Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Getting To Know You

I'm home sick from work and need to take yet another nap, but first I thought I'd post a survey, since I haven't done that in a while.

Getting To Know You

1. When's the last time you took a leisurely, recreational walk around the neighborhood where you live?

2. When's the last time you took a relaxing bath?

3. When's the last time you made rice crispy treats or cookies or some sort of treat just for fun?

4. When did you last spend time looking at the stars (either through a telescope or not)?

5. When's the last time you sat somewhere and watched the sun set or rise?

6. When is the last time you went on a hike in the woods?

7. When's the last time you went to the beach (or to some body of water)?

8. When's the last time you played with a child - blocks or legos or something?

9. When's the last time you actively played with a cat or dog -- like fetch or chase the string or something?

10. When is the last time you hugged somebody?

11. What refreshes you -- restores your energy -- helps you get rid of stress?

(me: 1. I can't recall ever doing that.; 2. Maybe a month ago?; 3. I made brownies a couple of months ago.; 4. I haven't spent any length of time looking at the stars in quite a while.; 5. I think maybe we watched the sun set from the roof one evening not too long ago or at least intended to.; 6. Probably not since we went to Redwood National Forest. Was that last summer?; 7. I went to the beach a couple of weeks ago. I took off my shoes and socks, rolled up my jeans, and walked barefoot through the sand to the water and back. It was nice.; 8. Last Christmas I played Legos with my cousin's son, Andrew.; 9. A few days ago.; 10. Yesterday; 11. Going to a pretty, natural spot outdoors, taking a nap, laughing at something really funny, jogging...)

Food For Thought

"The optimism gene is probably the most important one in the universe. Someday we'll find it. That will be interesting."

- Scott Adams in a recent blog post

Do fish eat monkeys?

Yesterday I bought three kinds of frozen fish at Trader Joe's: some yellowfin tuna steaks, cod, and mahi-mahi. Today, out of curiosity, I looked up Mahi-mahi on Wikipedia. While reading the article, I ran across this curious sentence:

"Mahi-mahi are carnivorous, feeding on flying fish, crabs, monkeys, squid, mackerel, and other small fish."

At first I thought maybe they were referring to some sort of monkey fish, but the word monkeys is linked to this article. I am puzzled.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Cave Woman

For a little over a month (since Feb. 25), Ian and I have been on the Paleolithic Diet. We're just doing it for Lent, so come Easter Day (which is also Ian's birthday), we will be happy to eat some non-caveman food. It's really not so difficult. On this diet you can eat any fruits and vegetables raw or cooked, eggs, nuts, seeds, and any low fat meat, fish, and poultry. So, you can't eat any grains, dairy, beans, sugar, and most processed foods. It's basically like being on the raw diet (which is what we did last year) with the addition of significant amounts of protein. Since I don't eat red meat, for me this has meant lots of eggs, fish, and some turkey. I haven't been terribly hungry and haven't had many serious cravings. I mentioned the diet to the Physician's Assistant at my doctor's office the other day, who was really surprised to hear that anyone really did this sort of diet. She told me that they learned about the diet in her nutrition classes in school and that it's supposed to be a much better diet than the typical American diet, but she had never heard of anyone who had actually done it. Despite what I said about not being terribly hungry or having any massive cravings, I admit I am really looking forward to eating a "normal" meal two weeks from today.

Also, I should mention I'm just over half way through Three Cups of Tea and really enjoying it. Thank you, Steph, for recommending it!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Life You Can Save

I have just finished reading a 175-page argument for why we should give more money to starving children. It was very convincing. I had just finished reading this very depressing article about child malnutrition in India and was looking for something to read that might help me figure out how I could do anything to help when I found this book. It was exactly what I was looking for. In case you're interested, here is the website for the book and a list of some good aid organizations you could donate to if you wanted to. I think the Millenium Villages Project is my favorite.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Books

So, after the awesome indy bookstore near my work went out of business after 85 years, I had to find another indy bookstore to frequent, so as to avoid the guilt of patronising only Borders. I found my new love on my way to teach out in the Richmond district. It's a totally awesome store and I've overpurchased already on my two visits over the weekend. I started by buying Three Cups of Tea, which was highly recommended by Steph. Before I even started the first book, though, I went back and purchased three additional books of interest: The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis, India by V.S. Naipaul, and The Life You Can Save by Peter Singer. I am a little over halfway through with Singer's provocative book, but I am not ready to write about anything yet. So many good books, but so little time to read. Now I must go to sleep so I'm not super tired when I get up for work tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Taste Test

We finally did the taste test of organic vs. conventional fruit today. It was pretty unremarkable. I guess it would have been more interesting with more kinds of fruit, but as it was, I only bought apples. I bought organic and conventional Braeburn apples and gave them to Ian to taste. After chewing on a couple of each, I asked him, "Which do you think are organic?"

"Those," he said, pointing to the organic apples.

"Good call," I said.

"But it's not because of taste," he clarified. "It's because of size."

"Why do you think organic apples would be smaller?" I asked, wondering myself why the conventional apples were twice the size of the organic.

"Because they don't have all sorts of shit dumped on them," he said with his mouth full of apples.

In my opinion, which was not unbiased, because I knew which apples were which, I thought the organic apples tasted slightly more sweet and flavorful. The conventional apples were more juicy in a watery sort of way, but not as dense with flavor.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Worry Cure

It is so green and beautiful here. The rain really did it's work and since I've been back we've had nothing but cool (50-60F), sunny days. I wish I had more time to get out of the city and go to a park or to the beach or something, but for now I'm just happy that it's light at 7:00pm and it's not freezing cold here.

I've been reading another book by Robert Leahy, who wrote one of the cognitive behavioral therapy books I wrote about in a recent post. It's called The Worry Cure and it is full of much of the same type of advice as his other book, but is specifically geared towards worry and anxiety. One of the first things he talks about is dividing your worry between productive and unproductive worries. Can you take action on what you are worried about in the near future? No? Then, it's an unproductive worry. The idea is to figure out which worries are productive and turn them into tasks. And, for the unproductive worries, there is lots more advice. He advocates distracting yourself when you get really anxious or upset about something with statements about what is happening in the present moment (mindfulness), like "I am sitting at my computer.", "I am breathing in and out.", "There are kids playing on the playground outside.", "Nashira is sitting on the bed.", "A car is passing by.", etc. This is very useful. Also, he recommends redirecting thoughts from worries about what someone else is thinking or feeling to asking, "What do I want to do right now?" and "What is important to me?" (because, he says, you can never know for sure what someone else is thinking or feeling). I have also continued to use the "feared fantasy" exercise repeatedly. When I notice that I'm avoiding thinking about something because I think it's too painful, I force myself to think about it and I exaggerate it. In some (but not all) cases, it's incredibly relieving. In the cases where it's not immediately helpful, it still clarifies further for me what the issue is that I need to resolve. Also, Leahy says that chronic worriers are people who are intolerant of uncertainty. They always want to know everything for sure. They want certainty. But, there is no certainty in an uncertain world. According to Leahy, "the more you can tolerate uncertainty, the less worried you will be." This is definitely true for me. The book has lots of general advice and some specific advice for people who tend to worry about certain things, like relationships, health, and money. As usual, I'm leaving out a lot of what he said, because I'm only concentrating on the things which seemed most useful to me. One other thing I've learned from the book is that I'm not nearly as complex as I thought I was. I tend to worry about the same thing/type of thing repeatedly and it's always triggered by a few specific things, which I have pretty confidently identified through the many exercises assigned. Unfortunately, the worries haven't been totally eradicated, but I definitely feel like I know how to deal with them much better than I did before.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Syracuse

is cold! The wind chill on my first day here was -15 F. Whoa. That takes some getting used to coming from such a temperate climate, even though I lived in really cold weather for my whole life up until about a year and a half ago. I hope I will be much less apt to complain about 49 F/raining when I return to SF, but somehow I imagine CA might still feel cold to me. The climates are just so different. It's freezing cold here in upstate NY, but the air is incredibly dry, and there is plenty of heat on inside. In SF, it's cold and damp, and we have less heat indoors.

Syracuse is a nice little city. It's like halfway between a city and a small town. I was at Wegmans, the local grocery chain (which is awesome), and bought some expensive wild caught salmon to have for dinner with my mom and dad. [Wegmans has an amazing selection -- of everything, not just fish.] The fish butcher was so friendly to me. When I told him which salmon I wanted, he made a big fuss over it and wanted to know who I was cooking for. When I told him it was for my mom and dad he told me they were very lucky. I thought that was sweet. Syracuse has a great library system, lots of excellent restaurants, and a ton of events of all kinds.

While I've been here, in addition to spending time with my parents and beloved kitties and seeing old friends, I've been going through boxes of my stuff. Since I only brought as many of my things to California as I could fit in my 1997 Subaru Impreza wagon, I had to leave a lot here. I have spent several hours every day since I arrived deciding what I can throw away, what can go to Goodwill, what I want to bring or send back to SF, and what I need to leave here until my next trip back. I have to admit I didn't realize how much this task would overwhelm me and stress me out. I'm glad to say I'm pretty much finished with what I'm going to do this trip.

Tonight my mom and I went to see *Slumdog Millionaire*. What a great story, but I didn't realize it would be so violent and upsetting. I have read accounts of life in India before, so I knew partly what to expect in terms of the poverty and deplorable living conditions of the people, but I had never seen so much of it with my own eyes. It was disturbing, but also made me interested to read/learn more.

I've been trying not to alter my schedule too drastically, but it's not easy. The sun rises at 6:30am, which is 3:30am PT, so it's a little hard to sleep in. It's 12:08am now, which is only 9:08pm my time, but I'm really tired and I have a big headache, so I think I will go to bed soon.

I think tomorrow we will go to Sapsucker Woods, which is part of Cornell University's Lab of Ornithology. Apparently it is a great place for birding, so I am really looking forward to it. It's supposed to be sunny-ish and 39 F!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Syracuse

I'm off to Syracuse in the morning and will be there until Friday. I'm not sure if I'll post anything or not. We shall see...