Hack your knees

November 16, 2012 at 10:55 am | In health | Comments Off on Hack your knees

Two weeks after my 17th birthday, in a rush of enthusiasm over finally graduating from high school, I raced home one night through a backyard. Confronted by a fence, I opted to leap over it, and promptly tore cartilage and ligaments in my left knee.

Wow, that hurt.

It laid me up for a while, and sadly my poor knee was never quite the same. By the time I was in my early 20s, it went “out” so often that I finally saw a proper orthopedic doctor and had arthroscopic surgery to remove the “joint mice” (bits of broken cartilage, sometimes called joint rats) that were floating about and getting into the knee-bending operation at inopportune moments, causing significant pain and immobility.

The surgeon, bless him, told me that the inside of my kneecap looked like shredded crab meat.


The knees (both of them, frankly) have never gotten better. I just work around them.

And now, fast-forward several decades – too-too many decades! For those of you also suffering from aging knees and the accompanying aches, here’s a hack I had to remind myself of just yesterday, when I noticed more-than-usual persistent creaks while climbing up and down stairs (especially down: up is easy, down is much harder on the knees): lift your legs as though you’re a freaking prancing pony.

It sounds odd, but it’s a tip I learned last fall from a video on how to run. See the article The Once and Future Way to Run. The technique came in really useful while I lived in a 3-level condo in Portland OR for 5 months. In the NY Times article, running guru Christopher McDougall explains how a 19th century running technique can help overcome injury and – given enough dedication – would let even people like me return to moderate jogging (not that I will).

Read the article, but here’s the video you want to watch to see the prancing pony steps you need to take when climbing stairs (especially going down).

I think it must have something to do with the effort of engaging one’s thigh muscles before letting the knees take the weight. Works for me, at any rate. That, and squats. 😉

Plans for Salem’s Harbor Power Station: Realpolitik or Missed Opportunity?

July 9, 2012 at 7:54 pm | In cities, green, health, innovation, jane_jacobs, land_use, leadership, NIMBYism, politics, power_grid, real_estate, resources, silo_think | Comments Off on Plans for Salem’s Harbor Power Station: Realpolitik or Missed Opportunity?

Last year, when I was still in Victoria BC but considering a move back to Boston’s North Shore, I read about the impending closure of the Salem Harbor Power Station and immediately thought,”Wow, what a fantastic redevelopment opportunity!” Suffice to say that my optimism may have been premature.

Bedeviled by a Dirtball

The Salem Harbor Power Station is one of the region’s dirtiest coal- and oil-burning power generators. For six decades, the plant has occupied sixty-two acres of prime waterfront real estate, cutting residents off from all other historically and economically significant maritime uses on shore. Its hulking facility, topped by two smokestacks that pierce the skyline, has visually dominated the coastline not only for its Salem neighbors, but also for folks in Beverly and Marblehead.

(Photo, above, from Dominion’s website)

Zombie Infrastructure

And it has spewed tons of pollutants into the air. As the Denver Post put it in an article about these many long-in-the-tooth dirty power plants, “Utilities dragged feet”:

These plants have been allowed to run for decades without modern pollution controls because it was thought that they were on the verge of being shuttered by the utilities that own them. But that didn’t happen.

Indeed. The Salem station was one of those zombie economy necessities that refused to die: a lot of people shrugged and accepted it as an unavoidable evil that had to be borne. After all, the region is famous for being bedeviled, right? The struggle to force either a clean-up or a closure of the Salem station was epic – but now it’s finally happening.

Or is it?

There’s a dearth of information about how the situation went from “the plant is closing” = “really new opportunities” to “the plant is dead” = “long live the plant,” but some weeks ago, the latter option grew in strength when the station’s current owner, Dominion, began negotiations to sell the property as-is to New Jersey-based startup Footprint Power. The latter wants to operate a natural gas-burning power plant at the site. Admittedly, natural gas burns cleaner than coal or oil – but wait! There have been hints that the backup fuel could be …diesel oil. Because, you know, depending on the markets, natural gas might become too expensive and we’d have to go back to something a little dirtier.

It seems zombies are hard to kill dead.

Why has there been no recent public input on the plans?

On June 26, Andrea Fox of Green Drinks of Greater Salem moderated a discussion of current plans for the station. The three presenters – Healthlink‘s Jane Bright, State Rep. Lori Ehrlich, and attorney Jan Schlichtmann (whose work has often focused on environmental issues) – questioned the plans now on offer. Schlichtmann in particular pointed out that, while there was a surge of interest initially in what would happen to the site, the recent negotiations between Dominion, Footprint, and Massachusetts politicians have effectively put a kibosh on any further public input. The Green Drinks discussion was essentially meant to breathe some life into the conversation. It seems that as soon as the corporation(s) decided on a course of action, the people rolled over and went quiet.

The lone voice speaking in favor of Footprint Power’s plan was Shelley Alpern, a Salem resident and member of SAFE – the Salem Alliance for the Environment (but she made it clear that she wasn’t speaking on SAFE’s behalf). Alpern’s cred as an environmentalist goes way back, so it was surprising to hear her question the vision for a sustainable redeveloped waterfront site and instead pleading Footprint’s case.

The arguments at Green Drinks revolved around the following:

  • how much will it really cost to clean up the brownfield site? Some put the price tag at $75m, others argue that this number is inflated and meant to scare people into accepting Footprint’s option, lest the alternative be “the padlock” (meaning the site just gets shuttered and turns into a decaying eyesore versus a toxic waste spewing eyesore). See also Speaking alternatives to power
  • is the lifecycle of natural gas really that much better than coal or oil? Sure, it’s cleaner (somewhat) and currently cheaper (somewhat), but no one knows how the markets are going to shape prices in the future, near or far. And what about the externalities and costs consumer don’t directly see when the natural gas is extracted, such as the enormous environmental cost of fracking? What about the dangers of putting pipelines, which will inevitably break down and leak, through watershed areas? There are already pipelines running from Nova Scotia in Canada, through Beverly, and into Salem. What’s their “lifecycle”?
  • will Footprint Power keep its promises? Some stakeholders have been told by Footprint that a natural gas-burning plant might need to use diesel fuel as a back-up; some were told that the existing plant might have to stay on for some time (vs being dismantled). Other stakeholders have heard no such thing when they sat down with Footprint – but we’re dealing with corporations, and with energy corporations, to boot …not exactly always the white-hat guys.
  • what of the missed opportunities to develop something truly amazing?

That last point – missing opportunities because vision is lacking – strikes me as the most compelling. Rep. Ehrlich made the case in a Marblehead Reporter op-ed on May 14, 2012, Vision still lacking at Salem power-plant site (also available on her website, here). The column sparked a flaming letter-to-the-editor in response, Get over the aesthetics; think clean energy, whose author compared opposition to off-shore (and backyard) wind turbines to a kind of la-la-land NIMBYism that wants a “pretty” picture without facing the inescapable reality of our energy needs. His point was that Ehrlich and those who think like her are in la-la-land because we pussy-foot around the fact that we still need to get our energy from somewhere, while he is a realist who understands that Footprint’s proposal is the region’s best bet.

I think it’s a false choice.

Macro / Micro

Consider for a moment perspective. What the critics, especially Ehrlich and Schlichtmann, have is a fine-grained, close-view perspective. It reminds me of Jane Jacobs‘s analysis of neighborhoods at the street level. She looked at the details and decoded what she termed a street ballet, understanding that how people use a thing (a street) – and how they are able to use it – determines the whole, irrespective of how much planning-from-above tries to predict outcomes. This was pretty much in opposition (at the time) to the thinking of professional planners, who believed that streets must be rationally planned (preferably according to the needs of the automobile) and that buildings, placed according to mostly “ideal” reasons, would determine uses. If Jacobs had a micro view, the planners of the day had the macro view.

It strikes me as ironic that the micro-view is actually the Big Picture “vision” view, and that the macro approach, which tries to account for a larger perspective, has a blind spot about the “users” or people on the ground. The Realpolitik view defaults to the macro – and I count Alpern’s approach here. Expert knowledge about hydro-fracking regulations in Bulgaria and Pennsylvania is good to have, but it’s not enough to impel local people to act differently. Local inertia is a strong force, and if you build another power plant, you will have another power plant. For another sixty years. But if you give the people who actually want change the power to control their destinies, they can move the rest of us out of our inertia. That’s the claim mocked by the letter writer who thinks a power plant alternative is la-la-land thinking – but what is the alternative? Another planned-from-above mega-project that repeats many of the same patterns established by the old project?

Deep waters, old uses

Schlichtmann made the truly relevant point that Salem’s history was built on maritime industry. The current site of the Salem Harbor Power Station is Salem’s only deep-water port – what passes for the city’s tourist harbor is a shallow pond, incapable of harboring bigger vessels. The original coal-burning plant was built on that prime spot because of the deep harbor, which allowed ships to offload coal. It’s an incredibly shortsighted move willfully to dismiss an opportunity to reclaim that harbor for what it represents (Salem’s fantastic seafaring history). All around the industrialized world, cities are reclaiming waterfront that was savaged by mono-uses (waterfront freeways, power plants, factories, etc.), and reintegrating them into a more sustainable urban fabric. Why should Salem shut itself out from that renaissance?

Well, because we need energy. But consider this: ISO New England has said that there’s no longer any need for a power plant in Salem. As Ehrlich noted in her column, “The old plant is barely running, and ISO, the region’s reliability-cautious grid operator, said that power production on that site is no longer needed. Why such an enormous plant?”

More references

For more images of the Salem Harbor Power Station, see Healthlink‘s photostream, here.

For an informative PDF, see Repurposed Coal Plant Sites Empower and Revive Communities.

Sierra Club, Victory! Salem Coal Plant Announces Closing.

ArchBOSTON forum discussion (brief) here.

You asked: Usana is my vitamin supplement of choice

January 24, 2012 at 11:56 pm | In health | Comments Off on You asked: Usana is my vitamin supplement of choice

The other day, Raul Pacheco-Vega asked via Facebook whether any of his friends recommend taking vitamin supplements, and if ‘yes,’ which ones. Instead of just replying on his wall, here’s a quick post about my supplement of choice, Usana, and why it works for me.

As the company’s corporate blog notes:

USANA Health Sciences is a worldwide leader in the field of health and nutrition. Our mission is to develop and provide the highest quality, science-based health products, distributed internationally through network marketing, creating a rewarding financial opportunity for our independent Associates, shareholders, and employees.

“…highest quality, science-based health products” means the supplements are rigorously tested and backed by research, and come with a guarantee that what’s on the label is actually in the bottle. Usana is manufactured in line with pharmaceutical-grade standards, not just food-grade standards, which isn’t the case with every supplements manufacturer (see Usana’s potency guarantee).

Compared to ~1,500 supplements manufactured in Canada and the US, Usana supplements consistently win the top spots in Lyle MacWilliam’s The Comparative Guide to Nutritional Supplements. This publication:

…seeks to educate consumers about the science and value of nutritional supplementation, and to provide them with a simple, reliable tool with which to compare nutritional products. (…)

Section I of this guide discusses the theories of aging and the intricate links between aging, oxidative stress and degenerative disease. The remarkable protective powers of the endogenous and dietary antioxidants and their role in mitigating the aging process are examined. Five degenerative disease processes are highlighted, including recent scientific evidence supporting the use of nutritional supplementation as a preventive measure.

Section II: Criteria for Advanced Supplementation

Section II reviews the substantial scientific evidence employed in developing the fourteen analytical criteria imbedded in the product-rating methodology used in this comparative guide.[from the 2003 edition description; current edition is from 2007]

The business angle described in the Usana’s corporate blog, that the products are “distributed internationally through network marketing, creating a rewarding financial opportunity,” tells you that the company’s business model is based on network marketing and direct sales. You typically can’t buy the supplements in stores because they’re meant to be distributed (ok, sold) through Usana’s network of associates …and that’s where some people see red. There is a lot of money in the health and wellness business, and the industry is growing every day. Companies old and new launch products constantly, and the majority of them are sold at supermarkets, drug stores, and health-food stores. Consumers don’t seem to mind perusing the miles of aisles at their favorite store, purchasing a bit of this and a bit of that like magpies pecking at glitter. But if you tell them that you’re ‘sharing’ products based on network marketing business model, many of those same consumers think it’s a scam.

It’s not. There are plenty of direct sales companies that work on this model, do not require a big financial commitment (I fill my own monthly subscription, which keeps my business center ‘open,’ with the products I buy for myself and my family, for example), and they’re not pyramid or Ponzi schemes because actual products are involved and exchange hands.

But the combination of a network marketing business model with health-and-wellness products brings out the worst suspicions in some people, not least because there is just so much damn money to be made in this industry and it’s pretty easy to produce a shady product. The history of snake-oil is a long one.

This is in part why Lyle MacWilliam’s book, The Comparative Guide to Nutritional Supplements, is so useful. It’s an impartial guide – but of course it, too, was attacked early on.

The attack on MacWilliam’s guide in the early 2000s is a testament to the contested (and not a little vicious) climate of the health-and-wellness industry. Nutrisearch (the publisher) wrote an excellent rebuttal, here, which closes with the following description of the author’s credentials:

Mr. MacWilliam is a trained biochemist and kinesiologist and a contributing author to leading health publications. He has served, at the behest of Canada’s Minister of Health, on an expert advisory team for natural health products, which developed a new regulatory framework to ensure Canadians have access to safe, effective and high quality nutritional products. His wide-ranging consulting experience includes work for the British Columbia Science Council, Environment Canada, Human Resources Development Canada, and Health Canada. He has been invited by companies, organizations and individuals around the world to speak on nutrition and lifestyle issues, including presentations on adults’ and children’s supplementation needs, the prevention of degenerative disease, and the need for lifestyle change to promote optimal health.


Neither the author, Lyle MacWilliam, MacWilliam Communications Inc., nor NutriSearch Corporation have any fiduciary ties to any of the companies or products listed in the Comparative Guide to Nutritional Supplements or its sister publications; nor do they profit in any way from the sale of nutritional products listed in the guide. In addition, production of the guide is not funded by any nutritional manufacturer or other public or private interest.

The Comparative Guide to Nutritional Supplements is is the sole creative effort of the author and NutriSearch Corporation.

Irrespective of this, attacks on Usana – and often enough on the supplements industry as a whole – probably won’t abate any time soon. Take them with a grain of salt and do your research.

So let me tell you why I use Usana, and why I think the products rock.

Since we (family) have started using The Essentials about a year and a half ago, neither one of us has had a single cold. Prior to this, I almost always had at least two major colds per year, in addition to a bunch of annoying cold viruses that left me in varying stages of distress. What happens now is this: whenever I feel some kind of bug trying to take hold, I’ve got it beat within 12 hours. Not kidding. My immune system is just that much stronger now – and it’s not because I’m such a saint when it comes to overall health, either. The spouse (also on The Essentials) is equally hale, so it’s not just me. The offspring take Body Rox, and while the daughter is a skeptic with regard to supplementation, she did take the vitamins while she spent 8 months in China, surviving there with just the occasional cold, one incidence of food poisoning, and a slight case of the persistent pollution-caused cough known as “China Lung” (which her body managed to avoid for the first 6+ months – a not insignificant feat).

We also use some of The Optimizers, especially Vitamin D – and I’m a big fan of Procosa and Hepasil, too.

I could go on to praise the Personal Care line (Sensé), but this is about vitamins and nutrition.

Of course the question arises: why supplement at all? As someone on Raul’s Facebook thread noted, “Source your nutrients from food. Taking suppliments [sic] just covers up the in adiquicy [sic] of the diet…. and learning how to eat naturally.” That sounds reasonable enough, but you would have to eat like an organic saint these days to get all your nutrients from food. Our farming methods, transportation/ storage/shipping methods, and the fact that some areas have depleted soils (or natural deficiencies) all contribute to food alone not always being able to deliver all of your body’s nutrient needs. For example, what are you going to eat to get Vitamin D, the “sunshine” vitamin, when you’re in the Pacific Northwest in winter? Or Helsinki? Or Hamburg? You get the point. And did you know that some places – like Vancouver Island, British Columbia – have soil that is naturally deficient in critical minerals like Selenium? Even if you eat organic and local, your food will not have the nutrients your body needs if it’s grown in soil that doesn’t contain those elements.

But there’s another reason I use supplements: as insurance. I reason that my generation is the first to have the chance to go healthily into relatively old age (see the various articles about Jane Fonda, now that her latest book is out). It used to be the case that people hit 60 or 70 years of age and were considered …well, old. Like, really old, as in retirement material. And by retirement, I mean useless. Who, in my generation (I’m 55), would acquiesce to that? Once upon a time, you hit a certain age and, boom!, degenerative diseases (caused by oxidative stress) meant that you shuffled, slowed down, and wore out. Had a heart attack. Gave up. Died. If supplementation can make even a small dent in slowing down oxidative stress and degenerative disease, sign me up. (Oh wait, I already am!) So check in with me 10 years from now, see if I’m still making tracks. I bet I will be. Meanwhile, ask me what vitamins I take.



Calcaneus stress fracture, 8 months and counting?

October 24, 2011 at 8:17 pm | In health | Comments Off on Calcaneus stress fracture, 8 months and counting?

How is it possible to be stupid enough to hobble around with a heel stress fracture for 8 months and keep fooling oneself into thinking it’s something else?

Well, if you’re me it’s entirely possible. As I mentioned on Oct. 11/11 in Still hobbling along…, I had a bone scan …and even to my untrained eye, it was obvious that there were all sorts of problems. Today, I finally had a follow-up with the GP I’ve been seeing (yeah, I know… takes a while, doesn’t it?), and she explained the thing.

I have not just a stress fracture in my third metatarsal – that’s the problem that sent me to the clinic in the first place – but also a stress fracture in my heel (calcaneus) bone.

What’s so incredibly frustrating is – or rather, are – these facts:

  • my heel has been painful to walk on since at least February; I assumed it was a stupid case of plantar’s fasciitis (although there was no physical reason for me to think I could have developed a case of this, and of course I didn’t – but talk about fooling oneself into thinking it’s something it’s not…), and so I ignored ignored ignored the pain;
  • I should have been in an air-cast weeks ago when I first went to the walk-in clinic on 9/28: instead, the doctor assumed it was… meh, something else, something that didn’t require immobilizing the foot – and the upshot is that I missed about 4 weeks of treatment (I’m now advised to acquire an air-cast asap);
  • I may be moving out of my house on Nov.28 (if a current offer doesn’t fall apart), and I am NOT looking forward to moving when my foot isn’t healed (but I’ll have to).

Man, I’m ticked off.

I feel like I have done nothing but fool myself about my whole existence in Victoria, and aside from healing this heel, I better look after my own interests lest I explode from sheer frustration.

Still hobbling along…

October 11, 2011 at 7:35 pm | In health, just_so | 3 Comments

And now it’s three weeks, give or take a day, that this mystery ailment has limited my mobility: I’m referring to my possibly-stress-fractured right foot, which still hasn’t significantly improved. As I wrote on Sept.28, an x-ray failed to reveal a fracture – and I was actually quite happy about that …probably because I thought I’d be tripping the light fantastic within a week since, surely, there was no fracture. Right? Well, my glee was premature.

Turns out I needed a bone scan after all.

Earlier today, I went to the hospital to get an injection of radioactive phosphorous, and several hours later my foot bones were scanned for about 30 minutes in three 10-minute increments: both feet together, once in pigeon-toe position; then side-by-side from the side; and finally flat on the plate, filmed from top and bottom.
While it will be another week before I can return to the walk-in clinic for the doctor’s assessment, I did get a peek at what the technician was producing for the radiologist who will read my scans. Did not like what I saw.

First, the good-interesting part, the science (as understood by unscientific me): The method for getting the images is ingenious – from what I gathered, the radioactive material (quite a minimal amount) emits …well, radioactivity, which the camera can then pick up, over 10 minute increments (times 3, for a total of 30 minutes). This in turn creates a composite of what’s going on in the foot: where in the foot is the osteo-related cellular activity going gang-busters, for example, and where is it just chugging along in business-as-usual mode. Think of it as a webcam on a live event. In an x-ray, tissues and bones are bombarded by a single “large” dose of radiation all at once, which the camera snaps quickly. But in the scan process I underwent today, it’s sort of the reverse: the camera works slowly, capturing the tiny amount of radioactivity that’s actually in my system, and which is making visible what’s happening with the bones (maybe that’s the phosphorous part?, I don’t know). It captures this over time, and all that data is put together to create an image. Neat! 🙂

But now for the part that’s bad-mysterious: from the scans, even I could tell that there were two major problem areas in the right foot. The heel (which, interestingly, had been giving me problems for months – like plantar fasciatis, yet not), and the tarsal (cuboid) area right across the foot were clearly in trouble. Both areas lit up like xmas trees.

I plan to walk for decades to come. Sure hope we can figure out not just that there’s something broken, but also how to make sure there’s no repeat performance once it has healed.

On the comic relief front: after injecting me with the radioactive phosphorous (which is done in the hospital’s nuclear facility – I kid not, scientists don’t mince words), the technician cautioned me to stay away from pregnant women and told me not to coddle babies (no problem). She also said that if I were to travel through airport security in the next week or so, I might alarm the security personnel. For some reason, this made me want to book a flight right away.

When I went back in the afternoon, a man was lying on a gurney – he didn’t seem conscious. While I sat in the waiting area for my scan, he woke up, calling for a nurse. He needed to urinate, so the nurse provided him with a plastic bottle …which her colleague then took from her, saying (no joke) that she needed to dispose of it since the contents were radioactive.

This of course made me wonder how I’m contributing to toxic waste in the CRD when I go to flush my toilet at home…

I also asked how much I was costing the system with my scan and was pleasantly surprised to learn that my procedure was only at the ~$400 mark. Well done, BC Medical. But if I had my druthers, I’d prefer not to cost you a dime…

What does a sprained foot have to do with trust?

September 28, 2011 at 1:09 pm | In health, just_so | 2 Comments

Sometime last week I must have “done something” to my foot. Perhaps I overexerted it, stretched it too vigorously in some contortion, pushed down too hard on the elliptical trainer, or maybe that sudden misstep at the curb had indeed been more intense than it felt at the time. Whatever the trigger, by the time the weekend rolled around I was limping, my foot was slightly swollen across the top (where the long ligaments are – same area as the top of your palm). And it hurt.

Still does, actually.

By Monday it was so bad I went to a walk-in clinic (this is what you do in Canada if you don’t have a GP, and many of us don’t), where a very brisk young doctor in her early thirties almost immediately filled out a chit for radiology because, she said, it was quite likely my foot had some kind of stress fracture.

She asked, “How are your bones?”

Straightaway, that question sounded wrong to me.

Then it hit me: I heard an implied “dearie?” at the end. As in: “How are your bones, dearie?” I just know that’s what she was thinking.

In my mind I am not a “dearie” – and with any luck, I never will be. But that’s what I heard: You’re of that age, [dearie]… the bones …you know …brittle bones, brittle bones.

It wasn’t just the imagined “dearie” that aggrieved me. It was the betrayal I felt – the betrayal that aging implied. I trust my body. It’s a wonderful body that has held me in good stead (and steady on my feet) for a long time. I haven’t always treated it well, but I’ve always come back to it, and it has always, always stayed with me. We’re in this together.

Hearing the [unspoken] “dearie,” however, revealed a glimpse of an abject body: one that breaks down, that wears out or betrays you – develops cancer, has an aneurism or a stroke, gets Alzheimer’s, has osteoarthritis. The one that’s growing old and makes you unhappy because it can’t be trusted.

Trust that this is merely tile on a building, not eternal geometry


Happiness and Trust

Happiness studies show that trust is key to happiness. If you can’t trust your neighbors or your colleagues or your family or your friends, you’re less likely to be happy.

A network of trust increases happiness.

Maybe that should read in the plural, as in “networks of trust.” At the center of it there’s you with your body, which in itself is a bunch of networks in which you trust to get you through the day, to make that day fly, to make it shine.

Literally hobbling just one small segment in the network can trigger a cascade of real and imaginary failures, of mistrusting, in the rest. Studies which show that “happiness dips and then rebounds after people lose a limb” or worse (source) might suggest that rebuilding a sense of trust is key to rebounding. I guess that applies to accepting senescence as well, which probably goes a long way toward explaining religion and the solace of belief (that is: trust) in the beyond.

I moved through the rest of Monday and all of Tuesday in a cloud of anger. Well, actually, anger alternating with depression – they’re supposedly two sides of the same coin, right? – because if you google foot fractures, you’ll find plenty of reasons to feel blue. At 5pm on Tuesday, I called the clinic back to learn whether my x-ray results were in. I learned only that the radiologists were not able to discover fractures – which immediately made me a lot happier: “Yay, body, you can be trusted! You don’t have brittle bones and aren’t completely falling to pieces!” Followed immediately by, “But why the frack does my foot hurt so much, eh?”

…Trust, but verify…

That doctor is not going to call me back (it’s not in the protocol of walk-in clinics), so I’ll have to hobble over there again to learn if there’s anything else they can diagnose or advise. I will choose to ignore the websites that suggest x-rays aren’t conclusive for finding foot fractures and instead choose trust: trust that I got off lightly, that there’s nothing wrong with my well-nourished and -supplemented bones, that with any luck, my delightful body and the mind it accommodates can continue to be happy together.

Just don’t call me “dearie”…

The eyes (might) have it

September 26, 2011 at 9:06 pm | In health, just_so | 2 Comments

Over five years ago, I kept a “secret” blog, very, very briefly. It was written from the standpoint of a stuffed toy: a sleeping, dreamy, already “antique” sheep that used to belong to me and which I then passed on to my daughter. The strategy of writing as a stuffie was inspired by Maria Benet – I found her idea so good, I stole it for my own purposes.

The “author” of the secret blog was my old stuffed lamb, which (briefly) chronicled the goings-on between TM (“the mother”) and TD (“the daughter”).

This particular post was about eyesight – its failings, and what they mean, according to alternative practitioners. Over the past five years my eyesight hasn’t improved in the least. I never did follow up on any of the new-agey suggestions offered by the sources cited below, and would (aside from doing absolutely nothing) probably prefer to cast my lot with medical advances of the more …um, spectacular kind (see Geoff Arnold‘s amazing post about having his eye’s lens replaced with a synthetic one) – aside from doing absolutely nothing, of course.

But then again this 2006 post, then written in secret, was about so much more than just looking. It was about feeling, too. Who knew stuffies could feel? 😉


Eyes, windows, souls, health (Aug.22, 2006):

TM told me that the other day, our local paper ran an interesting article about a psychotherapist in Vancouver who uses yoga in her therapy sessions. The article is called Yoga stretches stressed psyche, releases emotions, and it profiles Danielle McDermott. I don’t need yoga, of course, because after all the love I’ve gotten, I’m so squished and bendy I can touch my toes twice over! But in this article we’re told how Danielle helps humans to get in touch with their bodies, which, she says, hold emotion in. I had to laugh pretty hard when I read that she gets her clients to relax by going limp as a …ragdoll! The journalist wrote:

Think ragdoll. It’s difficult. We humans like to be in control. Yet, once we do let go, there is a feeling of surrender.

Baaaaaah, that’s a hoot — I never think ragdoll, I AM ragdoll! But humans like to be in control, eh? Oh well, to each his or her own!

TM thinks it would be a great idea if someone like this Danielle person were available here, because she is trained not just in yoga but as a psychotherapist, and she thinks that TD might enjoy talking to someone like Danielle. She certainly looks very nice and kind in the photo on her site.

TM has always had a bunch of whacky ideas — believe me, I know: I have been around her since she was practically an infant! (If you ask me, she’s still an infant in some respects, but maybe I shouldn’t say that, otherwise she’ll cut off my blog account!)

Turns out she spent great huge chunks of time surfing around on the web, looking for inspirational psychotherapists in Victoria. Nothing really came up, but she did find a reference to an Anne (or Anna) Hannah — yup, that’s the full name: Anna Hannah. Baaaah-nana. Sorry, couldn’t resist! It’s just my inner sheep coming through…
Anna Banana, er, Hannah, is a member of the Association of Vision Educators, and she practices here in Victoria. TM got all interested reading this since their work is based on “the Bates method.” He’s the guy who wrote “Better Eyesight Without Glasses,” which TM got hold of many decades ago and which convinced her to lay off her glasses (periodically, anyway) when she was a teenager.

We stuffies, with buttons or thread for eyes, don’t worry our empty heads about this sort of thing, but it turns out that some groovy people think that you humans get near- or far-sighted for the strangest reasons. TM is near-sighted, and so is TD. In fact, TM got all spooked when she read on the Association‘s library page about the various theories these folks hold for why people develop vision problems. Boy, if they’re even half right, I can see how being a human is a job-and-a-half! Scroll your emotion-warped eyeballs over these choice snippets:

When we suppress our feelings or any part of our self the energy of our emotions gets locked in our bodies. Our bodies stiffen and our eyes harden. Hard eyes indicate a deadness of expression. Hard eyes do not focus easily. From my experience as a natural vision improvement practitioner I have learned that unexpressed fear may manifest as myopia or nearsightedness. The myope is often afraid of making a mistake, he is a perfectionist, a thinker who is centrally focused, and shutting out the periphery. Unexpressed anger, on the other hand, can emerge as hyperopia or farsightedness. The hyperope may tend to look away from self or space out. In either case the person is restricting his vision to a comfort zone. Is it more comfortable to sweep our feelings under the carpet?

So a near-sighted person is a perfectionist, full of fear of failure? Hey, TM, does that sound right? (She says, “maybe.” She’s looking kinda peeved, if you ask me.) And then there’s this:

If you are nearsighted: You were probably told that it’s because you read too much or in not good enough light. These actually don’t in themselves make your eyes get worse; there’s nothing wrong with reading a lot. However, chances are, you are a hider and indulging a bit of an escapist tendency in those books. You blur the world around you because you feel so overwhelmed and pressured that you can no longer see the “big picture.” You tend to be afraid of the future, and can only deal with the here and now before you. (…)

If you are farsighted: You were probably told that it’s because the eyes change as you get older. Actually, it’s more so that your attitude changes as you age. Farsightedness has to do with a sense of a loss of time—that there are too many details, too many things you need to get done; thus—you are overwhelmed with what’s in front of you, and you blur it. You tend to be afraid of the present, because your attention is in the future and the past. As people age, this perspective tends to become more dominant.

Ouch! I can tell you that TM didn’t like reading that her voracious reading habits (as a child and still now, although she reads too much drivel online, if you ask me, instead of serious literature in books) also spoke to being a hider or escapist, in addition to being a perfectionist, the curse of the gifted child — and she nearly blew a gasket when she read that bit about far-sightedness, because for at least 2 or 3 years, she has had to toy with the notion of investing in a pair of bifocals since she can’t see things up close anymore when she is wearing the glasses that are supposed to “correct” for her near-sightedness!

But most of all, she had to think about the other “hider” in the family, the one who keeps mum and minimises computer screens lickety-split and doesn’t talk about her feelings …and has trouble seeing clearly past her nose!

“Yeah, yeah,” TM said to me, “so maybe a lot of this is just new age drivel.” But sometimes the drivel hits its target anyway…

So, inquiring sheep want to know: is there yoga for eyeballs…?


Do you have a pet?

March 25, 2011 at 11:37 pm | In business, health, victoria | Comments Off on Do you have a pet?

I spent today at the USANA Cross Regional Conference in Vancouver. Lots of engaging, interesting speakers who spoke about the wellness industry and a changing economic landscape that makes individual entrepreneurship and business ownership increasingly important. The event continues tomorrow – more on that in a bit.

First, though, I want to tell friends in Victoria BC about a USANA Lunch + Learn event that my team is hosting this Monday (3/28) from noon to 1pm at Chinatown’s Eco-Design Gallery (17 1/2 Fan Tan Alley): Pet Nutrition with Guest Speaker Cari McCune.


(click image to open PDF invitation)


This is bound to be a fun and informative event, presented by someone who’s passionate about animal health and welfare. As always, it will be followed by a delicious lunch catered by the Dan Hayes, aka the London Chef.

I’m sending this to my Victoria friends, but with the Vancouver conference happening right now, I got a bit behind in getting this information out. So here’s the thing: if you’re in Victoria and want to attend this Monday’s Lunch+Learn, you must RSVP to me by 5pm tomorrow (Saturday) afternoon. Click through on the invitation for details. You’ll note there’s a cost involved, but I’m extending two invitations to attend as my guest – I’m looking for two people who are really keen on preserving (or restoring) their pets’ health. Leave a comment, send me an email, get in touch if this is you! Invites going out on a first-come basis! 😉

Back to Vancouver and the USANA XRC (Cross Regional Conference): tomorrow morning’s session is open to the public. I’d love to see some of my Vancouver friends there.

Details available on this PDF flyer, but briefly, tomorrow’s open-to-the-public morning session, “A Commitment to Excellence,” starts at 10am and goes to 12:30pm. It’s happening at the Vancouver Convention Centre in the East Ballroom A-C. There are four speakers, including Mark Wilson (Executive VP of Sales) and Dr Tim Wood (Executive VP of R&D).

You will be entertained and informed, believe me. So stop by tomorrow morning, text me on my mobile (we’re Facebook friends, right?, so you have my number), and say hi!

Health is a virtuous circle

January 26, 2011 at 5:41 pm | In addiction, health, ideas | Comments Off on Health is a virtuous circle

Health is a virtuous circle – that thought came to me the other day, as I thought about how well I’m feeling lately.

…Knock on wood that I didn’t just jinx things… Shades of Stevie Wonder’s Superstition… 😉

Vicious circles are pretty familiar, right? You have an itch, you scratch it. It gets itchier, you scratch some more. Before you know it, you’ve got a rash or a raging case of scabies. Mental scabies, even.

Drink a little too much. Burn the candle at all six ends. Abuse those relationships. Drink (or toke) some more. Whatever. Sit on your ass all day. Pretty soon you’re an open wound, baby.

At which point you have more reasons to pour on the salt – ’cause then you can get even more deeply into the vicious circle. Scratch scratch scratch.

(Or bitch bitch bitch. Mind you, I’m a big fan of critique, which I think is necessary for mental acuity. But bitching is just debilitating. If exercising critique can get you into exciting realms of possibility, bitching just gives you a tighter grip on your walker…)

When you’re healthy, it’s easier to stop scratching the itch that’s making you crazy in the first place. After a while, it’s not so itchy at all.

Bingo. Virtuous circle.

Not so superstitious, either.

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