Friday, November 30, 2007

Everyone needs to stop talking

I've spent the last few months watching political "experts" predicting the future, and trying to explain to us, the simple-minded masses, the meaning of every move a candidate makes. They repeat the same phrases, such as "It remains to be seen whether Ron Paul can translate [fill in the blank] into votes at the polls." Common phrases that have been inserted into that sentence are "popularity on the internet" and "$4.3 million dollars raised in one day." They seem to enjoy taking every opportunity to insist that Ron Paul, while kooky and fun in his Constitution-loving ways, has no chance of winning. And they know this how? What secret information do they have access to that the rest of us are too stupid to grasp? Call me an optimist, but I think he can win. At the very least, there is no way these political fortune tellers can possibly know that he can't win.

I spent a few days with family over Thanksgiving. That always means watching CNBC, which is a financial news channel, with my Dad. He can watch that stuff all day long. I realized that it's really no different from the political news. All these people talk and talk and talk all day about where the dollar is going, what are the shoppers doing this year, what's really happening with our economy. "More consumers went shopping today but they spent less on average." They talked about that all damn day. There's one "expert" who yells a lot about which stocks are going up, and a group of "experts" who talk about the economy while interjecting lame jokes. This goes on day after day for 24 hours straight.

Maybe the days of the newspaper were better - before TV, before the internet. Sure, there wasn't as much information available, but at least when we were done reading the morning paper, we were done for the day. Nothing left to do but live life.

The real kicker for me came yesterday, when I took my cat, Simon, to the vet. He was peeing blood again after having been supposedly cured of a urinary tract infection less than two weeks ago. The vet took an x-ray and tested his urine. She showed me the x-ray while she talked and talked and talked. So many words flew out of her mouth that I had to sum up the results to make sure I was understanding her. "So, you're saying there's nothing wrong with him?" Wow, us common folk really do understand things. That was indeed what she was saying. But, maybe to justify the $300 I was about to pay her for her services, she suggested I buy him special food. "Isn't that food designed to change his pH? And didn't you say his pH is normal?" All that talking, for so little information.

We should have a national day of silence. Everyone, including me (maybe especially me), needs to shut up. No, seriously, just stop. 250 million egos are rattling on at once. It's no wonder our country is so hopelessly confused.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

When resolutions no longer serve me

My good friend and yoga instructor Jill in Seattle once announced to our yoga class that if anyone ever needed help sticking to a commitment, like a New Year's resolution, they should talk to me. I love any excuse to make resolutions because it's a good way to assess what my goals are and it's a good exercise in personal discipline.

I don't always stick to my commitments, as evidenced by my failed attempt to give up my compulsive web statistics checking. But I normally stick to about half of the resolutions I make.

This year, I made 5 New Years resolutions:
1. Make one new raw food recipe every week
2. Fast for at least 24 hours once per month
3. Travel to two new places this year
4. If SideCar (a small vegan grocery in Seattle) sells it, buy it there
5. Stop eating when I'm full

I've already completed #3 with a trip to Peru and a weekend road trip to South Carolina. I stuck to #4, even when it meant I didn't have toilet paper because SideCar was closed for the night, but had to give it up when I moved to Asheville. And I'll admit that I actually forgot entirely about #5 until just now, although I think I've naturally moved away from that bad habit over the last few months.

But the first two resolutions have opened my eyes to a new way of thinking. I made a conscious choice to give these up because they were no longer serving me.

I fasted once per month through September. Then October came and went, and I just didn't see the point. It's not that there is no benefit to fasting. It's just that deciding to not eat for 24 hours seemed arbitrary to me since I don't actually know much about how to fast. More importantly, I feel like I am doing a whole lot of amazing things for my health that I do know about and that I know are benefiting me. So I stopped fasting.

The weekly raw recipes have been a lot of fun. But as I get healthier, I find myself craving simpler foods. The fancy recipes stopped being fun at some point, and started to feel like a time-consuming burden. So that's it. No more weekly raw recipes unless I happen to feel like trying something new.

The purpose of my resolutions is to improve my life in some way. So if a resolution is holding me back, then out it goes. Hopefully, that will allow room for something new and useful.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Brazil nut overdose

For the past several weeks, I have been doing research for a website about different natural foods and their nutritional values. In the course of this research, I discovered Brazil nuts as an abundant source of the mineral selenium. So few fruits or vegetables have significant levels of selenium, which is an important mineral for heart and joint health. Brazil nuts are chock full of it. Just 6 nuts have almost 800% of the recommended daily allowance of selenium.

So naturally, I went out and bought myself a bag of Brazil nuts and decided to eat a few every day. I've been eating 3 or 4 (sometimes 5) Brazil nuts each day for over a week now. I didn't want to eat too many because I had also read that, like most vitamins and minerals, eating too much can be toxic. When I was pulling today's 3 nuts out of the bag, I thought to myself, "I wonder if I will be able to tell if I've consumed toxic levels of selenium."

Not 20 minutes had passed after that thought and I was leaning over the toilet waiting to throw up. My stomach felt like it was full of rocks and was making some rather angry noises. In between extreme bouts of nausea, I looked up selenium toxicity to see what the symptoms were. confirmed my suspicion:
Nausea, vomiting, hair loss, skin lesions, abnormalities in the beds of the fingernails, and fingernail loss can all be symptomatic of selenium toxicity. Levels of selenium necessary to trigger these toxicity symptoms aren't usually obtained from food, since selenium-rich foods contain about 30-50 micrograms of selenium per serving. (Brazil nuts would be an exception here, since they average about 70-90 micrograms per nut).

When I told my ever-loving, ever-supportive partner about my Brazil nut overdose, he determined that my conclusion was absurd and it must be something else that made me sick. I don't want to compare him to the jackass doctors who told me I couldn't possibly be allergic to gluten, despite the incontrovertible evidence supporting my diagnosis, but if the shoe fits...

As it turns out, according to his boss, selenium poisoning via Brazil nuts just happened to be the topic on the show House last week and the patient suffered some of the same symptoms. So now he thinks I'm a genius. I guess if it's on TV, it must be true.

It took about 3-1/2 hours for the nausea to pass, but I think I'm finally in the clear. The lesson here is, Brazil nuts good. Many Brazil nuts very very bad.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Leaves fall in Asheville

I haven't experience a real fall since I left New York state to go to college in Texas almost 15 years ago (yes, it really has been that long). In Texas, people joked, we had two seasons: green season and brown season.

In Seattle, I suppose a few trees actually turned red and yellow and were kind of pretty. It was very similar to autumn. People there certainly insisted that they had a "real fall."

Yesterday, I looked out my front door at the always beautiful tree-lined street, and it was raining leaves! Beautiful gold, orange, and red leaves, fluttering to the street below. So amazing!

I know, it's no New Hampshire or even New York. But it was definitely an honest to God fall.

Raw food recipe of the week - Turkey Loaf

I made this for an early Thanksgiving raw food potluck. People were bringing the stuffing, the mashed potatoes, the pumpkin pie, but no one was brining the turkey! This is a very simple recipe from Living on Live Food, by Alissa Cohen. The recipe didn't call for dehydrating it but I thought it would be better with a hint of crispiness on the outside.

Turkey loaf: Pumpkin seeds, cashews, Brazil nuts, celery, scallions, and dried sage, blended well in a food processor, formed into a loaf, and dehydrated at 105 degrees for 6 hours.

Cranberry sauce: Fresh cranberries, agave nectar, blended in the food processor. Excess liquid drained.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Mardi Gras for kids

I took a break from my usual evening of watching online clips of The Daily Show and other online time wasters, to participate in everyone's favorite holiday, Halloween. No, that's not a picture of my front yard. That would be a neighbor's fine handy work.

As it turns out, my neighborhood of West Asheville is a very popular spot for trick-or-treaters. "It's like Marti Gras," a neighbor told me. Well, I don't think that neighbor has ever been to Marti Gras because it certainly wasn't anything like that. I didn't see a single kid who was falling down drunk or flashing people to get candy. But it was pretty busy. There were hundreds of kids all along the main street that runs down my neighborhood just in the 5 minutes that I spent over there. Apparently, the people who live on that street spend as much as $300 on candy to hand out. (I know it's hard to see, but that picture is a line of children at a neighbor's door. Click it for a bigger version.)

I live just 1 block west of that street, and most of the kids don't bother walking that far out of their way. So I got about 40 trick-or-treaters and didn't even go through all of my first bag of candy - gum that looks like eyeballs. They were a big hit with the kids.

Raw recipe of the week - BBQ Chicken Fingers

These were quite delicious! We had our very first house guest yesterday, and she was mighty impressed with them too. The recipe is from Alissa Cohen's Living On Live Food.

Ingredients: Sprouted lentils, carrots, orange juice, onion, olive oil, agave nectar, curry, vegetable seasoning, Celtic sea salt. Blended in the food processor and dehydrated at 105 degrees for about 16 hours.