Yoga revisited

I never really stopped stretching, but now I’m starting to do a few yoga poses again.  I stand in a “warrior” pose and marvel at how my mat holds my feet still, and I remember being able to have my feet further apart without any of the balance wobbling I’m doing.

I remind myself I used to spend 30 minutes on the treadmill and when I started again it was 3 minutes, so quit worrying about “used to do” and just do.

So. A few standing poses. I’m aware of my balance. A few floor poses. I’m aware of my back. A few twists.  I feel looser. Getting off the floor is harder but doable.


MegaYoga by Megan Garcia

I often refer to the book MegaYoga by Megan Garcia when I’m unsure about how to position my feet and so forth.

This is written as I am rebuilding strength and stamina after a pulmonary embolism and other issues that made me persistently short of breath. 


Review: The Relentless Moon

The newest Lady Astronaut book from Mary Robinette Kowal is fun. It features a 50ish woman, Nicole Wargin, who finds and defeats bad guys in an alternate world where the space race started in the 1950s; by the early 60s, there’s a moon base and a mission to Mars.

Nicole is an ex-WASP who admits she was probably only accepted to astronaut training because her husband, Kenneth Wargin, was a senator. To the surprise of everyone else, she excelled. By The Relentless Moon Kenneth is governor; Nicole wants more time with him, but is happy to live in the moon base 3 weeks a month since her arthritic toes like less gravity and no heels. That said, Nicole is frustrated that she doesn’t get to pilot the “big rockets”, just the on-moon “puddle jumpers”.

This world is like ours in the early 1960s, with sexism, racial segregation, and protests.  Add in rapid global warming, food shortages, and an expensive space race, and Earth isn’t exactly a quiet place to be. Both the civilian government and the space organization – including Kenneth, Nicole and her coworkers – must deal with protests, riots, and sabotage.

The Relentless Moon is set on Earth and the moon in parallel with the Mars mission in the prior book, The Fated SkyThe Calculating Stars is the first book in the series.  Amazon has a page with all three books.

I loved this book, but I also have some content warnings.  If you are a completely “no spoilers” person, stop reading.


First: Eating disorders. In particular the narrator forgets to eat, doesn’t want to eat, and deals with resulting dizziness, muscle weakness, and fainting.  She is supported in her recovery and her symptoms are treated.  I came out of this book with a new awareness that forgetting to eat is not a virtue.

Second: A polio outbreak occurs at the moon base. (Polio vaccine development was delayed in this history due to the event that kicks off The Calculating Stars.) It’s noted that polio has an incubation period of up to 10 days, most people who have it are asymptomatic, and it can affect patients who’ve recovered years later – does that sound familiar? A recap of how polio spreads and how they wouldn’t know who had it for up to 2 weeks had me trying to back up through the couch, if that makes sense.

Third: Intentional weight loss to join the space org is discussed.

Quotes: Persist

“It is not enough to be well-intentioned; one must strive to put those intentions into action in a capable way. One must consider the effect his actions will have on others. Looked at like this, to persist in ignorance is itself dishonorable.” — Andrew Cohen

“It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.” — Carl Sagan

“That which we persist in doing becomes easier, not that the task itself has become easier, but that our ability to perform it has improved.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” — George Bernard Shaw

“The sun persists in rising, so I make myself stand” — Suzanne Collins, in Catching Fire.

I Read This And It Changed My Life

Readers like to talk about books they’ve read.  And one thing you’ll hear about sometimes is “this book changed my life.”   Maybe it was a book that made you feel less alone, or changed how you see the world, or inspired you.

But sometimes they’re more mundane than that.

Dealing with my father’s finances reinforced for me how differently I deal with finances than my parents did.  And a big reason why is that I read Personal Finance For Dummies by Eric Tyson shortly after I graduated college.   There are probably other books that could’ve done the job, but this was the one I found and that worked for me.  It was accessible, practical, and yes, inspiring.  This book encouraged me to reduce and track my spending, to pay off my college loans early, and to live differently than my parents had shown me.

It may not be what most people mean by “this book changed my life.” But I no longer get daily phone calls from creditors. That’s a big enough thing to me.

Thankful Thursday

Things that I am thankful for:

1 The man of the house packed a yummy lunch for me today.  He also cooked each night I was home this week.
2 AC. Most houses in Seattle don’t have AC.  I don’t regret installing ours, even if we barely used it last year.
3 A job where showing up in shorts one day and a dress the next is fine.
4 A boss who reminds me that I have strengths, and who encourages me to use them.
5 Initial “let’s start probate” paperwork has been fixed for accuracy and ready to mail.
6 I fell in love with temperature-controlled computer labs in college one summer term when the temps were stubbornly sweaty &  sticky.  Except the minicomputer lab, which had to be kept cool per warranty.  All of which is to say, taking computer classes to help cool off has served me well & I’m glad.
7 Leg lifts are my friend.
8 Stretching makes me feel divine.
9 Chocolate covered espresso beans are yum.
10 So much enjoying Mira Grant’s book Blackout and how it improves my understanding of the prior two books.  (Feed, then Deadline. They are a trilogy, not a book & two sequels.).

Thankful Thursday

[an occasional exercise in gratitude]

  1. My father has been in his new Adult Family Home for over a week and is doing well.
  2. The political-bloggers-with-zombies novel Feed that I’ve been compulsively re-reading for the last year did not win the “Best Novel” Hugo but it came in second.  Feed and its sequel Deadline are by Mira Grant aka Seanan McGuire.
  3. While I did not get to Worldcon this year, I do get to enjoy this ustream of the comedic “Just A Minute” competition, including discussion of various Apollos, the seven dwarves, parallel universes, what’s wrong with steampunk, and Seanan McGuire requesting a big boo for Bill  Willingham.
  4. I am getting better at enjoying things without feeling that I have to own them.  For example, a password book, a typewriter bookend, or a Crayola rollerball pen, or the entire ThinkGeek “Geek Toys” catalog (including an Adipose stuffie!)
  5. Cooking at home and relaxing with the man of the house.

How’s the week going for you?

Music Monday: Tanglewood Tree

…featuring New York Times Bestselling author Seanan McGuire (blonde) with Vixy (redhead) & Tony (guitar), Betsy Tinney (cello) and Amy McNally (violin).  Recorded at a bookstore event for Seanan’s first novel Rosemary and Rue.

(Music starts about 30 seconds in.  A studio recording of  Tanglewood Tree with many of the same performers is also on Seanan’s latest CD.  Song lyrics and chords are here. Late Eclipses is Seanan’s first book to hit the New York Times list.)

Happy Labor Day, y’all

Two cats, lying on the floor. "In observance of Labor Day, we're just going to lie here and snooze.  Thanks heavens for a day off finally." Other cat: "Fo reals, yo."

"Two Lumps" by Mel Hynes & J. Grant

If you have not already discovered Two Lumps, check out their site. Or the books, which include bonus commentary from the writer & artist:

Hope you have a happy Monday, whether it’s a holiday for you or not :)

Fat Acceptance Quote for Parents and Teachers

If you exercise as “punishment” for weighing too much, how can you learn to enjoy being active? If you eat salads only as a way to change the body you hate, how will you enjoy the wonderful tastes of fresh vegetables?

Besides, if hating one’s body effectively motivated change, do you really think there would be many heavy people in the world?

Accepting yourself as you are today doesn’t mean giving up. It means learning to live in the present with the body you have. It means facing and acknowledging reality.

— Linda Bacon, PhD, in Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth about Your Weight.

Quote of the Day

From an Alternet article focusing on Linda Bacon’s book Health At Every Size, Jamie Oliver’s new show, and Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign:

[R]esearch shows that people of all sizes have similar diets, but it only manifests as weight gain in some of us. People today eat more calorie-dense, nutrient-poor convenience foods than Americans did in the past. How we eat also plays a role, as eating while focusing on something else like driving, or eating while in a stressful situation affects our digestive processes. As the average American diet has gone downhill for people of all sizes, weight gain occurred for some — contributing to the high rate of obesity in America today — but Bacon says that “assuming fat people are eating worse than thin people is wrong.” For this reason, focusing efforts on obesity sends the message to thin people that they do not need to make any changes in their lifestyles when in fact they may also engage in unhealthy behaviors that put them at risk for disease.

Second, focusing on obesity stigmatizes larger people and imbues everyone with a fear of fat. Instead of encouraging people to adopt healthy behaviors, an anti-obesity message encourages the development of eating disorders and the adoption of dangerous, restrictive eating habits. In fact, dieters readily admit they are willing to engage in unhealthy eating patterns in order to lose weight. Bacon encourages focusing on health instead of weight and promoting acceptance of people of all body shapes and sizes. […]

The AP article that declared Huntington, West Virginia the fattest and unhealthiest town in America also says the town’s economy “has withered.” The piece describes a high poverty rate and an unemployment problem teamed with the problem of low-paying jobs with poor benefits for those who have work. In fact, when the mayor was confronted about his city’s health problems, he replied that he was too busy worrying about the economy to think about public health. The best way to accomplish Michelle Obama and Jamie Oliver’s goals is to address social injustice and to reduce poverty in America. Why aren’t either of them talking about that?

The article also mentions that a second edition of Health At Every Size has been released.  (I reviewed the first edition here.)

Music Monday

…I spent the weekend running around a fan convention.*  Today is my “recuperation” day before I return to work.  One would think I could write a great article today, but … no.  I can’t brain today, I haz the dumb.

So instead, here’s a sweet song about fandom.

Sung by: Vixy & Tony
Written by: Tom Smith and Ron Balder.

*…and if you are curious about fan conventions, check out Donna Andrews’ mystery We’ll Always Have Parrots, set at a fan convention. The webcomic Unshelved also did a take on We’ll Always Have Parrots for its book club.

Time for what?

This year I was able to take off one day a week from work in December, along with the time between Christmas and New Year’s.

Which means this is my first full work week in  over a month.

I happened to run across this last night, in Kathleen Norris’ book The Cloister Walk:

In our culture, time can seem like an enemy: it chew us up and spits us out with appalling ease. But the monastic perspective welcomes time as a gift from God, and seeks to put it to good use rather than allowing us to be used up by it. A friend who was educated by the Benedictines has told me that she owes to them her sanity with regard to time. “You never really finish anything in life,” she says, “and while that’s humbling, and frustrating, it’s all right. The Benedictines, more than any other people I know, insist that there is time in each day for prayer, for work, for study, and for play.”

Of course, from what I’ve seen of monastic schedules, they often have less time allocated for work and commuting than is common for those of us with “normal jobs”.  But they also make time for their priorities, with an overall goal of balance.

What do you make time for?  What do you want to make time for, and what do you want to NOT spend time on?

What would you put into a Fitness for Life class?

Everyone’s talking about Lincoln college requiring students with a BMI of 30 or larger to take a “Fitness for Life” class.

What I’m wondering is, what would you like to see in such a class?  Not what is usually in such classes, or what Lincoln is including — what would rock your socks to see?

Here’s some ideas:


Reading list:


  • Critiquing popular fitness articles & ads
  • Weightlifting and bodyweight strength training
  • Dancing, walking, and other “stealth” aerobics
  • Stretching and Yoga

What do you think?  What would you add?  I’d like to put in a weight-neutral “how to exercise” book but I’m not sure one exists…

Fun: Two Lumps: Fat & Furry

The left leg (which has traditionally been the “good” leg) has decided to give me pain and occasionally not want to work.  I’m not thrilled with this.  I am exercising carefully and taking ibuprofen and trying to not freak out.

In the interest of not freaking out, I’m reading They Still Suspect Nothing: Two Lumps Year Four which came in the mail today.  (It’s the 4th year of the comic, with commentary on each comic from creators Mel Hynes & J Grant.)   I’d completely forgotten about this filk of the song “Ridin’” (which some know better as the basis of “White and Nerdy“).

Snooch, rolling on couch: They see me rollin' I'm purrin' But they're just jealous 'cause I'm all fat and furry! Ebenezer:  Wo yeah he's fat and furry!  Cantcha see he's fat and furry? Snooch: People tell me to just get lean But they ain't down with the feline scene No cat wanna be all shaped like a string bean I wanna nap and eat my weight in poutine! Snooch:  All the moggies wanna be like me! I steal Mom's food when she gets up to go po--- Off screen: HEY! What happened to my tuna sandwich?! Ebenezer: 5-0 at the do', gotta go

This comic really worked for me today.  Cats don’t *care* about whether they’re fat, they care about stalking and sunbeams and pets.  :)

Book Review: Ultimate Fitness by Gina Kolata

from the back cover of the paperback edition

from the back cover of the paperback edition

“Exercise is my obsession,” states Gina Kolata on page 3 of her book Ultimate Fitness. Why does Kolata love exercise?   “I discovered that if I work out really hard and for at least forty minutes, I can sometimes reach an almost indescribable state of sheer exhilaration.”   By the end of the book Kolata admits to belonging to three gyms.  The book is nearly a love letter to exercise, blending science and history with memoir into an exploration of exercise and the exercise industry.

Kolata uses Spinning, her current favorite cardio exercise, almost as a case study for much of the book, which can be a weakness.  (Why so much focus on one brand?)  But to my mind the biggest weakness of the book is the actual title:  Ultimate Fitness: The Quest for Truth about Health and Exercise.   Is it an exercise book?  A spiritual book?  Neither.  But this is a book I turn to over and over again.  I go to look up a sample training program and get caught up in the story.

For an overview, I’m typing in the table of contents and adding my own notes (in italics).  Links are to related articles by Kolata.

Less Is More, or Is It? Kolata’s love of Spinning and intense exercise; a 10-person “groundbreaking study” on exercise with a publicist is likely selling something

History Repeats Itself Kenneth Cooper’s book Aerobics; the Greeks’ teaching on exercise; overview of exercise fads of the 1800s+, including Cooper’s attempts to evangelize exercise

How Much Is Enough? Researchers were surprised to find that the biggest fitness gain is when a sedentary person begins a moderate (like walking) program a few days a week (which can also be had in day-to-day life); medical advice through the 60s worried that might exercise enlarged the heart and overstressed cardiac patients; exercise doesn’t always increase health; do healthy people just enjoy exercise more?

Maximum Heart Rates and Fat-Burning Zones Using heart rate as a measure of effort; the (minimal) science behind the much-publicized “target heart rates”; lower heart rates do not burn more body fat; maximum heart rates vary by more than age and conditioning

Training Lore It often IS lore and urban legends, not science; historic training methods;  Kolata’s training plan for the Spinning “Mt Everest” event; attempting a 3-hour Spinning ride without training first; what methods science does support; not everyone gets faster with training

The Athlete’s World Profiles pro cycler and spinning instructor, Josh Taylor,  as a pro (but not household name) athlete

Mount Everest The 4-hour Spinning ride Kolata trained months for with Josh Taylor, and how her training program did make a difference

Is There A Runner’s High? It’s not necessarily endorphins*; it’s not something everyone gets; different people acheive it differently; it’s independent from exercise’s affects on depression

Sculpting the Body Beautiful Weight training to build muscles and shape; a brief history of bodybuilding in the US; bigger muscles aren’t necessarily stronger; how much mass and strength you can build depends on genetics; weightlifting has little to no affect on resting metabolism, because the muscles only use energy if they’re working

The Fitness Business It’s a lucrative business; many certifications, such as ACE physical trainer and Spinning certifications, are more about paying for “study materials” than learning about physiology or safe training methods; American College of Sports Medicine is much more serious; fitness products that are a waste of money

Epilogue: The Truth About Exercise Kolata muses on three types of people who exercise:

  1. Those who want to improve their health, aka following the CDC recommendations;
  2. Those who want broader shoulders or to be thinner, for which more, much more, is needed, and may not be possible; and, finally,
  3. Those who love it.

Kolata closes with a quote from avid swimmer and psychopharmacologist Richard Friedman:

Ah, the truth about exercise? Well, I suspect that exercise is more often a marker of health than its cause—healthy people like to exercise more than unhealthy people to start with.  And the real value of it is not in terms of abstract health benefits like longevity—an extra few hours or maybe months—but because it feels good when you do it or when it’s over.  To hell with Hygeia; the truth lies in pleasure.

Kolata is most known through the fat-o-sphere for her book Rethinking Thin and her science reporting for The New York Times.  Occasionally it’s clear that Ultimate Fitness was written before Rethinking Thin; Kolata assumes her exercising keeps her thinner; she notes that some aspiring fitness instructors do not appear fit (because of course fitness can be determined by appearance alone).   This book is useful to fat acceptance advocates  because many of the myths it debunks (20 minutes of walking a day will make you thin!  Everyone gets bulky with weights!  Everyone gets a runner’s high if they run!) are often pushed as ways to lose weight—and don’t work.

I originally got this from the library—and liked it enough to buy it.

Some related links:

*Writing in 2002, Kolata summarized the research for the Times as well as in the book.  In 2008 she reported on new research which provides more support for the endorphin theory.

Rethinking Thin and Mindless Eating

This Reason review of both Gina Kolata’s Rethinking Thin: The New Science of Weight Loss— and the Myths and Realities of Dieting and Brian Wansink’s Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think does something one doesn’t often see in writing about the efficacy of diets:  It recognizes that losing 10lbs is nothing like losing 100lbs.

In Rethinking Thin, Kolata, a veteran New York Times science reporter, focuses on a group of obese people enrolled in a University of Pennsylvania diet study. They exhibit the usual pattern of initial success followed by setbacks, typically ending up about as fat as they were to begin with. […]

By contrast, in Mindless Eating, Wansink, a marketing professor at Cornell University who has studied consumers’ food-related decisions for decades, focuses on the sort of gradual, modest weight loss that Kolata concedes is achievable. Declaring that “the best diet is the one you don’t know you’re on,” he urges small changes in everyday behavior that over the course of a year can result in a weight loss of 10 to 25 pounds. His book will not be much help to people like the research subjects Kolata interviews, who generally want to lose 50 to 100 pounds.

So many people seem convinced that there is no difference between losing 10lbs and losing 100lbs.   So many people have lost 10lbs by a “lifestyle change” like getting a more active job, or walking at lunch, or working out 3 times a week, or what-have-you—and assume that fat people who did the same thing would eventually weigh what they weigh.  It doesn’t occur them that a fat person might only lose 10lbs if they start exercising, or that the fat person may already be maintaining a similar level of exercise their body has already made a similar adjustment.

Now, I’m not saying that losing and keeping off 10lbs is easy or possible for all or necessarily desirable.  We all make our own choices.  But it is a different thing than losing and keeping off 100lbs.