Category Archives: ditch medicine for suburbia

Affordable/natural/simple; it’s about what works, not what keeps Pfizer in fresh Hummers.


What you need, when you need it

When I started training Iron Palm, my sifu gave me a stout canvas bag, sewn permanently shut, stamped with Chinese characters in faded blue on one corner.  It was full of…mung beans.

mung beans

Yup.  Mung beans.

Now, beans are a good "starter filler" for this kind of conditioning — from there, it moves up to gravel, and then steel shot; and it's hard to explain why, but the beans do feel a bit softer.  (I've done a little on the gravel bag too.)  But why mung beans?  Just because they're cheap, or a good size, or something?

Nope, turns out it's cooler than that — mung beans are healthy and used as good food and medicine for many things, but the powder is often put into poultices to help reduce swelling and heal injured tissue.  As you smack this bag, you pulverize the beans just a little — you can see the powder puff out, in the right light — and simultaneously rub it deep into your skin.  It's a punching-bag that makes its own medicine.

It's a punching-bag that makes its own medicine.

So there you have it:  Technology without ingenuity can spit out crap products all day long, but ingenuity only needs canvas and beans to make a badass piece of tech.  


(The image up top is of the dent I left in the bag, practicing.  I just like the texture.)



Recipe for Happy Skin

OMG guys, skin is important!

I thought I'd already been through hell with mine — think "terrible acne that didn't let me go until I was almost thirty" — but I was wrong in my assumption that that meant that I could now safely ignore my skin and do whatever to it.  Er, like sunburn the crap out of myself and swim 2-3 times a week and go glassy-eyed and bored when confronted with words like "moisturizer".

But I'm learning that lesson, finally.  Besides improving basic things like "putting lotion on my face" and "shaving nicely and not too often, rather than daily, in a hurry", I'm finding that doing this once a week is super helpful:

Stressed-Out Skin Bath:

  • hot water (hot as you can happily tolerate)
  • 1/2-1 cup baking soda
  • 5-10 tablespoons coconut oil (or your favorite, but I find that coconut oil is amazing for soaking in)

-  SOAK.  Make sure everything gets some soaking — if you're hard on your hair like I am, hair too.  When finished, 

  • exfoliate very gently (i.e. with a washcloth, not a loofah)
  • rinse off in the shower — but no soap
  • if your hair suffers like mine does, wash it with conditioner only (scrub like it was shampoo, leave it on for at least 5 minutes)

After this, I need to have another shower-with-soap no more than 24 hours later to avoid being greasy, but spending that day with extra moisturizer and no soap is huge, and does a lot of good for the next seven-days-soaking-in-chlorine.  ;)

Gluten-Free Summer Fun

I looooooove summertime, and it's finally here!  Today I wandered past my mirror, au naturel, and realized how very I-love-summer-y I looked, so I snapped a photo.  

After snapping it, I realized that it wasn't just stomach-muscles (well, some) and ridiculously comfy clothes, but that in fact the backdrop is entirely made of martial-arts weaponry and tools.  Accidental though that is, it officially made this tribute to summer too good to not post.  ;)


I also grabbed this pic for similar reasons to the last one, when I was making a dietary change and wanted a baseline to track any changes — though in this case, it's a bit different.  Multiple symptoms that can't be easily explained have plagued me lately, and my experiments with reducing certain foods has made me pretty certain that the cause of at least some of them (and more likely all of them, only some stop and start more quickly after exposure) is an allergy to wheat-gluten.  Furthermore, as seems to be the case with such things, the more I waffled (pretty good dual use of that term, I think!) and allowed myself a scone here, a sandwich there, the worse the symptoms got.  The other day I realized that I'm just going to have to admit that "bread and sugar isn't good for you" is more than a generality in my case, and go really Gluten Free For Serious, as the health consequences to doing otherwise are simply too dire to mess with.

By the way, one thing that really motivated me was the worsening of the symptoms and the knowledge that the sensitivity can ramp up and get nastier the more it's poked — and beer.  I love beer, especially since I've discovered craft beer, and beer is not entirely gluten-free.  It does have barely trace amounts of it compared to bread-related things (about 15ppm compared to 200,000, if my reading is generally accurate) — so you see where I'm going.  If I quit the bread and stuff now, hopefully my sensitivity doesn't get so serious that I can't drink beer.

Ah, motivation, you wear some funny clothes sometimes.  Then again, given the picture above, I suppose I can't talk.  ;)

Anyway, I've cleaned out my fridge and re-done the shopping, and stuffed everything with fresh produce, because the fillingness of raw veggies and the sweetness of fruit seems to be the only good substitute for the psychological lack of my favorite foods.  …And I'm sure that sounds healthy and everything, but it's risky too:  I do a lot of pretty calorie-intensive things, and I don't have a big appetite, and since I rarely cook I don't eat much meat.  I've got a pretty healthy level of body-fat now, and while losing a little of it wouldn't hurt me, I'm definitely not built to function with too little reserves.  Plus, I hate the feeling of being calorie-shy; if I get under by more than 500 calories on a given day, I feel like I've been squished by a steam-roller!  

So yeah, I bet I'll be thanking goodness for trail mix before too long!

But who cares, really?  It's summer!  



I call this my "I win, winter!" soup.  It's been evolving for years; this is the first all-veggie version, but I really like it this way, because it's super healthy and low calorie, so I can pretty much eat it constantly to stay warm (being cold also makes me hungry, so this is a nice way around winter weight-gain caused by too much snacking).  It's also easy to make — not like when people who are awesome cooks say something is easy to make, but ACTUALLY easy, heh.



3/4 pot of vegetable stock (procured/produced however) – boil

giant bowl of cut-up vegetables – add

cumin, garlic powder – add until tasty

simmer until done-seeming (veggies are as squishy as you like them)

put in bowl

serious fucking cayenne powder – add until tasting makes you whimper

eat whenever cold or snacky


Don’t Get Sick!

As is traditional about this time of year, everyfreakingbody I know is getting sick.  If that's you, then this guide for winning the war with viruses can help — but if it's not, and you'd like to keep it that way, then here are my tips and tricks.  These have kept me from getting 99% of everything floating around for quite a few years now, so if you're not doing these things, save yourself some misery and start!

  • Stay active.  Obviously this is good for many reasons, but specifically when there are germs in your vicinity, keeping moving helps stop them from collecting and multiplying in your system.  Things as simple as jogging in place or getting some pushups and situps in can make a big difference in your body's hospitality to germs on any given day!
  • Stay warm.  And not just when you're outside, or on your outside:  Keep your core temperature up, with lots of warm fluids, hot food, hot showers, and sweat-inducing exercise.  And don't neglect lots of clothes, including extra socks and gloves — if you feel cold, you probably are cold; don't ignore it!  Your immune system works a ton better when you're warm enough.  If you can't seem to get warm (as happens to me sometimes when it's really cold), grab a bit of strong drink (just a bit — getting drunk won't help), spicy food, hot-tub or sauna time if you can, or a short nap under a zillion blankets to recharge.
  • Stay wet.  Most winter illnesses get in through your mucous membranes, which are mucousy specifically to help prevent such transfers.  But it's dry in the winter, in most places, and dryness means less mucous.  (If you live somewhere where the winters are wet, your main danger is stagnation of that moisture, so focus on heat and moving around.)  So drink a lot of water and hot fluids, and don't ignore the water you usually inhale directly into your nose, sinuses, mouth and lungs!  Invest in a humidifier for the spaces you sleep or spend a lot of time in — it's totally worth it.  
  • Stay fed.  Winter is a bad time to diet, generally speaking…you need nutrients to burn, including trace minerals and vitamins.   Most diets involve restricting your burnable fuel to get your body to burn fat; but fat can't fuel your immune system.  If you're trying to lose weight, focus on eating lots of vegetable-matter and healthy things, but don't starve yourself when there are diseases around — you'll just wind up handicapping the system that keeps you from getting sick.
  • Stay in the world.  Being clean is always a good idea, but don't resort to germophobia:  Some of those germs are good ones, and keeping "all" germs out doesn't work any more than keeping "all" insects out of your house — you need spiders to kill mosquitoes, and the natural world is often arranged such that you can't keep out all the mosquitoes on your own (i.e. mosquitoes being a lot smaller and sneakier than the spiders that eat them).  Soap and water are great, but don't douse your body and world in bleach or alcohol — it's not doing you any good, especially since most of the sick-making germs you'll encounter will get into your body regardless, through the air, your mouth, etc.  Unless you have an immune system disorder, you're not actually helping yourself by keeping all the germs out of your environment anyway — the immune system needs a certain amount of exposure in order to know how to fight things off, and small exposures aren't going to get your sick (on the contrary, they're going to keep you from getting sick — hence, how vaccinations work!).  

Best of luck to you all!  I've got two friends and a roommate down for the count right now, but thankfully I still feel fine…time for some spicy soup and a quick workout to keep it that way!



Don’t just beat a cold. Execute it.

A "cold" is just an incidence of one or more of the random herd-viruses out there catching up with you, temporarily overwhelming your immune system and getting you all gunked- and symptom'd-up.  

I do not accept this.  About once a year, the herd around me will get to passing enough things around that my system slips and something multiplies a bit too quickly, and I get a cold.  Then it's time to press the voluntary systems into service of the involuntary, and to right things as quickly as possible.  

First, prevention is, as always, worth a week of cure.  Learn to spot when your immune system is having to work hard (you can feel it if you try), and give it extra support asap:  Extra sleep, extra vitamins, extra good food, extra meditation — extra everything you've identified as good for you.  Nine times out of ten, a day or two of "extra" will keep me from catching anything to begin with.  It saved me from three rounds of my closest friends and coworkers having nasty flu-type things in the past few months; I didn't get so much as a snorfle while even the most robust of them was laid up for days.

But sometimes you just have to go to war; that's life.  Thursday night I went to hockey practice and found out the hard way that my sinuses were full:  I hung out on the bottom of the pool and couldn't equalize, and my face went SQUISHSTAB.  Pressure plus sinus issues is not cool…so this weekend I'm killing me some sniffles.

Here are my favorite prevention-didn't-work, time-to-throw-down weapons:

  • Naps.  Because duh.  Even if you're not tired, try to lay in bed reading (or whatever) as often as you can stand it.  (Prop up with pillows if your sinuses hate lying down.)  Energy you're not burning on moving your body around can be shunted to your immune system.
  • Hot fluids.  Not much coffee, since I like it with milk and dairy gunks you up; but tons of tea and soup and hot showers.  I drink tea pretty much constantly, especially ginger tea with honey (honey is throat-soothing and ginger is spicy, which helps flush things out even more).
  • Neti pot.  Awfully unfun as this is, using it about twice a day shortens the duration of any sinus-hiding bug's reign better than anything else I know of.  While you're suffering through it, comfort yourself by considering that you're becoming hardened against waterboarding.  ;)
  • Whiskey.  Yeah, this is my farm-wife grandma talking, but I dare you to tell me those women weren't geniuses in many ways.  Alcohol kills germs and constricts capillaries, and nothing will sledgehammer open clogged sinuses like a shot of whiskey.  Plus, it can help you get to sleep if you're miserable (hence NyQuil).  Grandma always splashed some honey and lemon in, then topped it off with hot tea — a nice pre-bedtime toddy, but make it *strong* if you're sick.  I usually force a straight shot down in the morning, and either take another at night, or drink the tea/toddy thing if I'm feeling wimpy.
  • Spicy food.  Spicier food than you usually like always tastes better with a cold anyway, since the tasting abilities of your nose are impaired; use this to eat the hottest stuff you can gastrointestinally stand.
  • Very very good tissues:  As soon as I get sniffles, I run out and buy the super nice lotiony kleenex.  I don't keep these around the house because they're pricey and if you've ever accidentally used them to wipe lenses, you know how much you can hate them; but after the fifteenth nose-blow, I'm always super glad I have them.
  • Peppermint lip balm — real peppermint; the one I use is Burt's Bees; their plain "beeswax lip balm" has a good strong dose of peppermint in it.  This is the best stuff for keeping your lips from cracking due to extra mouth-breathing, plus inhaling peppermint oil opens your sinuses too.  Apply liberally and constantly to lips & nostrils.
  • MOVE.  Yes, rest a lot, but when you're feeling up to it, and especially if you're very congested, get some cardio — even just running in place can help.  Jumping jacks were my savior through an awful sinus infection; nothing else would unblock my face, but a few minutes of jumping and I'd be able to blow my nose again.

After most of these things, your nose will run like mad.  BLOW IT:  Get the virus out.  Cold medicine, especially the decongestant kind that lets you function well in the outside world, keeps stuff in; avoid it unless you have to work or something, and be aware that by forcing yourself to function while sick, you're almost certainly asking to stay sick longer.  A constant stream of hot liquids, plus regular neti and whiskey treatments, will keep you feeling well enough if you're staying at home, and if you go ahead and blow your nose constantly (taking care of your skin using the last two steps above), you'll get that crap out and over with much faster.

  • On the rare occasion that I've actually gotten an infection rather than just a cold (it's been years at this point; the move away from Detroit's visible air may have made a difference there), the bazooka for fighting those is raw garlic.  You MUST either chew the raw cloves, or crush them right before ingestion.  Yes, it's not pleasant.  The best way I've found is to butter a piece of bread, then crush a clove and smear it on one corner.  Eat that corner in one bite, then finish the bread — by the time you're done, it'll just taste like garlic bread instead of nuclear death.  Do that three times a day though, and the nastiest, greenest, most cement-faced sinus infection from hell will run screaming.

Don’t panic; that only lowers your immune response further!

Well, either I bit my lip or something in the night (possible), or I have a real honest-to-Pete cold sore coming on.  ::stifles panic::  Now, I know that cold sores are normal — they're expressions of Herpes Simplex 1, which something like 80% of the population carries and is one of the viruses associated with the common cold — but I've only ever had one mild one in my life, and even then it scared the pants off me.  Not sure why, but those things give me the creeeeeeps.

I do have a cure for them, which I used last time and worked fantastically well (gods I love herbalism)…but do I have any slippery elm bark on me?  Um, no, I do not.  So I read about six web-pages full of possible cures, most of which sounded horrendous, and settled on "likely to work and available":  A dose of ibuprofen (swelling), a packet of Emergen-C (immune system boost) and a slice of fresh garlic, which I rubbed on the proto-sore and then ate, to clear my mouth of nasty virus-stuff.  (Garlic, for you uninitiated, is a phenomenal anti-viral, -fungal and -bacterial.  Be careful putting it on your skin though — prolonged exposure will give you chemical burns!  Garlic is such a strong medicine that if you rub some on your foot, you'll taste it shortly thereafter — I've used it to remove warts and skin-tags, all by itself! — so treat it with respect.)

It would make some sense for me to get a cold-sore now…I've been traveling, been around new people and sharing food and stuff with them, and due to being with family for the holidays, not eating or sleeping terribly well either (always a bad idea in the middle of winter!).  Sometimes I lean on my awesome immune system too much; a performance vehicle needs careful care!  I wouldn't be surprised if, due to the stress of the last few weeks, I got a sniffly cold-cold for the first time in almost 2 years (though I would be angry at myself, lol), and I shouldn't be surprised if I get this.  But hoooooooly cow do I hope I can stave it off!  ::shudders::

Hope everybody out there is healthy!!  More useful posting soon; after a long period of just being slammed with daily life (moving right before the holidays was such a great idea) I'm finally thinking and writing more again.  *WHEW*

Peace (even while at war with viruses!  ;)


*thank you to the University of Maryland Medical Center for their clear summaries of herbal remedies!  Nice to have that to link to.



UPDATE:  Everybody who looked at it (including Nurse Mom) said it was a cold sore, and if they're right then I stumbled on an awesome way to kick a cold sore's butt!  All I did besides the aforementioned single dose of vitamins and ibuprofen was to continue to apply and eat fresh garlic.  Whenever it became sore or bothered me, I'd cut the end off a clove of garlic (nice and portable; I took it on the train) and rub it right on there.  When I felt it sting I took the garlic off, and the stinging went away after a minute — and after that, it would stop bothering me.  It stayed the way it was for a day, then faded in a day; today it's pretty much gone and I haven't needed the garlic at all.  Also on the first day I ate a clove of garlic, and the next day I chewed up a few of the end-pieces I was cutting off.  But that seems to have done it — woo!

The New Dots

(Day 10.)  So besides the mad exercise, it's also week 2 of the Mad High-Protein Diet now.  That's going pretty well…I'm sure I'm overshooting the carbs a little, and I should be eating more vegetables (always), but so far so good.


  • A small glass of chocolate milk is a surprisingly satisfying breakfast.  It's my recovery/after workout drink (I've talked about that already), but since I work out first thing in the a.m. and then go to work, I usually don't eat again until lunch, and surprisingly I'm experiencing less before-lunch hunger doing that than I was eating two pieces of toast (granted, earlier in the a.m., but without the exercise).  Odd, but nifty.
  • I'm getting sick of tuna.  And I like tuna!
  • I am, however, becoming a big fan of turkey jerky.  And I like Trader Joe's chocolate-flavored protein powder too, though combined with my third-grade-jealousy-worthy recovery/breakfast drinks, I'm starting to feel like I live on chocolate milk.  (And meat.)  I may switch to soy-or-something-else milk for one of them to reduce my dairy intake, but since my body is generally dairy-friendly and those two glasses of milk are all I get on this diet, that may be fine the way it is too.
  • This is not a diet for vegetarians.  I mean, I'm sure it's possible, but it's hard enough for me and I've always been heavy on the carnivore side.  I think vegetarians couldn't eat anything but protein powder??  OK, but they'd do a better job getting more vegetables than I do, granted.
  • I'm using the Dots for calorie-counting, but I figured out how to make them a little less conspicuous:  Bracelet Dots!  They generally stick around a day or two, so there's a sort of half-faded bracelet of them when they go all the way.  (1 dot = 100 kcal, by the way.  The pic was taken of the first set, when I got the idea, so you can't really see the bracelet effect, but it's working nicely.)  I'm aiming for 1800 cal/day to support the workouts; I usually hit between 1600 and 1800.  It feels like a lot, since my usual is 1400, but then again, it's a lot of exercise too.  ;)

Take two, they’re small and carbohydrate-free

  1. So I got a cold.  A stupid sneezy cold.  It's the first cold I've had after almost two years of complete sick-free-ness!  And when do I get it?  Four days into being monophasic.

    I'm just sayin'.  ;)

  2. I've forgotten to mention the P90X "nutrition plan" — that's going very well, actually.  Not super-easy, and I don't have the kind of life that I can organize every tiny piece of what I eat to meet strict requirements, but I've made a major change and stuck as close to the suggested balance of nutrients as I can.  I feel pretty great, um, other than the cold.  Heh.

Also, my girl types at me in IM and we invent words together (she makes word salad and I pick out the good stuff).  Today we came up with fuerguw and trigoe and yurygurt and my favorite invented-Chinese name yet:  feg fu wei.  <3

Obvious Lessons in Exercise: We’re All Stuck Embodied

I don't fsck with not getting exercise anymore.

I do at least the basics (pushups/situps/squats/triceps/or something), stretching, and some weightlifting, at least a few times a week, no matter what.  I also make sure to get a workout from walking — I walk fast, concentrate on my form, and always take the stairs.  And this is not difficult — know why?  Because there's been SO much positive reinforcement from doing it, that I'd sooner not eat food at this point, than not exercise. 

Exercise means I stay warm, feel alert, don't feel sore, am not anywhere near as stressed, and go through my days feeling strong and solid and reassuringly capable.  Many other people either limp along, due to age or weakness, or they're fine but only by luck; if they fell or suddenly had to catch something or move something or burst into action, they'd be at risk — but I get to feel all the time like I'm in nearly top condition for my size, age and build.  (Some lucky suckers get to feel like this anyway, but I never did; even when I was young, I was pretty weak from…oh right…lack of exercise.) 

Oh, and I get to look nice.  I'm not a model-type and I'm not a bodybuilder; I'm not "cut" and I don't really care — I don't do the kinds of working out that burn of all one's fat, really — but having well-exercised muscles means a) a pleasing overall shape and b) effortless control of excess body-fat.  You can pinch an inch on me (which, no matter what anyone says, plenty of people consider attractive anyway) — but I went and bought some pants that fit the other day, and after a massive trying-on-of-things, guess what I learned?  That since I started working out, I've gone from a solid size US 10, cresting into 12, down to a 6.  Without trying to lose weight at all.  That's the size I wore in high-school, by the way, and it isn't tight on me today.  I wouldn't wear a bikini — as if I ever have, or want to — but I feel good and I know I look pretty damn good. 

To that last phrase:  Knowing you look good is one of those things that I, at least, wish didn't matter; but we're social creatures, and it just does.  It doesn't require being the prettiest person anywhere to reap the benefits — knowing that you look good for you is enough.  Knowing that you're strong and healthy for you is good enough too.  The mental change is quite profound — it gives you the confidence to act like yourself around people that you otherwise might have backed down to for stupid reasons…because they're younger, or thinner, for example.  You see that all the time in a social work-environment, and it often leads to incompetent people getting a big raise or promotion simply because the more competent person didn't like holding themselves up for comparison against the young/skinny person, simply because they aren't confident about the shape they're in — not compared to others, but relative to how they themselves could be.  An older person or heavier person who exercises and is in good shape is a truly formidable opponent in the workplace; their decades of experience is a powerful asset, but only if they're not afraid to use it.  (Some people — especially autism-spectrum people, in my experience — can actually just ignore the whole physical side of those equations.  But most people can't, or don't.)

We're all stuck being embodied, dammit. 

For the price of a few minutes every other day, it's possible to make that an asset, even if it's usually a detriment to you.  Even if you're in a wheelchair, working out the muscles you can will make you feel and look better.  Exercise is just a no-lose proposition, and I'm rather irked that I didn't know this, or know how to take advantage of it, until I was thirty.  But it's made being thirty far more awesome than it could have been!