January 24, 2010

The Boozehounds Win

Unruly passenger forces united jet to divert to DIA
The man had consumed alcohol before and during the flight, said Kathy Wright, an FBI spokeswoman. After questioning at DIA, the suspect was sent for a medical evaluation.

Will a plane door even open at altitude? One might hope for interlocks or something. But if this guy could get the door open, one imagines that such a catastrophic decompression at altitude might bring a plane down as easily as the xmas bomber's underwear.

So, I propose that the TSA / FAA:

a) Hereby ban alcohol on flights
b) Run a breathalyzer on all passengers and deny boarding to those who blow over 0.08 or someting.

Cause I suspect we'd be a lot safer in the air without drunks than we would be adding additional screening....just a hunch.

January 23, 2010

Urban Oaks Organic Farm


We had our annual teacher's meeting last night in West Hartford - Barb and Peter host a get-together for all of the studio teachers; talking about upcoming workshops, the state of the studio, introduce newish teachers, pass out sub lists, etc. It's mostly a feel-good night with an incredible whole foods dinner and wonderful friends. I am blessed to find myself sitting in that circle of wonderful teachers and wonderful individuals.

I was tasked with picking up a box of local greens for the dinner, ordered from Urban Oaks Organic Farm, which, to my great surprise, is in New Britain! I'll admit that I would never have sought out the place or stumbled upon it on my own (although I did look at a house new there last summer) - but now that I know where it is, I'm pretty sure I'll be back. It's not exactly on the way between home and the yoga studio, but not too bad.

I picked up a head of kale (delicious - steamed some up for breakfast!) and a few onions - my fridge is still kind of full with my last trips to the grocers - but I intend to frequent Urban Oaks in the future. Want to support local food, add some healthier produce to my diet, and I want to be that person.

The retail shop is open year-round on Fridays from 3-6 pm and Saturdays from 10 am - 1 pm.

January 22, 2010

The Terrorists Win.....

OK, been sitting and chewing on this one since the Xmas attempted bombing of a Northwest flight.

Call me a bit jaded, but seems to me there is a helluva difference between an isolated "we are going to blow up the plane" sort of event and a "we are going to coordinate an attack by taking over multiple airliners and fly them into national landmarks" attacks. The former have been with us for years; the latter only since the 9/11 attacks. And as much as we want to travel safely, we've never quite figured out how to prevent the former. Sometimes airlines drop out of the sky due to mechanical failure or human error or weather, less often due to terrorism. And sometimes, miraculously and inexplicably, tragedy is averted. (remember that flight where the door blew off, someone got sucked out, but the plane landed? and of course, the recent Hudson River USAir landing)

My point is, that the TSA and Homeland Security schemes are working. At most we've had a few half-hearted and aborted attempts to take down planes (not, please note, to actually hijack and weaponize planes). And although these attempts may be perhaps part of a greater plan to test the security system and screening, I'd argue that we've learned a lot more from these than the terrorists.

In light of a natural disaster in Haiti that has killed perhaps 100's of thousands and impacted millions, I sit back and wonder how much of an impact even a tiny percentage of the money we've spent on homeland security and several wars would have made had it been diverted to improve the economy, health care, infrastructure, and residences of the poorest nation on earth, right at our doorstep.

Supreme Court Campaign Finance Ruling

OK, to start off, it sucks. I'm not a fan of "Might is Right" (hearkening all the way back to T.H. White's "The Once and Future King") and in this world, dollars = might. Or as Mr. Orwell said, all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others. And those with the money, are increasingly, wielding influence and power.

But, dammit, stop whining, lefties. Play some freaking chess here. How can we (as a political movement) counter this or use this? My ideas:

* What's good for the goose is good for the gander. There are plenty of left leaning corporations and entities (unions, of course, but I suspect we can imagine others) out there. We too can dump some money into the arena. Target vulnerable republicans the same way they will target Dems. Can we even create corporate entities with the sole purpose of wielding political power?

* Use your consumer influence. Watching the big evil corporations start to come around on things like the ecology, diversity, healthy eating, local foods, etc. is a good model. Corporations respond to the markets - and if we (as a movement) target corporations that are misusing their power, if we shine a media spotlight on what is going on, if we vote with our checkbooks, we can also wield influence. Perhaps easier with consumer companies (like Walmart or Ford) than with business-to-business (thinking Monsanto or ADM) but we can apply pressure. And watching in the tech sector how seemingly unassailable juggernauts rise and fall with technology shifts, imagine a world where the big evil corporations become obsolete through technological shifts. And then work to make that happen. Hate Monsanto's proprietary seed progams? Figure out how to make their technology as obsolete as the vinyl record or cassette tape. Buh-bye.....

Your goal for next few years: Exploit this ruling, make it work for your benefits. Create a scenario where the conservatives want to create legislation or appoint judges to countermand this ruling.

I am reminded of Jon Stewart's recent piece about losing the filibuster proof majority. "George W Bush did whatever the hell he wanted without a filibuster proof majority" was the crux of his rant, and yeah. Sometimes I think we on the left need to get a bit more aggressive and use our power a bit more confidently.....

Make Mine Music

I've been a closet music geek for most of my life.

In grade school, a local high school band stopped by one day for a performance, and a little presentation about music. I wandered home with information about music lessons. My parents, wisely looking ahead to the day my mouth would be full of metal, steered me away from the brasses and the woodwinds. How about a guitar?

So they bought me an inexpensive guitar, and I started guitar lessons with an old guy, Joe Diorio, who appears to have played at some point with Guy Lombardo's band. He was a funny old guy - with a studio in his basement. I rarely if ever practiced, but went to his house once a week and plugged my way through the Mel Bay series under his tutelage. He knew I was not really practicing, but we both kept at it.

I never did catch fire under Mr. Diorio's tutelage - instead my musical metanoia occurred in the back of a 1969 Ford Ranch Wagon, on a family vacation through the Wisconsin Dells. Somewhere on that trip, my fingers figured out how to find the chords without my brain intervening, and my right hand started strumming rhythmically through the chord changes. Against all odds, I became a guitarist.

At some point along the line, I started playing guitar at church - in those post-Vatican II days, guitars at Catholic mass were an "in" thing. And so we'd have this wall of (probably probably poorly tuned, in those pre-electronic tuner days) guitars churning out "I Am the Resurrection" and "Here We Are". I continued to play at Mass (in various forms) for the next few decades. High school - where Janet Cavatorta held sway and infused the services with Peter, Paul and Mary, Joan Baez, CSNY, and Bob Dylan. I was too nerdy to realize how cool that was. College (a year or so with the WPI Newman society, until I lost interest). Young adulthood, where I was plucked out of the congregation (visibly singing) by the music leader who was to become my spouse. And for a few years at the local Dignity chapter.

Along the way, I started to pick my way into more secular music. I remember in grade school, one of the kids having a Beatle's songbook he wanted me to play from. I had no idea who they were - having no older siblings to initiate me into popular music. My pop music sensibilities started at the Partridge Family and did not get far past Tommy Roe (it's taken me years to not think of Proud Mary as a Tommy Roe song....)

But in high school, I started to play an electric guitar - playing in the pit band for the high school production of Godspell; and then in a late's 70s basement band. We did Cars, Stones, Knack, Zep, Hendrix (I was strictly rhythm, but wunderkind Pete Toupy was pretty amazing on lead). We dubbed ourselves Broken Bones (figuring being close to the Beatles in the record racks was a good thing, and rhythmically similar to Rolling Stones). If I recall, I think the logo had a KISS feel in terms of font) so you get where the influences were.

And although my interests were somewhat divided at the time - math & science geekery, part time work at McDonald's, creative writing - well, music always seemed to be core. When my father died the spring of my senior year in high school, I tucked a guitar pick into his suit pocket in the casket. He was not a musician himself, but he always seemed to take some pleasure in my music and if he was not a band parent, he was always encouraging and generous in terms of lessons, instruments, transportation, etc.

As college rolled around, I fell in with another musical clique, 1/2 of the band Equinox of Westboro MA. Don Montgomery (drummer), and Stan Matthews (guitar and vocals) and I (picking up a bass for the first time). Would get together and jam at a WPI student apartment (Fuller 22, if memory serves) and later on the 3rd floor of the Westboro Package Store building where Stan assembled a small studio with a 4 track reel-to-reel recorder. We had a couple of gigs - a talent show at the WPI Goat's Head Pub (a black and white photo exists which will be graciously not scanned in), a full gig at the Westboro K of C hall (I have the entire thing recorded on cassette!). A graduation party on a flat-bed truck (all I remember is leading us through Jonathon Richman's Roadrunner to a field full of screaming drunk recent grads)

My musical roots grew deeper - Don was a huge Stones fan, Stan adored the Beatles, the Doors and Joy Division. We played all over the classic rock spectrum - the Animals, U2, Clash, Jam, Beatles, Stones, CCR, Neil Young. It was a fun time.

After college, I drifted away from my own music. My spouse was a musician and I kind of dropped out in the way that married couples sometimes distribute interests and responsibilities. But after a brief marriage and separation, I began to pack my old Ibanez acoustic into the car and hit the local open mike circuit. Starting at the Common Ground in Bristol, and ranging all over (Susan's in Granby, Roaring Brook in Canton, Buttonwood Tree in Middletown, Equinox World Cafe in Manchester) I played mostly covers with a few originals. My singing was never particularly noteworthy, and my playing was never more than workmanlike, but I was out there.

And then, 15 years ago or thereabouts, I started to mess with gender. And as my affect began to soften and blur, and the difficulty of moving across the gender divide whilst playing gruff and growly folk music set in, I slowly set down my guitar. I continued to truck it along with me to the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival (I've been volunteering and attending for 18 years or thereabouts), but after a while it never came out of the case, and then for a few years, I stopped bringing it. For many years, I did not even pick up my guitars.

A few years back, having discovered yoga, I went to an evening of chanting called Kirtan. I loved the music, I loved the energy, and when the evening was over I shyly approached the leader, Shankara. "I know you have a guitar player, but if he ever needs a backup or a rest, I play too....." Little did I know that Jeff the guitarist was stepping back from the group, and Shankara was actively looking for a guitarist. And suddenly, I had a gig. Music was back.....

I've played with the kirtan group (not so far removed from my folk mass roots, really) for a few years now - my rather intuitive playing and many years in the folk mass trenches giving me the right skills to sit and play for 2-3 hours straight, to think on my feet, to play with abandon without a particular set list or structured songs. Along the way I've picked up a new guitar (a smaller Ibanez with internal electronics), an instrument amplifier, and an acoustic bass. We're still at it....next Kirtan is Feb 11th....come on down!

And for the past few weeks, I've been rehearsing with a lovely musical duo - Sandy (Vocals) and Dan (guitar) making up the Guinea Pigs (a rather interesting name, dubbed the night they went first at an open mike). They play an eclectic mix of great stuff - Nick Lowe, Simon & Garfunkel, John Prine, Todd Rundgren - along with a good dose of originals. They sound wonderful together, and I'm totally excited to be adding my bass playing to the mix. It's been really fun learning their songs and rehearsing with them - and rediscovering my bass playing chops. (We're looking for a drummer, in case readers play or know someone who does)

They play around a bit - open mics, farmer's markets, clubs, other opportunities. We're doing an open mic slot on Monday up at Union Street Tavern in Windsor. It will be my first time performing publicly like this in many years. I'm excited. Playing music! Hope it sounds as good as it feels!

Blog Comments

Not sure if this is just a byproduct of being out there in the blogosphere for so long, or something new in the land of marketing spammishness, but I've been getting a lot of spurious blog comments.

These range from targeted (I think the principals of the Asian Five Star Farmer's Market stop by to plant comments) to obvious (random works with an embedded link to some advertising site). And then there are the curiously inexplicable - no links or apparent reasons for the comment, sometimes amusingly positive (albeit completely nonsensical) and sometimes just cryptic.

No idea what this is all about, but suffice it to say I reject 'em all. Sorry automated commenting programs, marketers, etc.

January 12, 2010

Weight Watchers - Week #1

It was a pretty successful week, all things considered. 6.2 pounds. If this were "Biggest Loser" I'd have had immunity in the WW meeting room.....although I'm larger than the average bear so as a percent of total body weight it's less remarkable.

A few anecdotes or learnings from the week:

* In Week #1, one does not get to factor in exercise, and with my yoga schedule I rack up 15-20 exercise points easily. I don't really need 'em so I'm going to just bank them going forward, but clearly all the exercise I get helps.

* I have a lot of whole / healthy food knowledge from my history. So a lot of what Weight Watchers calls "filling foods" (whole grains, fruits and vegetables) are not new to me; these are things I already have in my larder and my meal repetoire. the biggest thing I am doing is trying to eat more fruit - between salads and steamed veggies I get plenty.

* I did not have a particularly stellar week in terms of food choices. I went off track a bunch of time. One meal at McD's. One meal at Subway (the sandwich was not bad, the cookies however, were). One bowl of Lena's squash soup (exceptionally rich, practically a bisque). One slice of Lena's pizza. BUT I did write it all down, either got the nutritional info from the websites or guestimated, it was all "in the program"

* Subway Macadamia Nut cookies = 5 points. 5 freaking points! No wonder I have had a tough time losing weight (Two of those have been a staple for a while now, making up 33% of my daily points total)

* I eat an occasional can of Progresso Soup (relatively healthy) but in the past I tended to just eat the whole can (2 servings). Simply splitting a can into two portions and putting 1/2 in the fridge is a huge bit of wisdom. 1 serving is perfectly satisfying....

* Want to treat yourself to fast food? Quarter Pounder with Cheese = 12 points. Medium Fried = 8 points. Hamburger = 5 points. Big Mac = 13 points. Mac Snack Wrap = 8 points. 6 piece McNuggets = 7 pts. Filet o'Fish = 9 points. Angus Mushroom and Swiss = 18 points. Incredible. One could easily exhaust one's entire days' worth of points in a few minutes.....

* Sushi is a bargain, point wise. I have no problem with this.....

* The one thing I plan to do is research my usual Fast Food haunts and figure out some better choices so if I do end up hungry and on the go, and find my car wheels making their way into these places, I'll have a better game plan.

But mostly, I think just the fact that I am paying attention to what I eat, that I have the specter of the scale waiting for me each Monday, and that I am actively avoiding fast / quick food is going to make all the diff, at least in the short term.

I've often said that the secret for me losing weight is to simply disable my driver's side window. Hope that continues to be the case!

January 11, 2010

Making the Kool Aid

An unexpected weekend in the yoga studio. I was planning to show up for the inaugural weekend of the 2010 teacher training - at a minimum practice with the trainees at the start of each day, or perhaps assist at the practices. But my teacher / friend Nykki was drawn away by a family crisis, so I ended up hanging out throughout the teacher training weekend. I can safely report that the teacher training days did not get any shorter since I went through the training in 2008.....

It was an incredibly rewarding weekend. Several of my students, or folks I know from the studio, were in the class and it was great to see them taking the first steps into teaching - I felt a certain sense of maternal pride and protectiveness. As always it was amazing to be working with Barb, Peter, Shankara, Nykki, and Kristen. I assisted in three long practices - and that's always a treat - it's hard to really do a lot of hands on assisting in the midst of teaching. And the entire training program is so amazing - just a real honor to be able to witness the entire weekend...

My own yoga (practice and teaching) was reinvigorated through the weekend, as I sat through the lectures and workshops - a lot of the food and healthy eating stuff was good for my current weight loss project. And it was so exciting to watch the "firsts" as the trainees taught their first posture, struggled with lefts and rights, and put the hands on another body, perhaps for the first time. They are an amazing group....

Finally, it was somewhat reassuring, or perhaps gratifying, to have the trainees seek me out with questions, or advice. I felt pretty secure in my knowledge, and at times felt like I had some knowledge (different assists, languaging, or experience with certain types of students) to add to the training. Sometimes its difficult for me to recognize my own teaching skills, my own experience, and to think "what the heck am I doing here?". But to have trainees seek me out in the room with questions, to be able to communicate a posture or assist in a way that they were able to connect to - pretty sweet.

Next month, no doubt Nykki will be back at the front of the room (the hours she was able to participate, one could see the room energy shift and her light brighten the training) and I will step back to a more background or part time role. I feel a little sad about that; triggers my "on the outside looking in" stuff. Even last night, I sat in the back of the room and became a little less visible - as the staff clicked into their comfortable roles and I felt a little like a 5th wheel. But it was really sweet to be part of this weekend, to be considered worthy of stepping up into this role. Even though it was a tiring few days, it was pretty amazing to be there.

As my friend Alison once said as I confessed "I guess I drank the Kool Aid" vis a vis yoga. "Jude, you are making the Kool Aid these days....." Smart woman, that Alison.

January 10, 2010

Somebody Loves Me

Due to a extenuating circumstances (get better soon, AJ Poole!) I've been sucked into the yoga teacher training this weekend. Incredible honor to witness this process, incredible opportunity to work with Barb, Peter, Shankara and Nykki - but ohmigawd is it exhausting. Friday 5 - 10, Saturday 1 - 10, and Sunday 12 - 8. Each day starts out with a strong practice - and although assisting is not as physically challenging as being on the mat it's still physically and emotionally tiring.

And of course, this is the weekend I'm subbing in for a gentle class at 9 am. So not a lot of time for my own practice, not a lot of time for healthy eating. Last night as I drifted off to sleep I was thinking about food - what I was going to get into my system in between my gentle class ending and the training starting. Thinking about all the places I could get something healthy (and also some places to snarf down something quick). And I realized I had everything I needed in the fridge. So this morning as I got up I made a salad - spring mix lettuce, matchstick carrots and radishes, red cabbage, mushrooms, broccoli, garbanzos, celery. (some sprouts would have been nice but I'm out) As I was closing the lid on the to-go container (which I admit to hoarding a little, they are so useful and I have a hard time tossing stuff like this, even into the recycling bin) it looked so beautiful and lovingly prepared and I thought impulsively "somebody loved me enough to make this beautiful salad"

And then it hit me. Of course somebody loves me. It's me!

It was a good feeling to have all this healthy food at my finger tips, to be the kind of person who can whip up a salad from itens on hand. Not sure I would have been that person a year ago.

Finishing up some yummy 5 grain oatmeal (with raisins, walnuts, and agave) and then shower. Hope to hit the mat a little (here or at the studio) before I have to teach. And then let my yoga day begin!

January 04, 2010

Back to the Grind

And not a moment to soon. This weekend was really hard; a culmination of a holiday season that itself was difficult. It's my first holiday alone in many years, and although Zippy was never a big holiday person, still it's easier to be cranky about the season with a housemate and pets than it is to be in a place alone. So after spending a good chunk of the weekend in tears, I used one of my lifelines - phones (or more accurately, texted) a friend and called another. Before too long I had a few calls coming in and got a bit of it out. Was thinking I really ought to just surrender to the sadness and grief and dive into it all, but instead it came out in a little trickle of tears and sadness all weekend.

Behind this? Being alone, I guess. Getting older. Not seeing a path from where I am to a place of connection and relationship. Add to it a lot of unhealthy eating this holiday, and a bit of procrastination in terms of getting work done, and getting my place out of "moving in" mode and into "lived in" mode. And all these happy pictures of couples - holiday pics, winter fun, xmas trees, new year's eve parties, going to movies that I'd need to go to alone. All the things I was not part of and even if I were part of, would have felt detached from. Bleah.

So I am glad to be back at my desk and back to a routine. Last night I did start to claw my way back to life - besides my phone calls (thanks Amy, Nykki, Kristen, and Barb), I wandered over to Target to pick up some frames, and hung a few photos. I also signed up for a monthly pass at Weight Watchers . What a January thing to do, I know, but it has worked for me in the past. I know all the right things to do to lose weight and be healthy, I just don't do them. I'm going to go to a meeting this morning at 10. And I think I'm gonna give my old therapist a call.

I also stumbled across a GLBT summer camp for adults (Camp Camp) that I'm going to look into. It's been years since I took a real vacation (besides yoga weekends, work trips, and falcon ridge) and this seems like it might be right up my alley. Although I'm going to see if they need a yoga teacher :)

Monday, January 4th. Need to get caught up on work, get my invoicing out. Practice tonight with Barb. It's good to be back to normal.....