Monthly Archives: January, 2011

Brand New Weight Loss Miracle Food

This is a new one– resistant carbs.

“Starch can fall into one of three classifications: readily digestible, slowly digestible and resistant. The latter does not get absorbed in the small intestines. Starch foods that fall into the resistant category are only minimally digested. On a side note, any digestion that takes place is slow, which in turn results in a slow but steady release of glucose into the bloodstream.”

Beans, sweet potatoes, whole-grain pasta are ‘resistant’. Nothing wrong with any of these foods, but there’s nothing new either.

I had about three golden years of young adulthood where I was very active with martial arts. I ate less than I do now, and kind of forgot about my weight altogether. It was not a problem.

I remember half-hearing a commercial on TV about something called ‘starch block’. Starch block? Maybe it would be okay with some butter and salt and pepper, but why not stick with the traditional spaghetti or that newfangled rotini everyone was eating? Would a starch block be less slippery on your plate? Wouldn’t it be tricky to cook it all the way through?

I soon realized that ‘starch block’ was not a new pasta shape, but a pill that promised to quarantine the starch as it passed through your digestion.

‘Resistant starches’ won’t work for me. I like all those foods just fine, but you eat a couple of yams and that’s a lot of calories no matter how much the yams resist. I’ll extract those calories in the end, so help me God.

Cross Quarter Day

Candlemas 2011

Terry Smith at TheTownTalk has some inspiring words for Pagans celebrating Imbolc this February 2nd.

The Winter Solstice has passed, the historical lunar eclipse was seen, and now we go forth from darkness into light. It is the center point of the dark half of the year. The holiday of Imbolc or Candlemas is also called the Feast of the Waxing Light.

This is a time of purification, after the shut-in of winter, through the renewing power of the Sun. It was once marked in Europe with huge blazes, torches and fires in every form to chase away the last of the bitter winter cold.

According to the Almanac, we reach the ten hour day at about this point in the year. You might go to work in daylight, and still see the last of the sun when you punch out. That is a cheering thought.

February 2nd also marks Groundhog Day, a fun American holiday that makes no sense whatsoever– but by this time of year we are lightheaded from shoveling snow, so any excuse for a party.

We’re in a weather pattern that keeps whacking us with arctic chill– it doesn’t seem likely we’ll get a warm April like last year, but the sunlight is pretty. We’re past midwinter now.

Imbolc is sacred to the Celtic Goddess Brigid. Miriam Harline has some folklore…

Imbolc is a white time, a time of ice and fire. In many places, snow still sheets the ground. The fire is traditional: Europe observes this day, February 2, the Christian Candlemas, with candlelight processions, parades that go back to ancient torchlight ceremonies for purifying and reviving the fields at early sowing, according to Funk and Wagnall’s Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology and Legend. At Candlemas, the people of ancient Europe made candles for the coming year, having saved the fat from meat eaten through the winter. Mexico, too, observes February 2, the Aztec New Year, with renewed fires and a festival that echoes agricultural rituals of early spring.

At Imbolc, the earth begins to wake from winter sleep. As Starhawk writes in The Spiral Dance, at Imbolc “what was born at the Solstice begins to manifest, and we who were midwives to the infant year now see the Child Sun grow strong as the days grow visibly longer.” At night the Wild Moon shines, illuminating the earth’s initial quickening. Seeds sown in autumn begin to stir; nature is potential waiting to be fulfilled. The Goddess too is changing: from crone to maiden, from winter to spring.

Read the rest here.

I like a holiday that works from the spiritual and the scientific. You don’t have to have faith that the Earth begins to tilt toward the Sun, or that the days will get longer and brighter. It’s traditional to start new projects this time of year, and in harmony with nature. We have more snow on the way, but underground the seeds and roots are waiting for their turn.

Cotton Mather Action Figure

As your opinionated citizen-journalist noted in Afraid of Our Own Shadow, there’s not much in the culture that doesn’t connect with politics.

Proving once again that great minds think alike, Alex Mar of Salon sees more than entertainment in the rise of exorcism in fiction, movies and practice…

The exorcism movie is the most all-American of “spiritual” films, reducing complex religious beliefs to something more palatable: a take-charge action adventure with clear, targeted results. Much like the Roman Catholic Church, this brand of Hollywood horror frames evil as a diagnosable disease to be cured through extreme treatment, and its spiritual discussion rarely goes beyond the black-and-white “Is there a devil, or isn’t there?” It’s a clear, explicit test of faith in which there’s finally no room for doubt — unlike in everyday experience of spirituality. The genre has a familiar cast of characters, conflicts and a specific message about the nature of evil. Is also a genre with a remarkably conservative slant — a tradition that dates back across the last 70 years.

Read the rest here. I’m coming down with a cold, or maybe just dry eyes from too much screen staring, so I’ll write when I can.

This February,Trinity Rep is playing, ‘The Crucible’. Uganda is purifying itself of homosexuals, aided and spurred on by American evangelicals. The Vatican is training exorcist priests. Maybe it’s not a cultural trend, but I’m watching.


Twenty-five years remembered

In 1986 I was launching my health care career, pounding the floors as a nurses aid at Wayland Health Center. That’s where I heard the news of the Challenger disaster.

A space shuttle launch had become routine. The inclusion in the crew of a teacher, Christa McAuliffe, was the human interest until that tragic launch. Now a disaster– the burning shuttle– played on every TV screen over and over again.

I went home that night, and for lack of any other way to pay tribute, I lit candles in the snow for seven brave souls who died in a great adventure. I grieved that they died before even reaching orbit, that Christa McAuliffe didn’t get to see the earth from space.

They are not forgotten...

The 25th anniversary of the Challenger disaster was marked by a ceremony at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida attended by hundreds. Among those speaking at the event was the widow of the shuttle’s commander, as the AP reports:

“June Scobee Rodgers, the widow of Challenger’s commander, Dick Scobee, urged the crowd to ‘boldly look to the future’ not only in space travel, but in space and science education. She was instrumental in establishing the Challenger Center for Space Science Education.”

Their work lives on. We honor the seven members of that crew, talented and accomplished people who are sorely missed…

The Challenger crew on the day it exploded were: Commander Dick Scobee; co-pilot Michael Smith; Ellison Onizuka, the first Asian-American in space; Judith Resnik; Ronald McNair, the second African-American in space; Christa McAuliffe; and Gregory Jarvis.

Think of them when you look up at the stars.

Our Love-Hate Relationship with the Great Education Myth

Lots going on in education news these days, it seems. First, we are crucifying this poor woman for trying to sneak her kid into a better school. It’s a familiar story — we did something similar to a woman here in Providence recently, as was covered in the long-ago early days of Kmareka. Apparently, this is one of those things we do in our society when we are feeling really conflicted about who “deserves” a good education and who doesn’t.

The conflicts in how we feel about education reform also extend to us liberals. Right now I see we have some liberals in Rhode Island who are hot-and-heavy for education reform that will get us our share of the Race to the Top dollars from the federal government. I took some time to research about the subject and came up with this fascinating expose of how billionaire corporate foundations are driving these reforms and the accompanying conflicts in communities all over our nation. Ours here in Rhode Island is currently focused on whether to make the NECAPS a requirement of high school graduation.

While I know our schools need work work including massive investment in infrastructure, technology, and more teachers to reduce class size, I agree with David Sirota that the real problem we face as a society is dwindling jobs, not an uneducated workforce. Perhaps rather than changing the requirements for diplomas, what we really need to do is change the requirements for companies who outsource their jobs, as is currently proposed in legislation sponsored by our own Sheldon Whitehouse. The real issue is now and will continue to be employment. Many corporations in Rhode Island are moving their white-collar jobs overseas. This has to stop if we are going to have jobs here that pay a decent wage. If there are no jobs here, it’s going to be irrelevant whether you passed the NECAPS or not.

Bambi vs Eminem

I don’t usually link to Fox ‘News’, but they got the scoop on the attempted attack on our beloved national crooner, Eminem. Fortunately, the terroristic feral intruder was stopped by a gate.

Hang tough, Eminem. No random deer gonna sneak up on you.

Sputnik Moment

Earthrise from Apollo 8

Earthrise from Apollo 8

Excerpt from the State of the Union, 2011

“This is our generation’s Sputnik moment. Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven’t seen since the height of the Space Race. In a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal. We’ll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology – an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.”

Getting to the moon took more perspiration than inspiration, but without vision it never would have happened.

What if we hold our President to his word on this? I watched his address in the company of people who assembled for an informal SOTU party, and when Barack Obama talked education the teachers jumped up and cheered.

We still have the vote, and we still have influence when politicians know that people who care about an issue will turn out. Do we have any clout in the nerd community? I read Scientific American for entertainment, and the editors there are very fired up about science and math education.

Can we imagine a future as glorious as our past?

This may be the moment. I’m watching the snow fall though my plastic-covered windows, imagining a future of clean, smart energy.

I think about a fourteen year old girl, looking at a black and white TV, watching Americans walk on the moon. Yes we did. Yes we can.

State of the Union

Watching these speeches is like watching a tightrope walk.

I’m on my way out, but a quick impression is that Barack Obama was looking forward– he stressed investment in education, research and infrastructure. His tone was optimistic, he praised our country for having the best workers, the most innovation. He named invited guests, last of all a business owner whose drilling company helped rescue the Chilean miners trapped underground.

I was in congenial company, met thru an email. I didn’t want to be alone. Six years ago I watched George Bush in the company of nuns and neighbors at a Catholic school and was glad to be with people.

This was a happier crowd. There were at least three teachers in the room, and they cheered every time the President mentioned education. WBRU sent two young men to do interviews and record first impressions. The mood was enthusiastic, but not without some reserve. Politicians compromise, it’s what they do.

The Republican response by Congressman Paul Ryan was a series of warnings about the deficit, and the need to lower taxes, and shrink the government. A talking point is never to say the word ‘stimulus’ without preceding it with ‘failed’. I have not yet heard Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann’s Tea Party speech.

Ten years ago George Bush assumed the presidency with a peace dividend, an intact economy. He handed it on with two wars, an economy on the brink of crashing, and a huge deficit. Along the way, a deepening divide among Americans and an angry electorate.

Barack Obama inherited a crisis, and the Republican Party has no answer but to defund the government and let the most vulnerable Americans sink or swim.

Ultimately, it depends on we the people. But good leadership is essential if our hard work is to lead us forward together, or to pull us apart, with each seeking a safe refuge while the country sinks.

Government is not the enemy. Not if we use our votes and oversight. Churches and corporations have their place, but a theo/corporatocracy is not democracy, and a nation of gated communities surrounded by poverty is not our America.

Live at the Liberty

Judy, concierge and cook extraordinaire, may be the star chef tomorrow. Today the word is that there is a run on chocolate chip muffins.

The inch of snow we were promised looks like about three and fluffy on the sidewalks, slushy on the roads. Coming north up Elmwood it looked like the Providence side had 2 lanes plowed vs 1 lane in Warwick, but it’s messy and slow all over.

Parking? Fuggedaboutit. I saw a man riding his bike in the unplowed lane. The sidewalks were buried a week ago. It would be nice to have a snow day once in a while, but too much of a good thing… Back to work, or no check.

Afraid of Our Own Shadow

Early visit is cancelled and I’m psyched for work but stalled for a half hour. The TV is on, Anthony Hopkins is starring in a re-make of ‘The Exorcist’. I’m still just Catholic enough that this stuff creeps me out, and Pagan/Earth Religion enough that I have several effective recipes for pest removal, even non-corporeal pests. Really.

So what’s with the new interest in exorcism? There’s a reality show planned, the Pope is seriously promoting it, evangelists consider it a part of their usual ministry– some are casting out gay demons in people who are just too fabulous.

Having firsthand experience in exorcism (more common than you might think) I take a materialistic view. People are in pain, they are frightened. Our own unacceptable shadow side can scare and torment us. Sometimes it is actually therapeutic to externalize what we can’t manage and ritually cast it out. Hey, my nursing philosophy is ‘whatever works’.

But since everything is political, I have to wonder. Is this the literal-minded demonization of the other? Fear of some kind of miscegenation of the spirit? A need for a purge of internal enemies? Desire for a dramatic showdown and victory, after which everything will be pure?

My experience of exorcism is that it scares the heck out of people but has little lasting effect. You can’t cut off parts of your self and throw them away– you are you. You can’t escape your own shadow, you just have to accept that there’s no vision without the dark and the light. The more you understand yourself, the less you are at risk of saying or doing something you will instantly regret, or causing such offense that others will have to sit on you.

I don’t know if the latest ‘Exorcist’ will drive some troubled people into treatment, and scare more into denying their own full self. It will probably rake in the bucks, though. We live in anxious times.

The Wild Hunt is a thoughtful Pagan blog, and they have great coverage including a witch’s interview with the priest featured in ‘The Rite’. Check it out here.


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