The Year Without Pizza

Pizza
photo by rdpeyton

I decided at the beginning of 2013 that I was going to go for the entire year without eating pizza.  I guess you could have called it a New Year's Resolution.  For the past several years, I've tried to come up with a year-long sacrifice, discipline or other lifestyle change that would force me to experiencing something different just so I could see how it affected me, a kind of extended Lent season.

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Gadgets and apps that help me exercise

I really don't enjoy exercising for the sake of exercise.  In my ideal world, my daily activities in the course of making a living and living my life would be sufficiently physically active that I didn't need to add on artificial periods of activity.  Friends, I am far from living in my ideal world: much of making a living currently involves sitting in front of a computer, and fetching dinner is a trip to the grocery or a restaurant, not traipsing across the countryside on the hunt.  And so for now, I mostly have to choose between artificial exercising or not being physically healthy enough.

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The office exercise setup

For the last three months, I've been able to hold together a three-times weekly workout routine without interruption, except for one week off.  It includes running, biking and weight-lifting for around 45 minutes each time. This kind of consistency is rare for me; as seasons change or scheduling gets tricky, I've usually found excuses (sometimes as simple as "I don't wanna!") that lead to deferring a session which then leads to ending my routine altogether.

Three kinds of things have helped me stick with it:
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Political transparency and Bing Welch's health

PosingToday's Palladium-Item editorial "Politics cheats citizens" calls out the ways in which local political maneuvering can do a disservice to voters, in this case with the less-than-transparent approach that was taken to handling the unfortunate health issues affecting Richmond City Council's District 5 representative, Bing Welch, during the recent election campaign:

Whether it is the 2009 Christmas Eve Senate passage of a huge, and hugely controversial, health care reform measure by Democrats narrowly controlling the U.S. Senate or, closer to home, Republicans and Democrats waiting until after a general election to craft their respective political handiwork, this is the stuff that alienates and isolates the public from those who have sworn to represent their best interests.

Through any such conversation we must of course be sensitive to Mr. Welch's experience along the way.  I certainly wish him the best in recovering his health, and appreciate the years of time and service he has given to the Richmond community and the residents of District 5.  It's not easy to be a political figure in the public spotlight even when you're healthy, and so we know that it must have been particularly hard on Bing and his family to have health concerns and questions about his ability to serve in that role all mixed in together.

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Truth in advertising

False advertising?At some point when I was fairly young, I was excited to learn about the concept of "truth in advertising" - the notion that it actually matters whether what you say in a public announcement or description of products or services is true or not.  I was even more excited to learn that there was an official government entity (in the U.S., the Federal Trade Commission) empowered to enforce truth in advertising standards, and punish those who would dare publish falsehoods.  It totally knocked my socks off to further learn that ordinary citizens could submit claims of false advertising and compel advertisers to change or withdraw their deceptive advertising pieces.

What a world of pure and unflinching justice we could then live in!  To walk around knowing that the slogans and invitations on billboards, newspaper ads and television were all required by law to be true, and that onerous fines and the shame of the public eye awaited the occasional miscreant who would stray from this noble code.  No need to worry about being deceived or misled as a consumer; we could always have confidence that advertisers would stand by their claims.

Like I said, I was young.

But at the risk of sounding curmudgeonly, I do think there's been a notable shift in the standards we hold marketers and public figures to when it comes to truth in advertising.  Seems like somewhere around the mid 1990's, we kind of gave up on it.

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Health insurance rescission

Pirate CruisesI'm not sure that any version of a national health care system - existing, proposed by President Obama, or otherwise - is going to truly meet the needs of every U.S. citizen.  As I've said about our approach to supporting the elderly in our culture, I think there are ways to approach true care for health and well being that focus on community and local/regional resources instead of nationally calibrated insurance premiums and risk formulas.

But if we accept for a moment that people in this country will probably continue to obtain medical services via some kind of national insurance system for the foreseeable future (and coldly put aside the many millions of people without even that benefit right now), then we need to talk about the practice of insurance rescission.

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Lierre Keith's The Vegetarian Myth

The Vegetarian Myth coverLierre Keith's The Vegetarian Myth is one of the most important books ever written about food and the sustainability of the human species. It is at once deeply personal, overwhelmingly provocative, and academically sound as it calls into question all of the stories we have ever been told about where food comes from, what kind of food we should eat (especially in the context of veganism and vegetarianism), and what impact our food choices make on our bodies and the world around us.  And that's just the core themes; Keith deftly weaves together food politics with economics, religion, culture, misogyny, masculinity, feminism, media issues, peak oil, liberalism vs radicalism, and so much more.

In short, if you think about what you eat, how it got to you, and the issues of nutrition, morality, politics and spirituality come with it, it is paramount that you encounter what The Vegetarian Myth has to offer.

My full review continues:

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Local food issues panel today

Later today I'll be sitting on a panel put together by the Wayne County Area Chamber of Commerce, and we'll be talking about issues related to local food.  Beyond some home gardening I'm not a food producer or any sort of expert, but between my work with the Clear Creek Food Coop, my interest in food / energy issues, and my efforts around making Richmond more self-reliant, I hope I'll have something useful to offer.

It's at 3:30 PM at Ivy Tech Community College, 3421 Johnson Hall - I hope you can join us.

In case you won't be able to attend, here's a list of 12 reasons that it's a good idea to support the production and consumption of locally grown food (adopted from a list produced by The Ohio Ecological Food and Farming Association):

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Meat Twice a Week

Sesame BurgerTwo years ago about this time I blogged about my resolution to give up soft drinks, which I'm glad to say I've successfully continued for a second bonus year, despite it having no noticeable positive effect on my health while making me an outcast at all of those cola-centered social gatherings. And despite the bottles of Dr. Pepper that people sometimes leave sitting around me, sometimes even in my own fridge.  But I digress.

For now I'll skip over last year's resolution - which failed miserably - and bring you to my 2009 resolution, which is to eat less meat. Specifically, I'm trying to eat meat at no more than two meals per week. This is a revised plan of attack from past attempts to try an all-vegetarian diet, which I eventually decided wasn't tenable for me.

Without getting too far into the food ethics involved in meat-eating (which are nonetheless important and deserving of further treatment), I thought I'd note why I'm doing this, and how it's going so far: Continue reading "Meat Twice a Week"

A review of Blue Vinyl

It would be nice if some day we could say, "great, now we know about ALL of the human-made products and processes that can give us cancer and harm the planet, now let's start doing something about them." But alas, it seems that everywhere you look, there's a new story about a chemical or drug or food or way of raising your children that can endanger our lives. Some of it is fear-mongering, but some of it is an honest and long-overdue look at the products and practices that we take for granted, examining them for harm they might cause and seeking healthier alternatives. And in her award winning film Blue Vinyl, that's just what Judith Hefland has done with...get ready for it...vinyl siding.
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Experts agree, neurotoxins are good for you

I've had a bad case of unusually persistent headaches lately, and when I experience health problems I usually try to identify simple potential causes and solutions before I go get all up inside the conventional healthcare system. Some call this holistic health, I just call it common sense and listening to the marvelous self-diagnosing machine that is the human body. Am I particularly stressed out or upset about something? Have I been getting enough exercise? Is my cuisine all screwed up? And so on. I was talking to someone today who practices craniosacral therapy and she did a good job of reminding me how many ridiculously toxic, but FDA approved, headache-causing substances there are out there in the food we buy.

I caught her mention of aspartame as a common one and started doing a little research. While I tend to avoid looking up medical information on the Internet after previously embarrassing experiences doing so, I found lots of connections mentioned between headaches and aspartame. Who would have thought that ingesting formaldehyde would have negative health effects? Huh! Thanks, Monsanto! I took a brief skim of my pantry and found three products at the front of the shelf with aspartame and related substances like sucralose / Splenda, listed as an ingredient, both of which I've consumed lately - they're now in the trash. Yeah, I know - we can't just start throwing away everything that's bad for us to any degree. But I figure that if a given edible substance has to have dueling propaganda websites and panels of experts to talk about whether or not it REALLY causes brain tumors, I can probably live without it to be on the safe side.

Perhaps I can ONLY live without it.