Sunday, December 30, 2007

Taos, NM

A somewhat small town spread over a lot of land, there are many galleries, unusual local shops, and outdoors activities. Writers such as D.H. Lawrence and Georgia O'Keefe spent time here and were inspired by the landscape. (I missed out on the Georgia O'Keefe Museum in Santa Fe unfortunately, but I did get to see SITE instead. The current exhibition broke my heart and nearly brought me to tears.) It is easy to see how they could've been influenced by the area, which, in spite of its tourist attraction, still provides enough seclusion, small-town community, and landscape to affect anyone. Definitely a place to revisit on its own.

Friday, December 28, 2007


In New Mexico now, Santa Fe specifically. Lots of snow today. Almost slid the car into the side of a mountain thrice. Sister saw snowfall for the first time.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Winter break

At a nearby coffee place with free Wifi, a rarity in this part of Phoenix sadly. Christmas music assaults my ears. Been given the privilege of planning a vacation to New Mexico with my siblings. Postings will be spotty.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

"Extinction threat to wild salmon"

Here's an example of what is happening to wild salmon right now in support of Nestle's book:
Wild salmon on Canada's west coast are being driven to extinction by parasites from nearby fish farms, a study claims.

Wild pink salmon around the Broughton Archipelago are declining rapidly and will die out within 10 years if no action is taken, say researchers.



I finished my last final yesterday. What a relief. I did well with my nutrition classes, but not so well with my organic chemistry class. Thankfully, there is a "grade replacement option" available, which means I can retake the class and have that grade replace the previous one.

I have to find a good place to visit by car for the winter vacation. Given the finickiness of my siblings and I when it comes to these sorts of decisions, this may take a while. At least I now have time to catch up on my reading.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Some Recent Books on Food

Food and nutrition has been getting a lot of attention the last few years, and there have been many wonderful books that cover these topics from different angles. Michael Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma has been getting a lot of attention since it came out last year. I’m ashamed to say I haven’t read it yet, but if it’s anything like his previous book The Botany of Desire, then it is well worth checking out.

I’ve been slowly reading and re-reading two books similar to Pollan’s book in that they deal with different aspects of food – Hungry Planet by Peter Menzel & Faith D’aluisio and What To Eat by Marion Nestle.

Hungry Planet was a project conducted by a writer wife and photographer husband team who traveled around the world and documented what people ate. They provide a photo of each family they followed along with a week’s worth of their food and how much was spent. Essays and photo essays on food, culture, politics, and other food-related matters are interspersed between the family profiles. Hungry Planet is a wonderful synthesis of pictures and words about one of the necessities of life.

Marion Nestle’s What To Eat tackles the problem of how to navigate through the supermarket, specialty food stores, and the confusion coming from the latest dietary advice and news, government policies, scientific studies, and food politics. Nestle talked to government officials, food industry leaders, food advertisers, journalists, food scientists – all in an attempt to make sense of what you and I encounter in the supermarket on a regular basis. At the end of each section of the book (or supermarket as she has organized it), Nestle offers her take on a particular issue and advice as to what you and I should do at the supermarket. Her goals are to help us make informed choices about food and nutrition and to have us give consideration to the food we eat. She succeeds in all of this admirably.

There is one section devoted to the problems surrounding farmed versus wild fish with salmon being the prime example. Many of the fish left in today’s oceans have been exposed to organic chemicals such as PCBs because of waste runoff originating from manufacturing companies. Organic chemicals tend to accumulate and stay within the fat stores of fish. This accumulation is compounded by the fact that carnivorous and omnivorous fish take in whatever organic chemicals were stored in their food, that is, other fish. So the higher a fish is on the food chain, the higher the levels of organic chemicals will be found in that fish.

Salmon are carnivores for the majority of their lives. When they are young, they start eating krill before moving on to small fish that would contain relatively low amounts of organic chemicals. Farmed salmon are fed fish meal and fish oil made from adult fish that are not normally sold at market as part of their diet. They eat and accumulate organic chemicals at the very start of their lives from adult fish that have relatively high amounts of organic chemicals. Also, the farmed salmon’s lifestyle and diet changes the composition of their body fat from a low amounts of total fat with a high percentage of omega-3 fatty acids to one that has high amounts of total body fat comprised of a higher percentage of saturated fat and a lower percentage of omega-3 fatty acids. In addition to being farm-raised, the matter of where the salmon came from plays a part its health. A team of researchers sampled numerous salmon, farm and wild, from different parts of the world for their organic chemical accumulation. They found that wild salmon from the Americas tended to have much lower amounts of organic chemicals than their farmed counterparts in Europe. So whenever we want to eat salmon or any other fish, we should consider the following: where it came from, farm or wild, its place in the food chain, how much fat it contains, and whether it has been listed on a state advisory.

Much of what Nestle discusses has been covered in my nutrition classes and much has not. Hungry Planet deals with food culture and the effects of markets on food – topics that are lacking in my classes thus far. While Nestle spells out clearly what the average shopper should be aware of and do, Menzel and D’aluisio aren’t as explicit in their message, but they do lead you to certain conclusions about the global economy, food, politics, and culture. I recommend these books to anyone who is even remotely curious about food and nutrition, that is, everyone needs to read these books.

Next on the “To Read” List:
  • The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan
  • Eat Here: Reclaiming Homegrown Pleasures in a Global Supermarket by Brian Halwell
  • The United States of Arugula by David Kamp
Today’s Supplements:
  • Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser for its portrayal of the US’s fast food history, culture, and business. There have been many positive changes in the industry thanks in part to this book.
  • Super Size Me by Morgan Spurlock if you want to see the effects of a lifelong relationship with fast food compressed into a month.
  • FreeRice because you want to test your vocabulary while simultaneously donating food to those in need.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Nutrition Links

I've put up links related to nutrition on the right along with a handy set of online calculators that nutrition professionals use regularly. The links are some of the main information and guideline sources for dietitians and nutrition professionals. Some sites may be more useful than others. I'll continue adding to the list as I discover and learn more.

Update - it seems that the calculators may not work with the latest Firefox (which is what I use) but I haven't seen any problems with other browsers yet. Let me know if you have any problems.

Update II - the calculators work but a search results window pops up as well. There's not much I can do outside of altering the original code, which may not be a good idea.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Cold Friday night

Practically flooding outside right now. Catching up on bits and pieces. Last Kids' Cafe until next year. Fun, messy, sweet kids. Getting old and sentimental.

Listening to lots of music. Mind scattered. Multiple data threads spindling, forming, tearing their way through. May have to find a focus or dump site for those other ideas.

On Nutrition and Education, Part 1

As you may or may not know, I'm studying to be a registered dietitian (RD) right now. My first semester has consisted of nutrition from the cellular, biochemical, industrial, culinary, and lifecycle points of view. From my vantage point, it seems Western nutrition and its supporting science are still in its adolescent stages. We know more now but oftentimes the recommendations made by the authoritative organizations are colored by the influence of business, politics, and a lack of sufficient evidence. Not surprising, I know, but these factors make it difficult for nutrition professionals (let alone the public and me) to separate the chaff from the grain.

The food pyramid is a good example. When it first debuted in 1992, there was enormous pressure from food industry lobbyists - meat and dairy, mainly - over the wording and placement of the food groups. The most recent pyramid (MyPyramid) is designed poorly because of, yes, lobbyists from the same industries. Compare:

Even at a reduced scale, there are noticeable differences in clarity, effectiveness, and overall message between the two models. The latter does have certain improvements over its predecessor, namely, greater details and explanations, factors in people with lactose intolerances, and has an image stressing the importance of exercise. But the MyPyramid doesn't present some of the latest evidence and advice concerning diets and nutrition (supplements, alcohol, vegetarian diets, etc.)

This is where a dietitian (of which I will be, hopefully) should step in - and not necessarily a physician (I'll talk about this in future entries) - to provide the details and advice to the individual. I often feel as if I've been thrown into the middle of a jungle with nothing but a machete because the scientific evidence for many areas of nutrition (even RDAs [recommended daily allowances] have changed, often dramatically) can offer confounding preliminary conclusions.

Some of my goals with this blog are to share and clarify what I've learned in the classroom, find the islands of sensibility, and clear away my own fog of confusion surrounding nutrition.* There will be jargon and abbreviations, but I'll try to explain them whenever it seems necessary. Hopefully, we'll all have a stronger, more nuanced understanding of nutrition.**

*Caveat: please keep in mind that I am not qualified to offer any professional nutrition advice (yet). What I present here serves as a reference and method of understanding what I learn in my classes and of nutrition and health in general. Please consult an RD for any nutrition-related advice and guidance.

**Asian nutrition is something I'll address as well, even though it's not a part of my current training. This is an area that should be part of any future RDs' education, especially now.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Too Cold to Think of a Snappy Title

Gah. It's 45º outside, probably colder in here. My feet and toes are purple and numb and the only things keeping my hands and fingers attached to me are typing, burning dog hair, and the metallic warmth of my computer.

My friend Katie posted something about adulthood recently. I've gotten into these conversations with Matt a few times, and my parents still consider me a child in many ways despite their equally frequent insistences that I am the opposite (I have to dwell in these contradictions constantly - maddening.)

So what is adulthood? As I told Katie, I have to fight disparities between my own sense of self and how others perceive me. It seems to be a head game from the start. These people are tracking the fluidity of adulthood. Some - myself included - may be tempted to say, "I know it when I see it." It doesn't feel that easy to me.

Physical maturity / emotional maturity / finish school or degree / financial independence / living independently / significant relationships / home / marriage / children /

These seem to summarize the main indicators of adulthood. The problem is that it presupposes a singular track of life in a certain order (not necessarily how I organized it, though) and just one view. For some people, it can also include leaving behind pre-adult interests: certain music, toys, movies, artistic pursuits, views of the world, friends.

So am I an adult? I'm not sure. I'm certainly old enough to be considered an adult; a quarter-century on this planet can do that to a person. Mentally, I've always been an adult who has been trying to be a child for once. In other ways, I would have to leave that to friends and family to answer.

Time to warm up the bed...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

For Everyone in Internet Funfunland!

To My (Future) Friends and (Future) Colleagues,

Ah, privacy...I don’t need it because I do want everyone and their supporting businesses to know what brand of soap I use whenever I shower (Dove, btw), the type of floss I floss with (Crest is my buddy-for-life), and the toothbrush I abuse (come here Oral-B!)

I keep thinking about the idea of modern-day ghosts (or “spooks” in Gibson’s latest novel), people who have no online record of any sort - bills, purchases, journals, search engines, email accounts, photos, personal records - nothing. They are essentially invisible. This has become a difficult entity to be without assuming a false persona since government, business, and personal records are increasingly accessible online.

If privacy is such a big issue for you (and I know it can scare the hiccups out of people who are fully aware of the situation), then don’t go online. Ever. Then you would only have to deal with the physical records and computer records kept as a result of what you do out in the “real” world. Simple enough, yeah? Or alternately, hook up with some good hackers and computer security folks and learn how they secure themselves (or better yet, become one of *them*).

Of course, those are the two extremes. What’s the average schlemiel do? (I can say that because I’m part Jewish and I study the Torah every day and there’s a sub-mitzvot that states the conditions for the use of that word.)

You can start by not doing anything online on a personal computer. This means putting any factual info about your actual self on a computer you bought and own. Don’t put up anything you’re not willing to share with the entire world, which would include possible stalkers, serial murderers, high-school-bombing terrorists, cannibal lovers, your friendly national government, or Prozac-happy salesmen wanting to show you their “new product” in their “bag.” This would include your real name (e.g. Ezekiel Jeremiah Deadman), your phone number (666-CALLS-ME), your address (corner of Baka and Chyun) and what-have-you.

So what I am saying is this: think about what you’re putting on your Facebook/MySpace/LJ/weblog/Flickr/Google/skin scroll the next time you’re online. Someone will be able to find that information without much difficulty - well, that last one may pose some problems but that should be the least of your worries, eh? So be safe, know all the facts, and join me in my paranoia.

(I’d wear something better than this.)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Spam, spam, spam

Well, I just got my first spam comment. Awesome. Time to moderate comments...

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Music Discovered in 2007 - Preliminaries

I am not a music critic and I don't see myself as resembling anything like a music critic*. I don't have a very good memory for some names and songs, and I have a rudimentary understanding of music theory from playing the flute during middle school. I can't rattle off the influences and analogs of a band without a lot of research.

*I have some problems with how "music critics" operate nowadays.

I do like a good song even though sometimes I would be hardpressed to say what I like about a song and why. That said, there have been many good songs and albums up to this time of the year. Here are a few:

Dethklok's The Deth Album - a death metal album that is good technically and doesn't take itself too seriously.
The New Pornographers's Challengers - not as immediately rewarding as their previous albums (haven't heard Electric Version, though) but satisfying nonetheless.
Madlib's Beat Konducta vol. 3-4: India & Oh No's Exodus into Unheard Rhythms/Dr. No's Oxperiment - all of which are hip-hop instrumentals that can stand up as cohesive "albums."
Jens Lekman's Night Falls Over Kortedala - almost perfect.
St. Vincent's Marry Me - like Lekman's album.
Ted Leo & the Pharmacists' Living with the Living - despite some weak songs, there are many outstanding tracks (Sons of Cain, A Bottle of Buckie, Bomb.Repeat.Bomb, La Costa Brava, The Unwanted Things, C.I.A.)
Roisin Murphy's Overpowered - more of a Euro dance pop sheen applied this time around but the eccentricities are intact.
The Clientele's God Save the Clientele - a little better than Strange Geometry but with a much brighter outlook.
Electrelane's No Shouts No Calls - of course, like Sleater-Kinney, they go on indefinite hiatus after releasing their best album of their career thus far.
Feist's The Reminder - if having the songs pop up in Old Navy stores and on iPod commericals aren't enough of an indication, this is a really good album.
LCD Soundsystem's Sound of Silver - ditto.
Anoushka Shankar & Karsh Kale's Breathing Under Water - even with a guest appearance from Sting, the album is surprisingly addictive.
Blonde Redhead's 23 - some unfortunate timing with the Jim Carrey/Joel Schumacher film but much, much better than the film.

Waffles' "Need You" - the band and the singer push themselves on this song, and even though they overreach, the results are still wonderful.
Les Savy Fav's "The Equestrian" - because I like mixing horse metaphors and sex?

There will be more but I can't fit it all now...

Fashion Faux Pas, Part 1

Some of what I've seen and/or experienced:

Blazer or suit jacket's shoulders are too wide or narrow - the latter hurts while the former makes you look slightly robotic or as if you are wearing shoulder pads.

Gaudy t-shirts - man, you must have a lot of confidence and ego to even attempt wearing a loud and gaudy shirt. You probably also don't mind blinding people with your TechnicolorDreamcoat, either.

Too many shirt buttons unbuttoned - you might as well unbutton it all the way or forego the shirt in the first place.

Pants halfway down the derrière - unless you have a mic in your hand and you're rapping about your money/female troubles against a booming backbeat and your name is Jay-Z, this should not be seen.

Pants that are too big or small, too long or short - a huge problem. Too big and you look like you're wearing a skirt. Too small and it looks like you might be in pain and having a semi-erection all the time. Too long and you look short child who accidentally wore his father's pants. Too short and it looks like you can't wash your clothes properly or you're wearing capri pants - I have yet to see a man be able to pull off wearing capris.

Pants without belts - just plain look bizarre.

Butt cleavage - leave that to your plumbing professional.

No underwear or wearing thongs - shall we keep shaking hands and touching things in general to a minimum?

Most of your underwear shows when bent down/over - not a big fan. It reminds me too much of fat guys and strip shows, which conflates to fat guys who do strip shows - not a pleasant image. Also, the situation seems so unfair that I feel compelled to show you my underwear in exchange and no one wants that.

Too much cleavage - showing some is fine, but excessive cleavage is not so good if you want a man to talk to and look into your eyes and not your breasts.

*Revealing skin in general - to me, there is a lot of gray area here. Some women can wear a lot of clothing and still look fantastic. It depends on your comfort, confidence, body type, the type of look you are going for, and the kind of attention you want to attract. Personally, it seems more skill and fashion sense are involved in looking more attractive with more clothing than with less.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


It has been a hectic two weeks. Last weekend I was conducting interviews of family members for an essay about generational diet changes and doing research on beriberi outbreaks in the world for a group oral presentation the entire 3-day weekend and this past week. I'm halfway done with reviewing for a food science exam on Monday and have to finish reading an article from the ADA about aging and nutrition before this weekend ends.

So it's the end of the semester. Fun times.

Thankfully, a few things have been keeping me sane during this period of compressed learning:
Jens Lekman - his new album is I can't stop listening to that sweet nectar in my car. Or at home. Or whenever I take a walk. Or when I'm reading. Or...
Sally Shapiro - whose album finally reached the U.S. this past month and just in time for the winter season.
Soap - seriously.
Yotsuba&! - one of the rare books (let alone manga) where reading it causes me to laugh out like I heard a joke from my invisible friend.

Dress List

Overcoat, black or dark gray or light brown
Single- or double-breasted suits, blue and gray
Blazer, navy
Shoes, black and dark brown
White shirts
Blue shirt
Polo shirts
Tie, dark and slim
Jeans, blue
Belt, black and brown
Socks, black and cotton
Pants, flat or pleated
Sweater, crewneck

Baseball cap
Knit hat
Watch, metal and nonmetal

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Late Night Randomness and Friends!

-My friends are wonderful. Matt and Abby just sent me a copy of the entire run of Freaks and Geeks as a birthday present. YES! Can't wait to watch it once I have some free time. My eyes are still burning from finding information on beriberi for the past 4 hours...

-Since Halloween (well, much earlier actually) I've been feeling a little fashion-conscious, which comes and goes depending on where I am and whom I'm with. Right now, I've been looking at what passes for classic men's fashion nowadays. Granted, that last one is a little...unsavory and not classic in any sense whatsoever compared to the others, but I know of one too many male friends who seem to have a sense of style that comes from that last source. It wouldn't hurt to look at it, would it? Also, I'm fairly ignorant when it comes to any sort of fashion sense or developing a sense of style and that's something I should address as a man.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

For a Friend

1.) The Great Pyramid of Giza - background for the following links
2.) Chris Dunn's website
3.) Margaret Morris's response to Dunn
4.) Another response to Dunn, this time from Alan Alford
and finally, pages 20-22 of Crecy

Aside from Crecy, I haven't read Dunn's book and these articles thoroughly, but it's a good idea to maintain a healthy skepticism about these topics. Then again, we may just be rediscovering lost knowledge again and again. Personally, I think the Crecy excerpt sums up my view of people and technology from previous eras.

Friday, November 2, 2007

"Be thin to cut cancer, study says"

Of course, that's not the only recommendation made in the report, which is linked to the article and quite hefty (400+ pages). It's a comprehensive review of the latest literature on cancer and lifestyle choices. There's supposed to be a follow-up report next year - something I look forward to reading.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

My Quote of the Day

"...I could have convinced him Christianity sanctions Mass consumption of babies if I didn't have a class to attend."

Words to Be Used Sparingly or Not At All

Siren - see next.
Muse - this, along with the previous, is too much of a cliché, especially in music writing.
Genius - hard to define so why throw it around?
Curse words, in general - if I can't grind you down through a cascade of words, I have failed somehow...
Lyrical - my big flaw.
Nutshell - unless I'm talking about nuts.

More to follow...

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Birthday weekend

I became 25 this past weekend. Still not sure what it means if anything. Went to the state fair, a Japanese tea garden, English tea house. Got a luchador mask at the state fair. Words fail me. It gives me ideas.

Halloween's coming up quick as well as Dia de los Muertos. Prepared for the former, not the latter. School is going to be interesting that day...

Friday, October 12, 2007

Over a month since the last post...

And I still don't know what to do with this thing. Hmm...let's try this:

David Foster Wallace's opening essay (via Bookslut) is a sadly funny essay, a little bewildering to read at times. It seems to be a person who is confronted by Total Noise on a daily basis and is slowly resigned over how to deal with it. In many ways, I sympathize with Wallace. Here is someone who is almost twice as old as me and has spent 1/4 of his life with the Internet. I am almost a quarter century old and have spent almost half my life with the Internet (the first time our family connected was 1996/1997 with AOL before it became a megalith and then a slumbering giant). The amount of information available now is just unprecedented. Yet I wonder how much older stores of information is lost or shed from the physical world while new, virtual information comes into existence.

How do we cope with these worlds? How should we cope with these worlds? If we were to describe our current worlds to someone in the past, would it be any different than a shaman or elder describing their people's own cosmology to a curious tribe member? Taking religion, the spiritual, and the metaphysical out of the mix and dealing primarily with the secular, physical, scientific, technological, virtual matrices (worldspheres?) that we find ourselves enmeshed in, would the stories and descriptions we provide to others be any different?

I guess such questions are what draw me to a lot of writing that attempts to grapple with how to live in our strange, distressing, often beautiful world. Such questions have haunted me since I started having a conscious recollection of experiences (about 3 or 4 years old) and will continue to haunt me until I am finished with this life.

The Habermas Reader edited by William Outhwaite
Nutritional science texts
Hungry Planet: What the World Eats by Peter Menzel, Faith D'Aluisio
Graduation - Kanye West
Imagine Our Love - Lavender Diamond
We Are The Pipettes - The Pipettes
The Two EPs - Smokey & Miho

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Science, science, science

It's funny that I'm going back to school to become a dietitian in that I am terrible at science. By that I mean that when it comes to dealing directly with "hard" science, I find myself hitting a wall. I come across a lot of terminology that I need to recall both for the short-term and for the long-term. How do I do that?

Looking over how I remembered certain things in the past, it seems that I bring up certain memories more readily when I make many and varied associations with that one particular memory (probably why I sometimes have a difficult time speaking about a subject I'm good at) and also when I don't learn the subject under duress or great stress. If I enjoy learning about something like the general history of classical music prior to the late 19th century, then I can remember more of it when I *want* to learn it. So it seems I need to follow Proust's advice: "We do not succeed in changing things according to our desire, but gradually our desire changes" (via Sandman Mystery Theatre).

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Purpose -Potato 'fuel of human evolution'

So what will this be used for aside news of interest?...


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