Sunday, 30 November 2008

Eat, Pray, Love

'Eat, Pray, Love' hs been rhapsodized over by Oprah and loved by many, recommended to me personally by online chums, and on the bestseller list forever. So I thought I'd give it a go.

It's about a 34-year-old writer who gets divorced and decides she wants to take a year out to go on a quest for 'herself'. After some thought and few (what she considers) 'signs', she decides to spend 4 months each in Italy, India and Indonesia: Italy because she likes the language and the food, India because she's into yoga and meditation, and Indonesia because a 'medicine man' in Bali once told her that she'd go back there one day. Also, she liked that all the countries start with 'I'.

Can I just say, alarm bells started going off for me at once. Right, who is this chick? What has her life got to do with me? She spends the first quarter of the book talking about how her ex-husband takes her personal fortune, which she keeps reminding us is not inconsiderable. She keeps mentioning her successful plays and books, her New York apartment, her this that and the other. And what makes her think that eating her way through Italy, then locking herself in a meditation cave in India, then moving on to 'experiencing' the curious ways of the Balinese is a way to enlightenment? (Or as Ace Ventura says, 'to achieve spiritual creaminess, and avoid the chewy chunks of degradation'. Ha) What's more, what makes her think we're interested in her privileged version of personal existential angst and discovery? Even though I have spent many times myself lying sobbing on my bathroom floor, when I read about her doing it, my main response was, am I supposed to care about you now? I am not sure how I can have so many feelings in common with someone and still come away as ambivalent toward her as I felt.

So...not a good start, then. Still, I kept reading, even though I could see right away that I would find this Liz Gilbert annoying and intimidating if I met her in person. (She talks a lot about being tall, blonde and slim, and having a life-of-the-party, outgoing personality. Great. Rich, beautiful, at ease with others, successful--but unhappy. Poor Liz.) BUT people had recommended this book to me, they said I'd like it! So, on I read.

EAT
In Italy, Liz eats A LOT, learns Italian, and spends a lot of time admiring the 'dark-eyed beauty' of Italian men. Well, I couldn't relate, preferring wholesome vegetarian fare and pale, lanky Englishmen. I couldn't understand what these 4 months were supposed to be teaching her, and by extension, me. From what I could gather, she drank a lot of wine, wandered around 'experiencing' Italy and gained 23 pounds. So basically, she needed an extended vacation. I guess there's nothing wrong with that, if you can afford it. But what does it have to do with anything? She kept saying she wanted to find a balance between pleasure and devotion, then declares that she put her yoga mat in her suitcase and did not meditate once the entire time she was in Italy. Nice balance.

PRAY
I got through the Italy segment because the India segment was supposed to be the part that I would like, so I was told. In India, Liz goes and lives in an ashram for 4 months, to study a yoga taught by a particular guru who she wouldn't name because she didn't want the ashram to be overburdened as a result of the book. (Okay, then. Expecting overwhelming success, are we?) Of the three segments, this one was my favourite, but that is faint praise. In the ashram, Liz complains of the vegetarian food but packs away enough of it that one of the other participants nicknames her 'Groceries', and spends most of her time either scrubbing the temple floor or trying to tame her monkey mind.

There were some good sentiments in this section:

So I've started being vigilant about watching my thoughts all day, and monitoring them. I repeat this vow about 700 times a day: 'I will not harbor unhealthy thoughts anymore.' Every time a diminishing though arises, I repeat the vow. I WILL NOT HARBOR UNHEALTHY THOUGHTS ANYMORE. The first time I heard myself say this, my inner ear perked up at the word 'harbor,' which is a noun as well as a verb. A harbor, of course, is a place of refuge, a port of entry. I pictured the harbor of my mind--a little beat-up, perhaps, a little storm-worn, but will situated and with a nice depth...

You may not come here anymore with your hard and abusive thoughts, with your plague ships of thoughts, with your slave ships of thoughts, with your warships of thoughts--all these will be turned away. Likewise, any thoughts that are filled with antry or starving exiles, with malcontents and pamphleteers, with mutineers and violent assassins, desperate prostitutes, pimps and seditious stowaways--you may not come here anymore, either. Cannibalistic thoughts, for obvious reasons, will no longer be received. Even missionaries will be screened carefully, for sincerity. This is a peaceful harbor, the entryway to a fine and proud island that is only now begining to cultivate tranquillity. If you can abide by these new laws, my dear thoughts, then you are welcome in my mind--otherwise, I shall turn you back toward the sea from whence you came.

That is my mission, and it will never end.



Here are a couple more good quotes:

You should never give yourself a chance to fall apart, because when you do, it becomes a tendency and it happens over and over again.

I need this message!

God dwells within you, as you.

God dwells within you as yourself, exactly the way you are. God isn't interested in watching you enact a performance of personality in order to comply with some crackpot notion you have of how a spiritual person looks and behaves...

To know God, you only have to renounce one thing--your sense of division from God. Otherwise, just stay as you were made, in your natural character.

This one pops up when she decides she wants to become 'the quiet girl in the back of the temple' and realises that as Miss Suzy Cream Cheese it isn't going to happen. Well, speaking as the quiet girl in the back of the temple who has always put pressure on myself to try to be more outgoing, I can relate to having the toxic notion that what I am is not what I'm supposed to be. So I need this message, too!

On the other hand, there are things about the India segment that I don't like. I am not comfortable with her interpretation of some of the concepts she aspires to share. She talks a lot about God. Her version of what 'God' means does not sit well with me. I was also put off by her opinion of zazen (called 'vipasanna' in yoga)--the practice of just sitting. Just sitting dead still, no thoughts, no chants, no mantras, no God talk. It is an austere practice, but I give the girl credit for trying it out at dusk in India, sitting dead still while being lunched on by mosquitoes. As she says, that is certainly a strong lesson in the concept of impermanence--that no thought, no discomfort, no pain, no joy lasts forever.

That lesson was only half a page, though. The rest of the time she seems intent on seeing a 'God' as being in control of her life in a way I can't share, and in a way that I feel doesn't line up entirely with yogic or Buddhist concepts. I guess I just have to say, I identify with her need to still her mind and feel loving acceptance of herself, but that's about all she and I seem to agree on.

Another thing that frankly bothered me about this India section was all these breakthroughs she purports to have had there. It's not enough that she's learn to accept herself and to sit still. Oh no, she's seen a 'pounding blue energy' that felt like it was twisting her head off and leaves her 'literally panting'. She's heard a voice roaring out to her 'YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW STRONG MY LOVE IS!!!!', after which she emerges from the meditation cave 'like a warrior queen'. She sits on a roof and has a vision of her and her ex-husband's 'two cool blue souls circle each other, merge, divide again and regard each other's perfection and similarity.'

I mean, come on. Give me a break. My teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, whom I would consider a bit more enlightened than Liz Gilbert (!) aspires to nothing more than to be able to sit quietly, in perfect awareness that he is in this moment and no other, that his butt's sat on the floor and his breath is going in and out. Perfect awareness of the present moment. I would prefer one second of that to what Liz Gilbert describes. Perhaps she really did see and feel those things and is not embellishing, as writers are wont to do. But I fail to see the benefit or the point of such experiences, even if she had them. Surely calm and ease, a sense of 'of course'--the sort of thing described by Eckhart Tolle for example, is preferable to all this blue thunder and lionine voices.

LOVE
Anyway, Liz then jets off to Bali to live with that medicine man. She meets up with another healer called Wayan and finally takes up with a Brazilian man called Felipe, with whom she finds 'love'. I'll spare you the details, other than to say that the medicine man and Wayan adore her, Felipe tells her she's beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, she gets a bladder infection from having too much sex with Felipe and the book ends with Wayan buying a house with money donated by Liz and her many friends around the world.

The end.

So.

Read it if you want, and please add your thoughts in the comments here. I'd to love to hear your opinion, especially if you managed to get more out of it than I did!

Friday, 28 November 2008

Kettlebells and books

I have been doing kettlebell workouts 3 times a week this month. My weight hasn't gone down, but my measurements have returned to where they were 5 pounds ago. That's really cool.

So far I'm really enjoying the kettlebells. They are challenging and fun to do. They make me feel powerful, and I'm finally starting to get that little cap of muscle on the shoulder, right above the tricep, that I've coveted for so long. I hope that thing gets massive! I love that look.

I've got three books on the go at once now:

Not Buying It, the story of a woman who makes a pact with her husband to buy nothing for an entire year. (Apart from food and basic bills). So far it's been a quick read, but not that engaging. It's hard to see where two self-employed writers who own a New York apartment and Vermont bungalow are coming from, plus it was written in 2003 and references a lot of current events which are no longer remotely current! I'm over half done with it, but am unlikely to finish it. I'm losing interest in what happens to them or what they 'learn' from the experience.

Eat, Pray, Love, covers a year in the life of a writer who decides to find herself after her divorce, by spending 4 months each in Italy, India and Indonesia. Italy for food, India for the spirit, and Indonesia for love. I must say that while I identify with the narrator in some ways, she is a bit too privileged and self-absorbed for me so far. But then, I'm still in Italy with her, and can't get into all the gelato eating and rhapsodic accounts of the beauties of Italian men (preferring as I do, pale English types!). People have recommended it to me for the India segment, so we'll see.

The Secrets of Skinny Chicks, which is targeted at women like me who are in the normal weight range but who desire that cut, fit look of fitness models and Hollywood actresses. It profiles 21 women, detailing their vital statistics, eating plan and exercise programme, to show what you have to do to get and stay that way, so that you can either make the decision to stay where you are and let it go, or kick it up a notch and get there yourself. This one just arrived today, and I have plunged into it already. I think this is going to be a needed reality check for me.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) mantra




Om ah hum
benza guru
pema siddhi hum


This is the mantra I chanted this morning for 20 minutes. It is a lovely mantra and left me feeling very peaceful and calm.

It does no good to put too fine a point on translations of mantras. The words merely evoke shades of meaning and signify multiple things. But here's a go:

Om ah hum

Om is the sound of the universe, represents the All, the infinite, the perfect, the eternal.

Ah opens us up to receive the All. It is the expression of wonder and direct awareness.

Hum is the movement of the Om into the heart. It is expansiveness, infinity, essence and oneness moving through the prana (breath, the 'h' sound) into the heart, the awareness.

Benza guru

Benza is the Tibetan pronunciation of 'vajra', or thunderbolt. The thunderbolt represents the moment of enlightenment, diamond-like understanding.

Guru has a meaning of 'light from darkness.'

Pema Siddhi Hum

Pema is the Tibetan pronunciation of 'padme', which is the lotus. The lotus produces a beautiful flower out of the mud. It represents all sorts of duality, the base and the exalted coexisting, and blossoming one from the other.

Siddhi means accomplishment, attainment, perfection

Hum once again is the understanding or containment of the All in the heart.

The mantra is a both a prayer for this attainment and a celebration of the fact that we have all already attained it. It is an invocation, a welcome to the present moment where such a union can be acknowledged.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

The Book of Atheist Spirituality



No review here, just this quote:

And then, all of a sudden...What? Nothing: Everything! No words, no meanings, no questions, only--a surprise. Only--this. A seemingly infinite happiness. A seemingly eternal sense of peace. Above me, the starry sky was immense, luminous and unfathomable, and within me there was nothing but the sky, of which I was a part, and the silence, and the light, like a warm hum, and a sense of joy with neither subject nor object (no object other than everything, no subject other than itself). Yes, in the darkness of that night, I contained only the dazzling presence of the All. Peace. Infinite peace. Simplicity, serenity, delight.

...It was as if a perfect chord, once played, had been indefinitely prolonged, and that chord was the world. I felt fine. Incredibly fine! So fine that I didn't even need to notice it or hope that it would last. I can scarcely even say that I was walking--the walk was there, and the forest, and the trees and our group of friends...the ego had vanished: no more separation or representation, only the silent presentation of everything. No more value judgements, only reality. No more time; only the present. No more nothingness; only being. No more frustation, hatred, fear, anger, anxiety; only joy and peace. No more make-believe, illusions, lies; only the truth, which I did not contain, but which contained me. It may have lasted only a few seconds. I felt at once stunned and reconciled, stunned and calmer than I'd ever felt before. I had a sense of detachment, freedom and necessity, as if the universe had been restored to itself at long last. Was it finite or infinite? That was not the question. There were no more questions, so how could there by answers? There was only self-evidence. And silence. And the truth--but without words. And the world--but without signification or purpose. And immanence--but without its opposite. And reality--but without otherness. There was no faith, no hope, no sense of promise. There was only everything--the beauty, truth and presence of everything. This was enough. It was far more than enough! A sense of joyous acceptance. A sense of dynamic quietude--yes, like an unlimited courage. Rest without fatigue. What was death? Nothing. What was life? Only this palpitation of being within me. What was salvation? Only a word, or else this state itself. Pefection. Plenitude. Bliss.

'This is what Spinoza meant by eternity,' I said to myself--and naturally, that put an end to it, or expelled me from it. Words returned, and thought, and the ego, and separation. But it didn't matter; the universe was still there, and I was there with it, or within it. How can you fall out of the All? How can eternity come to an end? How can words stifle silence? I had experienced a moment of perfection, of bliss--just long enough to realise what these things were.


Get this book. Read it.

The Book of Atheist Spirituality
by Andre Comte-Sponville
978-0670018475

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Going okay

So today is Day 4 of my new food plan. I weighed 136.0 this morning. So far, no weight lost. I haven't eaten any chocolate or junk, though.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

DAY TWO, 6 small meals a day

Meal 1--6.30 AM--1/2 cup oats, 1/2 cup soy yogurt, 2 Tbs raisins

Meal 2--10.30 AM--1 slice bread, 1 tbs peanut butter, 1/2 banana (in other words, 1/2 of a peanut butter and banana sandwich)

Meal 3--12.00 PM--spinach and mixed leaves salad, 1 tbsp salad dressing, 1 apple

Meal 4--4.00 PM--the other half of the PBB sandwich

I can't remember the other meals because it's now Sunday!

6 Small Meals a Day, DAY ONE

1800 calories total

Meal 1--6.45 AM-- 1/2 cup soy yogurt, 1 tbsp peanut butter, 1/2 banana (blended together), 2 slices wholemeal toast, 1 cup Caro, 1 glass water

Meal 2--10.30 AM--1/2 cup short grain brown rice, 1/2 cup spring greens, 1/2 cup chick peas (all seasoned with smoky paprika)

Meal 3--1.00 PM--1 large red tomato sliced, leafy green salad, 1 Tbs salad dressing, 3 brown rice cakes

Meal 4--3.30 PM--a pear (I couldn't eat anymore than that!--I was supposed to eat the pear with meal 3 and then have what you see below as meal 4--but I was not hungry enough for it yet!)

Meal 5--5.30 &6.30 PM--1 small potato, 2 Tbs parmesano reggiano, 1/2 cup spring greens (all seasoned with basil and organo) I ate half of it when I got in, and finished it after my workout

Meal 6--1/2 cup roasted carrots, 1/2 a roasted red bell pepper, 1/2 cup quinoa, 4 oven chips

I've still got 2 fruits and a dairy and a couple of other portions left! I can't eat it all. I keep going over it to make sure I haven't got the count wrong. Wow. 1800 calories of real food is a lot. Or maybe it's that eating the right combination at the right time keeps you feeling full all day. At this point, I'm finding it hard to believe I can feel this full and still lose weight. Hope it works!

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Eat like an athlete?


Eat 6 meals a day for weight loss

I've read for years about eating '6 small meals a day,' and while I do eat 6 times a day, by no stretch of the imagination could they be construed as meals! I read the above article today and felt motivated, so on the way home from work I stopped in Wilkinson's and bought 12 small air-tight containers. I am going to try this 6 meal a day lark, and I'm going to do it for real.

Here's the thing. I've got this Food Mover that tells me how many portions of everything to eat. My trainer, Craig Gilkes, advised me that if I ate 1800 calories a day I would lose .5-1.0 pound every 2 weeks. So my thinking is, if I divide those food portions up into 6 meals a day, I will get to eat every 3 hours, I will get protein in reasonable doses at regular intervals, and hopefully I will be too busy eating my meals to nosh on rubbish.

The Food Mover advises at 1800 calories, in servings:

7 carbs
4 fruits
6 proteins
4 fats
6 vegetables
2 dairy
2 'extras' (30-calorie snacks)

So that would break down into something like:

1--Breakfast--2 carbs, 1 dairy, 1 protein, 1 fat, 1 fruit (Example: 1/2 cup oats, 1/2 cup soy yogurt, 1 Tbs almond butter and a banana)

2--Snack--1 carb, 1 protein, 1 fruit (Example: 3 brown rice cakes, a serving of pureed chickpeas and a pear)

3--Lunch--1 carb, 2 protein, 1 fat, 1 fruit, 3 veg (Example: 1 small potato, 2/3 cup of puy lentils, 1 tsp olive oil, 1.5 cups mixed vegetables)

4--Snack--1 carb, 1 fruit (Example: 2 Ryvitas and a small bunch of grapes)

5--Dinner--1 carb, 2 protein, 2 fats, 3 veg (Example: 1/2 cup brown rice, 1 cup tofu, 2 tsp peanut oil, 2 cups mixed vegetables)

6--Snack--1 carb (Example: a slice of toast??)

This looks good and it's way more real food than I'm eating at the moment. Looking at it like this, it's a lot more like how I ate when I was in my weight loss phase, only I tended to pack the food into lunch and dinner, with small carb only snacks. This way, all the meals are reasonable size, although I have packed more protein into the lunch and dinner than in the snacks.

Well, it's a start, and I'm excited! I will do cooking in advance and pack things in these little containers I bought and hope for the best.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Rethinking my food intake



I've been looking for something to inspire me to make better food choices and get myself back on track to improving my fitness level and appearance. I found this great article by vegan kettlebell instructor, Mike Mahler!

Making the Vegan Diet Work

The points I found most interesting:

Without enough fat in your diet, your skin will dry up, your energy will plummet, and you will look like death. Getting 20-40% or more of your calories from fat is a good way to go. Load up on healthy fats such as: Hempseed olive oil, almonds, walnuts, marine algae DHA, pecans, almond butter, and avocadoes. Also, many vegetarian diets are free of all saturated fats, which is great for the most part. However, some saturated fat is required for optimal health, so get some coconut oil or coconut milk in you diet as well.


I am almost certain I do not get enough healthy fats in my diet. I was just complaining to Derek the other day that I need to buy some lotion for my skin, and I have dry patches popping up along my hairline sometimes, too, and behind my ears. Now that I think about it, this has got worse since we ran out of coconut oil a few weeks ago. I must remember to order more!

Get over the myth that fat makes you fat. In reality excess calories and especially excess carbohydrates are the culprits for high body fat. You will find that your overall calorie consumption will be less when you load up on fat as fat provides a steady flow of energy and reduces hunger tremendously. People on low fat diets are always hungry which is why low fat diets rarely work. Again, I do very well on high fat (30-40% of diet) moderate carb and moderate protein (100-120 grams per day). This is what I have discovered after being a vegan for many years.

It is true that fat is a calorie dense food, but I think you would have to try really hard to get too much fat in a vegan diet. I'm pretty sure if I measured my actual fat intake, it would be very much lower than the average omnivore's, and certainly lower than Mike Mahler's. To a degree, it should be, because I am female, smaller, and don't train nearly as hard as he does. But it probably ought to be higher than it is, and I should definitely consider reducing my carb intake.

When putting together a vegan diet make sure you focus on real sources of food. Avoid relying on fake meat products, soy milk, rice milk etc. These packaged foods are loaded with sodium and sugar and are okay as transitional options rather than staples. Focus on real food such as nuts, beans, veggies, and some grains such as quinoa and oats. Vegans tend to follow low fat, low protein, and heavy carbohydrate diets, which is a big mistake. Only a small percentage of the population will feel optimal on such diets.


Oh, dear, here's where I am so guilty! We eat some sort of packaged vegan option every single day. That is so naughty. I really must make more of an effort in the kitchen and get away from that. Veggie sausages are tasty, but what good are they! And I've just sat here and sucked down a shake made from soy milk and a banana. I am so guilty of being a soy-dependent vegan!

Finally, there is growing evidence that soy can increase estrogen levels, block mineral absorption, and decrease thyroid function. Others argue that there are many health benefits of soy. Regardless, I would leave soy alone as contrary to widespread belief it is not a necessary part of the vegan diet so why take the risk? Wheat gluten is even worse and is the worst part of wheat. It is a highly allergic and inflammatory food so avoid it like the plague. Seitan is garbage and I do not recommend it at all. There is enough variety in real vegan food sources so leave the fake stuff alone.


Now I disagree with Mahler on the point regarding soy. Soy foods such as tofu (bean curd), yabu (tofu skin), dou jiang (fresh unsweetened soy milk), okara (the strained pulp from making soy milk), edamame (fresh baby soybeans) are all staple foods in China and Japan. I'm sure he must be referring to weird products like texturized vegetable protein, which is what veggie burgers and sausages are made of. We eat a lot of that, I know we shouldn't. So I must stop buying that stuff, much as I love to eat them.

As to wheat gluten, I had a brief love affair with seitan, but I just intuitively have always thought it couldn't be that good for you. And eating more than a bit of it does bad things to the digestion. *sigh* So good-bye to seitan as well.

Mahler offers this example of a good vegan meal:

An example of a high protein vegan meal that I have often is three servings of lentils (24 grams of protein) mixed with two servings of pistachios (14 grams of protein and 26 grams of healthy fat), add two cups of broccoli and two cups of mixed vegetables. I then add one tablespoon of olive oil to the mix and I am good to go.

That sounds really nice. I could certainly spice it up with some seasonings and garlic, etc. I must get away from all the rubbish I've been eating lately. I'm sure if I ate this well, I wouldn't be as tempted to nosh on junk.


I also found this really good website!

The World's Healthiest Foods

It provides nutrition breakdowns for 129 foods.

Lots to think about.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Just a-swingin'

My kettlebell workouts are rolling along nicely! Last night I did Lauren Brooks' 40-minute workout with my 12kg kettlebell (Olga). I used Natasha for overhead presses and the overhead swing. Sore this morning!

I can't explain why I like kettlebells. By rights it should be quite boring, and it is so intense you can only do 2 minutes at a time then a 1 minute break to catch your breath. But I love the challenge! And after only 5 workouts, I am already looking more pumped! I wish I could get that post-workout pump look at rest. Leaning out will help achieve that, though. :)

My friend in the US has received my 2 new KB DVDs and is posting them on to me ASAP! Hooray, can't wait to get those!

I checked out Barack Obama's Audacity of Hope yesterday and am giving it a go to see what this guy is all about. From what I've read, if you know middle-of-the-road Democrat, you've got Obama. I also requested his other book, Dreams from my Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, which people say is the better book. Will report later!

In the meantime, check out this episode of South Park:

About Last Night

Click on Episode 1212 in the bottom right corner. If you can't view the episode because you're not in the US (urgh!!) you can still see most of the episode by viewing it in individual clips. It's hilarious! In fact, here's a wonderful clip right here:

We Will Name Him Sparkles

Followed by this one:

Game Over Mkay

Oh, just go and watch the whole thing, it's like, so totally freakin' perfect and ahhh-some!

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Good-o



American politics, oh boy. Yee-hah, and as some dude on TV hollered at me yesterday, 'America's back, baby!'

Indeed.

So Barack Obama won the election and good for him. I don't know much about the man. The coverage of the election here has been very patchy and I haven't gone out of my way to find out more. I was never very involved with politics when I lived in America and feel even more disengaged now that I live in England. I'd rather have him than another 4 years of the Republicans, though.

Anna Down Under mentioned on her blog that her heart and soul are still in America. I don't feel the same. I'm not really proud to be an American because that was just an accident of birth. I am grateful to have been born in the Western world, obviously, because that's where the good life is, where we all live like kings and are comfortable and well-fed enough to be distracted by things like kettlebells and veganism and Republicans and Democrats. We've got problems in the West, but lack of health care and being on the dole are not quite as bad as having to drink from fetid streams contaminated with raw sewage and, if you're lucky, living in a dirt-floor shack made of scraps paid for by working to make cheap jeans to be sold in Wal-mart. We need to remember that our problems would be easy to solve if some of the power were taken out of the hands of corporations. Apparently it's really, really hard to do the right thing, even when the money's there. To me, it's just a little bit weird that America is so rich they can have poured so much money into just an election, money that equalled or surpassed the GNP of some of those nations in the 'developing world.' I guess I've just got a different perspective. And I have to admit I am sometimes embarrassed by America, the patriotism and jingoism and the scale of it all. At least it would seem that Mr. Obama is a tall and handsome, well-spoken statesman who won't embarrass us in front of the rest of the world.

Of course it's wonderful to have opened this new door in the political scene, where it might be okay at last to be an ethnic minority, gay, atheist, disabled, or otherwise 'different' and be allowed to hold office and have a voice. In that way, I'm hopeful. It's a huge step in the right direction. Maybe people won't have to hide anymore. Openly gay or atheist politicians! Acceptance of all. Wouldn't that be nice.

Now that the money's been spent and--hopefully--some of the rah-rah rhetoric dies down, we will see if Mr. Obama rolls up his sleeves and does something good for the world. He's certainly in the best position to do so.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Meet Olga and Natasha



Olga's on the left. She just arrived today. She weighs 12kg and has sat on my desk all day sizing me up. I don't think she's impressed. On the right is sweet little Natasha, who weighs 8kg. She has smudges of dirt from last Friday when we worked outside with the trainer. She's rough looking and I probably wouldn't have bought her if I'd shopped around a bit, because her grip is not very wide and it's kind of fat, and there are cheaper and better KBs out there. But I've got her now and after a training session and two workouts, we've kind of bonded. Olga has been menacing her since I sat them beside each other, but I think Natasha can hold her own. Olga I will have to take down a peg or two. She has to learn I'm the pack leader.

I ordered two more KB DVDs: Iron Core Way Vol 1 and Iron Core Way Vol 2. I am very excited to have found them for an excellent price in the US, and my intrepid chum in Arkansas has kindly agreed to forward them to me here in the UK, saving me an outrageous $80 US. (The same workouts are selling on a UK website for £24.95 each. Rip-off Britain strikes yet again. Thank goodness for the Internet!)

It's early days, but I can say after 3 workouts, I like using kettlebells! It's good fun and a killer workout! Yay!

Here's another photo of Olga and Natasha with the Monkeys, Malcolm and Melvin. Those monkeys have to get their little faces in all the photos around here! Cheeky buggers.



Edited to add some clips of the foundation of kettlebell training, the Russian swing:

Kettlebell swing--Lisa Shaffer

Kettlebell swings--High performance

1-handed swing


And some articles for further information on kettlebell training (the first one is especially good):

Russian kettlebells: the need to train like a man--especially if you are a woman!

Russian Kettlebells for Women?

Kettlebell Fitness

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Manga night and 30th anniversary of you know what



It's Teresa, me and Charlotte from the Tokyo Pop Recon event held at the library on Halloween night. We tried to dress up in a harajuku style. I ended up looking like a refugee from the 80s, Charlotte described her costume as a 'genetically modified butterfly', and Teresa kept it low key with manga hair and a cartoony T-shirt.

We had 32 kids turn up and although they started off shy and quiet (we had to convince them to come over and eat the snacks provided!), by the end of the night they had loosened up and were running around the library asking if they could have the leftover publicity posters and the Japanese packaging from the snacks! A good night.



After work, Derek, Teresa and I watched the 1978 John Carpenter film, 'Halloween'. Derek and I watch it every year on Halloween, it's a tradition. (The two jack-o-lanterns are also an annual tradition. This year we named them Russell and Rossy). As it is the 30th anniversary of the film, we had a small chocolate cake, embellished with a big knife plunged in the middle of it and little jack-o-lantern ornaments around it. We forgot to take a photo of it, though!

Teresa had never seen the film, so it was interesting to watch her reactions and explain to her the significance of the film to the genre and how it's derived from American urban legends. (She's from Portugal).

The next day I did my new kettlebell workout and we went to see 'Quantum of Solace' with our friend Mandy. Unfortunately, it was nearly sold out and we had to sit in row 5. I couldn't tell what was happening during the action sequences because of the editing and us sitting so close to the screen, so I slept through most of it! After the movie, I made Rice Krispie treats for the first time in about 15 years. I remember now why I never make them--I LOVE THEM! I could inhale the entire panful. Not good!

Anyway, back to reality and hopefully more sensible eating--starting tomorrow!