Friday, August 31, 2012


It is almost unthinkable. We have adopted the tiny grey cat and named him Simpkin, after the cat in Beatrix Potter's The Tailor of Gloucester. He's a stray, probably three months old. He's spent two nights indoors now. It's already getting cold. 

I have never owned an animal, and never tended to a little life. There is a surprising surge of joy to find Simpkin waiting for me outside, or to have him fold himself snugly (smugly) and insistently into my lap. It is astounding that we, personally, are able save him from growing ill and freezing to death over the winter. 

His eyes are the brightest blue and tawniest gold. He has faint tiger stripes on the end of his tail. He has survived all alone all summer, but now we are taking him in. I am deeply glad. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Thanks Jillian

"The deep ecologist warns us not to be anthropocentric, but I know no way to look at the world, settled or wild, except through my own human eyes." - Wallace Stegner

Read the entire essay here.

Monday, August 27, 2012

more on the fasting thing

I've done four or five fast-days now. In many ways, the first one was the easiest, but I am slowly figuring out what works and what doesn't.

What works:

- being distracted by work
- drinking as much water as possible
- Pepto-Bismol in the morning
- moderate exercise
- scheduling well in advance

What doesn't work:

- Gravol
- cooking for other people
- fasting on extremely stressful or tiring days
- no exercise
- too much exercise
- too much sleep

The most difficult part is not the experience of fasting itself, but scheduling the best days to fast, and then keeping to that schedule. It's irksome to spend several days at work, eating poorly because I'm tired and stressed out, and then spend my first day off fasting, when I really just want to be cooking delicious, slow, healthy food. So fasting at work is preferable. Fasting on Saturdays, however, while working in a cafe that maintains a line-out-the-door all weekend, is hellish. Luckily, my fall semester schedule is to spend Tuesdays and Thursdays in class all day, Wednesdays and Fridays at work all day, and Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays doing homework/housework, writing, making things, etc. Making a habit of fasting on my work days should be fairly straightforward.

As for the actual not-eating, the resulting lethargy is much harder to deal with than the resulting hunger. Everything I've read or that Tim has passed on to me says that my body should be getting better and better at regulating my blood sugar, and that I shouldn't be experiencing chill or sleepiness for much longer. Already, having fasted two (separate) days without taking any stupor-inducing Gravol, I think the lethargy is abating a bit. Getting enough water is also a challenge. I hadn't realized how much the body depends on liquid present in food.

I am planning to continue with the experiment. Overall, I'm feeling healthier, and (conveniently) less panicked if I can't fit a meal in every three hours. I'm also paying more attention to nutrition on feast-days, wanting to provide my body with vitamins, minerals, enzymes, fibre, protein, water--not just the right number of calories. I've realized that I simply can't afford empty calories. For too long, I've been paying the price in excess weight, stomach aches, vitamin deficencies . . . (Though it's far, far better than it was. Did I ever tell you about the time I was 16 and developed scurvy from living off free Starbucks? Oh yes. Scurvy. In a big city in North America in 2008. I've come miles from that point, but there is still room for improvement.)

Finally, you're probably curious, but I can't tell you whether or not I have lost any weight. I've not been weighing myself these past few months; I've been struggling on towards maintaining a healthy weight through good habits, and I think I'm on the right track. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Tim Put

Though we couldn't pin an exact date on it, this August marks five years of togetherness for me and Tim. And what do you know about him? Precious little! I should have mentioned these things long ago.

Firstly. Tim is smart.
As any of our friends or most casual acquaintances or the regulars at Transcend will tell you, even before they hear about his official IQ, he is, actually, a genius.
And he is good at explaining things.
He will help someone with their high school chemistry, and then turn around and talk protein spaces with a biologist.
He never politely acquiesces to someone he disagrees with, but neither does he ever launch a personal attack.
He is the least spiteful person I've ever known.
He does not take pleasure in other people's misfortune or degeneracy.
He does not take revenge.
He wants to help me with my projects, and his advice is sensible and perceptive.
Did you know he is a luthier?
He has made bass guitars and is working on a violin.
He's designed an espresso tamper that keeps a barista's wrist straight and prevents repetitive injuries.
Half our coffee friends have already ordered one.
He defends scientific ideas from abuse and misguided politics.
His knowledge is wide-reaching and coherently arranged; he will outline Godel's proof and then sum up its implications for epistemology and computing.
He makes delicious food.
He likes to play Age of Empires, Mario Bros., Portal, Halo, Zelda, Pokemon.
He's going into the last year of a BSc in Math, with a minor in Philosophy.
He's ridiculously good-looking.
He has forearms that make me swoon and he can get up past 50 km/hour on a bicycle and do one-handed push-ups.
He has coped with three years of my panic attacks.
He has helped me to stay sane.
He eats enormous bowls of oatmeal with strawberries and chocolate chips almost every day.
He knows a lot about electronics; he designed and built a pair of speakers.
He loves Brahms, Bach, Chick Corea, Dave Holland.
He introduced me to jazz.
He notices things.
He gives wonderful presents--both my pocket knife and my kitchen knife, 23 by Blonde Redhead, chemical handwarmers, most recently: an amazing box I plan to photograph and show you.
He's agreed to let me make him a sweater, and has this morning put up with repeated calls to come and look at some ravelry pattern or slightly different type of yarn.
At this moment he is researching the Edmonton protocol for rescuing stray cats.
He just mowed our endless lawn.
He likes the BBC as much as I do.
He has the softest hair.
He can play the acoustic, electric, and bass guitars.
He likes both Valrhona and the hot chocolate powder from Superstore.
He tells me about the things he reads.
He is excited about the new Mars probe.
He is the best person I know.

to do today

- finish Between the Woods and the Water
- tidy house
- make challah
- write
- finish and block socks
- look up book lists for September courses
- wash windows
- read math

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

at the moment

~ this woman and her hair

~ the avocado stem burst into leaf, from nothing

~ a tiny grey cat's been visiting and we leave milk out

~ the mosquito situation is apocalyptic 

~ I am working on the second sock

~ my newly cleaned-up music and documents folders are truly things to behold

~ a dead nest 

~ size six zips up again

~ the bush is the front yard has become a bird berry bush 

~ school approaches

~ I can finally grind my own knife

~ my hair is even shorter

Saturday, August 11, 2012

fast day

7:09 am - Got up about an hour ago with Tim, but decided not to bike to Transcend with him before my shift at Duchess starts. I'm not sure how I'll be feeling as the day progresses, and adding 10 hilly km to my commute probably wouldn't be particularly wise. I've decided to skip breakfast; it seems possible that eating a small meal might be more difficult to manage psychologically than eating nothing, but I haven't ruled out a bowl of soup after my shift ends at 2:00 pm. I've taken my vitamins with water and a cup of tea. For the moment, I'm dealing with a slight bit of nausea and headache, but otherwise I feel fine. Curious about how the day will pan out.

8:25 am - Off to work on a gravol tablet and two pepto-bismol--the nausea was getting more insistent. I'm surprised and wonder how much is psychosomatic, how much is nerves. I usually eat as soon as I get up, but not always, and it's only been 2.5 hours.

1:48 pm - Home from work. (It was slow, and they let me leave half an hour early.) Since I had my last meal around 7 pm last night, I've now been fasting for 19 hours. After taking the nausea medication this morning, I felt fine, if a little slow, on my bike to work. Similarly, my shift was not particularly difficult, though I was at times cold, zoned out, and more irritable than usual. I'm not feeling hungry at the moment. Time for some water, tea, and maybe a short nap.

6:37 pm - Stomach rumbling, craving cherries, coffee cake, and black bean burritos. But I'm doing well. 23.5 hours down. This hasn't been so bad.

8:12 pm - Since I've been sleepy all day, I'm going to sleep.

Friday, August 10, 2012

duly reported, if a bit late (and an experiment)

Last week: I got strength training in four days out of seven, water in six days out of seven, garden harvest in two days out of seven (though we did eat our own produce almost every day--straight from the fridge), vitamins six days, 3 proper meals (well, I did my best) seven days, fun exercise 5 days, bedtime routine 6 days. Overall, not so bad. We spent the long weekend at Tim's parents' place, keeping Tim's little sister company, and I always find it difficult to maintain healthy habits while away from home. I made a concerted effort to reduce sugar while increasing fruits, vegetables, and protein, and I think I definitely improved on the status quo. There was homemade hummus, pears, bowls and bowls of berries, peanuts, cucumbers, borscht, roast chicken, raw pumpkin seeds, cherries, tanniny black tea, pesto, wholegrain bread, butter lettuce, Liberte yogurt . . .

However, it is time for a new list, an update on perspective, another BBC video. (After blogging for four years and posting one or two videos the entire time, I realize that three out of the last twelve posts end with some youtube gem. Odd.)

But allow me to digress. Tim enjoys keeping up with the cutting edge of research on ageing, and has been talking for a couple of months about the large body of evidence supporting the benefits of intermittent fasting. As someone recovered from an eating disorder, who has fought long and hard to be able to eat regularly, I was suspicious. I said to Tim, Isn't this what they used to call a starve-and-binge cycle? Apparently not.

Intermittent fasting can be practiced on a wide variety of schedules, ranging from daily 18-hour fasts (you fit all of your meals into a 6-hour period), to bi-monthly (that's once every two months) four-day fasts. The benefits for general health seem pretty considerable, but the point of it all is to allow your body  "time off" from metabolizing food, halting the compulsion to constantly produce new cells, giving it time to repair itself, and thus slowing down bodily decay. The anti-ageing effects of keeping mice's metabolisms out of overdrive by keeping the mice on a very low-calorie diet have been well-documented for decades, but intermittent fasting takes a different approach. Far from being the newest manifestation of glorified anorexia (like some diets I could mention), intermittent fasting is not necessarily associated with caloric restriction, as this article explains. Nor does this kind of fasting involve avoiding food for as long as possible, only to overeat later. Recommended calorie intake remains recommended calorie intake.

After watching Michael Mosely's take on it last night (while finishing the first sock! but more on that later), I was very intrigued. Thus, and by now probably not surprisingly, my goals for the upcoming week include an experiment. Like Mosely, I am most attracted to the five-two schedule, and have decided that this week on Saturday and Wednesday (two of the days I'll be spending at work), I will eat a small meal at breakfast and abstain from food the rest of the day. Sunday, Monday, etc., I will eat normally, whenever I feel hungry. I'll blog my observations both "fast" days, and if things go well, I may try another several weeks.

As for other goals, I would like to continue with strength training, water, vitamins, a bedtime routine--and add a daily walk.

Saturday, August 4, 2012


(Do you like these fonts? They were selected late, late last night, and I certainly don't hate them, but I'm not sure . . . )

Friday, August 3, 2012

on casting on

My sock pattern is 15 pages long. 

I assumed I would be casting on the same day my yarn arrived; but I was so daunted, it was two days before I even wound the skeins into balls. The first lines of instruction informed me that, to begin from the toe up, I should cast on using the Turkish method. Undoubtedly so. But I had no experience with this exotic-sounding technique, and as I read on, I became more confused. Further down the page, reference was made to the "instep and sole needles". What? Two sets of stitches that remained separate on two double-pointed needles? Presumably a working needle was also required . . . but how could one possibly knit in the round on three needles, and without moving the stitches along in a circle? 

I had uneasy thoughts about my prospective First Socks for a couple days more, then finally just googled 'turkish cast on double pointed needles'. Voila. 10 youtube tutorials at my disposal, including this one, wonderfully clear and narrated in a confident and soothing tone:

Watching this video, I couldn't stop squeaking. How ingenious! How perfectly simple and elegant. And how marvelous that I was able to benefit from a virtual lesson taught by a skilled knitter I've never met, for free. Even ten years ago, in the internet's earlier days, I would have had to comb through a stack of knitting books from the library, or search out someone to demonstrate the technique. The size and generosity of the communities I benefit from, even from the furthest fringes, is truly astonishing.

All this to say: I am casting on tonight, and I can't wait to start.