Monday, March 31, 2008

Science and Fiction

I'm sorry for more stolen content from my sci-fi blog. But I though the one or two people who come to this blog might get a kick out of this post....

Dear Blog

When I started you about a year and half ago, I gave you a theme. I gave you a title and called you Fantasy and Sci-fi Lovin' and I've tried to stay true to you-- to the best of my ability.

But I had something of an epiphany today. At the gym.

Science fiction occurs in real life. Yep, it surely does. I know the "fiction" in the title would make it seem impossible, but I'm telling you, I see science and fiction together every single day I go to the gym.

Exhibit #1

Don't get me wrong. I totally admire the dedication it takes to get this physique. And maybe I'm a tad cynical, but I just don't see this body happening on a woman without some serious scientific intervention. Now, I don't know who this woman is, and I don't want to accuse her of using steroids if she hasn't in fact used them. But something tells me her voice is a tad husky.

Exhibit #2

This is another sort of science fiction I also see everyday at the gym. This woman is also apparently a famous female body builder, though I chose to focus on I think it's safe to say that without the intervention of current medical advances, this woman's rather impressive rack wouldn't otherwise be possible-- not to mention gravity defying.

Exhibit #3

Oh jeez, I apologise for this. I really do. Some works of science fiction should remain a mystery. I promise, dear blog, to go back to my regular subjects tomorrow and leave the real world out of it. *shudder*

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Brave New Frontier?

Another post pilfered from my sci-fi blog....

I have to admit, I'm kind of flummoxed by this story I read today. A transgendered man is pregnant with a baby girl and due to give birth this July.


This gets my attention for a lot of reasons. I'm not particularly judgemental about straight-gay issues. I pretty much figure I have no business worrying about someone else's sex life. I don't even particularly care that a woman might decide to become a man and then have a baby. Whatever floats your boat.

What does get my attention is the medical intervention required to make this possible and the question of whether we may be messing around with Mother Nature a bit too much. According to the article I read in the Times Online, Thomas Beatie (formerly known as Tracy Lagondino) underwent gender reassignment surgery that involved chest reconstruction and testosterone therapy, but chose to keep his(?) reproductive rights (in other words, all the internal female organs).

The mind boggles.

The article mentions that Beatie stopped taking testosterone therapy and was able to conceive through artificial insemination without the need for additional hormone therapy. There is some concern that the baby could be affected by the testosterone that has been injected into his system over the last ten years since his ovaries and eggs have been exposed to the abnormally high levels the whole time. At this point I admit, I have a hard time thinking of Beatie as a "he" since I'm writing about eggs and ovaries, but legally, he is a man.

As I sit here writing this I do wonder if I have the right to judge the decision Beatie has made. I'm a little uncomfortable that this story makes me squirm a little bit. I like to think I'm open minded and I do think it's very brave of Beatie to come forward and talk about his story. His is married and his wife is unable to have children, which prompted his extraordinary choice to conceive.

At the same time I wonder at the things we, as humans, decide to do sometimes. I know a woman who used a method called MicroSorting to ensure that her last child would be a girl. I'm amazed, and yet appalled that we have gotten to the point that we are now choosing the gender of our children. I know-- I shouldn't make that kind of a judgement. But jeez, how much of a control freak do you have to be to go through that much trouble to make sure your kid is the proper gender? All I'm saying is that I can't say that only choosing to keep the male child has worked all that well for the Chinese, so maybe we should leave some things up to nature (or God if you prefer) to decide.

At any rate, science is allowing human beings to take remarkable liberties with our reproductive choices and I'm not sure what I think about it. One the one hand, I have friends who have beautiful children they wouldn't have been able to have without In Vitro fertilization and I can rationalize that as a good use of science. But can I argue that they are more deserving of a child than Beatie? Mostly, I'd say no. But there may be issues with the health of the baby Beatie is expecting due to his previous hormone therapy and I must admit, that makes me a little less open minded about his decision to conceive.

That said, the baby is on its way and I hope for a healthy happy child.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Monday, March 17, 2008

Oh the Humanity

I don't know about you, but I'm a believer in always learning as you get older. Not only should we strive to learn new things, but I think it's important to learn from our mistakes. That seems like common sense, right? Most people think that way don't they? Well, maybe Elliot Spitzer hasn't learned that lesson yet, but we should try at least, right?

My parents don't seem to think so.

Sometimes I wonder how they managed to keep a roof over our heads. I mean, I really really wonder.

My brother called me a few days ago. He made the token effort to say I ought to call my mom. I made the token effort to agree, for a second or so, but then I started thinking about the manner in which they left and my voice started getting higher and higher and my brother finally told me why he really called.

Even brothers need to vent.

First, you should know, my brother is the worlds most easygoing guy. He invented the word mellow. I mean, you'd have to be incredibly calm to lend someone $100k, not get it back, and then let them live with you. Me? I'd be in jail by now.

So once my brother calmed my tantrum down he started to tell me what it's like living with them on that side of the world.

Basically, nothing's changed.

My parents arranged to have their social security and my dad's disability checks sent over there and that's what everyone is living on. Fortunately the American dollar goes a long way in Thailand so they have more than enough. Of course the standard of living isn't like the U.S., but it's not bad. But my mom, who I remember as never being satisfied by anyplace we ever stayed at, is already wanting to move to a house on the beach. That's my mom. Even broke she wants the best of everything.

I guess the IRS also caught up with them. My dad hasn't paid taxes in years so the IRS has attached their money, but they're not really taking that much (especially considering how much they likely owe). There is a loophole though. The IRS can't take any money if you're making less that $20k -something a year-- I can't remember the exact number. So my parent's accountant is supposed to send a statement to the IRS showing my dad hasn't worked for the last few years. Of course my dad uses that as added justification as to why he can't work.

But get this, my parents are still spending all their money. My brother is going nuts. He's trying to keep them on a budget but they want to have everything and they're being insanely lazy. My mom was supposed to get her visa renewed but she didn't in time so now they're going to have to pay almost double-- which is just stupid since they had no reason not to get it done. They are the laziest people you can imagine. But the worst part is that they're withholding money from my brother. I am so disgusted by this. My dad is acting like he has the right to dole out the money on his whim even though he owes my brother more money than he could ever pay back. My sister-in-law and my mom went to the store to buy food and my mom was being super cheap about everything (she's only cheap when she's not spending on herself). So Yui (my sister-in-law) tells my brother and he asks my dad what's going on. Turns out my mom wants to go to Bangkok and spend the night in a hotel. So my dad tells her fine, don't spend money on food so they can splurge on a night out for themselves as the expense of my brother's family. Nice. These are the lovely people who raised me.

I'm sorry I keep belaboring this, but it's the story that never ends. Just when you think it can't get worse, it does.

There is a little bit of black comedy in this though. My mom and dad bought some sculptures about 15 years ago that I swear they thought were going to be their retirement. They had this 300lb marble angel that they told me they paid $10k for, but has a $30k appraisal. They also had a bronze sculpture that had an $18k appraisal. I kept harping on them for the last year to sell this stuff. They're broke and need the money, right? And I couldn't figure out why they just sat on this stuff. So when they left I told them I'd sell it and send the money to them. After talking to my brother I decided I would send the money to him though-- and I told him that on the phone. So the next day I got in touch with Bonhams and Butterfields in San Francisco. They're a very old, very prestigious auction house. I talked to a wonderful man with a very sophisticated British accent (my mother would have felt very chichi doing this) and he told me their stuff was basically worthless.

I'm sorry, but this is funny. My dad is one of those guys who thinks he can never be taken by anyone. Used car salesman, remember? If anyone pays $1000 too much on a car he'll give you hell and tell you that you "got your head ripped off." And laugh at you. Seriously. But the thing is, my dad is the biggest sucker for a good sales pitch. He's the guy who buy crap stock because some guy he met on the airplane said it was good. He buys stuff from people making calls from a boiler room.

The thing is, I always thought the appraisals on their stuff were suspect. They were written up by the same company that sold the items-- which has subsequently gone out of business. They misspelled words on the appraisal-- that should be a clue shouldn't it?

So my parents thought they had a 19th Century piece of art that turned out to have been made in Mexico about 30 years ago. They thought it would be worth more than $30k and I'll be lucky to get one thousand out of it. Yeah, that sounds about right. The other piece, the one that's supposed to be worth $18k is worth about $500.

I felt bad at first because I thought I wasn't going to be able to send my brother anything. But all may not be lost. My parents left 4 pieces of art by Peter Max (on the living room floor for anyone to take no less) that are signed and authenticated. Those might actually be worth something and my parents don't even know I have them. If I can get something for those that will go directly to my brother so he can recoup something out of this mess.

So my husband has more stories to tell at work and I have more material for my future therapy sessions.

Sorry for unloading again. But jeez, my parents are crazy. I wonder if they have alzheimer's.....

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Verdict so Far

I think it's been about 3 weeks since I've had any diet coke and I have to say, I have formed some opinions on the subject. This is by no means scientific, it's just me, not drinking diet cola or consuming any artificial sweeteners.

I think I'm really glad I stopped.

What prompted me to write this post tonight is that my left knee isn't hurting. That may not seem like a big deal, but I am so used to accommodating a sore knee that I almost don't know what to do without it. It's kind of a shock to sit in my chair and not have to contort my body in a way that doesn't stress my knee. I also tend to have chronic pain in my right shoulder that seems mostly absent these days. I've read that one of the side-effects of drinking carbonated soda is joint aches-- I think I believe it.

Now I'm sure the diet cola addicts are still sucking up their aspartame and shaking their heads at my new-agey silliness. But I think I'm on to something here.

Normally when I try to lose weight I have two problems; appetite and sugar cravings. Since I've ditched the diet cola, those problems have almost disappeared. That isn't to say that I never want any chocolate, but it's a lot easier to eat it in moderation right now. I've also been able to incorporate a lot more veggies into my diet without feeling the need to go back and demolish the leftovers from dinner.

Baby steps.

I don't weigh myself because scales are deadly to me. But I have lost an inch off of my waist, so I'd say that's progress. I'm still lifting weights and doing cardio six days a week too.

I'm not trying to say that I think going off of the diet cola will make your weight melt off. Goodness knows it takes at least twice as long to get off as it came on. (If you haven't ever watched "Supersize Me" by Morgan Spurlock, you should. He gained 25 pounds in one month of eating nothing but McDonalds food. It took him 4 months on a strict vegan diet to lose 20 pounds and another 6 to lose the last five-- so don't expect overnight results) I can't stress this enough to anyone trying to lose weight--with or without the diet coke-- be gentle with yourself. Don't expect overnight results.

I've decided I'm going to give this whole diet-coke-less thing at least a year (though I'll probably never drink it again) just to see what kind of a difference just changing one thing can make.

If you don't mind, I'll post regular updates. This works for me as kind of a journal I can use to keep track of my progress and note the changes I feel in my body. Hopefully I can encourage some other people to try this experiment with me.

If that sounds interesting to you-- One trick to not drinking soda is simply switching to something else. Some people have luck with tea but I wanted something cold. So I drink a tall glass of water and juice; 3/4 water to 1/4 juice. I avoid juices with artificial sweeteners and the high fructose corn syrup. So far the juice/water combo works well for me.

Tell me what you think? Anyone else tempted to leave the diet evil?

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Who Would Make Your 'Laminated List?'

I have this post over on my sci-fi blog but it's a good fit here too...

I was watching New Amsterdam this evening and decided I have a new crush. The star of the show, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, is hawt! I've also realized that I seem to have a particular type when it comes to the men I drool over. Maybe I'm the only one who sees it, but he reminds me a little of my main celebrity-crush, Hugh Jackman.

Anyway, thinking of these hot men reminded me of an episode of "Friends" that created the cultural phenomenon of the Laminated List. The urban dictionary defines the list as:

A list of the top 5 people, usually celebrities, with whom you could have sex with without repercussions, if the opportunity arose, regardless of whether you were in a relationship or not.

A woman's laminated list might be:
1.) Mel Gibson
2.) Brad Pitt
3.) Colin Ferrel
4.) Pierce Brosnan
5.) Russell Crowe

C'mon, don't tell me you've never considered who'd be on your list.

The funny part for me is that beyond Hugh Jackman, and now Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, I have a hard time coming up with a solid list. Well, okay, add Daniel Craig-- then it gets hard. The final two. Hmmm. Let me think. Brad Pitt? Good looking but not rugged enough. Jamie Bamber? Very good looking but I think he may be short. Orlando Bloom? Cute but too young. Justin Timberlake? Ditto. Jake Gyllenhaal? Ditto. Johnny Depp? Very nice but I like a man to look like he bathes once in a while. Harrison Ford? ...That's a tough one. But I seem to really favor men closer to my own age. Clive Owen? Ooooh, definite possibility.

So you can see my dilemma. It's hard to nail it down isn't it? So I guess my list -- so far-- would be.

1. Hugh Jackman (he is my first love)
2. Daniel Craig (Bond. Need I say more?)
3. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Sigh)
4. TBD
5. TBD

Now it's your turn. I'd like to know who you'd put on your list. I'm not going for sci-fi people either. Just those people who'd make your top five. Maybe I'll get some good suggestions...

Monday, March 03, 2008

Diet Evil

I'm sure I've mentioned in past posts, since I can be a bit obsessive-compulsive on some subjects, my struggle to lose weight. I'm not talking about a ton of weight, but enough to bother me.

Ever since I had my first child I've struggled to lose weight. I was always thin prior to having kids and it has bugged me to no end that I can't get my svelte physique back. My obsessive nature has seen me exercising up to two hours a day and eating virtually nothing--with no results. I knew something was not right from the get-go but could never figure out what it was. I worked twice as hard as anyone I knew with half the results.

I didn't give up completely, but I've come close. Over the last year I haven't really been as rigorous as I was before because it has been too darned hard on my body. Running 4 miles a day has taken a brutal toll on my knees and they forced me to take a look at the fact that my body just isn't going to take too much abuse anymore.

The most frustrating part of this is that I gained about 20 pounds a little over a year ago due to what I now know was a hissy-fit thrown by my thyroid. Now, if any of you have ever had to deal with a thyroid that has decided to act up, you'll know it's hell. You get the joys of insomnia, dry skin and weight gain. Woo Hoo! I haven't had a lot of luck in dealing with my doctors over the years. I tell them I can't lose weight and they tell me I'm fine. Healthy as horse. Nothing to worry about.

So, out of total frustration I started using over-the-counter glandulars for my thyroid. And am I glad I did! They have been a godsend and I feel tons better. I saw my doctor last week and she tested my thyroid and it came back normal. Whew! This sh*t really works.

But I'm still overweight. Not tons. I can wear a size 10 or a 12 and that's not deadly at 5'9". But I wanna lose more weight (I whined).

And then I heard something on the TV that really got my attention.

I don't know how many of you are Diet Coke addicts like me, but maybe it's time to rethink that addiction. This article and others like it have been quite the eye opener for me. If you haven't heard, it seems that researchers are now seeing a correlation between diet coke consumption and obesity-- to an even higher degree than regular soda consumption.

Well knock me over with a feather.

I have thought on an intuitive level that I should stop drinking diet cola for some time. Mostly I was thinking in terms of the acid content and the fact that it can lead to osteoporosis. But weight gain? From a diet soda? No way!

I always assumed that diet cola was God's gift to me. I could enjoy a fizzy drink without any calories. But if any of you drink diet cola you have probably noticed that over time your consumption has increased. I used to drink one or two a day, but then it evolved into grabbing one right when I wake up and plowing through the majority of a six-pack throughout the day. But according to studies, the more diet soda you drink a day, the higher your risk of obesity.

Oh hell.

Apparently your risk of being overweight is significantly increased by just drinking one a day. Heck, the study suggests that just 1/2 can a day will prove deadly to you weight.

Now, if you're like me. You're probably all too ready to scoff at this study. I have read tons of posts on different blogs about this topic and I can't believe the amount of denial out there. People are seriously attached to their diet colas. I've heard people say it's the sugar industry that's behind the studies or the tree-hugging crowd trying to rain on our parade again. I've had friends react almost violently when I have suggested trying to wean ourselves off of the diet coke. They say things like but it's my only vice!

Believe me, I know. I've said if for years. I have a ten-year diet cola habit to break. But by golly I'm going to. I am tired of my body rebelling every time I try to lose a few pounds. And if you think I'm being overly dramatic, there are now studies that show diet cola is linked to metabolic syndrome, that lovely cluster of symptoms that include the inability to lose weight, high cholesterol, abdominal obesity and high blood sugar.

Some people are trying to say that there are other lifestyle factors that cause metobolic syndrome and that diet cola isn't to blame. I might be willing to give this some credence if I had not been dieting and exercising myself to death over the last ten years. I know, I mean, I know my body has been fighting me for a long long time and the only thing that makes any sense is the diet coke addiction. Some studies suggest that the artificial sweeteners in the drink actually stimulate appetite and sugar cravings.

You know what, I agree. I've been off the cola for a little over a week and I can't believe how much change I can see already. I haven't dropped 10 pounds (I wish) but my appetite and sugar cravings do seem significantly reduced. I have girl scout cookies sitting on top of the fridge and valentines candy in the pantry that I don't feel an immediate desire to devour. Wow. That's new.

So whether you agree with the dangers of diet cola, wish me luck. I'll be everyone's guinea pig if you'd like. I'll go off the soda-- and all artificial sweeteners-- and let you know if I see any results. That way, if you're not ready to give up the diet crack, you can at least think about it while you watch me fumble around and try to figure out what it is that's keeping the fat on my belly.