Working our Brains

This article says that you and I hurt in our brains the same place that someone else getting hurt does. That is, if we see someone getting hurt, our brains feel the same thing we would feel if we were getting hurt.

I knew there was a reason I didn't like to hear about eye surgeries. When someone tells me about problems with their eyes, my eyes hurt.


Okay, I'm still on a rant from 3 entries ago. Remember? The one where the guy said you and I read on a fourth grade level? Where he said we couldn't name the last five books we've read?

I have read twenty-eight books in the last four days. All mushy gushy romance novels. I liked them, too. That bothers me, though, because normally when I'm reading a lot of romance novels I'm depressed. I use them because they always have happy endings and I tend to read them only once and go on to something new.

I've also read and commented on 2 stories by new authors. Haven't read Mark's yet, because I am trying to get a different email account.

Anyway, I've been waiting to be depressed or realize I'm depressed, but I think the deal is that I am still mad about tao-of insulting Americans. So I just decided I'd read a bunch of books.

I'd love to know what you're reading these days. I like happily ever after endings, though, so if you like 600 people were just turned into 115 liter jars of liquid for transport, I don't want to know about that. (One of those stories I critiqued.)

4 pounds, one week

Physique Transformation is an online database/help/diet plan thing. (That's specific, isn't it?) For 8 bucks a month, they'll give you a plan for eating and grade your eating, so you know whether you are doing well or not.

Because I had been on BFL for a while (10 mths) with fairly low calories (1200-1500), I had to eat more for 7 weeks. They call this the conditioning phase. For everyone it is 4 weeks minimum. Then it depends how much you've eaten after that. During those 7 weeks I lost 4 pounds of fat, gained 8 pounds of muscle, and gained 2 pounds of fat. That means my scale weight went up 6. But my measurements went down. Up until the last week, when I gained 2 pounds.

The next phase is fat burning. You're supposed to lose 2 pounds a week if you are a guy or have a lot of weight to go. You are supposed to lose about 1.5 pounds if you're a woman or don't have a lot of weight to go.

At the end of conditioning, I had 18 pounds of fat to lose and I am a woman. My first week of fatburning I went from 162 to 158.6. It is Tuesday of the second week of fat burning and I am down to 157. Which means that in 9 days I've lost 5 pounds of fat. That's good. Forget that. That's great!

The diet itself takes a lot of work. It's a tweak for everyone. You have to have so many grams of protein/carbs/fat. Each person's varies. It is not easy. At the beginning, it would take me two hours to figure out one days' meals. Yesterday, though, I did 5 days meals in about 30 minutes. That's a plus.

I put my menus on the fridge and just eat from them each day.

I will tell you, though, that it was very difficult last week. Nothing tasted good. I didn't want the food, even though it was fewer calories. I was trying to avoid foods I normally eat that I am allergic to, but I gave that up. So now there is a bit more variety.

Also, I have a problem with losing words and sleep apnea. That was getting worse at the end of BFL, plus I was losing muscle those last two weeks. It had been getting better. But at the end of the 10 months, it took a sharp turn downhill. Those are the reasons I quit BFL.

I don't know if I recommend Physique transformation or not. It is obviously working for me, but it is a lot of work. I guess I recommend it, if you are willing to put in the work. It is not the easiest program and it seems contrary to what you know, but… It works.

Reading and responding to a rant

Was reading an anti-war blog this morning. A very negative, inaccurate blog. I try to read alternative views, to keep my vision clear. This one said that you and I are stupid. Well, if you are an American he said you are stupid. He said I am an “uneducated clod”. He said my neighbors were. (Remember blogs are addressed to the reader. “You and yours” means “me and mine” to the reader.)

He also, foolishly, said that he was sure I didn't know the last 5 books I'd read. Because Americans are too stupid to read. He said my neighbors wouldn't know either. He took my answer off his site and disconnected comments from it.

This was my answer:

Goddess by Mistake

The Little Girl in the Blue Dress

The Other Linding Girl

The Wedding Assignment

The Baby Assignment

The Culture of Mesopotamia

Wonders of the Ancient World

The Tomorrow Log

A Fantasy Hero

A Summer's Breeze

The Mesopotamians

The Babylonians

The Assyrians

Archaeology and the World

Dummies Guide to Myth

Universal History of the World: Early Civilizations

Ancient Mysteries

GURPS: Low-tech

My Sister Celia

Sweet Adventure

The Curtain Rises

When Love is Blind

song Cycle

No More Secrets

One Good Man

The Black Gryphon

This is a short list, maybe half, of the books I read THIS WEEK.

Maybe the people you know don't read, but the people I know do. (Except for two.)

That's the end of my answer.

I was ANGRY. I normally am just a bit pissed off by people saying our president is Adolph Bush, that socialism is better, that we are war mongers (those who use the right word, anyway). But I was furious that someone, I assume an American, would tell fellow citizens that they are too stupid to read.

I went to nursery class this morning to teach the three year olds like I do on Thursdays. I asked my fellow teachers, who I only see at class and do not know personally, if they could name the last 5 books they've read. The shortest list was 11. The longest was 17. That's from 3 people, women who teach nursery school.

I asked my parents if they could name the last 5 books they've read. They did. My mom has read 9 in the last two days.

Of course, since I read a lot, you would expect people I know to read a lot. I do know three people who don't read a lot. But they can also tell me the last five books they've read. One of them is a doctor and he reads multiple technical/medical journals every month.

A quote from the blog that made me so angry.

Our education level is far below, MANY other countries in the world. Consider the latest statistic that over 60% of Americans read below a 4th grade level. Don’t believe it? Name the last five books you’ve read in the past year. Ask your neighbor to do the same. (If you can do it without naming a magazine article from Car and Driver, I applaude you.) You get a gold star and can consider yourself part of the “elite” 40%)? The rest of the world knows we’re a bunch of uneducated clods…

According to our government, though, our children have an average education for other highly industrialized nation. Our government wasn't too happy that we were average, though. But we certainly aren't below average for the world if we are average for industrialized nations. I would be amazed to find someone outside our own country calling us uneducated clods. Because we aren't.

According to a 1993 literacy study, the average American reads between 8th and 9th grade level. That includes those who are in and grew up in a culture of poverty and are totally or functionally illiterate. According to the site above, most medicaid patients read at a 5th grade level. So according to this, even the functionally illiterate read at the 5th grade level.

If someone is going to say something like you and I are stupid, they ought to be able to back up what they say. And they can't. Because we're not.

What does that tell you about the rest of what they say? It isn't reliable.

Being Mad.

Last night I was mad at my husband. I don't remember why. I try to forget or I get mad again. It was bedtime for me and I was washing my face thinking, What's the point of being mad? No matter how mad I am tonight, I'll get over it by tomorrow morning. So I quit being mad and had a quiet rest.

Other things have happened today (blog later), but I was driving home from dinner thinking, what is going on? I am confused about stuff… Then a Terry Clark song came on the radio, which just made me grin. I've never heard it before, because I don't listen to the radio much voluntarily. But I loved the chorus.

“I'll never leave. I'll never stray.

My love for you will never change.

Please, don't make me smile.

I just want to be mad for a while.”

This is how I often feel. It used to make me much angrier in the early days of our marriage that he could make me get over being mad much sooner than I was ready to get over it.

Now, I think, he just leaves it alone and I get over it on my own.

Eating on day 2, planning day 3

I get to have my popcorn again.

It is about 3:30 and I have two turkey sandwiches and a protein pudding left for today to eat. Apparently I have been very hungry, because the rest of my food feels like it has disappeared without my eating much.

I worked on day 3 menu and managed to come up with a 96%. That's better than day 1, a 90%, and day 2, a 91.5%. It also is a menu that looks more like food I would want to eat. That's good. There are times when I go months without popcorn. However, I've had it almost every day the last seven week and then day 1 and 2 didn't have any and they felt very long. My freshman year college roommate would tell you I am a popcorn fiend.

I also get to go to Taco Bell and have a bean burrito, sans cheese. I'll add fat free shredded when I get it home.

Day 4 I teach at church and I'm supposed to stay for lunch. But I know I can't eat what they are going to have, so I don't think I'll stay. My kids would rather come home and hang out.

Day 5 I teach at the coop but as long as I remember to eat a good breakfast, then I can have a bar during my break and do okay.

Sometimes, when you are working on losing weight, you need to plan ahead. Time Magazine said that people's will power works like a well. You have more willpower when you haven't been using it, or have had a break or sleep since you used it. The article suggested using a food diary to help. If you already know what you are going to eat, you've made the decision ahead of time and it isn't a question of willpower as much as sticking to the schedule.

I don't recommend you plan on eating food you don't like, though. That won't work.

Keeping the weight off

I don't know if it's true, but this CNN article says that while low carb and high protein helps you lose weight, people who ate 55% or more of their calories in carbohydrates were more successful at keeping the weight off.

Maybe because carbs are bulky and make you feel full. I don't know. Interesting thing to think about for maintenance.


My youngest came in my folks' house yesterday crying. “Grampa fired me!” He and his brother had been working in the yard with Grampa.

Dad said that M hadn't been doing anything. M said he was trying.

On the way home I explained to both of them some personal prejudices Grampa and I have. That is, if you can't work without complaining then you don't know how to work. If you don't make a visible effort that actually acheieves something, you aren't trying. And that you need to know how to work to survive in this world. I talked a lot on the subject.

When we got home, they had to do three sets of chores. They did them without complaining. Then I told the oldest he and his brother had to clean the media room. He threw himself on a pillow on the floor, yelled, and rolled around. He got to clean the room by himself. (That's another rule. If you complain, you get twice as much work.)

The boys are wonderful. I want them to stay that way.

Redemption pile

I've come up with a new way to deal with the toys, etc, left in the house after I've told the kids to pick them up. I put them in a pile in my room. They have to pay a dollar to get them back. So far my youngest has spent four dollars to get stuff back. My eldest has decided nothing in the pile is worth it to him.

But today one thing went back in the pile that my youngest had redeemed. The wireless remote. They left it out and on when they went out to ride their bikes. They also left the game on. So that's going in the pile too. I think I am going to make a rule that you can't redeem an item more than once in a row. So if they want these back, my eldest will have to contribute.

It has helped a little. But obviously it hasn't stopped the leaving stuff out when it's not supposed to be out.

Dieting. Day 2. Mostly.

Okay. I survived day one on the fat burning. It wasn't that hard, once I figured out a low A. I don't have problems with willpower. (Although now I worry about having that problem, since I said it.) But normally I try to figure out what I am going to do and do it. Hell or high water. Which is not always the best approach to take. Sometimes high water means you'll drown if you keep on doing what you are doing.

I'd be interested in hearing from people who have done a low carb diet. This one is a very specific low carb diet, but any low carb would be useful. The last time I did one (five years ago) I was deathly ill in about five days. As soon as I upped my carbs I was fine. I'm hoping this diet, since it is so specific, will avoid that problem.

I am sick of eating the foods on my list, though. I don't really like variety that much. I'd rather have something tried and true than something new. But I've been eating about thirty foods for seven weeks straight. I'm getting a little bored with that. However, I just cannot think of another food to eat instead. How's that for ridiculous?

Also, I hate to say it but I started fat burning discouraged because I gained two inches and two pounds last week. Not a fun way to start. Then I had trouble getting to a decent menu plan that fit the parameters.

Finally, I am already sick of the food. The restrictiveness isn't that big on calories. It's not a huge change. So why does it feel like it is?

My hubbie says it's the low carb. That people get crabby, then they adjust. I don't feel crabby. (Of course, I'm not the one I'd be being crabby to.) I feel disconnected, overwhelmed. Those are more symptoms of depression. Which shouldn't be food related, especially since 1. I am eating fewer carbs and 2. I am actually avoiding the foods I love which I am allergic to.

Oh well.


My junior high students and I were discussing tattoos the week before spring break. I told them what the process of removing a tattoo is like. (My sister had hers removed 3 years ago.) They asked me why she had it removed. I said because it had her cheating ex-husband's name on it. “Well, don't be so stupid as to put someone's name on then.” was their response.

But that wasn't really why she got the tattoo taken off. She'd already had the tattoo recolored or something to take his name out of it. It wasn't readable.

My boys and I were discussing this today. People have certain expectations. High society women don't have tattoos. While my sister is NOT high society, she is definitely upper class. They don't have tattoos either. That's really why she got it taken off. What is okay for a sixteen year old daughter of an upper middle class executive is not okay for an upper middle class executive herself. It's also not okay for the wife of the CEO. That's why my sister got her tattoo removed.

Found a study on Reuters about tattoos and the people that have them and how society in general acts around those with tattoos. I do have one question though, do you think that the casually dressed guy with a tattoo was helped for longer because people thought he needed more help? Did they maybe not believe his “forgot my glasses” story and think it was a cover for “I can't read”? What do you think?

Dieting. Physique Transformation.

I have finally hit fatburning on Physique Transformation. In the seven weeks of conditioning I have gained 8 lbs of muscle and lost 2 lbs of fat total. (I had lost 4 lbs of fat, but I gained 2 back this last week.)

Now I am supposed to be losing up to 2 lbs a week of fat. That should be interesting. Women normally lose at the most 1.5 lbs a week on this thing and I am no longer hugely overweight.

But if I don't lose it, they'll say it's because I didn't get high enough scores. You HAVE to get an A, but they really want you to get an A+. Well, I came up with an A-. I couldn't plan my food yesterday, because I wasn't in fatburning yet. I am in it today, but when I entered my food, I couldn't get a breakdown analysis on where I was over because the nutrition section kept saying there was no intake listed.

So, even though I am not over on any visible numbers, for some reason they don't like what I've done. It's a little frustrating because I am trying to do what they say.

I want you to know that I am going to be severely hacked if I do not lose weight on this plan. It is extremely picky, takes up to two hours a day to plan menus when you first start. I have stuck with it fairly faithfully.

I'll let you know how it goes.

New Asian pneumonia scary

Boing boing carries a clip of a personal account of the Asian pneumonia which is horrifying. If you are like most people and don't think of pneumonia as serious, this will freak you out. Only atypical pneumonia cases are being allowed in ICU. Ambulances are being re-routed not because the hospital is full but because they don't want to kill the patients in the ambulances. Doctors and health care workers are not going home for fear of infecting their children.

Hard time writing.

I am trying to write a novel. I love the story. I love the character. But after nine months of whenever the mood hits me writing, I had 32,000 words. This week I added another 7,000. So now I am up to 39,000. Of course, the book is going to take about 150,000. With that in mind, I am less than a third of the way through.

Why is it that when I have time, I don't have inspiration? I have had plenty of time this week to write, but I haven't done it. (Except for the half day when I wrote the 7000 words.)

I wonder if it is because the story hasn't jelled in my head. I mean, I know how some of it is going to go, but I don't quite have the bridge to get from where I am to there yet. It's hard to write when you don't know where you are going with the ideas.

The 7000 words are side stories which I had thought about beforehand, when I first introduced two characters into the story. I had a strong basic idea for who these two characters were and where they came from. Then I just started writing their stories. I found out a lot more about them than I thought I knew. Toban was a grandfather! And the stories were a lot stronger than I had really thought out. (Ideas in my head just came out when I was typing.)

Anyway, that leaves me wondering if I don't have a strong enough story line in the main section right now or, if I just wrote, if the story would write itself. I don't want to know though, I guess, so I am writing about it here.

It isn't exactly writer's block. It's more like writer's procrastination. Any ideas for getting over that?

History of Plagues

You've heard of the Dark Ages? Did you know that they were Dark because there was a long period in which an outbreak of plagues happened? In 426 there was a plague in Rome, probably smallpox. In 444 in England there was a plague, probably of smallpox.

Throughout the next 100 to 300 years major illnesses continued to disrupt civilization. At one point (500-700) people were dying so fast in modern Constantinople that the king paid in gold for bodies to be carted to a huge hole he had dug. He also paid in gold for people to pack the bodies down into the hole. 75,000 people died in one month.

There were three different kinds of plagues. One, seemingly healthy people dropped dead. Two, people's minds went and they were eventually killed from a fever. Three, bodies were ill and the people wasted away.

Well, that is part of the premise for my book. But I need an earlier bout with plagues. Found several.

In 430 BC the fall of Athens is attributed to an outbreak of plague inside the city walls when they are under siege by Sparta.

In 1628 BC a major eruption of volcanoes in the Mediterranean can be heard more than 3000 miles away. The ash is sprayed into the world and falls for more than 90 miles. There was a rash of illnesses following this.

In 1200 BC the Assyrians began to falter as world leaders with all kinds of things going wrong. “Throughout this region, almost all of the leading towns and cities were sacked, burned, and destoryed, most never to be rebuilt…” The Hittites, Phonecians, and other cultures almost disappeared or completely disappeared around this time. “Historians have advanced a number of theories to explain this widespread catastrophe…” Well, I am thinking that it was plague. (The book doesn't even mention that possibility.) I think whole cities were getting sick again and neighbors were wondering when it was going to come to them. Maybe they burnt the cities after the inhabitants were mostly dead and that is why they were never rebuilt. By 1195 BC at least one king was aware that infections are spread by eating, drinking after a sick person and sitting and laying where they were. So people knew that one way to stay well was to get rid of all the stuff they touched.

Also after 1077 BC there was a 160 year period in which chaos reigned in the area of Mesopatamia. It is called the second dark ages of the Assyrians. I am going to assume that there was a plague then. You may think that is a long time for a plague, but if the illness ebbed and flowed across the area, that is certainly one rational explanation for what was going on. In the 400s AD there was an outbreak of what people think was smallpox for 16 years. In the outbreak before that one, 2000 people a day died.

When there was a long history of illnesses like that, much knowledge was lost. We still don't have a scarlet dye that doesn't fade, but the ancient peoples did. Many painting techniques were lost for centuries. Etc.

I need a time when people wrote on scrolls and that was 950 BC. So that's where I'm putting my story. Which is very close to the time when the original spark of inspiration thing happened. So, more authenticity.

For an interesting website go to ancient history about.


Did you know that not all libraries are free? Benjamin Franklin proposed and helped start the first fee-less library in the United States. But when we lived in Austin, we couldn't check books out of the library without paying a $50/year fee. That was because, though our address was in Austin, we didn't live in the city proper. They wouldn't annex us. We didn't live in Austin, but we didn't live in any other city either. So we had no taxes paying for libraries. (I don't know what they were going to but they weren't going to libraries.) Therefore, in order to check books out, we had to pay $50/year.

To some of you that may not seem like a lot of money. But we didn't have much back then AND I have a highly emotional attachment to libraries. The first major trauma of my life happened at a library. My good memories growing up involved libraries, because my family was very poor, below the poverty line, and my dad would take us to the library and let us take books out. When we had read them all, he would take a break from work and take us back to the library again. Thus my brother and I learned to love reading because my dad would come home from work to take us to the library.

I am writing a novel that takes place around 250 BC. Ancient libraries were built up by scribes making one copy of a work which they were paid to copy for the customer and one copy for themselves. As far as we can tell, there was no book trade in the Near East.

Ashurbanipal founded the first systematically collected library in the Near East. Ashurbanipal was Assyria's last important ruler. He ruled for oveer half a century. He was literate. His royal seat was at Nineveh (of Jonah fame to you OT fans) in the 600s BC. His library had over 1500 individual works, with as many as six copies of each. Remember that this was at a time when writing was on tablets. No paper, no scrolls, no vellum. Hard clay tablets or wooden boards (none of those have survived anywhere).

He systematically collected his library by robbing temples and private collections. He was a dicatator. He could do that kind of thing.

A fascinating book called Libraries in the Ancient World tells of curses written onto tablets belonging to lending libraries of the BC period. Only one person was supposed to have it at a time.”He who entrusts this book to others' hands, may all the gods found in Babylon curse him!” And they wanted the tablets taken care of. “He who fears Anu and Antu will take care of the tablet and respect it.” The ancient equivalent of tearing out pages was rubbing out the text. “Who rubs out the text, Marduk will look upon him with anger.”

The harshest curse I read was “He who breaks this tablet or puts in water or rubs it until you cannot recognize it and cannot make it understood, may… the gods of heaven and earth and the gods of Assyria, may all these curse him with a curse which cannot be relieved, terrible and merciless, as long as he lives, may they let his name, his seed, be carried off from the land, may they put his flesh in a dogs' mouth!”

And I thought making me pay for a lost book, along with a $15 restocking fee, was bad!

Minor rants.

Dixie Chicks. The Houston Chronicle today talked about Maines Friday response to her earlier remarks in London. Many radio stations got calls from listeners asking them to pull the Dixie Chicks' music. Several put up web polls. Their listeners were 75% for pulling the songs. Stations are supposed to pay attention to their listeners. So, many of the radio stations pulled the music.

One said, “We didn't want to get on the band wagon.” Meaning we don't want to do what our listeners want?

One said, “This is America. You're allowed to say what you think.” You betcha. And we're allowed to not like it and boycott your work or business because of it. Remember the civil rights movement?

The Houston Chronicle mentioned the info that Maines apparently forgot, most Texans and Country music fans are very patriotic. My dad, being a Texan and CW fan, was particularly unhappy with the statements.

Click here for another opinion.

Soldier pics

These sixty-two pictures of soldiers were pointed out on a blog I read today. I think it is amazing that the pictures are all from this week. Monday through Thursday.

They show some of the problems the soldiers are having to deal with now, like losing sleep to sandstorms, having battalion level meetings outside in the heat, exercising on the blacktop in full sun… They also show the soldiers relaxing, hanging out, eating, working…

I think they are a good tool to use to remember that these folks are human beings doing their jobs. They're also a good tool to help you think of things to pray for. I knew to pray about the heat and related problems, but hadn't thought about sand problems. (Should have. I'm from West Texas.)

Life expectancy rises.

The life expectancy rates really mess up my love life. When I was younger, the life expectancy difference between men and women was 3 years. I didn't want to be a widow, so I figured one way of getting the numbers on my side would be to marry someone three years younger. Did that. Now, unfortunately, my husband should be 5 years younger than I am.

Mentioned that recently to my youngest son. He told me he guessed I'd have to go get a younger husband. Can I keep the one I have and just get another one?

According to Reuter's Health, life expectancy for Americans has risen .2 years from Dec. 2000 to Dec. 2001.

I think that's cool. Most people in my family live way longer than that. I had one grandfather die at 68 from complications from a surgery. But the other grandparents all lived into their 80s. Of my great grandparents two died in epidemics (doctor and nurse), one died of liver failure from alcoholism (age 42), one I don't know about, three lived into their 80s, the other lived into her 90s.

I guess I'll just have to hope that both my husband and I live a long life.