t have a good basketball court. I am only 10, I am not allowed downtown. Try and help me.” She received a reply the same week. Presumably this was a snailmail letter (and not fax or email “letter”).

To prove that I’m serious about my campaign, below I’ll post the letter I sent US Representative Nancy Pelosi yesterday. In an attempt to protect myself against discrimination and stigmatization, I censored out a very small portion of the letter, though presumably the letter is now public record somewhere. I’ve also PDF’ed the letter so you can see the formatting in case you want a guide for your own snailmail. Because you’re going to write your own personalized letter(s) — or do something equivalent or better — right?

Douglas Lucas
[street address]
Fort Worth, TX 76109
[email address]

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Office of the Speaker
H-232, US Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

16 September 2009

Dear Representative:

I’m writing to support your insistence that a healthcare reform “bill without a strong public option will not pass the House” (your Press Release, 3 Sept. 2009), to agree with your statement that if “a vigorous public option is not included, it would be a major victory for the health insurance industry” (your Press Release, 3 Sept. 2009), to ask you to continue to insist on a strong, government-run public option — which, as you know, does not mean a co-op plan such as that of Senator Max Baucus — and to ask you to fight any spin attempting to pass off a co-op plan as a “public option.” I’m a self-employed writer and tutor in Fort Worth, Texas, and, just out of college, I’m working toward a public-school teaching certification. Like many Americans, I have a pre-existing condition — in my case, [type of pre-existing condition]. I lose my BC/BS disability coverage in February.

My medicine for this one illness alone costs nearly $1000 per month. Without reliable health insurance, I cannot responsibly teach public school. Sure, a school would provide me with group coverage, but what if I were laid off? COBRA only goes so far; high-risk pools only go so far. Just as you chose a career in civil service to help others, so I want to help others, and a government-run public option would give me a strong safety net so I could focus on teaching. A co-op plan wouldn’t have the membership clout needed to compete with private insurance. The Iowa state government tried a nonprofit co-op — and it died in two years (New York Times, 17 Aug 2009). Just like a trigger plan, a co-op plan would take longer to start than a government-run plan, and we don’t have any more time. According to a 2007 American Journal of Medicine study, an American family files for bankruptcy in the aftermath of an illness every 30 seconds. In 2009 the Center for American Progress explained that every day, 14,000 Americans lose their health insurance: 2,190 in your state, 470 in mine. Every day. It is a moral issue.

Thank you for fighting in favor of a strong, government-run public option. Please keep fighting.

Sincerely,

[hand signature]

Douglas Lucas

Can I Have Some Healthcare Reform Democracy Please

The public option, says the Chicago Tribune in 2009, is a “government-sponsored insurance policy [that] would be offered alongside private plans.” It’s a Medicare-like option American citizens could select voluntarily if they so desired, and that taxed American citizens would pay for, as they already pay for other public goods/services ranging from air traffic control to zoos.

In an effort to take some of the right-wing food coloring out of the swimming pool, here’s some information, as opposed to dis-information. By itself, the information below doesn’t prove the public option a good thing (though the public option is a good thing). But it does make you sigh and wonder where the hell the (representational, constitutional) United States democracy has gone off to. Here’s a hint about some of the above-the-table answers.

If you hate the public option but still want a lesson out of this, it’s that you should look at primary sources as much as possible when learning stuff. Preliminary research seems to indicate teens today, for example, have practically no media literacy training and typically don’t think about sources’ credibility.  Finally, you should watch President Obama’s speech about healthcare reform tomorrow (Wednesday September 9th), which might change the ballgame quite a bit.

N.B. The information below is subject to irrelevancy as time marches on.

Click the graph below to see that the American citizenry definitely supports the public option. Sources: Quinnepac (July); Washington Post / ABC (June); New York Times / CBS (June); Wall Street Journal / NBC (June); if you want the others, you could start by looking at the source information near the bottom of this page.

Americans support public option

A supposedly Chinese curse says, “May you live in interesting times.”

Drinking Water – Part 1

In mid-December I embarked on a one-man “science” experiment: I decided to drink nothing but water in order to find out what changes I’d experience in terms of energy level, mood, weight loss, etc. Along the way, I became curious about all issues H2O. This post — the first in a series on drinking water — will address how much water a person should drink and what you might gain from drinking more water. Later posts will take on issues such as tap water vs. bottled water, filters, and more. Trying to figure all this out, you can start sweating, a lot, and therefore need to drink more water. But don’t worry: I’m here to help, even though I’m by no means a doctor or an expert. If you’re really worried (or thirsty), go get yourself one of those.

The standard maxim: 8 glasses of water a day

You might know the standard maxim: drink 8 glasses of water (64 ounces) per day. Many say no one really knows where this recommendation comes from. But a 2/13/94 Chicago Tribune article by Bob Condor quoted an expert who claimed the maxim originated in the 1945 US RDAs, which said: “A suitable allowance of water for adults is 2.5 liters (83 ounces) daily in most instances” — somehow 83 ounces eventually morphed to 64 — and “An ordinary standard for diverse people is 1 milliliter [0.03 ounce] per calorie of food. Most of this quantity is contained in prepared foods.” (Emphasis added by me.)

I don’t believe the 1945 US RDAs are the source of the maxim, given the 83/64 ounce confusion (although, how many ounces did “a glass” mean in 1945?). So we’re back at “no one really knows.”

Anyway, if the 1945 RDAs are correct, we shouldn’t try to take in 8 glasses of pure water a day — just 8 glasses’ worth of water counting all the beverages and foods we have. The water automagically contained in a grape or an apple (or indeed, a grapple) would count toward your total. Americans at large erroneously thought the recommendation called for 8 glasses of pure water because, a National Academy of Sciences expert said in the Tribune article, the emphasized sentence in the quotation nefariously escaped the notice of newsmakers and historians fairly effectively.

Institute of Health’s 2004 take on the standard maxim

In 2004 the Institute of Health issued a report resurrecting the lost sentence’s point and adding two more. (Soon after the report’s release, Jane E. Brody at the New York Times gave her more or less approving take on it.) A section of an Institute of Health summary of the report says:

The vast majority of healthy people adequately meet their hydration needs by letting thirst be their guide. The report did not specify the exact requirements for water, but set general recommendations for women at approximately 2.7 liters (91 ounces) of total water — from all beverages and foods — each day, and men an average of approximately 3.7 liters (125 ounces) of total water. The panel did not set an upper limit on water.

I’ll focus on three of the Institute of Health’s claims: 1) food should count toward your total water intake; 2) evil caffeinated beverages should count toward your 91/125 ounces (…what happened to 83 ounces? or 64 ounces?); 3) the vast majority does just fine letting thirst guide their water-partaking.

Should food count toward your total water intake?

No. Internet-spear-famed natural bodybuilder Tom Venuto argues in his e-book Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle (which I’ve found helpful in general) that you should “always err on the side of too much water rather than too little” and thus follow the about-1-mL-per-kilocalorie guideline (from the 1945 RDAs and elsewhere) without counting the water in your food toward your total water intake goal. Well, natural not-a-bodybuilder Douglas Lucas can’t give you such a sophisticated argument, but can only rely on his own experimentation. (Actually, regarding water, Venuto’s probably in the same boat — groan. I goof on him only because he has bigger muscles than I.) 

Here’s what I learned experimenting, generally drinking around 64 ounces of pure water a day (i.e. not counting the water in my food). If I manage to drink that amount, and especially if I drink some water right when I wake and right before sleep, I don’t have trouble with headaches. The dehydration headaches were only a vague problem before my experiment; such minor headaches, I assumed, might be normal — perhaps the result of not sleeping enough. Or something. Nope. Drink enough water, they don’t occur. ‘least for me. Personally, I haven’t noticed any of the other reported physical and psychological benefits of drinking enough water — improved skin, digestion, mood stability, weight loss, whatever — but then again, I’m not yet the most observant person. My energy level has only increased in the sense that without headaches, I feel more enthusiastic in general.

But if I simply assume the water in my food is enough, and stop drinking as much water, the minor headaches return.

Should evil caffeinated beverages count toward your total water intake?

Well, I don’t know the true extent of caffeine’s diuretic effect — that is, its effect of increasing urination and thus worsening dehydration — but I do know, with tautologically certainty, that evil caffeinated beverages are evil. So I say: don’t drink or eat caffeine in the first place! =)

Is thirst a reliable indicator of your hydration level?

Though this 2008 NPR article disagrees, I will stomp my foot down definitively and shout: “Thirst is not a reliable indicator of one’s hydration level.” There’s a phenomenon F.M. Alexander called “faulty sensory appreciation” (and sometimes, much more excitingly, “debauched sensory appreciation”). Just because you sense something — such as the apparently hydrated state of your mouth — doesn’t mean your sensations are telling you what you think they are. I’ve learned that if I’m (relatively) dehydrated for a long enough period of time, my ability to perceive my hydration level well will fall into disrepair, disrepute, dishonesty … it will become … debauched! But once I resume drinking enough water, my ability to accurately register my hydration level improves. Try this yourself if you don’t believe me (if you’re like most people, currently you’re dehydrated). Incidentally, the whole phenomenon of faulty (debauched!) sensory appreciation fascinates me.

After the release of the 2004 report, Bob Condor reprised his role at the Chicago Tribune of giving his watery take, and pointed out the American College of Sports Medicine said: Not so fast there, Institute of Health. According to Condor, the ACSM argued prolonged physical activity and/or heat exposure — e.g., switching climates — can “confuse” the body’s thirst response. Condor also mentioned some researchers theorize the pineal gland (formerly Descartes’ seat of the soul!), which controls thirst, works less and less well as we age. I say it’s all about debauched(!) sensory appreciation. People just don’t know they’re thirsty, because their thirst response has become rusty from disuse.

In conclusion!

Obviously the game changes while you’re exercising or otherwise sweating a lot; I’m not sure how just yet. In general, though, in my experience, the 1 mL-per-kilocalorie guideline — which for me points to the standard maxim of 8 glasses a day — is best, so long as you do not take into account the water contained in food (which you shouldn’t), and so long as you do avoid caffeine (which you should). And don’t trust your thirst … it’s probably debauched. =)

So go drink some water!

One Month Without Caffeine

Caffeine MoleculeI eliminated all caffeine from my diet last month. The month or so before, I drank it regularly in the morning — usually via a caffeinated smoothie and an energy drink — and throughout the day. I’d have the occasional caffeinated soft drink and the occasional caffeinated whatnot. Caffeinated caffeinated caffeinated. My world depended on it, subtly but surely. Now I preach the evangel of quitting caffeine to you.

After giving up caffeine, I no longer have to worry so much about wiping out grogginess or appeasing headaches. No more rushing to the refrigerator or Starbucks or a gas station. I have much more energy. I get by fairly well on 6-7 hours of sleep a night instead of slogging through the day on 8-9. My mood stays more consistent, too.

Since caffeine is addictive, quitting it sucks. Temporary symptoms of caffeine withdrawal can include the infamous headache, irritability, nausea, sleeping a lot (your body finally catching up), and becoming just plain stupid (impairment in various cognitive skills, such as fuzzified concentration). I experienced all of these except nausea and stupidity — I am never stupid, because like Wile E. Coyote, I am a Super Genius.

I found caffeine withdrawal slightly difficult, but manageable. John Hopkins University maintains a fact-filled page on caffeine dependence. They say withdrawal takes 12-24 hours to set in — and it can set in even if you drink only a cup of coffee a day. Happened to me after about 16 hours. According to the page, symptoms peak 20-48 hours after abstinence. My symptoms peaked around day two and three. Caffeine withdrawal lasts a total of two days to one week or more, the page reports; for me, withdrawal lasted nine days. Your mileage may vary.

In the interest of complete transparency, I must admit that one day I forgot — really! — that chocolate contains caffeine, and ate a tiny bit; the effect was negligible, so I discount the incident entirely. (I guess for a split second I wasn’t a Super Genius.) You really have to pay attention to everything you consume (a good idea anyway), because just about everything has caffeine in it, including mate, guarana, and decaf coffee. If you drink a pot of decaf, there’s enough caffeine in there for you to notice.

Diet Coke Can
Why should you quit caffeine? After all, some studies link caffeine to certain health benefits. For me, it’s about the energy boost: imagine spending more time enjoying what you want to do instead of feeling miserable and dependent on lugging around your latte or Diet Coke or whatever particular poison. What are you going to do if you go on a camping trip? Pop NoDoz?

Poison, ayup, and not that fun of one. Caffeine interferes with sleep by reducing total sleep time, making it harder to fall asleep, and decreasing sleep quality. To be fair, a sleep researcher named Dr. Dement — the coolest name for a scientist — argues in The Promise of Sleep a bit of coffee before noon won’t affect a night bedtime. Still, Mark Adams at New York Magazine writes (early 2008):

The United States Centers for Disease Control reports that sleep disorders are more pervasive than ever. Americans, on average, are getting 6.7 hours of sleep per night, the lowest amount since records have been kept, and are racking up an hour or more of sleep deficit per day. Sales of Ambien, Lunesta, and other prescription sleep aids have more than doubled in the past few years. “You have people drinking caffeine all day and taking sleeping pills at night,” [Laura] Juliano says[, American University psych professor and coffee researcher].

Sleep loss causes its own problems, Adams continues:

Sleep loss is increasingly seen as a major factor in the obesity epidemic. The sleep-deprived are more susceptible to depression and tend to have less control over their emotions. Sleep loss also weakens problem-solving and decision-making skills and, naturally, leaves a sufferer exhausted—all of which are conditions that caffeine is called upon to solve. “If we drink coffee all day long, it’s harder to sleep at night, and we need more coffee to get up and go to work the next morning,” says Lane. “The cycle repeats itself.”

 
Juliano and Roland Griffiths, a professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at Johns Hopkins, argue caffeine’s alleged benefits might be illusory. Quoting Adams again:

The escape from the clutches of withdrawal is a big part of what makes the day’s first cup of coffee so wonderful. “Feeding that dependence feels really good,” Juliano says. The implication: The positive feelings we associate with drinking coffee don’t represent a net gain in energy or alertness; they’re really the result of withdrawal maintenance.

When Griffiths and Juliano teamed up to review 170 years of caffeine research, much of which confirmed the drug’s reputation as a brain booster, they noticed a pattern: Most studies had been done on caffeine users who, in the interest of scientific rigor, were deprived of the stimulant overnight. Because caffeine withdrawal can commence in just twelve hours, by the time each study’s jonesing test subjects were given either caffeine or a placebo, they had begun to suffer headaches and fatigue. For the half that received the stimulant—poof!—their withdrawal symptoms vanished. The other half remained uncaffeinated, crabby, and logy, and guess which group scored higher on cognitive tests time after time? The boost the test subjects who got the caffeine felt may have simply been a function of having been deprived of the drug.

 
And a neat formulation from Adams’s article by James Lane at Duke: while caffeine can keep us awake, “it doesn’t make the brain any less tired.”

Shower Shock Caffeinated SoapClearly many of us are hooked on caffeine, so it makes sense for companies to add it to products to addict us. If you want to increase your dependence on caffeine, you can always absorb it through your skin first thing out of bed with Shower Shock: The Original Caffeinated Soap or Spazzstick: The World’s First Caffeinated Lip Balm. If that’s still not enough, wear caffeine-laced panty hose (link is to a .pdf with a description; no pic, unfortunately). I’m not making these up.

I still plan on increasing my energy level in other ways. For this month’s science experiment, I’ll drink only water: no alcohol, no Gatorade, and sadly, no orange juice. I don’t really expect much of a benefit in terms of increased energy — just in terms of fat loss — although some, such as Rob of formerfatguy.com, sings water’s praises for doing everything from increasing energy to aiding digestion. Others say toting around water bottles isn’t necessary. We’ll see.

If you want to quit caffeine, wean yourself off, or be bold and quit cold turkey. Improve your discipline! Establish a healthy habit! Check out Steve Pavlina’s how to quit caffeine for advice.

If you don’t want to quit, at least be festive about your coffee, like these folks on YouTube, who sing and dance JS Bach’s “Coffee Cantata” (BMV 211), a comic cantata composed in 1734. (Incidentally, JS Bach is one of my favorite composers.) One line from the piece: “If I can’t drink my bowl of coffee three times daily, then in my torment I will shrivel up like a piece of roast goat.” Be braver than that person! ;-)

No Caffeine Day 9

Today marks Day 9 of my 30-day(-minimum!) experiment cutting out caffeine.

Once — perhaps on Day 5; can’t really remember — I completely forgot what I was doing and had a miniscule amount of chocolate. I don’t plan on repeating my mistake, but regardless, that minor intake of caffeine doesn’t seem to have made any impact on my results. I feel at liberty to completely discount it. =)

So, my results? I totally have more energy now. Enough so others have noticed. Not enough for my liking, however; I need to exercise more consistently and such for that. Overall, though, the energy increase easily has been worth the 7-or-so days of miserable caffeine withdrawal. Also: I fall asleep faster now. Within 10 minutes. That probably has more to do with a consistent bedtime than with cutting out caffeine.

I don’t find avoiding caffeine difficult in any emotional way — especially after enjoying the energy increase. I’d prefer being able to eat chocolate, but, eh, ’tis better for me not to anyway! The only real difficulty I’ve found is that it’s easy to accidently consume something that does contain caffeine. Seems every drink and piece of candy has some. Grr. I suppose the only solution is to be incredibly conscious of everything you eat or drink.

If you’re considering cutting out caffeine, I highly recommend it.

Cutting out Caffeine

As of today I’m cutting caffeine out of my diet. At least for a month (until December 15th). I’m doing it mostly as an experiment to see if I have more or less energy as a consequence. I’ve done it before, several times, with both positive and negative effects. However, I’ve never stuck with it for 30 days and recorded my results. Now I will!