Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Eating Right: Why We Should Care

The China Study by T. Colin Campbell, PhD and Thomas M. Campbell II: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-term Health. Benbella Books, Dallas, Texas, 2005.

It’s difficult to summarize in a blog entry the scientific base, the global implications for health, and the exciting conclusions of this absorbing text. So, I’ll truncate the premise (most Americans are subject to diseases of affluence, including high blood cholesterol, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, stroke, high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s) and the conclusions (avoid these diseases and even reverse them by changing your diet to be plant-based and whole grain) and leave it to any interested reader to take the next step: Check out the reviews on Amazon for this book. You’ll read how other people have read this book and embraced its findings. People are excited that their lives have improved in just a short time.

If that gets you interested at all, then buy the book so you can explain your new dietary decisions to skeptical friends and family, or perhaps gain support from these newly indoctrinated allies. And, if you feel like you have “bad genes”—that you’re doomed to get breast cancer or a heart attack—this book will take weight off your shoulders (and other places) and help you confront your family history by trumping any genetic predisposition to these diseases with diet.

Chapter 12 culminates the pages and pages of study data and analysis and simply tells you how to eat. Good bye cheese, eggs, milk (all dairy) and meat. Hello all fruits and vegetables and whole grain foods. The challenge here is to find new recipes so that your eating is varied and satisfying. For people who have suffered through counting calories or weighing food portions, there’s none of that. Eat all you want of the plant-based foods. There’s no “empty calories” here. You’ll be satisfied and you’ll undoubtedly lose weight. But, this isn’t about losing weight. This is about feeling good, increasing blood flow, lowering cholesterol, and avoiding all the diseases mentioned above.

I’ve taken the plunge myself and embraced this way to eat. I’ll repost in a month (I’ve never made a promise in my blog before) to report on how I’m doing and feeling. I’ll leave you with a delicious recipe for Roasted Yellow Pepper Soup that uses the ingredients shown in the photo above.
Recipe: Roasted Yellow Pepper Soup

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Civic Duty

My daughter Sara hosting a German cousin and visiting Belgians
In high school, I applied to participate in the American Field Service (AFS) student exchange program. The application process included interviews with several teachers and school administrators about everything from how I got along with my siblings and my family life to my general awareness of civics and local government. Since I would essentially be representing my family, my school, my city, and even my country, "they" wanted to make sure that I was up to the task. One of the questions was "How would you answer if someone asked you if you would speak out against the policies of an elected government official if you didn't agree with those policies?" I was pretty apolitical at that time and enthusiastically replied "I would support an elected government official. If we elect someone to office, then we should support that person." That evening as I was sharing the interview process with my parents, my father chastised me, saying that it was my civic duty to speak out against an elected official if I did not agree with that person's policies. This conversation took place in 1968. My father is no longer living. But if ever there was a time to act on his advice to me, that time is now.

I went on to live for two months with a family that summer in Hasselt, Belgium. I studied Flemish (Vlaams) before I left (it turns out that my high school German teacher was Dutch and Flemish is very close to Dutch). While my vocabulary was pretty limited, my Belgian family bragged to all their friends that I could speak Vlaams fluently (ha! they were kind at best). I formed a life-long friendship with my Belgian sister Zus and then later with her own family. All three of her daughters have, at various times over the years, traveled to California to stay with us. Our family has stayed in Belgium several times as well. But that's not the real story here. The real story is the admonishment my father left me. I still remember it. True, it has remained dormant for many years. But I am moved to revisit his take on government by the people, for the people, and follow through with my civic duty. So, I ask you:

  • Are you pleased with the policies of your country?
  • Are you proud of America?
  • What do you think about alleged prisoner tortures in Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib as well as secret prisons in unnamed countries?
  • Why do you think that we're in Iraq? When do you think we're leaving Iraq?
  • Why does your government emphasize fear?
  • Why haven't we signed the Kyoto (Reduction of Greenhouse Gas Emissions) Initiative?
Side note: I am proud to be a Californian: "On August 31 2006, the California Legislature reached an agreement with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to reduce the state's greenhouse-gas emissions, which rank at 12th-largest in the world, by 25 percent by the year 2020. This agreement effectively puts California in line with the Kyoto initiative." (en.wikipedia.org "Kyoto Protocol".)
  • Why don't we have affordable health care for more people?
  • Why is our trade deficit and our national debt so high?

I wish I had more answers. Please vote Responsibly.

Next Entry: Eating Right: Why We Should Care

Monday, September 11, 2006

What If?

The claims by the current administration that "maybe somebody did something right" (Dick Cheney quoted in the Los Angeles Times, September 11, 2006) because we have not been attacked in five years somehow doesn't make me feel safer. It's like screening for cancer with mammography. Yes, it helps with early detection, and, in the moment that negative results come back you feel safe (a bit). Then you read the part about false negatives, and realize that trying to detect cancer visually is way, way after the fact. The relief is temporary.

Fighting terrorism is like that. Because we haven't been attacked yet (again), means that we have been safe up to now, up to this moment. Detecting terrorism is hard work and a little like screening for cancer. You're looking for disease that has already presented itself.

What if, instead of putting all our energies into detecting terrorist activities, we put more into understanding the root of the problem? Did anyone else wonder what we (Western society) did to piss off the perpetrators of 9/11 to make them hate us so much? Here are some questions to ponder:
  • What if we hadn't invaded Iraq? Yes, we know that Iraq had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks, but invading Iraq has everything to do with terrorism. Invading Iraq is like performing cancer surgery without getting it all, allowing the cancer to metastasize and spread. The country of Iraq is all but destroyed, embroiled in a civil war whose side effects create terrorists and grow terrorism.
  • What if we instead had put our war machine money (Iraq invasion) into addressing the needs of developing nations, helping to stamp out hunger, improving other people's lives?
  • What if we had used diplomacy to harvest world sympathy thrown our way after 9/11 instead of alienating other countries?
  • What if we had created a true coalition of terrorist-fighting countries that includes Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, for example?
  • What if we put more energy into educating Americans to be world citizens, to appreciate other cultures, to learn other languages, to learn about and understand other religions? (Nothing was more ridiculous, in my opinion, than the Freedom Fries frenzy of 2003.) (It is commonly known outside the U.S., in both France and Belgium, that French fries originated in Belgium, not France, anyway. My reference is both personal experience and this article. Oh, and here is even more corroborating evidence at this local Belgian Fries restaurant!)
Yes, we haven't been attacked in five years, but is that how you measure success in the war on terrorism?
The number of civilian deaths from terrorism in 2005, as defined by the institute [National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism (which maintains an exhaustive database)] swelled to more than 8,000, mostly because of sectarian violence in Iraq. (Los Angeles Times, "Is the U.S. Winning This War?" by Doyle McManus, Times Staff Writer, September 10, 2006.)
Anyone who claims we are winning the war on terrorism is simply ignoring deaths that are not American, an extremely ethnocentric (and bad) viewpoint. We allow this misguided war on terrorism only because we haven't been attacked since 9/11, and because for many of us, our lives are not affected. ("Remarkably, though, the day-to-day lives of most Americans have changed very little. We have found it easy, perhaps startlingly easy, to stick to routines and habits and mind-sets forged before we could have conceived of planes as missiles." - Los Angles Times, "9/11 Has Changed Few Lives" by Stephanie Simon, Times Staff Writer, September 11, 2006.)

I hope that Americans will educate themselves politically. Don't let fear guide you. Don't let someone else tell you what you should fear. Educate yourself. Know your representatives at all levels of the government, especially the national level. Please vote RESPONSIBLY.
Next Entry: Civic Duty

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Tsunami Warning Signs

I just learned that our local beaches will have Tsunami warning signs posted (see "my beaches"--our beaches in Encinitas are in a tsunami zone). Okay, but I want to know when I can take a bottle of water on a plane flight again while, incredibly, there can be unscreened cargo sitting beneath my feet on the same flight.
Next Entry: What If?

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Happy To Be in North Carolina

Along a country road in rural North Carolina Just a stone's throw east of the eastern continental divide is a small town in western North Carolina. Following a country road, then another, and still a third, with names like Sugar Hill, Bat Cave, and Mack Noblitt (old Mack once owned all the land surrounding this road), you come to a steep driveway that leads through dense woods to the top of a hill. A house with a wooden wrap-around deck affording views of the nearby Blue Ridge Mountains, the oldest mountain range on earth, sits on that hill. I spent the last week in this rural enclave in the foothills, visiting my aunt Laura, one of the most amazing women I know, and her husband Joop, whose paintings adorn many of their walls. No email, no blog entries, no traffic. Not missed a bit (well, maybe a bit of withdrawal from lack of email and blogging access).

There's plenty of reading material. Laura and Joop's library includes a floor-to-ceiling bookcase filled with books on art, dance, philosophy, books in Dutch, many classics, music, history, and science. There's months of listening material. They have an impressive classical music CD collection (and some vinyl, too). But most important to me is that Laura gives me connection to my family, meaning to the faces in old family photographs, unknown relatives that had personalities, histories, and connections to me. My brother Scott and I spent hours with Laura going through the family albums and she told me about her life as a girl, and my father's life as a boy. So precious.

Thaïs, Laura's kitty, uses the abundant vegetation to warily watch and sometimes hunt.
Butterfly Bush
The front yard has a wonderful butterfly bush that attracts tons of ... butterflies. Beyond the backyard is a pathway fortified with strategically placed wooden berms. It snakes down the hillside through the dense woods thick with cat claw vines, to the creek, a lazy running waterway that babbles and whispers, but can roar if swollen with rain water.

Days are still warm, but it cools off at night. In the night's coolness is a steady roll of cicadas accompanied by the high-pitch shrill of crickets. From inside it sounds distant, but you go outside and it becomes a night-time symphony. Indeed, night time is louder than days.
Wildflowers by the creek
Many of the wildflowers are passed blooming, but we still saw a few.
Next Entry: Tsunami Warning Signs