Sunday, August 16, 2009

Counting Sheep?

I'm not sure if this is Day 4, 5 or 6. My first week on the 90 Day blog and I'm already losing count. My excuse for missing two days is that Friday was my daughter's 9th birthday. And Saturday was the day after my daughter's 9th birthday. So, you know . . .

Today's Stumble brought me to a kind of game called Sheep Dash that's on the BBC's website. This website has a Science & Nature section with a Human Body & Mind subsection in which there is a lot of information about sleep. The Sheep Dash game is designed to test your reaction time and they suggest that you test it first before a cup of coffee or tea and then test it again after a caffeine infusion. If you're tired, you tend to have slower reaction times. The game involves shooting a tranquilizer dart and sheep as they are trying to run out of a pasture. The sheep start out grazing in a group on the left side of the screen. Every few seconds one sheep makes a run for it and you have to click on a button to shoot the dart. The faster you click, the shorter the sheep's run for freedom. My fastest reaction time was .212 seconds - without caffeine. I haven't tried it with caffeine - if I drank coffee now, I wouldn't sleep until tomorrow morning.

One note on the impact of sleep on reaction time - I have read that sleepy drivers are just as dangerous as drunk drivers behind the wheel. So make sure you get your shut eye before you take a drive in my neighborhood, 'k?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Day 3 - a website with more than one page!

On day 1 and on day 2 I stumbled on one page websites (well, day 1's site had other pages but not connected to my landing page). But today I hit a site with some meat to it but not too much which is good because I need to go exercise and I'm using my need to blog about today's Stumble as a procrastination device.*

*Ok well I didn't get around to exercising because writing this post took wayyyy longer than I expected. And also my friend came over with wine and pizza. Oh and this still counts as Day 3 because it's not midnight here yet!

Today's site is called Naturopathyworks - it's the website of Dr. Colleen Huber who is a Naturopathic Medical Doctor. In general, her site is good. There are fairly brief articles regarding various aspects of naturopathic medicine - Nutrition, Botanicals, Environmental Medicine, Homeopathy and Chinese Medicine. The articles aren't jargony and are easy to understand. Much of what Dr. Huber says is common sense. In the Nutrition section she wonders how we can expect our bodies to be healthy when we - as a society in general - eat such unhealthy food. Under Environmental Medicine she notes that in the last 100 years, humans have been exposing themselves to a staggering number of toxic chemicals and that we don't know what the cumulative effect of that exposure is or will be over the longer term. Not surprisingly, the article are written to persuade the reader that naturopathic medicine is superior to allopathic (traditional Western) medicine. To be fair, in her discussion regarding Homeopathic medicine, she discusses the assertions of critics and counters them as best as she can in a short, reader-friendly article. So it isn't as one-sided as other sites I've seen.

One thing in particular that bothered me was the following statement under Nutrition: "Until just a few generations ago our ancestors were wonderfully fit compared with present-day generations. The majority lived good, active, healthy lives and ultimately died peacefully in their sleep." I can't agree with that assertion. I guess it depends on who you count as your ancestors but if your ancestors were serfs in the middle-ages, I'm pretty sure they didn't live good, active, healthy lives.

Maybe a more fair comparison is Native American tribes before Europeans came and "civilized" them. I'm no expert. In truth, I'm kind of making this up based on the little I know about the history of North America. I suppose those people were fit and lived long, healthy lives. Except when they got caught by a saber tooth. Or a warrior from another tribe. Or ate the wrong berry. However, once the Europeans came to visit and brought small pox and gun powder and alcohol and gambling with them it was game over for the health of Native Americans.

I've always been skeptical of claims about the "good old days" of human history. I never really believed that things were so blissful way back when. Human beings are human beings - the details may be different but the same general principles of human nature apply. I really learned the fallacy of those claims in law school when I took a Law and Literature class. The class required us to read a book (in two volumes) by Charles Reznikoff called Testimony (1885-1915) Recitative. Basically, Reznikoff spent 40 years looking through law journals detailing the facts of legal cases across the country decided between 1885 and 1915. He then turned those facts into poetry - sometimes telling stories from more than one perspective (victim, witness, defendant). The poems don't judge innocence or guilt, they recite the facts which are sometimes brutal, sometimes funny but generally interesting from a historical point of view. To a certain extent they detail the trials and tribulations of the average person during that time period.

At the end of this (longer than expected) post, I've written out two of the shorter poems. These are fairly illustrative of the types of poetry in the books. Some of the poems are disturbing - tales of factory and railroad accidents involving children, stories about the treatment of blacks in the south. Most of them involve the same kinds of things that we hear about today - people killing each other, disputes over inheritance and property, divorces, affairs and just plain stupid behavior on the part of criminals.

Although this post started out as kind of a review of the day's Stumble site, I guess it's ending as an assertion that the good old days weren't really all that good. We're dealing with a lot of crap these days - bad economy, chronic health issues including an alarming incidence of obesity, rising crime rates -but the fact is that it's always been this way. It's the nature of humans to struggle with a variety of issues. Today we're much better off than our ancestors were even if we're worse off in some particular areas. On balance, though, I would take being alive in 2009 over living through the industrial revolution as a poor immigrant or living in the time of kings as a serf (maybe it would be ok to be queen, at least on days when no one was trying to kill me and take the throne).

I'm not suggesting that Dr. Huber is wrong about good nutrition being important to our health. But by invoking a false image of the good old days, she loses a little bit of credibility in my book.

Excerpts from Testimony Vol 1 and 2

Under Domestic Scenes:

The young man had been at work during the day
clearing land about their home:
it was a small, one-story log house
reached by a bypath from the road,
among some small jack pine and scrub oak brush.
The house was lighted by two small windows:
one on the north and one to the east.

His wife - a young woman of sixteen
who had been engaged to be married to a neighbor,
a man of sixty,
lighted the lamp
and spread a light meal on the table -
bread and milk. The meal over,
Peter took his accordion from the shelf
and sitting right opposite the window to the east
played "Home Sweet Home."
He had just finished playing it
when a shot was fired from the outside.
Several buckshot pierced his head
and death was so sudden
he still sat upright in his chair
with the accordion in his hands.

From Thefts and Thieves:

About nine o'clock at night, on his way to work,
carrying under his arm a pair of old shoes-
wrapped in paper-
he had passed the railroad tracks
when he heard someone running behind him on the sidewalk.
He turned to see who it was
and was struck in the mouth.
The man who struck him
grabbed him by the arm that held the shoes
and threw him down. He got up-
the shoes he had carried were gone-
and he went to a saloon nearby
to wash the blood off his face.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Stumbling into Day 2 of 90

Today I stumbled up the World Sunlight Map web page. I was so close to re-Stumbling but I promised in my Day 1 post (which should have been Day 2 but whatever . . .) that I would write about whatever I happened upon. No matter what. Although I had to have some exceptions, I am a lawyer after all. We are trained to create loopholes. But this particular site didn't fall into any of my loop holes. It's just that, well, there's not much to it and I didn't immediately think of something to say about it. That's the point of this exercise though. To find something to write about pretty much anything that happens along.

This site shows you the current sunlight and cloud cover across the entire world. It's like your own personal global nanny-cam. Except that you can't see if someone is watching soap operas with your kid instead of playing those Baby Einstein videos you bought. You can see where in the world it is day and where it is night. I guess it's kind of cool but is there any practical use for it? I guess I expect "scientific" websites to have a point. Who's the intended audience for this site? When I last looked at the site a minute ago, it looked like night was just beginning to fall on the east coast of South America. Now what? What do I do with that information? How does that help anyone?

Before I started thinking about this, I would have said that I don't think all websites need to be practical or useful. But I've changed my mind. It seems to me that a website taking up bandwidth on the superhighway should have a point. Even websites that are purely there for entertainment at least entertain (or try to). Even this blog has a point which is to allow me to write all kinds of stuff - good, bad and god awful - in the hopes that someone will read it and connect to it. And it's to record my thoughts and experiences in case my kids are ever interested in seeing a different side of their mom. But why would someone use bandwidth to show what parts of the earth are covered in darkness and clouds? Maybe I'm missing the point. It wouldn't be the first time that happened . . .

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I really am a slacker . . .

So I decided to start this 90 day blog thing and promptly failed to write on day one. My excuse is that I was travelling yesterday. My other excuse is that a friend gave me 40 GB of music on Sunday night (yes, GIGABYTES). And a large portion of it is musicals. I *heart* musical theater! So I spent the better part of the evening going through the music and figuring out what stays on my hard drive (and goes onto my iPod) and what has to stay on the external drive for future use. (I think the jazz music will stay on the drive - I just haven't acquired a taste for it yet).

Anyway, here I am on the "new" Day 1 of the 90 day blog. Because I couldn't think of a theme, I decided that I am going to Stumble on a site each day and write about it. And I'm not going to cheat and stumble a bunch of times to find something more fun or easier or whatever. I'm going to write about the first thing that comes up. Unless it's porn. Or some topic that I find personally abhorrent. But I'll tell you what I stumbled on and why I didn't write about it.

So, my first Stumble is (drum roll please . . . .)

Sidewalk Chalk Guy - apparently this guy draws 3D paintings on the ground. In chalk. And they are incredible. Serious works of art. Unfortunately, the site these pictures are on( doesn't have any additional information about the guy. Like who he is and where he does his work so I did a little research (and by research I mean that I Googled "Sidewalk Chalk Guy" and found stuff - what would I do without Google?).

His name is Julian Beever and he has done his work all over the world. I can't imagine spending all that time and effort to create something so beautiful only to have it walked on and washed away. How do these "impermanent" artists live with that? What is it that draws them to that type of expression? I suppose it's permanent because it's photographed. And it brings great art to people who might not go to an art museum - it is truly public art. If I were to (literally) stumble on this as I was walking down the street, it would take my breath away. There's something magical about being able to connect with an audience in that way.

I spent about 15 minutes looking at pictures of his work trying to pick a favorite but I just couldn't pick one. I really hope I'm able to see his work in person one of these days.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Hello old friend . . .

I miss writing. I miss this blog. I miss myself . . .

In my last post I said I needed to stop writing here because of my impending divorce. I was worried that I could write something that my soon-to-be-ex would try to use against me should custody become an issue. The fact is, I'm an excellent mother and there's nothing about me that would be cause for concern in this arena but I've become cautious lately and some well-meaning friends have counseled me to stop posting here. Or at least to stop writing about my ADD or my mental state in general.

I suppose I could be writing in a personal journal but I worry that the journal might be found . . . so I end up talking to myself which is not nearly as fulfilling. Or permanent. And in talking to myself, I sometimes talk myself into an unpleasant place but, for some reason, writing usually leads me to a more enlightened, uplifting place. So, what's a girl to do?

I stumbled on this post at Ken and Paper (one of my favorite blogs along with Ken's other blog, Mildly Creative). Ken is starting to do a series of 90 Day Blogs - he picks a project and sets out to write at least one sentence a day about that project. His current project is exercise. It got me thinking that if I could pick something uncontroversial (in terms of a pending divorce - so studying witchcraft would be out of the question), I could get myself back in the habit of daily writing and maybe complete a project or develop a new habit or just get myself out of my own head for awhile.

So my project for the next couple of days is to pick a project that I can stick with for 90 days. I have never been good at choosing things - picking out a birthday card is usually an hour long project for me. And there are so many good options - I could follow Ken's lead and pick exercise or I could write about aromatherapy which I've started studying. Or I could do something more general like "alternative health care" so that I'm more likely to stick with it for 90 days (because maybe I'll get bored with aromatherapy by next week - I sometimes burn out on things quickly). Other ideas I've been bouncing around for the blog - working on an article/book about my mom's generation, starting a business selling hand made items, energy healing, religious history, Broadway musicals (what I would write about that I have no idea . . .). Ack - there are too many things I'm interested in!

I'll just put it out to the universe and see what comes to me. So, Universe, what should I spend 90 days thinking about, working on and writing about? Any good ideas?