On (not) eating healthy

I try to eat healthy, but I don’t have to like it. Actually, I have no intention of trying to eat “healthy” to either improve my health or lengthen my life. I think that most foods which are marketed as healthy are a marketing gimmick designed to play off of the fears of an unthinking consumer market that thinks it can buy health. I figure that since my grandfather ate half-cooked bacon, ate doughnuts fried in lard, loved brown gravy on his pork chops, and lived to age 92, I’ve got a fighting chance of making 92 as well. I eat steak and butter, despise tofu with a pure passion, think rabbits are well-fed with lettuce (but I’m not), love blueberry pie, and am a connoisseur of chocolate in its endless varieties and mutations. Bacon is good, but popped rice cakes were invented by someone who was very unhappy with life. Trying to count calories will only lead to frustration and unhappiness unless you are trying to see how many calories you can actually consume in one day and not get sick. The joke will be on all of us when we find out the most health food, or food that producers claim to be healthy, has no effect on how long we live or how healthy we are. If you eat average quantities of food and stay away from sugary drinks, you will probably be okay no matter what you eat. I often get the feeling that “low-fat” products are really just “high-sugar” and “high salt” products instead. I think that eating old-fashioned, home-cooked meals in an orderly normal fashion will probably do you no harm no matter what you eat. Probably the only food which is excessively bad for all of us is too much sugar, which was not a large part of our diet as we evolved on the pampas and plains of Africa a million years ago. We get into unhealthy eating habits, not because the food is unhealthy, but because we are way too sedentary today for our own good.

On (not) eating healthy

I try to eat healthy, but I don’t have to like it. Actually, I have no intention of trying to eat “healthy” to either improve my health or lengthen my life. I think that most foods which are marketed as healthy are a marketing gimmick designed to play off of the fears of an unthinking consumer market that thinks it can buy health. I figure that since my grandfather ate half-cooked bacon, ate doughnuts fried in lard, loved brown gravy on his pork chops, and lived to age 92, I’ve got a fighting chance of making 92 as well. I eat steak and butter, despise tofu with a pure passion, think rabbits are well-fed with lettuce (but I’m not), love blueberry pie, and am a connoisseur of chocolate in its endless varieties and mutations. Bacon is good, but popped rice cakes were invented by someone who was very unhappy with life. Trying to count calories will only lead to frustration and unhappiness unless you are trying to see how many calories you can actually consume in one day and not get sick. The joke will be on all of us when we find out the most health food, or food that producers claim to be healthy, has no effect on how long we live or how healthy we are. If you eat average quantities of food and stay away from sugary drinks, you will probably be okay no matter what you eat. I often get the feeling that “low-fat” products are really just “high-sugar” and “high salt” products instead. I think that eating old-fashioned, home-cooked meals in an orderly normal fashion will probably do you no harm no matter what you eat. Probably the only food which is excessively bad for all of us is too much sugar, which was not a large part of our diet as we evolved on the pampas and plains of Africa a million years ago. We get into unhealthy eating habits, not because the food is unhealthy, but because we are way too sedentary today for our own good.

On the fine art of napping

Don’t know why it’s called a cat nap, although it does seem like cats can sleep at the drop of a hat. I haven’t perfected my own technique as of yet, but it is not for want of trying. I managed to jam in a cat nap this afternoon between work and bell practice, and it felt really good–shoes off, feet up, comfy sofa, lights down low, no noise at all–ideal. I felt pretty good after my nap, but some people just feel worse after a fifteen minute nap. They wake up all cranky and out of sorts, sore and stiff, un-rested. The secret to the perfect cat nap has to be the ability or the opportunity to lie completely flat while sleeping. If you sleep in a chair, your neck will feel sore and stiff–your head falls forward, which hurts and wakes you up. Total relaxation can be achieved only when your head no longer needs support. You must also have a place to sleep that is free of interruptions such as people, phones, or random noise. Any kind of ambient stress must be eliminated completely. Achieving a calm spirit is absolutely necessary for falling asleep quickly. If you are worried about being discovered or interrupted by a phone call or colleague you cannot get your body to calm down and slide down the slope into unconsciousness. The cat nap is a micro-simulacrum of death, falling off of the cliff into the blackness of eternity, but only for fifteen minutes. Getting the wheels of the mind to stop spinning, to push all considerations out of your mind just long enough to let the sandman work his magic, to sleep the sleep of the just plain tired, that is the secret. Apparently, napping is good for you, but it also goes against our work ethic of work until you drop no matter what. I consider napping not only beneficial, but necessary for good mental health.

On the fine art of napping

Don’t know why it’s called a cat nap, although it does seem like cats can sleep at the drop of a hat. I haven’t perfected my own technique as of yet, but it is not for want of trying. I managed to jam in a cat nap this afternoon between work and bell practice, and it felt really good–shoes off, feet up, comfy sofa, lights down low, no noise at all–ideal. I felt pretty good after my nap, but some people just feel worse after a fifteen minute nap. They wake up all cranky and out of sorts, sore and stiff, un-rested. The secret to the perfect cat nap has to be the ability or the opportunity to lie completely flat while sleeping. If you sleep in a chair, your neck will feel sore and stiff–your head falls forward, which hurts and wakes you up. Total relaxation can be achieved only when your head no longer needs support. You must also have a place to sleep that is free of interruptions such as people, phones, or random noise. Any kind of ambient stress must be eliminated completely. Achieving a calm spirit is absolutely necessary for falling asleep quickly. If you are worried about being discovered or interrupted by a phone call or colleague you cannot get your body to calm down and slide down the slope into unconsciousness. The cat nap is a micro-simulacrum of death, falling off of the cliff into the blackness of eternity, but only for fifteen minutes. Getting the wheels of the mind to stop spinning, to push all considerations out of your mind just long enough to let the sandman work his magic, to sleep the sleep of the just plain tired, that is the secret. Apparently, napping is good for you, but it also goes against our work ethic of work until you drop no matter what. I consider napping not only beneficial, but necessary for good mental health.

On a bonfire

There is something completely primeval about a fire that speaks to a primitive memory that we all harbor in the deepest, darkest reaches of our DNA. We see fire and we turn toward it. Fire is at once both a saving grace and a sign of destruction, warmth and salvation, smoke and ash. We build fires to celebrate community in a ritual so old we have no memory of its origins, no memory of its meaning, but we cling to the light in the darkness as it protects us from shadows, both known and unknown. The bonfire, whether on a beach or in the woods, wards off the approaching specters, shielding us from our own irrational fears. The fire provides light and warmth against the dark and cold, the difference between making it and perishing. The memories are both collective and ancient, unspoken and unnamed, reaching into the darkness before even words mattered. The bonfire becomes a modern ritual of celebration that we cling to without knowing why. The bonfire commemorates our success, lights our road into the future, chases away the shadows. We are drawn inevitably toward the flame, like moths, yes, but more than moths. The light illuminates our darkest dreams and desires, filling us with logic and reason, and the warmth pushes away, if only for a moment, the cold and cruel reality of everyday life. Perhaps what the bonfire really stands for is hope, hope for the future where a bright, warm light shines, keeping at bay the chaos and lighting the path that we find so dear.

On a bonfire

There is something completely primeval about a fire that speaks to a primitive memory that we all harbor in the deepest, darkest reaches of our DNA. We see fire and we turn toward it. Fire is at once both a saving grace and a sign of destruction, warmth and salvation, smoke and ash. We build fires to celebrate community in a ritual so old we have no memory of its origins, no memory of its meaning, but we cling to the light in the darkness as it protects us from shadows, both known and unknown. The bonfire, whether on a beach or in the woods, wards off the approaching specters, shielding us from our own irrational fears. The fire provides light and warmth against the dark and cold, the difference between making it and perishing. The memories are both collective and ancient, unspoken and unnamed, reaching into the darkness before even words mattered. The bonfire becomes a modern ritual of celebration that we cling to without knowing why. The bonfire commemorates our success, lights our road into the future, chases away the shadows. We are drawn inevitably toward the flame, like moths, yes, but more than moths. The light illuminates our darkest dreams and desires, filling us with logic and reason, and the warmth pushes away, if only for a moment, the cold and cruel reality of everyday life. Perhaps what the bonfire really stands for is hope, hope for the future where a bright, warm light shines, keeping at bay the chaos and lighting the path that we find so dear.

On instinct

There was a short piece on the main editorial page of the New York Times (Sept 3, 2013) called “Empty Barn-Rafters” that discussed the recent departure of one man’s barn swallows. I have swallows as well which live on my back porch during the spring and early summer. They work tirelessly to build their nest on top of the large round thermometer which hangs just inside the overhang which shades the back porch. After they have built their nest, they proceed to raise a couple of broods of chicks. By the time the second group fledge towards the end of June, they are tired–pooped out, literally. I would know because I’m the guy who cleans up the poop.They spend the rest of summer eating and playing, swooping across the summer sky, defying the laws of physics, hanging in the air, sitting on the power lines, contemplating the world from their high perches. Yet, as the Times writer so apply described, at some point in the late summer, they just up and leave all at once–no stragglers allowed. Of course, we describe swallow behavior, their nest building, the fledging of their young, their migration habits, as instinct, mostly because we understand so little about the actual mechanisms which drive them to be swallows. Ornithologists have their theories and hypothesis about how the birds do what they do, but I prefer to simply think of them as neighbors, not the subjects of my latest study. People have neighbors, and sometimes those neighbors are not the two-legged variety. The swallows that nest on my porch don’t talk to me, but they do keep me company from about mid-March to about the end of August, but then one afternoon they just simply aren’t there–the editorialist got it exactly right. My back porch is now empty. When this happens, as it must each year, I take down the used nest, wash away the mud and eliminate all traces that the birds have been here, but not because I mind their presence, but because the empty nest reminds me that my bird neighbors are off to their winter roosts in Latin America somewhere. I like to imagine that my counterpart in Costa Rica has just noticed that his swallows have returned to winter in his backyard, happy they are back, delighted to see those sleek, dark forms sliding across the sky. I am sure that there is some absolutely logical and sensible reason which explains how the swallows know when to leave. At some point each summer, they get together, discuss a departure day, agree on a date, and then leave all together, leaving my porch and yard a very empty place. Since I travel a great deal, gone for extended periods, I cannot have my own domestic pets, so I allow my swallows a bit of space to nest and live. I know summer is over when their small, sleek forms are just gone. A quiet falls over the place, the pigeons, the grackles, the cardinals, don’t move on, but they don’t really keep me company either–they never get that close. As fall and winter set in during the next few weeks, the waiting begins. About six months from now, they will be back, and on a cool, windy, rainy day in March, a small, sleek, dark figure will flash past my window to let me know that vacation is over, and their work has just begun.

On instinct

There was a short piece on the main editorial page of the New York Times (Sept 3, 2013) called “Empty Barn-Rafters” that discussed the recent departure of one man’s barn swallows. I have swallows as well which live on my back porch during the spring and early summer. They work tirelessly to build their nest on top of the large round thermometer which hangs just inside the overhang which shades the back porch. After they have built their nest, they proceed to raise a couple of broods of chicks. By the time the second group fledge towards the end of June, they are tired–pooped out, literally. I would know because I’m the guy who cleans up the poop.They spend the rest of summer eating and playing, swooping across the summer sky, defying the laws of physics, hanging in the air, sitting on the power lines, contemplating the world from their high perches. Yet, as the Times writer so apply described, at some point in the late summer, they just up and leave all at once–no stragglers allowed. Of course, we describe swallow behavior, their nest building, the fledging of their young, their migration habits, as instinct, mostly because we understand so little about the actual mechanisms which drive them to be swallows. Ornithologists have their theories and hypothesis about how the birds do what they do, but I prefer to simply think of them as neighbors, not the subjects of my latest study. People have neighbors, and sometimes those neighbors are not the two-legged variety. The swallows that nest on my porch don’t talk to me, but they do keep me company from about mid-March to about the end of August, but then one afternoon they just simply aren’t there–the editorialist got it exactly right. My back porch is now empty. When this happens, as it must each year, I take down the used nest, wash away the mud and eliminate all traces that the birds have been here, but not because I mind their presence, but because the empty nest reminds me that my bird neighbors are off to their winter roosts in Latin America somewhere. I like to imagine that my counterpart in Costa Rica has just noticed that his swallows have returned to winter in his backyard, happy they are back, delighted to see those sleek, dark forms sliding across the sky. I am sure that there is some absolutely logical and sensible reason which explains how the swallows know when to leave. At some point each summer, they get together, discuss a departure day, agree on a date, and then leave all together, leaving my porch and yard a very empty place. Since I travel a great deal, gone for extended periods, I cannot have my own domestic pets, so I allow my swallows a bit of space to nest and live. I know summer is over when their small, sleek forms are just gone. A quiet falls over the place, the pigeons, the grackles, the cardinals, don’t move on, but they don’t really keep me company either–they never get that close. As fall and winter set in during the next few weeks, the waiting begins. About six months from now, they will be back, and on a cool, windy, rainy day in March, a small, sleek, dark figure will flash past my window to let me know that vacation is over, and their work has just begun.

On Walden Pond

How often do I ask myself, “Why do you participate so willingly in the noisy rat race of humanity?” This is a difficult question when contemplated from the shores of Walden Pond, but my first response is easy–I don’t like being alone all the time and solitude is not all that it’s cracked up to be. At first the idea of being an independent being, completely removed from the frothing mass of humanity seems appealing, far from the maddening crowd. I mean, why should we put up with all the mediatic noise that contaminates our daily routine, the “circuses and bread” thrown to us by idiotic politicians and unthinking news sources that are only interested in defending their own interests and the truth be damned. On Walden Pond I can isolate myself from all of this noise, forget about the savage capitalistic consumerism of my neighbors, shut out the news media, turn a blind eye to the “entertainment” offered on the six hundred channels of cable, and listen to the birds chirp and the wind blow across the pond and through the trees who are my only neighbors. It is easier to live on Walden Pond than it is to tolerate the nonsense that invades my day via newspapers, radio, television, and the internet, but I can’t help but think that something is missing. Granted the noise of the daily grind is infuriating if not irritating, but is perpetual silence preferable? Am I shirking a moral responsibility to participate in the goings on that bother me, irk me, infuriate me? There have been others who have removed themselves from participation in daily life–hermits, anchorites, saints, castaways, the shipwrecked, and in all of those cases there seems to be a sacrifice which is made–the company of other human beings. After re-reading Robinson Crusoe again recently, I came to the conclusion that although Crusoe lived in isolation, he did everything he could to reproduce European society around himself, re-inventing the wheel, so to speak, so that he would feel less alone, and that is what I feel here–alone. Nevertheless, “aloneness” is not entirely a bad thing unless it also looks like a prison sentence that has no end. Perhaps this is why Cain and Abel were brothers, that one alone would have been a tragedy, but paradoxically, the two together was also a tragedy. So one must consider carefully the entire question of human existence in terms of this metaphor, the pair of brothers in which love turned to hate and finally to murder because they could not co-exist without the questions of greed, jealousy, and envy destroying their relationship. Yet, one alone would have also died of eternal melancholy brought on by the loneliness of one voice speaking in a vacuum with no one to hear of either his successes or failures. Is this the central metaphor of human existence? The water laps gently on the shore, the birds twitter and caw overhead, the gentle wind blows through the trees, and if I were to fall, no one would here my cries, no one would be there to help me. The central paradox of Walden Pond seems to be my inability to rid myself of my own humanity, my desire to speak with others, to interact even with those with whom I disagree. My own ideas are interesting but I cannot exist in a vacuum either. Perhaps we are all doomed by our own noise and our inability to separate ourselves from it. In the meantime, I look forward to examining this conundrum a bit further.

On Walden Pond

How often do I ask myself, “Why do you participate so willingly in the noisy rat race of humanity?” This is a difficult question when contemplated from the shores of Walden Pond, but my first response is easy–I don’t like being alone all the time and solitude is not all that it’s cracked up to be. At first the idea of being an independent being, completely removed from the frothing mass of humanity seems appealing, far from the maddening crowd. I mean, why should we put up with all the mediatic noise that contaminates our daily routine, the “circuses and bread” thrown to us by idiotic politicians and unthinking news sources that are only interested in defending their own interests and the truth be damned. On Walden Pond I can isolate myself from all of this noise, forget about the savage capitalistic consumerism of my neighbors, shut out the news media, turn a blind eye to the “entertainment” offered on the six hundred channels of cable, and listen to the birds chirp and the wind blow across the pond and through the trees who are my only neighbors. It is easier to live on Walden Pond than it is to tolerate the nonsense that invades my day via newspapers, radio, television, and the internet, but I can’t help but think that something is missing. Granted the noise of the daily grind is infuriating if not irritating, but is perpetual silence preferable? Am I shirking a moral responsibility to participate in the goings on that bother me, irk me, infuriate me? There have been others who have removed themselves from participation in daily life–hermits, anchorites, saints, castaways, the shipwrecked, and in all of those cases there seems to be a sacrifice which is made–the company of other human beings. After re-reading Robinson Crusoe again recently, I came to the conclusion that although Crusoe lived in isolation, he did everything he could to reproduce European society around himself, re-inventing the wheel, so to speak, so that he would feel less alone, and that is what I feel here–alone. Nevertheless, “aloneness” is not entirely a bad thing unless it also looks like a prison sentence that has no end. Perhaps this is why Cain and Abel were brothers, that one alone would have been a tragedy, but paradoxically, the two together was also a tragedy. So one must consider carefully the entire question of human existence in terms of this metaphor, the pair of brothers in which love turned to hate and finally to murder because they could not co-exist without the questions of greed, jealousy, and envy destroying their relationship. Yet, one alone would have also died of eternal melancholy brought on by the loneliness of one voice speaking in a vacuum with no one to hear of either his successes or failures. Is this the central metaphor of human existence? The water laps gently on the shore, the birds twitter and caw overhead, the gentle wind blows through the trees, and if I were to fall, no one would here my cries, no one would be there to help me. The central paradox of Walden Pond seems to be my inability to rid myself of my own humanity, my desire to speak with others, to interact even with those with whom I disagree. My own ideas are interesting but I cannot exist in a vacuum either. Perhaps we are all doomed by our own noise and our inability to separate ourselves from it. In the meantime, I look forward to examining this conundrum a bit further.