Archive for the ‘health’ Category

Bugs: the other meat

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

I love protein. I don’t feel like I’ve had a proper meal if it doesn’t contain protein and vegetables. But I have a bleeding heart and as much as I love meat, I’m perturbed by some of the things I’ve read about the meat industry. Skinny Bitch recounted a few stories out of Slaughterhouse by Gail Eisnitz, and I obsessed about one of the stories for days. I couldn’t get this visual out of my head of some guy torturing a pig on its way to slaughter, and wracking my brain trying to figure out why anyone would do that to another living animal. But we’re a murderous bunch, us beasts.

I was reading this article in the New Yorker about bugs as food. And delicious food from the sounds of the some of the ways they were being prepared: beetles fried in butter, soy marinated crickets, fritters adorned with worms, a spider roll w/fried tarantula instead of soft shell crab. My favorite sounding dish is available in Los Angeles at Guelaguetza: chapulines a la Mexicana are grasshoppers sautéed with onions, jalapeños, and tomatoes, topped with avocado and Oaxacan string cheese (though it doesn’t seem to appear on the menu on their website). But mmmmm….it sounds lovely.

Entomophagy is what bug eating is officially called. And it seems to be a hot topic right now. The thing about bugs is that they have as much protein as meat, sometimes more (fried grasshoppers have three times the amount of protein as beef), and have vitamins, minerals, and fats, and are less ecologically damaging to produce as a meat source than our traditional cows, chickens, and pigs. And breeding insects is more humane, “bugs like teeming, and thrive in filthy, crowded conditions.”


Isaac gleefully eating a giant grasshopper in Bangkok

The problem is getting over the disgust we as Westerners have for eating insects. Eighty percent of the world eats insects for food. That’s most of the world except for us. Me personally, as long as it doesn’t look like a little bug, I’ll eat it. We ate bugs in Bangkok. Well, my friends did, I picked at them a little. They looked too much like exactly what they were. I’ll be happier when they can process out bug protein and it doesn’t come in the shape of a giant grasshopper.

CES 2011

Monday, January 10th, 2011

A long time friend of mine saw my Google chat status and said you’re still going to CES?! No, well, ok, yes. I haven’t been to CES in 11 years, but decided this was the year I would return to see their first Sports & Fitness Tech conference and to do a write up of my favorite existing and future fitness tech from CES.

I haven’t been to Vegas in a long time. I think the last time I went it was to see Justin Timberlake in late 2007. That was fun. This was also fun, but much less debauchery. I had a really nice dinner with an old co-worker, drank a very conservative amount of alcohol, placed a $20 bet on red in roulette (and won :) and otherwise spent the time working. Which, oddly enough, was a nice change of pace for Vegas.

I guess it’s been long enough that CES was exciting again for me. I didn’t see the entire floor in all the halls, but it was mostly 3D TVs and cameras, wireless home systems, some touchless user interfaces (all still somewhat rough and imperfect), electric vehicles, health & fitness & mommy tech, and iPod/Pad/Touch accessories out the wazoo. I saw one session for software that lets you touchlessly control your computer using a regular webcam, but the guy was showing a video of it instead of demo-ing it live (it’s not very convincing if you don’t demo it live).

Audi's e-tron at CES 2011
Audi’s e-tron at CES 2011

I saw a couple of the glasses-less 3D tvs and they’re cool, but they have such a limited range of view — you have to stand right in front of it in the center in order for it to work and it’s still imperfect. The GE smart home wasn’t as smart as I wanted it to be, but was interesting from an energy efficiency standpoint. With a little communication module for your energy efficient appliances, you could see, for example, how much each load of laundry costs you in real time. The smart meters utility companies are starting to install signal when prices are at the peak, low, or midrange so your washer won’t run unless it gets the signal that it’s the cheapest rate, and if that rate changes mid-load, it’ll adjust itself to save you money. You can override this of course if you desperately need to wash something. And your city needs to have upgraded to the new smart meters in order to use this technology, but seeing the hard data like that all day long could really change your habits.

The thing I was most excited about was Omek, a gesture recognition engine that is faster than the Kinect and versatile. It’s vendor agnostic and hardware agnostic. With any 3D camera and their engine + SDK, you could develop killer gesture recognition apps. They’re working on a fitting app so home shoppers can virtually try on clothes. I’m so excited about that. My short little ass’ll have an easier time finding clothes that’ll fit :)

Yoga is sexy

Sunday, October 4th, 2009

What is it about yoga instructors that make you think of sex? I’ve been doing yoga at home but decided to take a class at my gym today and I wasn’t even remotely attracted to the instructor and yet I found myself…yes, thinking of sex.

I think the meditative aspect of yoga combined with the focus on breathing and the purposeful arrangement of the body really pulls you away from your mental state and into a keen awareness of your physical state. With a clear head free of intruding thoughts and a heightened sensual awareness, it seems reasonable that one could easily make the leap to thoughts of sex. And I’m not the only one…

From the upcoming Couples Retreat which looks hilarious, is a bit of the trailer (note that I start the clip at 2:05 — the relevant bit — so you’ll have to start it from the beginning if you’re interested in the whole trailer).

From Sex and the City. Samantha has given up sex because her hot yoga instructor has, but it doesn’t last long. Don’t ask me why I couldn’t find this clip in English — I just couldn’t. It doesn’t matter; just read her lips.

Yoga is hard

Saturday, September 26th, 2009

Anyone who says yoga is easy isn’t doing it right. One of my preparations for my Laos trip (in 2 weeks!) is to get a yoga routine down so I can have some form of exercise I can do while I’m away. I figure gyms are out of the question, and I’m not sure how much running I’ll get in so yoga is a good no equipment necessary, can do anywhere kind of workout.

Gaiam Power Yoga Total Body Workout DVDSo I bought this DVD: Gaiam’s Power Yoga Total Body DVD with Rodney Yee. I would’ve preferred a female host or at least a video instructor who didn’t vaguely remind me of my ex, but my options were very limited. I wanted an hour long total body workout and thought any yoga without “power” in the title might be too easy. This seemed perfect.

After four hours of sleep, a six hour drive, one meal for the day followed by a one hour nap, I thought it might be a good time to try out the DVD for the first time. My plan is to do it every day until I leave so I get used to the moves. I was wasted — not drunk wasted, but not at the top of my physical form. And the DVD killed me.

Every time I went from a Standing Forward Bend to a Mountain Pose, my head got light, I saw stars, and I seriously thought I’d pass out. And there was a lot of that in the beginning of the DVD. That was followed by several poses I’d never done before. I’ve only taken yoga probably less than 10 times before. I was sweating, uncomfortable, and hoping desperately it would end when I’d only been at it for 20 minutes. At one point I thought I broke something in my shoulder — doing an Upward Bow which I wasn’t quite prepared for.

But I made it through to the end. One day down…14 more to go then I’ll be doing yoga next to the Mekong River!

Writing for the examiner.com

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

Right after I left Google, I got a job writing for examiner.com as their Fitness Tech Examiner — a natural combination of my tech savvy and the writing I was already doing on my personal health blog. But almost as soon as I got it, I began to regret it, thinking it was cutting into my creative writing time. It took so long to write my first few articles. I did a lot of research and testing of tools and applications, and I only managed to write about 13 articles before I called it quits and took two months off. Plus I was making so little money. The pay rate is roughly a penny a page view and unless you publish regularly and get a lot of traffic, you’re literally making pennies a day. But writing for the examiner.com has been an interesting experience from a writer’s point of view.

News comes to you

I hadn’t been writing for very long when I started to get publicists emailing me to pimp their clients’ products. It was great because it took some of the leg work out of it for me — instead of searching out new things to write about, people were actually coming to me and basically giving me news to write. I tend to try to keep my personal opinions out of my articles (I save those for my personal fitness blog) so I’ll write about (almost) anything fitness tech related including gadgets, apps, online tools, etc. It’s been an interesting non-fiction writing experience in this way.

I’ve always known companies have marketing departments, but I never knew publicists reached out to writers to spread the news. I wonder now if this was always the case or if the current internet environment where anyone and everyone can have a say has encouraged this type of grassroots marketing. I saw recently that Heather Armstrong of dooce.com tweeted about her bad experience with Maytag (after a futile struggle with them to fix her new machine) which 1. got her issue resolved immediately and 2. had Bosch offering her a free machine of her choice (which they ended up donating it to a charity instead). Armstrong has a massive audience, but you get the picture of what’s possible.

I’m writing again

So examiner.com changed their payment policy recently so that if you don’t publish in 30 days, you don’t get paid until you publish again. This actually makes sense because it builds credibility for you and for them. Because of that I’m writing again (my favorite new post: tongue patches to lose weight!) but I have a different method. I’m a wiser non-fiction writer now. I have google news feeds set up (where I get my own articles sent to me after I publish them because they fit my search criteria), I scan all the relevant sites. I do a little bit of research, but am not going to spend days researching an article anymore. Publish more, work less. Sounds good to me.

Image by Nourish Interactive I usually add photos to each of my articles that I find under the Creative Commons license for commercial use on Flickr and this is my favorite recent image. It’s a nutritionally balanced plate of food by Nourish Interactive, a fun looking site to learn about nutrition for kids, parents, and educators.

My fear that writing all this non-fiction would eat away into my fiction writing time turns out to be unfounded. Actually, I’ve found that the more I write — of anything — the more I want to write. Turns out that writing for the examiner.com and my other blogs is good for me. Instead of giving me less time to write fiction, it gives me more motivation to write stories.

I <3 Sex Ed

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

I’m half way through my SFSI (San Francisco Sex Information) training and I absolutely love it. They’ve been doing it for a really long time (decades) and they’ve got their shit down. The days are 8 hours long, but they don’t seem like 8 hours because they’ve structured the day so well that each one just flies by.

They have training twice a year and hold an orientation/interviews for prospective students. I knew what it would entail, but when I got there I was actually much more nervous than I thought I would be. I think there were about 60-65 people who wanted to attend and about 25-30 got chosen. I’m not entirely sure why I got picked but am pleased as hell. Most of my classmates are either working in the field doing therapy, teaching, counseling, or are in school getting undergraduate or graduate degrees. I think (IIRC from our introductory class) there are a couple of other people like me in the class — we work regular, non-sex or education related jobs and are just personally interested in the information and want to do volunteer work.

I’m doing it because I’m fascinated by sex and want to help educate people about it and really want to volunteer answering questions from people that contact SFSI. But I’ve also learned a lot from it. Before I would have said that I was fairly open minded and comfortable talking about sex, but even with what I consider my “open minded-ness”, I’ve realized how many pre-conceived notions I’ve had or how much mis-information I’ve gathered and relied upon over the years.

Their non-judgmental communication style is not just good for giving out unbiased sex information, but it’s good for general communication as well. So is the ability to really listen to what someone is saying and getting what that person needs, not assuming what they need. I can’t say enough good things about this class and am thrilled that I’m taking it. I can’t wait to man the switchboard and take questions. I think it’ll be really educational, but it’ll also feel good to help empower people with information.

Sex is last

Monday, December 15th, 2008

This was eye opening. An article in the current W magazine talks about how plastic surgery patients used to care about how soon they could hit the sack again, and now it’s not even a question the plastic surgeons get asked about anymore.

That’s not the most interesting part. The most interesting thing is the women’s priority list: work, working out, and forever looking young.

“Interest in fitness and nutrition has supplanted sex as the No. 1 concern in many patients’ minds.”

That’s their no. 1 concern?! What about, will my face heal? Or how long will it hurt?

Patients get upset if they can’t go back to work after a few days, but are relieved when they can’t have sex for two weeks. For these women, their sexual identity is less tied to actual sex than it is how attractive other people find them — and we all know, youth is sexy.

Plastic surgery “…is such a totally self-oriented procedure most of the time. It’s not necessarily related to the other people in their lives.” Women don’t go to have face lifts and tummy tucks because their husbands or boyfriends ask them to, they go because they feel like they need to in order to stay desirable. Which used to be associated with sex, but is apparently less so nowadays.

I found the whole article bizarre — I don’t read W and found the link to it off another website. I can’t imagine being so constrained by some pre-fab notion of beauty that I virtually spend my entire life trying to attain it. And from what it sounds like, at the cost of my human relationships, too. Those patients didn’t ask any questions like how soon can I pick up my child again, or have a cocktail with my friends again, and are relieved if they can’t have sex with their partners. Nope, they just want to go back to the office and the gym as soon as humany possible without destroying all the beautifying work the surgeon did.

Flu kitteh visits the doctor

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

This is me. Except I’m not in your house licking your straws. And the thought of drinking soda makes me a little queasy. In fact, the only things on my approved diet list right now are white rice and chicken soup. Sometimes I have some potato chips for salt, but I don’t know why I’m craving salt since I drink at least a gallon of water a day. I drink the stuff non stop because my throat is continually parched and sore and needs an endless supply of hot water to soothe it. And sometimes I have a couple of mini Twix bars and some Red Vines. For variety. Though I’ve found that if I eat anything other than the rice and soup, my digestive system starts to malfunction and breaks down.

I’ve been sick for seven days. And not really getting any better. I finally went to the doctor today and got some meds. I’ve been out of work for 5 days so far — 5 days! Starting last Thursday. I’ve worked from home on every single one of those days. I think Thursday and Friday, I’m going to try resting instead. Maybe that’ll help me feel better.

I have a thing about going to the doctor. He never really tells me anything I don’t know when I’m sick. I can probably fight off whatever I have on my own eventually. And it costs me money since he’s outside my network (he used to be in my network which is why he’s my doctor to begin with, but no longer is). Combine that with my father’s diagnosis of “You’ll be fine” to whatever it is I have all my life, and you can see how I have mixed feelings about going to the doctor.

But seeing the doctor makes me feel good — he makes me feel better and I feel like I’ve done something good for myself. I like my doctor. Do I think he’s a genius with an answer to every one of my questions? No, but he does pretty damn well and he makes me feel like he cares, he remembers my last visit, he’s comforting to me. I’ve never had a doctor before that I felt that way about. He listens to my lungs, looks at my tonsils, listens to the symptoms and progression of my illness, he nods and listens and contributes to my descriptions. He gives me a list of meds to take for the symptoms that most bother me, and prescribes antibiotics.

Being sick is like living in someone else’s body for a while — your body is an alien to you. What is this weird slimy stuff coming out of my head? Why can’t I eat the stuff I normally eat? Why can’t I think? Every little act — for example, leaving the house — becomes an traumatic ordeal. I walked to Walgreen’s on Easter Sunday — 10 minute walk to the store and my body was sweating and chilled and I felt so uncomfortable both physically and mentally. Meds cramp up your tummy, food makes you sick. Your bowels are your enemy and your head is a giant cotton puff — good for nothing but collecting lint. And like this, I think I can work. Eh…tomorrow I sleep.

The nicotine patch is evil

Friday, August 31st, 2007

I have never been able to kick my nicotine addiction. I’m always either smoking or trying to quit. Except I never really try that hard. Instead of quitting smoking, what I’ve actually done is replaced cigarettes with nicotine patches that I supplement with the occassional cigarette. And if I feel like getting back into full on smoker mode, I just stop wearing the patch for a week or two. Then get back on it.

I think what the patch has done for me is actually worse than what would’ve happened to me without it. Not only is it a crutch (actually more like a cane) that helps me get through withdrawl, but it’s an artificial “out” that lets me allow myself to smoke whenever I please — because it’ll be easy to quit; just get on the patch! And surely, I tell myself, being on the patch all the time is better than smoking every day.

Without the patch, I’d either still be smoking a pack+ a day towards inevitable death, or would have tried quitting several times before (hopefully) succeeding to slow down in my approach to inevitable death. Right now, I’m in this middle ground where I’m not a real smoker, and I’m not a real quitter, and I have no idea what my death stats are.

I think part of my problem is I have an inflated and false sense that I am safer from the cancer causing effects of smoking than most other smokers. Because I work out regularly, because there is no family history, because other people in my family smoke. I’m not afraid of it. The more dangerous and risky a drug is, the easier it is to use the fact that you don’t want to die as the impetus to quit for good and never look back. An overdose is immediate, and guaranteed if you overindulge. Overindulge in cigarettes and maybe you’ll get diarrhea and a bad stomach cramp and headache (I’m making those symptoms up). Dying from cigarettes takes time. Too long to be a deterrent.

I read this article the other day about how most mouth and throat cancers have decreased as expected with the reduced rates of smoking. Except for those at the base of the tongue and tonsils. They think it’s caused by HPV (the genital warts virus). Now, if you had to choose, would you want to tell your mother you had throat cancer from a) giving head or b) smoking? Ding, ding ding! I choose smoking.

More socket problems

Tuesday, July 25th, 2006

My tooth socket continues to be pain in the ass. I go again to have it scraped out and cleaned tomorrow. Hopefully for the last time. I went over a month ago when the flesh inside my empty tooth socket got so swollen it was poking out of the top of the tooth socket. Imagine a big mixing bowl with a small dough ball at the bottom, then imagine the dough’s risen and it’s puffy and fluffed out of the top of the bowl. And the oral surgeon has to rip all that dough out of the bowl. That was my tooth socket about a month ago.

It’s been interesting to me this saga of oral surgeons these past 2.5 months. I chose an oral surgeon because I knew someone who’d used him before — you can’t just cold call a dentist! And he was fine and nice and his office staff was great, the surgery assistant was cute and extremely nice — as were the other assistants. But then he failed to call me back when I was most anxious (about the dough ball in my socket) and now I wouldn’t trust him to clean my teeth, much less rip them out of my head.

I went to the on-site dentist at work as an emergency — I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to be worried about my tooth hole or not. She pulled out a sharp pointy thing and my hands leapt up of their own accord to cover my mouth, and I was just as suprised as she was. She promised she wouldn’t hurt me and I dropped my hands. She kept her promise and recommended Dr. Joseph S Kim, DMD. He is awesome. I can’t recommend him enough. It’s funny because my mom dragged my sister off to Korean doctors and dentists with mixed results so I was sort of wary of going to see him for the first time, but I was immediataely sold. I’ve never seen such happy office staff — you don’t get happy office staff if you’re not successful (who can be happy about a failing practice?) and personable (who wants to work for a crabass?). The review I found on Yelp helped me feel good about going to see him (so good that I added my own review).

I got local anesthesia for the debridement (he pulled out the dead flesh in my tooth socket — did I mention that yet?) and they say you’re supposed to wait after the shot for it to fully take effect. Which he did — asking me if I felt my lips, did it feel weird? No, ok, you’re not ready yet. But I got anxious waiting to get numb, then wasn’t sure if I was numb enough. And while he’s (literally) ripping stuff out of that hole, I can hear it in my head, and feel a little bit of the tugging in my mouth, but it doesn’t hurt. There’s no pain, but I’ve worked myself up so much that if I hear too much or feel too much tugging — I tell myself I feel pain so I can make the doctor stop. Of course, I don’t realize this at the time, but afterwards when I re-evaluated my repsonse (my body was tense; i was covered in sweat — so much sweat that when they finished, they mopped my brow!), I realized there was no pain. And there wasn’t any pain after the procedure either. I took some pain killers just before I left the office and didn’t feel a thing after that, and didn’t need any additional pain medication at all.

Today, when I was back there again, he pulled out a sharp, pointy tool and I didn’t even flinch. He just stuck it right in my mouth, but I completely trust him now. And he totally deserves it — I didn’t even feel the pointy bit in my mouth!

The endless pain of my wisdom teeth extraction

Wednesday, May 24th, 2006

i had my wisdom teeth pulled almost two weeks ago friday. three of the extraction sites seem to be healing up fine and normally. the last one is a bitch and hurts like a motherfucker. saturday after the surgery i woke up fine. sunday and monday mornings i woke up in excruciating pain and it hasn’t really stopped since and has only the tiniest bit gotten better. saturday i’d gotten off the vicodin and onto tylenol because i thought the vicodin would make me sleepy for the drive up north on sunday, but the tylenol (with it’s doubled dosage of acetaminophen) made me sleepier than the vicodin did.

i had this foolish notion i would be fine after three days. and the literature the oral surgeon gave me implied i’d be onto solid food by day three. so i was eating sandwiches on day two. soft, little sandwiches, but solid food nonetheless. i think i started chewing too soon. and that bottom right tooth was apparently a bitch to pull out (i can’t remember why though), and it’s not just a little round hole like the others, it’s a long gash and the gum is separated from my teeth by that gash. it has a lot more healing to do.

but the pain. i don’t think i’ve ever had this much pain for this long in my entire life. as an experiment i went off the pain meds and denied myself tylenol or anything else of that ilk since monday (i got really ill after bay to breakers on sunday — combo of not enough sleep or water, strong pain meds, and alcohol) and sometimes it hurts so bad i want to scratch the side of my face off. this afternoon i gave in and had some generic pain medication out of the medicine cabinet at work. i can understand now how animals gnaw away at themselves for a variety of reasons — boredom, panic, pain. my dad’s dog gnawed the skin and flesh off his leg recently (just before they put him to sleep due to old age and illness) because it hurt and he’d lost a lot of sensation in it. poor baby…i completely understand.

Joining the circus

Thursday, September 23rd, 2004

That phrase has such romantic appeal, doesn’t it? A girl I knew used to live in a huge community warehouse in Oakland. At one of her parties, I got to meet a friend of hers who was going to the SF Circus Center. He was graceful and limber, and gave me an itch for the circus. Geek Love, read years ago, gave me an itch for the circus. So did Nights at the Circus beautifully give me an itch for the circus. Oh, and of course, HBO’s Carnivàle makes me yearn for the circus. Now, apparently, it’s fashionable to be into the circus. Trapeze for fitness is recently trendy. And apparently a good place to pick up on hot men with buff arms. I just want to fly through the air.

Urine sniffing dogs

Thursday, September 23rd, 2004

Taking advantage of dogs’ innate desire to sniff at urine, scientists and trainers in the UK teamed up to form a cancer sniffing dog team. At a 41% success rate, they did pretty well. One sample was consistently identified by the dogs as coming from a cancerous bladder though it came from a donor without bladder cancer — a reexamination found a kidney tumor instead.

Dreamless

Tuesday, September 14th, 2004

Dreamless woman feels fine. Dreams are fascinating. There is a load of research material on sleep, but not so much on dreams. How the brain functions is a fascinating subject of its own, but dreams have all sorts of nonscientific associations with them. There are prophetic, mythic, romantic notions about dreams. They’re scary; they’re sweet. I had two bad dreams last night. They both stemmed from what Ed says is my intense fear of rejection. Sometimes when I’m thinking really hard about someone, I dream about being rejected by that person. And they’re almost like nightmares.

Medical privacy

Tuesday, June 8th, 2004

At lunch today a couple of the guys were talking about hospital visits and how the staff log everything. Who visited when and did they bring flowers, did they hold the baby, was there any conflict or arguing? And more than one person claimed this was true. A perfunctory search on google yielded nothing to back up these personal anecdotes, but I’m going to go on the assumption that is true. Someone mentioned that a resident friend of his told him he had to write everything down because you, as a doctor, didn’t ever want to be accused of not knowing something or not remembering something that might have been critical to a patient’s welfare. Doctors get sued for malpractice all the time. They pay outrageous amounts of money for malpractice insurance. I can see why you’d want to take careful notes about everything you possibly could.

But it raises a really interesting privacy issue, too. Medical records should be “sacred secrets”, shared only with other professionals when absolutely needed. But if doctors and nurses are actually taking such copious and detailed notes — it’s not just your medical records, it’s also personal data in those files. HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), which went into effect on April 14, 2003, set national standards for maintaining the privacy of health information, but is limited to the information maintained by health care providers, health plans and health clearinghouses only if they transmit it in electronic form. And it doesn’t actually prevent medical information from being shared for marketing purposes, or sharing between doctors without explicit consent, or providing information to the public and the media (unless the patient explicitly opts out), and we don’t have the power to sue if these regulations are grossly violated. Doesn’t seem like a whole lot of privacy, does it? <HIPAA Myths, HIPAA Basics>

I was just reading an article last night about how HIPAA could hinder information flow — even if you’ve made legal provisions for someone to act in your stead if you become completely incapacitated or incompetent. If you don’t make explicit HIPAA clauses in your legal documents, the distribution of your money and tangible goods, or your requested medical wishes, might not be honored because without the medical information there is no way for your wife or child or other designated stand in to prove that you are in the condition you’ve claused in your will.

And it made me wonder how soon after a lawsuit occurred challenging these difficulties, would someone try to alter the minimal standards of medical privacy we currently have. Privacy is such a hard thing to try to maintain. If we really care about our privacy, we have to make a conscious and concerted effort to try to safeguard it. And it’s easy to give up because convenience is always the pay off for giving up some privacy. I’m just as guilty of it as anyone else.

And the threats to privacy only get worse as technology ever increasingly becomes more advanced. Cameras are everywhere. RFIDs are prevalent and soon to become much more so (big business is already touting the high returns on investment in RFID), unencrypted email, wireless networks, data mining and caching. Not to mention threats to homeland security and the rights we’ve lost with the PATRIOT Act. It just doesn’t end.

Biking in my head

Tuesday, April 13th, 2004

I went mountain biking at Skegg’s Point this weekend. I ate it a couple of times — have some scratches on my shin, ankle, and some bruises on my thighs. It’s interesting how little it physically hurts when you tumble off your bike. In part because you’re travelling so slowly — I fell twice early in the ride where it was fairly steep and rocky/rutty — and because you just don’t fall that far. I fell forward the second time and the bicycle tire bounced off my helmet — and there was something surreal and mellow about it — the gentle way the tire’s spokes (it landed sideways) bounced on top of my head, and my brain trying to sort out how it is that the bike was in such a position as to bonk me on the head like that.

I was frustrated early. My body was tired on Sunday — a full week of running, weights, climbing, yoga, pilates, and working longer hours, and not getting enough sleep to accomodate it all — I was worn out. And I get angry when my body doesn’t have enough energy — it hurts and that pain and frustration translates into anger.

Shortly after that second fall though, I realized I don’t have to keep up. I don’t have to feel bad that I’m keeping anyone behind. This is only my second time out on a mountain bike and this isn’t exactly a beginner’s trail. And it’s amazing what my body can do if I let my mind go. I retreat into my head in a different way — when I got really tired riding and my breathing was
ragged, I’d slow down, inhale, enjoy the incredibly beautiful surroundings and the quiet, quiet, calm — it was a perfect day for a ride — not too hot, but warm in the shade, and my body would calm down, too, stop racing so hard.

There is a great deal of satisfaction in exhausting yourself physically, in draining everything you have to meet some end goal — to finish a ride or a run, or to climb one more route. It is much more satisfying to stretch my aching muscles than to stretch fresh ones — just like everything tastes better when you’re hungry than when you’re full — I am more aware and appreciative of my body when I can feel it in some way. And let me tell, you, I can feel it now…and it’s telling me I need to sleep…

How much meat?

Wednesday, March 24th, 2004

In the last issue of New Scientist, there was an interesting commentary/analysis on meat consumption in the world. The environmental and health impacts of raising and eating meat seem to be economically interelated in a twisted, self-agrandizing inflation of the GDP (gross domestic product) — the means by which we judge our standard of living.

GDP increases because meat consumption goes up — farmers raise and sell more animals. Health care costs also rise and contribute to GDP. Issues such as obesity and heart disease, which everyone knows is the direct result of consuming too much fat, and meat has tons of fat. Then we raise more meat, negatively impact the environment some more (our farmed animals produce 10% of all greenhouse gases, including 25% of methane — the most potent greenhouse gas), give more people heart disease, increase our GDP…

The average human only needs 1500 kilocalories a day. Eat twice that and most people become obese. Producing enough food for all of us is actually not a difficult task — if we stick to a plant-rich diet. But feed the plants to the cows, then the cows to the humans and the money’s flowing and the economy’s booming.

Did you know it takes 100,000 litres of water to produce a kilo of beef? That’s 200 times the amount of water it takes to produce a kilo of potatoes. And it’s estimated that by 2050, the world’s livestock population will consume enough plant life to feed an extra 4 billion people if it wasn’t being fed to our meat. Four billion people. And all for the glory of consumption.

Of course, if I was feeling skeptical, I’d research the numbers more. Everyone’s got a slant. The numbers quoted here come straight from that New Scientist article. The author mentions a “new report” by the Compassion in World Farming group. But it’s not a “report”, it’s a new campaign to promote decreased meat consumption around the world. You can check out the PDF files for that campaign here — the Mar 15, 2004 posting. The full report is called The Global Benefits of Eating Less Meat (PDF link).

I agree that we eat too much meat which is probably why I’m too lazy to check out those numbers just now (plus it’s 1 in the morning and I’m supposed to be working on something else). But if I were you I’d research those numbers (maybe you can email me when you’re done :).

Doctor’s visit

Thursday, February 12th, 2004

Sometimes I don’t know why I bother going to my primary care physician. I know that I’m going to be fine and just have to wait out whatever it is I have. I grew up with a doctor in the family so I have a weird relationship with doctors. I think they’re all quacks and don’t know any better than us, and at the same time, am very reassured when I hear a good opinion. I adore my father. He wasn’t a primary care physician – he saw things a lot worse than colds and flus, and his response to any sort of illness on my part was to peek down my throat (to make sure it wasn’t strep – it never was) and to tell me I’d be fine. Of course, he was right, but my youth with him has definitely left me with this feeling that doctors often can’t do a lot for you. How you take care of your body is exactly how healthy you are. Doctors can recommend you take certain actions and ingest certain substances, but ultimately you are in charge of your well being. For the average human being anyway, and barring any tragic and chronic illnesses or conditions.

On the way back I walked the 3 and a half miles home – I haven’t ran, climbed or biked in three days and am starting to feel antsy. I’ve needed the rest and shouldn’t be exerting myself, but I’m still antsy. And I love walking through the city – especially during commute hours. I was almost home and was walking down Valencia when all of a sudden I heard, “Hi, Kathy”. I looked up and was pleasantly surprised to see one of the lawyers I work with who I like and respect immensely, but don’t know extremely well. We chatted briefly and went our separate ways, but afterwards all I could think was, what was I doing those 30 seconds before he said hello? And was it anything stupid? I remember staring at a dog tied to a post on the sidewalk, mesmerized by its incredibly light blue eyes. It had a ragged and dirty stuffed bunny between its front legs, and was shaking slightly. The shaking combined with the devilish eyes – I remember vaguely and bemusedly smiling at him wondering how far away I should walk from him so that if he is crazy he won’t be able to bite me, and was just in front of the dog when I heard the hello. And then all thoughts of the dog just vanished.

Banning foie gras

Tuesday, February 10th, 2004

Proposed bill would ban both the production and sale of foie gras in California. I’ve never had foie gras and only the other day learned how it comes from the fatty livers of geese and ducks, and that they literally force feed the birds in order to produce the swollen little organs. I’ve been thinking about it ever since and thought it was ironic that this proposed ban was on the frontpage of sfgate this morning. It is bizarre to me that people can often treat animals, not as living creatures, but simply as materials in a manufacturing process.

No meat is good meat?

Friday, January 23rd, 2004

Between the bird flu (which two people currently have) and mad cow, I can’t fathom wanting to eat meat again anytime soon. I’m finding myself drifting more and more towards vegetarianism. Not entirely intentionally, but not unawares either. Part of it is a health issue – now that I don’t smoke everything tastes so much richer – plain fruits and vegetables meet virtually all my cravings. And exercising regularly moderates my cravings, too – I don’t crave rich red meat or salty pork meat, and chicken, yuck, I’ve never been a big fan of fowl meat (pun intended :).

There’s also the moral aspect of cruelty to animals. I think I’ve purposely not learned much about it, but I know that the conditions that most food animals are raised in are far less than ideal – cramped quarters, feed that they’re not meant to eat, antibiotics and other drugs pumped into their systems. Their lives are not just less than ideal, they’re horrific. It’s easy for me to anthropomorphize critters, but let’s not do that and just think about the way that these animals live naturally, removed from the influence of humans and then compare that life to the lives they end up living on these farms.

Responsible consumerism is something that I’ve begun to be more aware of and conscioiusly supportive of. I think you can eat meat responsibly. I have a friend that argues that killing animals is wrong period. But I don’t agree – as another friend poses, “Is it morally wrong for one animal to kill another for food?” And I can’t say yes. Yes, humans have the option to choose not to eat meat, to choose not to kill animals for food, and perhaps it’s morally wrong for us to choose to kill when we can choose not to, but we’re biologically built to eat meat and vegetables, and I haven’t yet decided that eating meat is entirely wrong for me.