Wednesday, April 30, 2008

American Idol

My former personal trainer and very good friend, Karyn, is a two-time Olympian in team handball, a sport little known in the U.S. Across the globe, however, team handball has more fans and more participants than ANY OTHER sport outside soccer.

The sport requires skill in dribbling, passing, throwing, leaping, and goaltending, so team handball players in the US -- where we don't grow up playing the sport like the rest of the world -- are generally basketball, volleyball, softball, and soccer players who bring their athletic ability to the court, and learn the rules and nuances of the game as they train. My friend was a three-sport letter winner in college and was a shoo-in for handball, as it's called everywhere but here.

Because it encompasses so many different skills (including an intuitive understanding of physics!) team handball has actually become part of the gym curriculum in our school district. I hope, bit by bit, the beauty and incredible coolness of the sport sink into our national psyche, and it becomes part of the mainstream.

Watch the following video (only 30 seconds) to see poetry in motion.

This sport gives me goosebumps, seriously. Can't wait for Beijing.

1992 Olympic Team, Karyn is in the center row, second from left.

1988 Olympic Team, Karyn is on the bottom row, second from left.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Star gazing redefined

On my walk today, I noticed something that looked like a tiny planetarium on a neighbor's deck.

"Is that a planetarium on your deck?" I asked, half kidding.

"No," he replied. "It's a telescope."

"Really? Like a Celestron?"

Smiling, he shook his head. "No, not like a Celestron."

Check out what my neighbor does in his spare time.


Yoga for regular guys

If this video wouldn't have come my way via a trusted health-related newsletter, I doubt I would've gotten past the first 10 seconds. It is a video made by the 19-year-old son of a disabled Gulf War veteran -- as an encouragement and tribute to his dad -- and testifies to the power of diet, exercise, tenacity, optimism, humor and faith, to radically transform a life.

Hokey? You don't know the half of it. Dramatic music, the whole shtick. But please watch. It's only 4 minutes and it's important to me that all my peeps know this stuff!


the ex-files

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Hiking Waldo Canyon, Colorado

Sometimes the only thing standing between me and complete despondency is the mountain.

My fellow bloggers have endless energy to tackle important issues -- homelessness, hunger, war, politics, environment, media, government, healthcare, torture, death. The list is depressing and endless. I admire them, but I am not made of steel like they are. I am more a fragile flower and, when buried under humanity's toxic waste and cut off from nature's largesse, I wither very quickly.

For me, the correlation between physical and mental energy is 1:1. So, rather than blog or read the Sunday paper today, I hiked Waldo Canyon!

A bit about the hike:
Heading west on Highway 24, you'll find the trailhead on the right side just past the Manitou Springs exit. The Waldo Canyon loop is seven miles of easy trekking and amazing views. The scenery, especially the view of Pikes Peak, is the best reason to do this hike. In my opinion, seven miles of easy hiking is about four miles too many. I like to earn my relaxation with a couple miles of sheer hellish exertion.

I suppose if I were a runner -- and there were quite a few of them beginning to train for the Pikes Peak Ascent -- I might feel differently. Nonetheless, the cool weather, beautiful vistas, and proximity to the serious runner crowd made for an excellent Sunday morning!

Please don't tell me what world news I've missed. Let me just enjoy my tired muscles and slightly sunburned shoulders until I've finished sorting my photos. The horrid world can wait for me today.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

A woodpecker in El Chaltén

I saw this cool woodpecker on a hike in El Chaltén. Anyone know what I should call it on my Life List?

T.R., I'm counting on you for phylum, class, genus and species!


Friday, April 25, 2008

Hiking Section 16, Colorado Springs

Today my best chum, Kiwi, her kooky new Weimaraner, Raven, and I hiked our favorite trail. Section 16, part of Manitou Springs Trails and Open Space, is an area of old-growth pine forest, babbling brooks, awesome rock formations and outstanding views of the city and the Garden of the Gods.

The hike we took -- the Palmer Red Rock Loop -- is a six-mile trek, reasonably difficult for the first hour (all uphill), and then open vistas and easy sailing the rest of the way.

Yay! Spring hiking has arrived! Me so happy!

My reading place

Long creative bursts come from reading. Some of the most clever people are famous authors. When I let my mind go wild, my reading place has to be perfect. I love sitting in my mother's orange chair, as my classical music makes a rhythm for me. I absolutely love reading about all the exciting adventures of Harry Potter. Most people don't have a perfect reading spot. Luckily, I do.
by Ryan Walden, age 10

Curled up in a cozy chair with a warm blanket draped over my legs is the most enjoyable place to read. All I can see are the neatly printed little black letters on my page. The room is quiet except for the raindrops tip-tapping an unrecognized melody on the window and, if you're quiet enough, you can hear the big clock strike every minute. I rest my head on the chair and sink into it. After awhile my eyes flicker until I find myself asleep, with a book in my hands, and my glasses still balanced on my nose.
by Devon Walden, age 10

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Yerba Maté is for lovers

A few years ago, I went with a friend to a little restaurant in Manitou called The Maté Factor. I ordered maté which, it turned out, was tea. Very dark and bitter tea.

On my recent trip to Argentina, I discovered that this very same maté is consumed by nearly everyone, every day, throughout the entire day. However, it is never drunk during mealtimes, isn’t sold at restaurants, and is never — or very rarely — offered to tourists.

Instead of a teapot, Argentinian maté is usually made in a decorative gourd with three legs attached to the bottom to prevent tipping. The tea is drunk using a pretty silver straw called a bombilla, which has a strainer inside to filter the loose leaves. When more than one person is present, the maté is passed back and forth and everyone uses the same bombilla.

Watching the maté ritual reminded me of watching people pass a joint at a rock concert. Similarly, there's paraphernalia associated with the tradition, like a metal thermos of hot water and a small backpack for tea leaves and other necessaries.

I was warned early on that, while unlikely, an invitation to maté should be taken seriously. Being asked to share maté is apparently a precursor to going steady or a first kiss or something. So if you’re interested, by all means sip!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Distilled beverages

Tara and Ellie in Torres del Paine, ChiléGeorge Dubya calls himself the Decider, so I feel comfortable calling myself the Imparter. For the past 20 years, a significant chunk of my time and energy has gone toward researching issues related to physical and mental health and imparting the wisdom gained to those whose idea of good nutrition comes from Big Food and the FDA -- both of whom want us dead and, toward that end, spew lies they hope we'll digest without question. Which we do.

Yesterday, I asked my 23-year-old son to stop by the store and pick up a couple jugs of distilled water for me. Imagine my surprise when he refused to comply. That stuff will kill you, he said. Feeling like I'd taken a knee to the gut, I knew better than to argue. This was, after all, the boy who bore the full brunt of my passion for vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, phytonutrients, mucopolysaccharides, glycemic indices and the like, while friends' mothers counted calories and grams of fat, and patted themselves on the back for feeding their children Honey Nut Cheerios. I humbly accepted the spring water he offered and ushered him out the door so I could look into the downside of distillation.

Holy crap, he's right.

Distillation is the process whereby water is boiled, evaporated and the vapor condensed. Distilled water is free of dissolved minerals and, because of this, has the ability to actively absorb toxic substances from the body and eliminate them. Studies validate the benefits of drinking distilled water when one is seeking to cleanse or detoxify the system for short periods of time. However, even fasting using distilled water can be dangerous because of the rapid loss of electrolytes (sodium, potassium, chloride) and trace minerals like magnesium, deficiencies of which can cause heart beat irregularities and high blood pressure. Cooking foods in distilled water pulls the minerals out of them and lowers their nutrient value. Fuuuuuuuck.

Distilled water is a sponge and when it comes into contact with air, it absorbs carbon dioxide, making it acidic. The more distilled water a person drinks, the higher the body acidity becomes. Distilled water, being essentially mineral-free, is very aggressive and tends to dissolve substances with which it is in contact. Even metals are dissolved by distilled water. Fuuuuuuuck.

The most toxic commercial beverages that people consume -- soft drinks -- are made from distilled water. Studies have consistently shown that heavy consumers of soft drinks (with or without sugar) spill huge amounts of calcium, magnesium and other trace minerals into the urine. The more mineral loss, the greater the risk for osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, hypothyroidism, coronary artery disease, high blood pressure and a long list of degenerative diseases generally associated with premature aging. A growing number of health care practitioners and scientists from around the world have been advocating the theory that aging and disease is the direct result of the accumulation of acid waste products in the body. Fuuuuuuck.

Holy geez. I knew that soda leached calcium from the body, but always assumed it was due to the process of carbonation. I really had no idea that distillation of water was so detrimental. Now that I read about it, it makes perfect sense to me. As a biochemistry major in early college, I know that any time molecular structure is altered there's a price to pay.

I feel like crying (okay I am crying) that I let my guard down on this one. I've given my children distilled water for a long time, even in their baby bottles, and felt like I was giving them my highest and best. I am so pissed that I was duped. My guilt isn't pure enough to give absolution, however, because it's tainted by righteous anger. Pure water is in short supply in our ugly world and at least I've tried to find higher ground. When natural water supplies are ruined by toxic chemicals and pollution, when we can't drink tap water because of fluoride and other additives, when natural spring water is another lie put out there by Coca-Cola, what options do we have?

Still, I make no excuses. I've long known that to mess with Mother Nature -- to artificially alter the gifts of water, fruit, vegetable, grain, meat and dairy she offers -- is to look a gift horse in the mouth, and to reap the consequences of inferior knowledge and arrogance.

I find solace in that I have a boy who understands more than most people do. Finally, a new imparter has joined the ranks of the few.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Wondrous mysteries

I watched the coverage of the Pope's final message to the lucky faithful -- 60,000 hankie-waving fans in Yankee Stadium -- and can only shake my head in disbelief. Am I the only one who doesn't understand this Pope-worship stuff? It is so weirdly absurd that I hardly know what to make of it. Who are these people driving hundreds of miles to catch a glimpse of him? Those who turn out by the thousands, even without tickets, just to be near him for a few minutes? Looking at the pontiff (just the word makes me laugh) clad from head to toe in white, barely this side of the grass, reminds me so much of the movie Foul Play that the whole thing seems hilarious.

I am pretty sure that no one I know personally would even consider going to great trouble to see the Pope (except my mom, of course), so it makes me wonder what kind of person does. Are they part of other groups that also make me slightly uncomfortable, like NASCAR fans maybe? Or those who drive around the country in silver RVs looking for other people with silver RVs? Maybe I'm just jealous that I wasn't invited to join the club. I did do a ten-year stint in Catholic schools, after all, and never missed Sunday mass until I went off to college. Even in Boulder I went to St. Thomas Aquinas for a few months, until time spent in the confession booth started interfering with my studies. So why do I not know what they know?

No pithy analysis will be forthcoming. As I said, this is beyond me.


Saturday, April 19, 2008

Julia's senior prom!

Thank you, sir! May I have another?

Protest-Buenos-AiresThis morning I clicked on Not My Tribe's new upper-left graphic which imparts info about protesting the state democratic convention. What I discovered was page after page of terms to meet and rules to obey, laid out neatly by the powers-that-be, so that would-be activists can protest the most egregious war and power-hungry administration in our country's history. Happily chirping about meetings with policemen and attorneys, the activists invite us to join them in defining the terms of their oppression.
I'm sorry, I know these people are wannabe do-gooders, but this bullshit is akin to meeting with a gang of rapists to consent to the terms of one's degradation. Oh yes, please! Just use lubricant and let me lie in a comfortable bed!

It's pathetic that our passionate anti-war activists have so little vision, so little faith in human history, such a lack of conviction and temerity that they can be contented to hand out fliers and maps, cower in a cage gilded especially for them, and be completely marginalized by the system they profess to oppose.

Here's my idea. Do not legitimize the trampling of your civil liberties and the silencing of your voices by compliantly meeting with police officers and attorneys. Instead tell them that you'll see them on Venetucci Boulevard with a thousand of your closest friends. You'll have drums and cowbells and bullhorns and offensive banners and whatever fuck else you feel like bringing. Tell them you'll sing and shout and march and cross every boundary they put up to keep you on the fringe. Tell them you'll do whatever the fuck you want to in order to make your voices heard.

What the hell? The vast majority of Americans oppose this war and despise this administration. Why aren't they out on the streets? Do you really believe they'll join you there as soon as they are enlightened by Amy Goodman? No! They aren't out on the streets because they are sheep waiting for a shepherd. So where are the shepherds, our visionary and inspiring leaders? Where are the men with balls, bravely putting their necks on the line in the name of peace and justice? Where are the courageous vaginas, fresh from their New Orleans beaver fest, newly empowered to fight violence against women all over the globe? The anti-war movement in Colorado Springs does not have a single leader. It has a few worker bees -- banner painters and flier makers -- who don't have a clue about what it's going to take to stop the machine.

If you are like me you are saying "Well, Marie, why aren't you out there making a difference?" I'll tell you why. I am the system's bitch. I have assets that can be frozen by the IRS. I have children in the public school system. I have dough invested in Social Security. I am tied by law to an ex-husband which precludes me from moving my family to another neighborhood, let alone another country. I am a cog in the machine. And in the scheme of things, nothing more.

I am, by position and ultimately by choice, powerless. But at least I don't pretend to be anything more.

Argentina protestors
Argentina plaza protest
Blue period
After the main protest
In the street
Green peace shirt

Argentina cops behind the barrier
Argentina riot police behind the fence
Argentina protest media

Friday, April 18, 2008

Lara's spring dance!

Tim Robbins is an activist god

Maybe it's the start of baseball season -- I'm watching the 22nd inning of the Rockies-Padres game! -- that has me remembering the first time I saw the movie Bull Durham. It was a movie that had everything I love -- sport (baseball), romance (Costner and Sarandon) and humor (in the form of an idiotic-yet-talented young pitcher). The imprint of Bull Durham remained on me for a long time. I pictured Crash Davis and Annie Savoy living in Happily Ever After, and hoped that someday I might be as lucky.

Imagine my horror when I heard that Susan Sarandon had taken up with, not Crash, but the nimrod pitcher Nuke LaLoosh. In real life! The guy was named Tim Robbins, he was twelve years her junior and, worst of all, he was a complete moron. Or so I thought,
and continued to stubbornly think, for many years.

Well, no more. Tim Robbins is now the object of my fantasies. He is a guy who is brilliant and passionate about not only sex and sport, but social issues as well. The thing that sets Tim Robbins apart more than anything is his ability to clearly articulate his positions, bravely defy social norms and niceties, cleverly connect historical dots, and positively SKEWER lesser mortals with their idiocy, hypocrisy, dishonesty, immorality and overall worthlessness, while making them laugh at the same time. He is so completely likeable that those who have been ripped to shreds by his razor wit invite him to have another go.

When social change is a goal, when mindsets must be shaped and molded, we need more activists like Tim Robbins. People who strike us as pompous and obnoxious, who are heavy-handed and unlikeable, are rarely successful change agents. To educate, to influence, to sway an opinion requires first to be heard. I know that I personally refuse to listen to anyone who browbeats me, provides no inspiration, and displays a complete lack of social awareness. I refuse to cooperate in any way, even if I agree with the vision. I doubt I'm the only one.

If you haven't already done so ten times, you should listen to (not read -- skip the first 4 1/2 minutes of banter) Tim Robbins' keynote address to the National Association of Broadcasters. He plays the audience in a masterful progression from inculpation to inspiration, while they cling to his every word. In the end he's left them feeling that he's an ally, that they can work together. The broadcasters are free to walk out the door feeling empowered, dignity intact, eyes opened, ready to go.

Tim Robbins possesses keen social intelligence. Unlike many activists, he isn't an obstacle to change.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Lighthouse at the end of the world

Lighthouse at the end of the world
While in Ushuaia, I took a boat ride through the Beagle Channel to faro del fin del mundo or, as it is more commonly known in our secret language -- known to almost no Argentinians -- lighthouse at the end of the world. This is the very same lighthouse around which Jules Verne spun his pirate tale The Lighthouse at the End of the World.
I imagine that Cape Horn, south of the Beagle Channel, probably boasts a lighthouse or two of its own. But, as with most things he wrote about, Jules was darn close to correct!
Lighthouse at the end of the world
Cormorants Tierra del FuegoUshusaia sealsBeagle Channel sealsFaro del fin del mundo

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The mosquito ringtone

My little girls just shared an amazing secret with me. High frequency mosquito ringtones are being used by kids to receive calls and text messages in school, movie theaters, the dinner table, and other off-limit locales. Most adults over 30 can't hear the ringtones due to presbycusis, a fancy medical term for old ears. The piercing sounds were originally used by British shopkeepers to keep loitering teens at bay, but kids have discovered how to use the teen repellent to their advantage. So clever!
The kids and I tried this over and over at different frequencies. I couldn't hear anything except their squeals of laughter.
This is supposed to be a great boon for teens. But with a household of cell-toting young ones, it sounds like a win-win to me!


Trekking in El Chaltén

Argentina El Chalten

Veni, vidi, vici!

This hike to Lago de los tres in El Chaltén was my very favorite day in Argentina. It took about 9 hours round trip with stunning scenery the entire way, including bunches of glaciers. Mount Fitz Roy, named after the captain of Darwin's Beagle, is in the background.

There was a guy with a little propane stove handing out hot coffee at the top, which was great because it was freezing. Of course, pictures don't do any of it justice!

Autumn in the Andes. Amazing, amazing, amazing!

Argentina El ChaltenArgentina El ChaltenArgentina El ChaltenArgentina El ChaltenArgentina El ChaltenArgentina El ChaltenMount Fitz Roy