Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for December 2nd, 2009

One more thing about the MBT shoes

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I just figured out one thing: why, compared to traditional shoes, the MBT shoes feel alive and responsive. For example, when you’re simply standing, with the MBT shoes your foot position is dynamic, though the range of motion is small: a little rocking and tiny tipping this way and that. But that little, constant movement makes your feet feel alive and involved. In a regular shoe your feet instead lie immobile, trapped in position.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 December 2009 at 8:31 pm

Posted in Daily life, Technology

Ghailani’s Speedy-Trial Challenge

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Marcy Wheeler:

Ahmed Ghailani’s lawyers have moved to have his indictment dismissed because he was denied a speedy trial. As a reminder, Ghailani is being tried for his involvement in the African embassy bombings, under an indictment first filed in 1998. His lawyers are arguing that the government held and interrogated Ghailani for 57 months (with two years in a Black Site) before they moved to try him on that indictment that was pending during that entire period of detention.

At the end of the day, certain things appear to be irrefutable: (1) the delay was caused by deliberate Government action which would knowingly deprive Mr. Ghailani of his right to a Speedy Trial; (2) the reason to cause this delay was the Government’s desire to interrogate Mr. Ghailani extensively about matters that involved the same entity and co-conspirators that were part of the charged indictment; and (3) by being able to interrogate Mr. Ghailani for as long as they did and in the manner and under the conditions that they did, the Government obtained the information it sought, without having to enter into a voluntary and binding plea agreement that could have allowed the Government to obtain the same information that the Government sought but after he was arraigned and provided counsel in the Southern District of New York.

In short, and in the interests of national security, the Government got what it desired, when it desired, but at the expense of denying Mr. Ghailani his Constitutional right to a Speedy Trial on the pending Indictment.

Now, the motion is going to be unique among potential Article III defendants, since no other detainees are known to have pending indictments in an Article III court. But it will be an early read on whether and how abuse will be introduced into these cases. There are extensive pages describing Ghailani’s treatment–all of which have been redacted in the public filing. The motion notes that: …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 December 2009 at 4:42 pm

On Canada’s threat to world peace

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George Manbiot at AlterNet:

When you think of Canada, which qualities come to mind? The world’s peace-keeper, the friendly nation, a liberal counterweight to the harsher pieties of its southern neighbor, decent, civilized, fair, well-governed? Think again. This country’s government is now behaving with all the sophistication of a chimpanzee’s tea party. So amazingly destructive has Canada become, and so insistent have my Canadian friends been that I weigh into this fight, that I’ve broken my self-imposed ban on flying and come to Toronto.

So here I am, watching the astonishing spectacle of a beautiful, cultured nation turning itself into a corrupt petrostate. Canada is slipping down the development ladder, retreating from a complex, diverse economy towards dependence on a single primary resource, which happens to be the dirtiest commodity known to man. The price of this transition is the brutalisation of the country, and a government campaign against multilateralism as savage as any waged by George Bush.

Until now I believed that the nation which has done most to sabotage a new climate change agreement was the United States. I was wrong. The real villain is Canada. Unless we can stop it, the harm done by Canada in December 2009 will outweigh a century of good works.

In 2006 the new Canadian government announced that it was abandoning its targets to cut greenhouse gases under the Kyoto Protocol. No other country that had ratified the treaty has done this. Canada was meant to have cut emissions by 6% between 1990 and 2012. Instead they have already risen by 26%.

It’s now clear that Canada will refuse to be sanctioned for abandoning its legal obligations. The Kyoto Protocol can be enforced only through goodwill: countries must agree to accept punitive future obligations if they miss their current targets. But the future cut Canada has volunteered is smaller than that of any other rich nation. Never mind special measures; it won’t accept even an equal share. The Canadian government is testing the international process to destruction and finding that it breaks all too easily. By demonstrating that climate sanctions aren’t worth the paper they’re written on, it threatens to render any treaty struck at Copenhagen void.

After giving the finger to Kyoto, Canada then set out to prevent the other nations from striking a successor agreement. At the end of 2007 it single-handedly blocked a Commonwealth resolution to support binding targets for industrialised nations. After the climate talks in Poland in December 2008, it won the Fossil of the Year award, presented by environmental groups to the country which had done most to disrupt the talks. The climate change performance index, which assesses the efforts of the world’s 60 richest nations, was published in the same month. Saudi Arabia came 60th. Canada came 59th…

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 December 2009 at 4:40 pm

The GOP obstruction manual

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The GOP really does dislike government, and they are doing their best to ensure that the government doesn’t function. Steve Benen at Political Animal:

If Republican lawmakers put half as much energy into learning policy details as they do into obstructionism, Congress would be a more credible, effective institution.

Sen. Judd Gregg, (R-NH) has penned the equivalent of an obstruction manual — a how-to for holding up health care reform — and has distributed the document to his Republican colleagues.

Insisting that it is "critical that Republican senators have a solid understanding of the minority’s rights in the Senate," Gregg makes note of all the procedural tools the GOP can use before measures are considered, when they come to the floor and even after passage.

He highlights the use of "hard quorum calls for any motion to proceed, as opposed to a far quicker unanimous consent provision. He reminds his colleagues that, absent unanimous consent, they can force the Majority Leader to read any "full-text substitute amendment." And when it comes to offering amendments to the health care bill, the New Hampshire Republican argues that it is the personification of "full, complete, and informed debate," to "offer an unlimited number of amendments — germane or non-germane — on any subject."

The details of Gregg’s outline are a clear reflection of the extent to which Republicans are turning to the Byzantine processes of the Senate chamber as a means of holding up reform. And doing so with eagerness.

For the record, Senate Republicans now have a detailed obstructionism plan, but not a detailed health care reform plan.

Sam Stein posted the full text of Gregg’s three-page memo, which offers specific instructions on all of the various ways GOP senators can interfere, interrupt, and undermine the legislative process — not to improve the bill to make it more to Republicans’ liking, but just for the same of obstructionism.

Jim Manley, a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), said, "Just in time for the holidays, here it is in black and white, the Republicans’ manual for stall, stop and delay."

In the meantime, debate is in its third day, and thanks to senseless and unnecessary Republican objections, not a single amendment has received a vote. Brian Beutler reported that Democrats are now making it clear that the Senate will "stay in session through Christmas" — working on Dec. 25 — if the GOP’s blind obstructionism continues.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told reporters, "We’re just not going to sit here forever and watch this bill go down."

Written by LeisureGuy

2 December 2009 at 4:37 pm

Only the rich pay taxes???

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John Amato at Crooks & Liars:

If conservatives are correct and only the rich pay taxes, then… why do Americans care if taxes are raised at all? And why should Americans care about tax cuts also?

As you guys know, I watch the mind-numbingly sophomoric Fox Saturday block of Stock Shows that goes by the name of "The Cost of Freedom." They consist of four 30-minute shows, and every single week there’s an idiot on who says the only people that pay taxes are the richest members of our society.

OK, let’s say I agree. Then why should 290,000,000 Americans more or less give a rip about the ramifications of raising taxes? They make the argument for us that taxes should be raised since only the very rich pay them.

Dave Neiwert wrote about this in one of his earlier posts: Populism: It’s all the right-wing rage these days

The Tea Parties, in every incarnation — from the Tax Day protests to the health-care town halls to the "Tea Party Express" and the "912 March on Washington" to Michele Bachmann’s lame "Super Bowl of Freedom" — has been all about populism, and it is distinctly right-wing populism.

A giveaway moment came during Sean Hannity’s April 15 evening "Tea Party" broadcast from Atlanta, when he brought in a live feed from the Rick and Bubba Tea Tantrum in Alabama:

Hannity: And I’m going to tell you one other thing: When did we ever get to a point in America where, we’re nearly at the point where fifty percent of Americans don’t pay anything in taxes! Nothing!

[Crowd boos]

Rick: The numbers out are just astounding that, that, how much that the very top taxpayers actually pay. I feel like these taxpayers are disenfranchised. I want them to have a share of the burden just like they have a share of the vote.

That’s right — it’s the wealthy top percentage of the country that needs a tax break. After all, they are the one Obama’s targeting, right? So at least they’re being upfront about just who "the taxpayers" are whose interests they’re out marching to defend…read on

Don’t you feel sorry for these poor rich bastards? If this is their argument, then I say President Obama should impose immediate tax increases like a war tax, a health-insurance tax and a jobs creation tax on the top tier of Americans. Make it a payroll tax and take it right out of their checks every pay period. That would immediately satisfy the deficit scolds.

After all, who will care if it’s only the Fox Noise demographic? In the end all conservative policies do is destroy the least of us. They treat the American worker like trained seals, whose only function in life is to fuel their wealth.

Digby has more:

I think they tend to make their judgments about the upper and lower classes based as much on tribalism as anything else. (Recall that the populist hero Ross Perot was a billionaire who made his fortune from government contracts — but he sounded like a good old boy.) These things never play themselves out exactly the same ways but the fundamental appeals remain the same. The upper levels of society usually find a way to pull the strings and control these people, but the more vulnerable often suffer quite a bit at their hands. Neiwert’s piece is a very important primer for those of us who are trying to understand where this Palin-Beck teabag phenomenon comes from and how it relates to other right0wing philosophies like Randism and militias. At the end of the day it all translates into ugly know-nothingism that lashes out at everyone but the adherents themselves, who see themselves as the defenders of the Real America.

I get the impulse and I feel the same frustrations. But their solutions are always worse than the problems they seek to solve.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 December 2009 at 4:33 pm

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Government

More on neti pots

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Written by LeisureGuy

2 December 2009 at 4:27 pm

Posted in Daily life, Medical, Science

Potentially dangerous chemicals in newborn umbilical cord blood

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Somehow, humans must stop polluting their environment. The problem is that businesses, always eager to externalize costs, work to find ways to discard instead of sequester pollutants. Here’s the story by Sara Goodman in Scientific American:

U.S. minority infants are born carrying hundreds of chemicals in their bodies, according to a report released today by an environmental group.

The Environmental Working Group’s study commissioned five laboratories to examine the umbilical cord blood of 10 babies of African-American, Hispanic and Asian heritage and found more than 200 chemicals in each newborn.

"We know the developing fetus is one of the most vulnerable populations, if not the most vulnerable, to environmental exposure," said Anila Jacobs, EWG senior scientist. "Their organ systems aren’t mature and their detox methods are not in place, so cord blood gives us a good picture of exposure during this most vulnerable time of life."

Of particular concern to Jacobs: 21 newly detected contaminants, including the controversial plastics additive bisphenol A, or BPA, which mimics estrogen and has been shown to cause developmental problems and precancerous growth in animals. Last month, researchers reported that male Chinese factory workers exposed to high levels of the chemical experienced erectile dysfunction and other sexual problems.

"BPA is a really important finding because people are really aware about its potential toxicity," Jacobs told reporters. "This is the first study to find BPA in umbilical cord blood, and it correlates with national data on it."

Jacobs said the study focused on minority children to show that chemical exposure is ubiquitous, building on 2005 research on cord blood from 10 anonymous babies. That study found a similar body burden among the babies. This is the first study to look at chemicals in minority newborns.

"Minority groups may have increased exposure to certain chemicals, but here we didn’t focus on those chemicals," Jacobs said. "The sample size is too small to see major differences, but we want to increase awareness about chemical exposures." …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 December 2009 at 2:06 pm

Check your Representative

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This is cool:

We’ve put up a new database.

On Monday, the House published their Statements of Disbursements online for the first time, giving us a new digital view into how the US House spends public funds.

Today, the Sunlight Foundation is releasing a searchable database of members’ expenditures, one dataset within the broader PDF released earlier this week.

Since the expenses were released in a PDF, they’re difficult to search or analyze. Large datasets like this are best accessed as data, where sorting and grouping make patterns visible, and alternative visualizations possible.

That’s why we’ve digitized some of the document’s contents — to make them more meaningful and accessible.

To understand what the numbers mean, we recommend consulting the materials presented on disbursements.house.gov, which has been lauded for its completeness.

We’ll have much more to share on this data soon, from many different angles.

Update: Here’s coverage from Sunlight’s Real Time Investigations.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 December 2009 at 2:00 pm

Posted in Congress

Walk report

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Very overcast day—a day when normally I would have skipped the walk, but with HabitForge nipping at my heels, I was out the door as soon as I finished the dishes. 50 min 7 sec today: 3.12 mph. Coming along.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 December 2009 at 1:52 pm

Posted in Daily life, Fitness, Health

How do you disprove a Harvard study?

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Specifically, how do you disprove Harvard’s landmark study showing 45,000 Americans die each year for lack of health care? Turns out, it’s easy (for the Right): Just say that you went to Harvard.

What??

Read this David Sirota column.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 December 2009 at 11:54 am

Posted in Daily life, GOP, Healthcare

Good idea: A roof that’s white in summer, black in winter

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Check it out.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 December 2009 at 11:51 am

Posted in Daily life, Technology

War-fraud whistleblowers

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Very interesting article by Dina Rasor at Truthout:

Recently, the Congressional Research Service released an amazing statistic – it will cost one million dollars a year to support one soldier for one year in Afghanistan.

This mind-blowing number partly includes the cost of private contractors who have moved into areas of support that have been strictly military in the past. Estimates for the numbers of contractors have been as high as one contractor for every soldier. As President Obama prepares to announce his decision on Afghanistan, the price of this war is also on his mind since he included Peter Orszag, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, in his last war council.

One of the reasons for the high costs of maintaining each soldier is the lack of oversight of private contractor billings over the course of these two wars. The Department of Defense (DOD), and especially the Army, has fought the auditors and the investigators in the military who have attempted to expose fraud, waste, overbillings and other abuses of costs in contractor contracts. The contractors, using contingency contracting, which is similar to the old cost plus contracts, knew that their profits and, more important, their future task orders and contracts would be priced based on what they spend in the beginning of the wars. So the contractor billing meter, especially in labor costs, spun vigorously in the first years of the war with little oversight. When the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) tried to withhold a small percentage of payment from KBR, the largest contractor, because it believed that the billings were excessive and they wanted to scrub the numbers, the Army pushed past the DCAA and paid KBR the excessive costs. This set the tone to let the contractor billings run wild.

Click here to see Truthout’s Matt Renner interview Dina Rasor.

These unscrubbed, uninvestigated contractor billings promise to become the base costs for all the future contracts with all the fraud, waste and fat built into the baseline of future war contractor contracts. That is partly how it can cost a million dollars to take care of each soldier in Afghanistan for a year. KBR, the largest contractor which supports most of the Army’s basic needs, has already run up a bill of over $32 billion to feed troops, do their laundry, drive trucks and maintain the buildings in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is a service industry with no big plants or permanent workforce to maintain; yet it has billed an astonishing amount of money for everyday tasks.

So where are all the whistleblowers who have witnessed this fraud? …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 December 2009 at 11:38 am

The Family moves on to gay genocide

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The Family, a religious right movement, was described in detail in Jeff Sharlet’s book, and since then has been getting some well-deserved attention. Steven D at The Booman Tribune describes how they are now involved in Uganda’s drastic measures against gays.

UPDATE: Rachel Maddow interviews Jeff Sharlet on this question.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 December 2009 at 11:34 am

A GTD-focused Web-based To-do list

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GTD—"Getting Things Done"—is the methodology developed by Dave Allen in the book of the same name. Many people, James Fallows among them, find the ideas in the book to work well and help one get on top of the numerous things that one must do in daily life and at work.

Now there’s a Web application that is based on the principles in the book, so if you’re a GTD fan, take a look.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 December 2009 at 11:30 am

Posted in Daily life, Software

“When the Day Breaks”

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Written by LeisureGuy

2 December 2009 at 11:25 am

Posted in Daily life, Video

Common sense vs. Expertise

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The GOP has elevated "common sense" well above having actual knowledge. The contempt the Right has for experts, scholars, and the well-educated knows no bounds, despite the severe limitations of "common sense" in addressing complex problems and, indeed, just in getting things right. Matt Yglesias comments:

Damon Linker has an interesting post about the problematic history of invocations of “common sense” in American political rhetoric, tracing it from Thomas Paine’s famous book through to McCarthy, George W. Bush, and Glenn Beck.

As long as we’re on the subject, however, it’s worth just making the basic point that common sense tends to be an extremely poor guide to technical issues. It’s common sense that heavy objects fall faster than light ones, and there’s absolutely nothing commonsensical about the correct answer to the Monty Hall Problem. It’s common sense that something called a “strong” dollar must be good, but in fact whether or not it’s good depends on the situation. It’s common sense that when families across the nation tighten their belts, the government should too, but it’s wrong. In fact, the reverse is true and the government ought to get more parsimonious when the private sector is flush, and vice versa. It’s common sense that if you can’t smell or taste or see atmospheric carbon dioxide it must not be a big problem, but it is!

And sensible people recognize that common sense is not, at the end of the day, a particularly reliable guide. It’s common sense that the way to make a heavier-than-air object fly is to imitate birds and have wings that flap. But nobody thinks that anymore, just as nobody today would deny that it’s possible that invisible rays emanating from uranium can give you cancer.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 December 2009 at 11:22 am

Posted in Daily life, Education, GOP

Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva

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The  Atlantic Monthly had an article on this disease. It has a very high creepiness factor, though the article said that the victims seem to have a positive outlook despite the nature of the disease. What happens is that, due to a genetic mutation, the soft tissues of the body gradually turn to bone. Katherine Harmon has an article on it in the Scientific American:

What would happen if some soft tissue cells in your body randomly got the message to transform into stiff bone cells? Patients born with a disease called fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP) are locked into this fate, often becoming severely disabled before adulthood.

The disease first manifests itself at birth, when a baby appears normal but has bent big toes. By early childhood, however, some of the body’s connective tissues—including muscles, ligaments and tendons—have begun ossifying into skeletal bone, locking the joints and distorting posture and movement. Some bone formation appears to be spontaneous, while some can be brought on by trauma from surgery or even a mild impact.

FOP is one of the most rare genetic diseases known, occurring in about one in two million people, but spontaneous bone development is relatively common in the broader population. This bizarre shift of tissue systems, known as heterotopic ossification in most cases, can be brought on with spinal cord injury, amputation and even hip surgery.  

Eileen Shore, a research associate professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of Pennsylvania, has been studying the disease since 1991. "I always had been interested in development on a cellular level," she says. "What changes a cell, or what regulates a cell to follow certain cell fate decisions? We usually think about development on an organism level, but it was more a question of what determines the personality of the cell?"

When she discovered FOP and the work of Frederick Kaplan, a professor of orthopedic surgery at Penn, she realized she had found a puzzle that was "a disease of misregulated cell differentiation," she says…

Continue reading. At the link is a photo of the skeleton of a person who had the disease.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 December 2009 at 11:20 am

Posted in Daily life, Medical, Science

Recipe revision

with 2 comments

I found this little recipe in a comment thread at Lifehacker:

I make an oil and dairy-free version of this recipe that all my carnivore friends scarf down en masse. They’re ridiculously high in protein and fiber and you can sprinkle some nutritional yeast (which is packed with protein and vitamins) on them to compensate for cheese. Here’s what you need:

-1 can of unsalted black beans, drained and rinsed.
-1/2 cup of chopped peppers.
-4 Tbsp of Bragg Liquid Aminos (tastes just like soy sauce).
-a pinch of black pepper and sea salt.
-1.5 cups of quick oats (quick oats absorb the best)

Preheat oven to 450 F. Put everything (except oats) into food processor and blend until beans are completely pasty. Get a big bowl and dump in bean mixture. Pour in quick oats and stir until paste is absorbed completely. Use hands to form 6 patties from mixture. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 8 minutes. After 8 minutes, turn oven to broil and flip patties. Cook additional 2-3 minutes, or until patties have browned. Enjoy!

This recipe caught my eye, but for me it has some definite drawbacks, one being that it contains no oil—oil is good to slow down the digestion and give a satisfying feeling of fullness.

Also, no onions! And no garlic, though I would go lightly on the garlic here. Bragg Liquid Aminos, in my opinion, tastes like the very cheapest soy sauce: terribly thin and salty. Go for Eden Organic Shoyu Sauce—just a sniff of its bouquet will convince you. And 1/4 cup?! Too much, I think, but probably needed for the liquid.

Also, I’d like a little crunch in these—say pumpkin seeds, or chopped walnuts. Those would also add a bit more oil.

And I like a little spiciness—a dash of pepper sauce or the like. (Though I’ll leave that out when I make these for The Wife since she currently doesn’t like spicy.)

I also picture these as little cakes—finger food.

Here’s an ingredient list I’ll use:

-1 can of unsalted black beans, drained and rinsed
-1/2 cup of chopped peppers
-1/2 cup of chopped onion
-2 cloves garlic, crushed
-2 Tbsp of Eden Organic Shoyu sauce
-2 Tbsp of Mitoku Hatcho Miso
-1/4 c raw pumpkins seeds or chopped walnuts
-1 egg, beaten with a fork (as a binder, plus more protein)
-1 Tbsp olive oil (I might also brush the little cakes with olive oil and sprinkle sesame seeds on them)
-a pinch of black pepper and sea salt.
-1.5 cups of quick oats

I’ll probably go with rolled oats, which is what I have on hand. The nutritional yeast is not a bad idea to add to the mix, but I don’t have any on hand.

I’ll sauté the green pepper, onions, and garlic in the olive oil before adding to the processor. (Remember: after you crush the garlic, let it sit for 15 minutes or so before sautéing so that the good stuff can stabilize.) I will also probably add just a smidge of crushed red pepper as I sauté.

Just to be perfectly clear: I haven’t yet made these. My ideas above may turn out to be regrettable: bad taste or cakes fall apart. But I don’t think so.

We’ll see. I’m tempted to add just a little Italian flat-leaf parsley, maybe 1/4 cup packed, and sauté that with the onion, pepper, and garlic.

UPDATE: Here’s the final version of the revised recipe.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 December 2009 at 10:34 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Recipes

Observing myself going a new direction

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The interplay between our unconscious and conscious has always interested me. Clearly we can make conscious decisions—my decision to write next about this, for example—but it’s also clear the sometimes the unconscious makes a decision and our consciousness goes along for the ride, offering rationalizations about the direction its now going.

I think I’m observing a blend here. A while back, as you’ll recall, I became quite interested in walking shoes of a new design—first I got a pair of Mephisto Sano shoes, and then I tried the MBT shoes and found that they were the real deal. But I did not immediately start walking—I was just interested (for some reason) in walking shoes.

I was sitting in my chair late one night when I noticed a pain in my armpit—my left armpit. It didn’t seem venous, nor did the pain run down my arm. It was likely some sort of minor irritation. But as I sat there, I realized that I was slowly committing suicide: eating relatively rich foods (though not sugared foods—I’m not that stupid) and doing no exercise at all. The realization that I was quickly checking myself out shook me.

That was just over two weeks ago. I did, of course, start walking—and this time I’m enjoying it, as noted previously. I don’t know to what degree my unconscious contributes to the enjoyment, but it’s possible that the enjoyment has deeper and more practical roots than I realize.

I also found that, without making a conscious decision, that I now like to eat a small lunch (e.g., 1/2 a Whole Foods sandwich) and a small dinner (the other half, along with a Clementine or two and some non-fat cottage cheese). And, strangely, vegetarian recipes are now somehow quite interesting to me and sound very tasty. That also is not the result of a conscious decision, but still I find my interests and tastes going in this new direction.

It’s as though my (somewhat traumatic) realization has had a ripple effect on both conscious and unconscious decisions, and of course as I act in accordance with the new direction, I reinforce all that. (And I do think HabitForge is proving helpful.)

So far, so good.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 December 2009 at 10:04 am

Posted in Daily life, Fitness, Health

Catkins

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While on my walk yesterday, I spotted these catkins:

And, on the next tree:

No idea of the identity of the trees. More about catkins here.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 December 2009 at 9:46 am

Posted in Daily life

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