29 April 2014

A Bit of Fit?

I couldn't help it. It was new and shiny tech. And it was on sale. 
 

So now I am the proud owner of a Fitbit. You know how it works. You want to get more fit / lose weight / get out more, you buy the newest toy that will push you in the right direction, right? But like any hurried relationship it will probably not last. . . . Already it is nagging me to get off my ass and go walk around the block. Only 3000 steps so far today. Dammit. Time to run around the building at least twice?

As you get older fitness becomes more and more of an issue. I don't dance or do martial arts like I used to, Steve still fences and does sword work once or twice a week, but we also like eating well and lounging about watching the telly in the evening.


Several years ago the fitness bug bit and we were all about the stationery bike that Steve borrowed from his mom. We rode it in the living room while watching TV. (We would not allow ourselves to spend hours channel surfing unless one of us was pedaling like crazy, too.) It's a shame we never figured out how to run the TV off all that pedal power like Charleton Heston did in Soylent Green. But that old bike wasn't very comfortable anyway, so eventually we traded it in for a recumbent bike. Steve still rode it, and it was better for his knees, but it gave me a backache and it was huge a pain to change the setting from one for a 6' 2" man to one for a 5' 3" me.

Then couple years ago we broke down and bought memberships to the Rec Center at the University where I work. Great pool. Indoor track on which to walk. Tons of equipment to play with. Steve liked riding on their bikes (which also have television screens). I took the occasional Yoga Class and did lots of stretching. Until our evening schedules went wildly out-of-sync. It's no fun going to the gym without your gym buddy.

 Last summer we both got into bicycling. Spend money on some new, very good bikes. We rode the Towpath Trail that goes by only a few blocks from the house. Winter of 2013-14 put a crimp in everything. No more riding outdoors. Horrible cold days that make you just want to stay in bed. Heat system went out in the Rec Center and it was closed for several weeks. I put on weight.

My health coach also happens to be my wonderful daughter-in-law, Blue. I've been doing online cleanse events with her for the past two years. I've lost weight, felt good, and always come away with a renewed commitment to staying fit.  But somehow this spring, between a killer teaching load and a lot of family emotional or health issues, I find myself nibbling and into the junk food more than ever.

So I bought the Fitbit. Now I know there is no magic bullet to staying healthy. And I also know this fitness stuff gets harder the older we get. My left knee hates me ever since I broke it about 5 years ago. My urge each day when I get home is to curl up with a good book, play mindless Facebook games, or watch Castle reruns on TV. So Fitbit, you have your work cut out for you. While you are still the new shiny toy go ahead and nag me. And if any of you out there have a Fitbit, too, do friend me! I need all the encouragement I can get.

I wonder if the Fitbit will count my pedaling as steps when I can get out and ride again?


21 January 2014

Are We Still Sitting on the Backs of Our Sisters?

Yesterday, on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the Internet became suddenly incensed over a photograph of a Russian fashion model gracefully sitting in a chair that seems to be made of the naked body of a black woman tied in a bondage pose. 


Outrage: Buro 247 used the horrendously offensive image, pictured, of Dasha Zhukova Monday to illustrate an unrelated interview about the former model's new magazine, GarageI saw Facebook posts. Twitter trends. Lots of outrage and people shouting in various forums. Headlines in online news papers like: 

"Russian oligarch's girlfriend sparks MLK day firestorm after posing on naked 'black woman' chair for fashion blog"


I wondered: was the photograph meant to be making a political statement about hierarchies of exploitation, people as furniture? Fashion exploiting the naked? Wealth juxtaposed with the bondage of the consumer? A statement on what? Racism? Forniphilia? Hedonism? (Did no one else notice that the photo on the wall behind her looks like it is of a man in bed between two women?) 

I remember a coffee table book of photographs I have somewhere with a series of photographs by Judy Olausen called "Mother" from many years ago where the artist's intent (using her own mother as a model) was to see the way a mother becomes a background object in a sort of nightmare '50s suburban setting--pushing the imagery with an intent to depict the marginalization of woman as wife and mother by and within societal expectations. 


I wondered if there was a similar artistic intent here. I mean, really, does anyone chose to sit in a chair that is that ugly? (And I mean visually ugly as much as politically ugly!) What was the intent here? Who is Dasha Zhukova? Is this a chair she personally owns? If so why did she use that chair? Or is it a chair the photographer / interviewer placed her in? Was that purposeful? What is the take home message? 

So this made me go do some research on the "chair"--I wanted to know if it was intended as an artist's statement (albeit in bad taste) intended to encourage an understanding or at least a closer look at oppression. Apparently it is part of a series by a British artist, Alan Jones, circa the late 1960s. He made a series of pieces of furniture using naked or nearly naked mannequins (black and white) in bondage positions, "Strippers as Furniture." In the 1960s Jones' "furniture" outraged feminists, too. We may be able to give him some benefit of the doubt if his intent was to showcase the fact that women are demeaned by the porn industry, but I can't seem to find much of the artistic statement on this--just the outrage


In the case of Zhukova's chair all I can find is the outrage as well. No one has questioned whether she owns the chair, why she bought the chair, or what she was thinking by posing in that chair. Bear also in mind that this is a Russian woman--the same cultural baggage an American sees here vis a vis slavery and race may not be as evident to her. Mind you, her ethnicity and wealth (she dances with billionaires, afterall) doesn't excuse insensitivity; it just explains it. 
Zhukova,also posted the photograph on her own Instagram feed. Then when the firestorm hit,she and the magazine that interviewed her cropped the photo to take out all but the "boots" of the chair--a very mea culpa moment that tells me she never realized how ugly this photo could be. 



It really is doubly ironic that the picture was posted on MLK day and that a woman who made her fortune in the fashion industry is relaxing "on the back," so to speak, of a naked woman. I doubt that,in this case, that anyone actually intended the photograph as an artistic statement about the exploitation of women--especially of black women--since Zhaukov was simply posing for an interview about her new fashion/art magazine Garage. Yet in someways this photograph and its incarnations--the original and the cropped out chair--now become a part of the record of the process of cultural awareness and change. Just as Jones' chair in the 1960s made us think about women's issues, so the photo of Zhukova reminds us that times change and people forget. Do we blame her for being a part of a generation or that has not faced the struggle for equal rights? Or for being part of a priviledged class that doesn't see the implications to others in the iconography of oppression in the very art she wants to support? For ignorance or for nsensitivity? Maybe the very thing we need to remember is that we are all loaded with our own cultural baggage and that photos like this are the things that allow us to react, to express our anger and our fears and our positions. Maybe that is the take home message. That we need to rejoice that people do react with outrage at such things! And that in reacting to such things, we too need to be sensitive--this is a teachable moment, not a reason for a lynching.  

As exhausting as the dialog can be regarding race, gender, privilege, and exploitation, it will be when we stop being aware, stop talking, and stop making (or even just finding) the inadvertent artistic statements defining such issues that we will have lost the battle. 

02 January 2014

Landfill Harmonic...

In a place with so little beauty, beauty is created from garbage. 
This gives me hope for all mankind. 


02 April 2013

The scary thing about eyes...

. . . is all the stuff you could not do without them. Even scarier is the thought of losing control of your vision.

A little over a year ago I had to have surgery on the muscles in the inner corners of both my eyes to correct crossed eyes. Last week I had to do it again. Although the first surgery worked and corrected my cross-eyedness, it didn't last. So here I am again. This time the surgery was only on the outside of the right eye--the one with the most issues. Like last time, I had to go into the hospital, have a general anesthesia, only this time the stitches are in the outer corner. Last time my doctor cut some eye muscles to loosen the direction of my focus. This time he tightened the muscles on the outer edge of my right eye.  This time was even less fun.

I planned this surgery to take place over Spring Break. That way there would be no classes missed--not that my students wouldn't have liked that. It was supposed to happen toward the end of Spring Break, I thought I might be able to take the early part of that week to visit my son in Arizona (something I haven't been able to do in several years), but then my surgery got pushed up to Monday of Spring Break (my son, though disappointed, is fortunately very understanding). However a couple weeks before the surgery I got invaded by "The Cold" (cue spooky music).

This has been, bar none, the worst flu / cold season ever. In early March I was at a conference in Boston where several colleagues and friend got sick. Coughing, blocked sinuses, sore throats, headache, stomach upsets, all the symptoms of cold viruses or flu or maybe food poisoning? No one knew. One friend was out sick for the week after the conference. Then it started floating around the Department. Then I got it.  Mind you the grandkids had the sniffles, too, as did my daughter and her husband, so I could have gotten it there. But by mid-March I had The Cold That Will Not Die. Dutifully I told my surgery scheduler. She said as long as I had no fever we could still do my surgery. Probably did not help that there was family stress, either.

March 18th, the week before my surgery, I went for pretesting. Blood work. Poked and prodded. Measured. Weighed. And I still had the cold. No fever, I tell them, but I have been stumbling through my days and coming home to fall exhausted on the couch. Weekends I have been sleeping all day, sometimes napping again in mid-afternoon. I have horrible wracking coughs, blocked sinuses, killer headaches. My Grandmother always said sleep is  the best medicine,  but this was ridiculous--I was sleeping all the time. Damn cold was kicking my ass. And I was falling behind on everything. As that last week before Spring Break ran its course, I was far behind. I had email stacking up, papers piled on my desk, prep still needing to be done for events I am running, prep for exams I need to give, writing unfinished, committee meetings missed. Family demands I couldn't meet. Stress in the office. The dilemma: cancel the surgery? or go ahead and let them do it with all its attendant stress on top of all the stress I was already feeling?

The thing that made me go for it was the need to see. All that stuff piling up has been piling up because it has been so painful to read. To look at a computer screen. I need to be able to read to do my job. I need these eyes to function correctly.

Morning of surgery was another stress--family fight that I did not need.  Same issues. My friend Lisa took me to the hospital. Steve had used up his last personal day the week before when he got sick with the same cold. He did take off early to come pick me up, though. Then my doctor ran late. And the surgery ran long. I am beginning to think March was a cursed month. In the end the surgery worked, but it is taking longer to heal than last time. I finally needed antibiotics and a corticosteroid to get over the cold--the cough still lingers. The eye has been three weeks healing and, though the doctor says it is doing fine,  I still can't look at a computer screen or read for over an hour without pain, or headaches. This delays grading my student's papers, means writing and work is still falling behind. And I have less than 3 weeks left in the semester. And bright light outside hurts a lot. And I am still sleeping too much.

But my eyes are not crossed . . . most of the time. When tired, they will sometimes still cross. It takes an huge effort of will to uncross them, and sleep to really fix the problem. It does seem to be getting better. Slowly. I'm just crossing my fingers (no pun intended) that this will continue to improve. Because if it doesn't there are no more chances for more surgery.

01 July 2012

Are You Pinterested?


It's true. I've been subverted.
.

25 June 2012

Fifty Shades of Black and White?

I have been hearing about E.L. James novel Fifty Shades of Grey since it was first released. Some of my female friends have loved it. Some are disgusted by it. There seems to be no middle ground in this debate. It is either the stuff of romantic daydreams or it is creepy misogyny and a lack of feminine common sense.

Me, I like a good erotic read now and again. My idea of incredible sexual tension is primarily as a complimentary addition to good writing--writing with more than just the sex to carry the story. Take, for instance, the scene between Connie and Mellors in Lady Chatterley's Lover, when he watches her watching the newly-hatched chicks and the consequent descriptive action with which Lawrence stokes that fire. (No, I am not going to tell you what happens. If you have read it you know, if you haven't you should!) Some of  Anaïs Nin's work has that elegance of detail as well; read Delta of Venus sometime.

There is a fine line (which is perhaps the difference between erotica and pornography) between that slow build of sexual tension through elegant sensual description and the hard (no pun intended) blunt details of a sexual act. Granted, the description of the sex act in all it's gloriousness/perversity (depending on your perspective) is not easy to portray in words. In literature it has to be developed with the character--we have to like the characters, want them to feel pleasure.

The review that follows (originally posted on Goodreads) was the most compelling review I found. I am still going to (try to) read the book, but I will take it out from a library now instead of buying it.

(BTW, I don't know where she found it, but I love Anzu's first image here of "wanted/expecting/got"! Reminds me of some Online Dating experiences.)

Anzu's Goodread's review of Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James  1 of 5 stars false

I didn’t want to start this book. Many people are praising it, but I’m simply not into erotica, it’s too cheap for me. But here I am in the mind of the innocent waiting to be devoured by the big bad wolf. Sounds pornographic, doesn’t it? That’s because it is…

Christian Grey. A hot dude that melts a woman’s panties off with just one look. The perfect sex toy set out to conquer an innocent girl. Grey (the sick f*ck) is considered one of the hottest characters out there but he doesn’t get to me. His dominance is too much for me to handle and his attitude tends to be annoying and slimy. Plus he’s just wrong in the head so there’s no need to add more about this creep.


Anastasia is an immature insecure desperate idiot who wants to become the whore of Babylon. She just wants to listen to her inner goddess (wtf?!) and have creepy monkey sex with Grey. She has no personality nor will whatsoever, she gets excited over the smallest and most idiotic things you can imagine and even though she sees how wrong Grey (the sick f*ck) is, she still goes for it. She’s always mooning over Grey like he’s some kind of god that she’s supposed to worship. He tells her that he doesn’t want a serious relationship just sex and she’s still ok with it. Why? Just because he’s hot? He’s a damn disgusting pervert. He hurt her the first time they made love, she was a virgin for Christ’s sake (and I don’t buy the crap with it being perfect, surely she had vaginal cracks after that), and is treating her like a slave. Even though he’s a successful businessman and he’s rich and famous he still can be a psychopath. Just watch American Psycho and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Now to pick on one of my biggest problems regarding this book: THE CONTRACT. WTF may I ask? Signing paperwork in order to have sex with him? Is he a natural hazard or what? I get the whole Hey look at me I’m badass, I have my own company and helicopter gig ‘cause the guy is stinking rich but the contract??? Isn’t anyone getting angry with this?



I guess not...
“Why would I do that?”
“To please me”
 
Wtf?? All women want to please him? Why? ‘Cause he’s hot? He’s a perverted assh*le that’s what he is. He’s acting like he owns everyone! Aren’t you guys angry?



“I have rules, and I want you to comply with them. They are for your benefit and for my pleasure. If you follow these rules to my satisfaction, I shall reward you. If you don’t, I shall punish you, and you will learn,” 
Learn this! *kicks him in the groin* Creep!
“It’s about gaining your trust and your respect, so you’ll let me exert my will over you.” 
Heh *right eye twitches* exert my will *eye twitches again*
Aren’t you guys angry with this yet??



Question for all the people who gave this book great scores. If Grey wasn’t so hot would you still have given it such great ratings? I doubt you would. So this means that the reason why you love the book is mainly Christian Grey being hot and an uber alpha? Shallow much? Or maybe you’re into all the monkey sex and torture. Psycho much?

But who am I to judge.

This book is just a desperate woman’s sick fantasy to be treated like a sex slave. I’m sorry but it doesn’t work for me. I DNF’d this because I find it disgusting and degrading.

[Thanks, Anzu for allowing me to cross-post this here. ]

27 March 2012

The Best Birth Control In The World Is For Men



If I were going to describe the perfect contraceptive, it would go something like this: no babies, no latex, no daily pill to remember, no hormones to interfere with mood or sex drive, no negative health effects whatsoever, and 100 percent effectiveness. The funny thing is, something like that currently exists.

The procedure called RISUG in India (reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance) takes about 15 minutes with a doctor, is effective after about three days, and lasts for 10 or more years. A doctor applies some local anesthetic, makes a small pinhole in the base of the scrotum, reaches in with a pair of very thin forceps, and pulls out the small white vas deferens tube. Then, the doctor injects the polymer gel (called Vasalgel here in the US), pushes the vas deferens back inside, repeats the process for the other vas deferens, puts a Band-Aid over the small hole, and the man is on his way. If this all sounds incredibly simple and inexpensive, that’s because it is. The chemicals themselves cost less than the syringe used to administer them. But the science of what happens next is the really fascinating part.
The two common chemicals — styrene maleic anhydride and dimethyl sulfoxide — form a polymer that thickens over the next 72 hours, much like a pliable epoxy, but the purpose of these chemicals isn’t to harden and block the vas deferens. Instead, the polymer lines the wall of the vas deferens and allows sperm to flow freely down the middle (this prevents any pressure buildup),  and because of the polymer’s pattern of negative/positive polarization, the sperm are torn apart through the polyelectrolytic effect. On a molecular level, it’s what supervillains envision will happen when they stick the good guy between two huge magnets and flip the switch.

Easier than aiming magnets at your junk.

With one little injection, this non-toxic jelly will sit there for 10+ years without you having to do anything else to not have babies. Set it and forget it. Oh, and when you do decide you want those babies, it only takes one other injection of water and baking soda to flush out the gel, and within two to three months, you’ve got all your healthy sperm again.
The trouble is, most people don’t even know this exists. And if men only need one super-cheap shot every 10 years 0r more, that’s not something that gets big pharmaceutical companies all fired up, because they’ll make zero money on it (even if it might have the side benefit of, you know, destroying HIV).
If this sounds awesome for you or your loved one, get the word out. Share this article. Or this link. Or this one. Or this one. Sign this petition. Do something! A revolutionary contraceptive like this needs all the support it can get.
UPDATE: A lot of people are asking to be kept in the loop. So here’s the clinical trial/mailing list sign-upfrom the Parsemus Foundation to get further information about this procedure’s development. And again, please fill out the short non-spam petition to get the procedure funded and keep buzz going.