How to prepare for a fully focused day

A reminder for my ADD self.

The night before

Get rid of small distractions. Spend at least an hour the night before mentally reviewing things that you urgently need to catch up on.

Anything that you don’t think of during your review time is not urgent and does not need to be completed during your focus day. Tomorrow is not the day to organize your garage. Not even the dishes in the sink deserve your attention. As long as things are functional, mess doesn’t matter.

Warn your teammates that you’ll be busy. Turn your autoresponder on if necessary. I’ve started setting my status on slack to let my teammates know I’m working on something. That way I don’t feel guilty about ignoring them, and they know to call me if it’s urgent. Sometimes teammates don’t get it. You might need to explain to them that your work requires deep focus and you are easily distracted. They still might not get it.

If your work involves components or tools, lay them out neatly the night before. Make sure they are all working. If you don’t know how to use a tool/hardware, be sure to schedule time during your focus day for learning how to use that tool. You might need to reschedule your focus day for after you learn since it’s hard to estimate how long it will take you to learn.

If it involves software or a website, close everything on your computer except for that software or website. I use pocket to save things I want to read in the future and then I read them in lines or on a plane during takeoff. If you’re worried about closing a tab because it’s something you need to work on in the future, add the link to your to do list for the future (I use asana).

Break down your project into smaller tasks (read “Getting things done” if you need a primer on how to do this). My rule of thumb is two big tasks (tasks that will take more than an hour) and 5 small tasks (task that will take less than 30 minutes) per day. Things always take longer than I expect them to take.

If your list is on a computer, transfer it to paper and draw out the blocks of time.

Visualize completing every task on your list without distractions, and how you will feel when you complete them.

Lay your workout clothes out the night before.

The day of

In the morning, as soon as you wake up, get out of bed. Don’t let yourself sleep for five more minutes. This will help you to feel less shitty about yourself. I never use an alarm unless I have a call with someone in Europe. I like to let my body decide when to wake up.

Exercise first thing in the morning. I like to go for a run. Make yourself a protein shake or other healthy, protein rich breakfast.

Meditate for 5 minutes. Really clear your mind. Repeat every four hours or as needed.

Put your phone inside a bag inside a closet and close the door. Even the presence of a phone can be distracting.

If you need your phone to take photos or video of your project, set it to airplane mode. If you need your phone for music...put on a record (you hipster!) or play music from your computer instead.

Unless you really hate the playlist, don’t keep changing the music. You’re not practicing for your DJ career.

Resist the temptation to turn on a podcast. Podcasts are great for mindless work, but can be distracting. Turn on your favorite focus playlist instead.

Do the hardest thing on your task list first. This should also be the first thing on your list.

It’s ok to feel distracted. Just like in meditation, sometimes you’ll get distracted from the task on hand. You might open gmail in a tab, or even facebook. If you do, simply remember why you’re working on what you’re working on and begin again.

Sometimes you might have a disaster during the focus day.

(in fact, the likelihood of this happening during a focus day is unusually high. Someone should look into this.) Your sailboat might suddenly drift off its anchor and crash into your neighbors’ dock (this hasn’t actually happened to me yet - fingers crossed). Your chickens might escape and destroy the neighbor’s landscaping. Your washing machine might overflow and flood the basement. Simply get back to what you were doing as soon as the crisis is taken care of, and immediately plan another focus day to finish what you weren’t able to finish.

Stop at a reasonable hour. My maximum focus time is about 10 hours a day. I can pull super human feats of all-night focus when I’m stressed, but that destroys my focus for the rest of the week.

Do a focus day on average at least one day a week. Focus takes practice.

Stop making excuses about why your time isn’t valuable.

Stop making excuses about why you need to always be on call for other people. Your time is better spent focusing. You’re available four other days of the week and they can reach you another day.

Your focus time is most important, and you deserve to live the life that you want to live, and create the things that you want to create. Nobody else can take that away from you, because you aren’t going to let them.

Life on Hard Mode vs Life on Easy Mode

I had an epiphany this afternoon while I was out on a run.

On my usual route there’s a portion where I can see ahead of me for over a mile, and there’s a large hill at the end of that mile stretch. I dread it. As soon as I realize that it’s coming I slow down. Today as soon as I saw it I slowed to a walk.

“Maybe I’ll just walk the rest of the way,” I thought. My brain was telling me that I was a quitter. The anxiety crept in like static and filled my brain with negative thoughts. If I couldn’t even finish my run, how could I finish the five quadrillion things currently on my to do list?

I noticed my thoughts and I stopped myself. What if, instead of thinking about this mile of road and that hill a mile away, I focused on right now instead? I started to jog again, slowly.

What if instead of worrying about how tired I’ll be going up that hill if I run fast, I run as fast as is enjoyable for me right now? I sped up.

“This is going to hurt going up that hill,” my brain said.

“How do you know that...” I asked myself “...when you’re not even there yet?”

And just like that, I took off at an enjoyably quick pace, keeping it up until I was over the hill, focusing on every single second and every individual breath. Whenever I thought about what I was doing, I started to slow down. But whenever I was in the moment, enjoying the movement of running, I sped up again.

And the epiphany hit me - If I turned off thinking about the future, it made things easier. I’d found the mental switch for Easy Mode. Before, I’d been running on Hard Mode.

To prove it, here are my splits:

Miles one and two felt hard even though I was jogging slowly because I was running on hard mode. Mile three felt impossible because I saw the big hill in front of me and my brain told me that it would be difficult and I should just give up.

The last mile and a half felt easier than the rest of the run, even though I was running over 2 minutes per mile faster than I had been running, because mentally I was on easy mode.

It’s all in my head.

I’ve been living my life on hard mode. I spend more time worrying about what I’m going to do than actually doing it. This makes things much more difficult, because I expect things to be difficult, and also because I waste my mental power worrying.

When I was in college I had to finish a screenplay that was going to be voted on as our classes’ senior film project. I was so anxious I couldn’t even start the project and I procrastinated until the last minute. I was nervous about having my classmates read my writing, and I thought it would be easier not to even submit a screenplay than to face the embarrassment of having my creative baby criticized by my entire class. Also, the length of the screenplay scared me. When would I have time to write a screenplay for a twenty minute film? Needless to say, I spent a lot of time thinking about the screenplay and not writing it.

At the time I had also broken my wrist, and I had a Percocet prescription for the pain. I took a Percocet and sat down to write. Suddenly the gate of anxiety dropped, and the words flowed out onto the page. I wrote the entire screenplay in one night, just in time to submit it for voting. To my shock, my screenplay got the most votes, and I also won a grant from Gerald Abrams (that reminds me that I still need to write him a thank you note).

I don’t advocate taking pain meds for clarity, but I think that what happened was that the Percocet made my brain so foggy that I couldn’t focus on anything except for the moment, and in the moment I forgot that writing the screenplay was too hard for me (obviously, it wasn’t). My takeaway is that the overall effect of anxiety makes me even stupider than the overall effect of Percocet.

Even though I was able to turn on the Easy Mode switch during my run today, I know it will take a lot of brain retraining to be able to live my life in Easy Mode. I’ll need to be mindful enough to notice when my brain is slipping back into Hard Mode.

I’ll also have to enjoy what I’m working on, and notice when and why I’m not enjoying it.

Keeping a comprehensive to-do list is important, because as long as I have my future tasks on the list I can forget about them and immerse myself in my current task.

Finally, making a project management schedule, not just for my work, but for my life, can keep me from getting too anxious about things. I’ll be able to complete things one small task at a time. It will also help me to get better at planning how long it will realistically take me to do something, so that I can prioritize things better.

Ok, I’m off to go live my life on Easy Mode.

The casualties of my happiness

I found and translated this writing by Fernando Araújo Vélez shortly after my dad died, when I was struggling to find a way to happiness. I felt lonely and angry when I saw the happiness of others. I was the casualty of their happiness. The title, "Los muertos de mi felicidad," comes from a song by Silvio Rodriguez that I really love. 

Happiness is not an obligation, but a decision. And happiness is not one decision, but thousands, millions, and with every second that passes it can be different. And the best happiness might last for less than a second.

Sometimes it’s calm, and other times, strong, and on occasion, happy, and others, serene, silent, and even vengeful. Because there are happinesses in revenge, and some vengeances that hurt and other vengeances that relieve hurt, and the pain and the relief and the wounds can all be forms of happiness.

Happiness transcends its meaning in the dictionary, and between its nine letters dance the remains of joy and euphoria, of shouts, of surprise or of contemplation, or even of rage. There are happy rages.

You can be happy with a rubber ball or a wildflower, but there are those who want to make us believe that you’re only happy with a brand new truck or an Armani suit. Cheating can be happiness, and cheating oneself, a false happiness. You should always remember the saying of the tormented philosopher*, “For a long time I have ceased to strive for happiness; I aspire to my work!” The work is a seal, a bond, a confession, an explanation and a saving grace. An unfinished work can be a complete daily happiness and the motivation that we need to get up. And getting up ends up being an eternal wandering if we don’t have a motivation. Because being happy can be the consequence of ignorance, and because this happiness of the ignorant is that which for hundreds of thousands of years has promoted the lords of the earth. Before, it was bread and circuses. Now, it’s football, princesses, and patriotism.

It’s impossible to determine the line that separates the happy from the crazy and from the sane, and this impossibility lets these same lords of the earth follow the lines to send inconvenient people to the psychiatrist, backed up by studies with improbable results. Because craziness can lead to happiness, and happiness to craziness. Because it’s also impossible to trace the lines between good and evil, bitterness and happiness. The same people as always want to benefit themselves by tracing for us their own lines along their own interests. They give us first place among the happiest countries in the world, so that we’ll buy and never stop buying, and so be happier. Good needs evil and happiness needs bitterness to exist, because one is the measure of the other.

Because happiness is not a gift that arrives falling from the sky, but rather an eternal search, and in this search are pieces of happiness. Because without barriers and sludge and storms there would only be monotony, and because you have to count the dead that these storms leave behind as they continue their path. Because the path is made with our steps. “The path is made by walking,” as the poet says, and the poet is an unending succession of steps and paths. Because our only map is the struggle, and that is our only triumph, because our triumph is the sum of our little triumphs.

Because of all this, and many more things, tonight I went to bed singing an old song by the consecrated poet* that I have only begun to understand, “I’m happy, I’m a happy man, and I hope for today that they pardon me the casualties of my happiness.”
 

*The tormented philosopher is Tolstoy

*The consecrated poet is Silvio Rodriguez

Is comedy pathology?

My mom gave me this criticism today “you sometimes come off as a fly-by-night.” 

I feel that. I know that it’s true. Sometimes I’m late to events, or I miss them completely. I used to do this because something more interesting came up. Nowadays I typically do this because I’m having a tough day and I don’t really want to be around people. Nowadays I tend not to RSVP to things if I know I would prefer to spend that time alone.
That is  known as JOMO - the Joy Of Missing Out. 

I think the main reason people think that I’m not a serious person, however, is my need to turn everything into a joke.

To laugh or not to laugh.
The day I arrived home after my Dad died, I got in trouble for making jokes in the house. Mom said severely, “now is not the time for that.” 

Ruby Namdar, the author of “The Ruined house” said that he thinks the need to be funny is evidence of pathology. He speculates that European Jews and Jewish-American people became comedians as a way to cowtow to their masters, or a defense mechanism to ward off the aggression and hostility of others.
Freud says the same thing - laughter is a form of sublimate aggression that lets victims of persecution safely cope with their condition.

When I’m angry, or in pain, I would prefer to laugh. When I shattered my wrist going over a jump and had to get a metal plate put in my arm, I started laughing hysterically and couldn’t stop for an hour. I barely remember the pain, but I remember how good it felt to laugh. I think laughter is a strength. 

There have been studies that show that we retain information better when we are laughing (http://www.apa.org/monitor/jun06/learning.aspx). Laughter dulls pain, and is, of course, the best medicine. Laughter can make an unbearable situation bearable, like when we make jokes about politicians.

But are there times when laughter isn’t appropriate? 
I think the only time that laughter is inappropriate is when it is used as a way to feel better, when the correct response would be to fight. 

I have to admit that hopelessness is a big part of why I laugh. People who believe that change is possible don’t laugh, they get to work. At a conference recently, they only gave out men’s shirts. My response was to make a joke about how the shirts fit. Another woman’s response was to demand that the conference do better next time. A tiny thing like a shirt’s fit can make you feel welcome or unwelcome. But I am worried that people will see me as nitpicky if I say something. Or they will see me as unappreciative, or as a bitch. It’s happened in the past. In fact, I probably see myself that way.
My response is hopeless laughter. I swallow my anger with laughter. Her response is hopeful seriousness. 

I also make jokes so that if I say something that gets me in trouble, I will be able to return to it and say “I was only joking.” 

I often say things that I’m actually angry about as a joke.
“I’m going to slip laxatives in her oatmeal,” I say about a friend who hurt my feelings. And if people show disapproval, I say “I was only joking.” It’s a way of testing the waters - of seeing where public opinion lies before you leap in with your beliefs or opinions. It’s the refuge of someone who grew up never quite sure if what she was about to say would make people burn her as a witch.
You hear little kids doing this. They’ll say something innocent, like “does god have a penis?” and their parents, fearing cultural or religious norms, will reprimand them for it. “I was only joking,” the child will say.

Self deprecation works the same way. I make fun of myself first because I expect somebody else to make fun of me, and I want to beat them to it to avoid getting my feelings hurt or losing face.

Laughter, at least for me, is a reaction to hopelessness, anger, and fear.

So, is laughter pathological? 

No, I think laughter can be the most healthy reactions to these emotions. Making a joke makes me feel better like nothing else. And I know that I need to learn to find hope to fight, but laughter is so much easier when I don't have the energy to fight, and frankly, most of the time I don't, but I still deserve to survive.

The only thing that bothers me is that some people will always perceive me as someone who isn't serious. Because I like to turn everything into a joke, some people will always see me as a fly-by-night, as my Mom calls it. But fuck 'em. 

I laugh because I must not cry

Body metrics and the Standard process diet

Writing about a diet seems like a basic bitch thing to do, so I'm doing it.

What is the Standard Process Diet?

The Standard Process diet is part cleanse, part elimination diet. For a month, you take a ton of pills containing mysterious herbs that make you poo weird, and you also drink twice daily shakes and eat whole foods. You stay away from legumes, nuts, grains, refined foods and sugars and caffeine.

The cleanse is 21 days. Once it's done, a healthy habit has been formed that usually lasts for months.

I first learned about the diet from my vegan ex, who had done it when converting to veganism. We did it under the guidance of a nutritionist, and I watched in amazement as over the course of a month, his eyes turned from brown to green. I'm not sure why that happened - perhaps the increased chlorophyll intake? 

I try to do the diet once a year. Over the year I get addicted to sugar, processed foods, alcohol and caffeine. I do the diet as a reset. After day 11, I find that I sleep better and feel that pure energy that I used to have as a kid. Sometimes I can even keep up the healthy living for a few months after the cleanse.

The Biometrics

This time around, I'm going to be starting with some biometrics. I took a ubiome sample a week ago, so I'll be looking at my microbiome before and after the cleanse. 

I'll also be getting a Dexa scan on Wednesday to check out my body composition, and follow up with another one after the cleanse.

Finally, I'll be tracking my weight and sleep daily with the Withings scale and sleep tracker, and tracking my exercise with Runkeeper, and my mood with iMoodJournal. Richerd, who has a totally different body type than I do, will also be tracking his biometrics as we do the cleanse together.

I have no idea what I'll learn from this, if anything. Honestly, I think that most people who are really into biometrics and "body hacking" are wankers who have too much time on their hands and severe OCD. I guess I'm joining the wanker club...

The Recipes

There are a ton of websites with recipes. I'm copying most of what this blogger made for her cleanse. I made the avocado chutney today and it was delicious.

IMG_6901.jpg

 

Other Habits

I'm taking the next 21 days to work on building a few other habits that I hope to keep up:

  • Run before work 
  • Morning sun salutation
  • Play violin at night (it helps me sleep better)
  • Write at night 
  • Publish something every day, either here or on Hackster

How to sail to Toorcamp in 2020

First, get a sailboat. 

raising the main sail

You can buy a working 25ft-29ft sailboat on Craigslist for under $10,000. I wouldn't go much lower, however, unless you love spending all your free time fixing boats. You can also rent a boat on Boatsetter for about $300 per day. 

Next, get a crew. Sailing experience is good, but more importantly, look for people who are helpful and on top of things and also fun to be around. 

Buy your tickets to Toorcamp 2020. 

Monica relaxing on the boat in a butterfly costume

Packing list for the boat (for Toorcamp, see Fbz packing list on Twitter):

Clothes:

  • Warm layers (long underwear, sweatshirt, warm coat)
  • Waterproof layers (raincoat or poncho, waterproof pants and hat if you have them)
  • Warm socks
  • Waterproof shoes or boots if you have them 
  • Sunglasses
  • Bathing suit (water is cold, but it's exhilarating to jump in!)
  • Gloves
  • Warm hat
  • Neck warmer (it could be warm or it could be REALLY cold and wet)
  • light-weight long sleeved shirt for sun protection
  • shorts and short-sleeved clothes for hot weather
  • Hat for sun

Other:

  • Headlamp
  • Charging blocks for your phone (solar chargers work well)
  • Power inverter if your boat has a motor
  • Seasickness medication if you're prone to seasickness (I've heard scopalamine patches work well)
  • towels
  • linens/sleeping bag
  • pillows
  • Ear plugs 
  • eye mask
  • Sunscreen
  • Waterbottle
  • OpenROV for spying on sea life
  • kayaks and/or dinghy (I'm glad I brought both so that me and my crew were able to get to and from the boat as we pleased. Next time I'm bringing two kayaks and a motor for the dinghy)
  • leatherman

Safety equipment

* required by law

  • VHF*
  • Flares*
  • Portable floatation devices (PFDs) for everyone on board*
  • Knife, light, and whistle to tie to PFDs
  • 1 PFD type IV (throwable ring or buoy)* (I recommend the lifesling
  • Horn, whistle, or bell*
  • navigation lights*
  • HAM radio
  • Radar reflector (or radar)
  • Epirb

Know before you go:

nautical charts app screenshot

Be sure to get the nautical charts for Puget Sound (charts 18440) and the San Juans (charts 18421).

Get your Washington Boaters card (required if you're operating a boat of 15 horsepower of more in Washington)

Check the Washington marine report to see if there's a small craft advisory in place for any areas where you will be sailing. If there is, I would advise against sailing that day unless you have an experienced crew. 

Know how to tie a bowline (useful for tieing things that will have strain on them

Things to keep in mind:

The water temperatures average 47 degrees in June. If you fall overboard, the shock from the cold water can immobilize you within minutes, so while you could hypothetically survive for an hour before succumbing to hypothermia, drowning due to cold water shock is the real killer. Wear a life jacket. 

Do a practice man overboard drill with a floating item (if you see trash floating on the water you can do a good deed and get your man overboard practice).

Check the weather report each day that you're sailing for each part of the trip that you'll be doing. Wind and waves can vary greatly in different parts of the Sound. 

If you're thinking about reefing the sail, you should already have reefed it. 

relaxing with full sails

Download the following apps:

Windy (thanks to Scotland for introducing me to this fantastic app!)

Boating US&Canada ($14.99)

Anchor watch

Knots3D (great for practicing knots)

safely moored in Doe Bay

How long will it take?

Can you sail from Seattle in Toorcamp in one day? The distance from Seattle to Doe Bay on Orcas Island is about 70 nautical miles. 

Warning: math ahead

A boat's speed is limited by a simple equation, known as "Hull speed." As a boat moves, it creates a wave in front of it. Once the wave in front of the boat is longer than the boat itself, it requires exponentially more power to make the boat move faster. 

Hull speed is the speed at which the wavelength of boat's bow wave (the wave that forms at the front of the boat as you displace water) is equal to its length. Hull speed (in knots, or nautical miles) equals 1.34 times the square root of the waterline length in feet (HS = 1.34 * √LWL). I have a 29-foot boat with a waterline length of 22 feet, so its hull speed works out to about 6.2 knots (HS = 1.34 * 4.69).  

That means I rarely travel much above 6.2 knots, unless I have a current pushing me. If I were to have good winds and time the currents correctly, theoretically I could travel at 7 knots for 10 hours and arrive in one long, sunburnt day. 

There are only two mooring balls available in Doe Bay itself, but it's also possible to anchor out

Alright, hopefully that was educational! See you in two years! 

Clothing received!

boxes of clothing

Last week, two giant boxes showed up

on my doorstep near Seattle, Washington. They were bursting with clothing.

Not only were there bomber jackets - there were about 200 neckties and bow ties that Alexander had squeezed in. 

colorful ties

Considering that each piece is hand cut and hand sewn, the quality of the garments is incredible. I went over each piece with a lint roller to take of the spare threads, but other than that, I was happy with the quality. Each button was covered with fabric, providing a soft surface. The metal tags gave everything a touch of luxury, as I had hoped.

jackets on coatrack

The one thing that I noticed that needed to be fixed was the button holes. I called Alexander and asked if he owned a buttonholer. He told me he didn't. Thankfully, I have one, and I had just ordered a ton of thread in every color of the rainbow (impulse purchase on Amazon). I'm going to devote this weekend to sewing a perfect button hole on each jacket that needs one.  

 

Note: this part is a series about my experiences starting a fashion import business. Want buy some gorgeous African clothing (and at the same time, help save Rwanda's national parks?) The store is online at Umudozi.com.

You can help by following us on instagramtwitter, and all other social media as @umudozi. 

I travelled to Rwanda...and started a business?!?

Travelling to Rwanda was mostly my Mom's idea. My brother has been living there since last summer, so I agreed to take her for a trip there to visit him this February. 

My brother, by the way, has a blog about his time there over at https://athousandhills.wordpress.com/.

Micah has made a lot of friends there through his work and his church (and also just because he's just a super nice guy, not a misanthropist like myself), and he introduced us to his host family and his neighbors. Rwandans LOVE making speeches. If you go to a Rwandan dinner, be prepared to listen to a lot of speeches. It's probably much healthier than what we do in the U.S. - wait until somebody dies until we say nice things about them. 

View of Kigali

 

The weather, also, is perfect. We stayed in a guest house in Kigali, and every morning we were woken up by the birds singing to the sunrise. There are so many birds! 

Micah's neighbor's brother was getting married, and we were invited to the wedding. I was psyched, but I hadn't brought appropriate clothes for a wedding. That meant that we had to take a trip to the market so that I could get a beautifully tailored outfit in colorful kitenge cloth.

We ended up going to 2 of Kigali's biggest markets and spending most of the day shopping.

Kimironko Market is an indoor market with so many stalls and things for sale and people trying to sell me things. It was overwhelming. The colors and patterns of the many fabrics were dizzying. 

I expressed interest in buying a jacket, and was immediately flocked by vendors of all ages. They handed me binders with laminated photos of different styled clothes to leaf through. In the back, smiling calmly, was a young man wearing a colorful hat and shorts. He held up a long jacket on a pole. "Do you like this?" He asked. "Ooh, yes!" 

"Try it on," he said. I tried it on and immediately wanted it. It fit perfectly. "I can make you a jacket like this if you pick out the fabric, but you can't have this one. This is my floor model." 

"How much is this one?" I asked. We went back and forth. I ended up buying two jackets from him, including the floor model. He measured me for the second jacket, and agreed to deliver it to the guest house where I was staying if I sent him the address on instagram. 

Later that evening I remembered to send Alexander my address via instagram. I leafed through his photos. Each one had a photo of a different customer and their outfit. The outfits were unique. They were fresh, fun. 

Alexander came to my house two days later to deliver my blazer. It had shoulder pads, pockets that actually worked, and the fabric that I had picked out was stunning. The placement of the design on the sleeves and pockets was perfection. 
 

Me and Alexander

He sat and we chatted for a bit (in Rwanda, it's traditional to offer guests a drink before doing anything else). He told me about his stall in the market, how he wanted to study business, and how he had gone to the Peace Corps' camp for gifted boys. I asked if he was exporting his clothes anywhere. He said that one of his friend’s moms, who lives in Tennessee, had bought some things to sell and was sending him the proceeds. 

I asked him if he’d be interested in starting a business with me. I only had a few days left for my visit, but we agreed to meet on Sunday. I traveled on the back of a moto by myself across the city to meet him at the coffee shop. We drank iced coffee and picked at some french fries, and he showed me his best samples. I told him what I wanted, and he told me that he would sew it for me that night.

My plane was leaving at 6pm the next day. Mom was getting anxious, but Alexander pulled up at 3pm, as promised. His bag was stuffed and he was bleary eyed with exhaustion. He’d stayed up the entire night sewing, and his creations were incredible: five bombers with patterns and contrasting pockets; hats of all colors. He even threw in some items for free, and told me to just send me the money once I’d sold them. I hugged him and told him I’d be placing an order for more soon, and we left for the airport. 

I felt the weight of responsibility on my shoulders. I’ve never worked in fashion. However, my guy told me that these items would practically sell themselves. They were beautiful and unique, the creations of an artist. 

 

Note: this part is a series about my experiences starting a fashion import business. Want buy some gorgeous African clothing (and at the same time, support the dreams of Alexander Nshimiyimana, my business partner in Rwanda?) The store is online at Umudozi.com.

You can help by following us on instagram, twitter, and all other social media as @umudozi. 

Obsessed with clothing tags

Fronts and backs of two different clothing tags

For the past couple weeks, I have been obsessed with tags. What makes a great clothing tag? Do tags even matter? And what's the difference between a tag and a label?

Did you know that to sell clothing in the United States, you legally must provide care instructions on a tag? Most tags have the size and the place of manufacture as well.

tag with a picture of a boat

I did come up with a few principles for what makes a great tag. 

1. tags should be unobtrusive and comfortable. 

2. tags should be well made and well sewn.

Many of my clothes have tags that are already fraying. On printed tags (as opposed to sewn tags) the care instructions quickly fade. Even a vintage Saks 5th avenue dress that probably cost a small fortune in the 1950s had the tag sewn on crooked. 

Third, the tag must delight. With that in mind, I turned to illustrator to design the perfect tag, and finally, I hunted down some quality tag makers on Alibaba.

The first tag was the metal tag for the blazer sleeve. This is more branding than anything else, and I wanted a more expensive, metal tag to class it up:

Umudozi tag drafts

After surfing for hours looking for ways to make tags more fun, I decided to include a Rwandan phrase on the inside tag.

Screen Shot 2018-05-16 at 22.51.06.png

Me and the tag maker, Shenzhen Xinbaoyuan Weaving Co, went back and forth about styles. He said I should do a center fold tag, but I wanted a tag that would lie flat and not bother the person wearing the jacket. That's apparently called a "straight cut" tag. 

Also, my smallest font was too small for their embroidery machine, so I had to make the tags a little bit bigger. 

Unfortunately, something went wrong with the first print of our Umudozi tag:

Umudozi failed test

Thankfully, I caught it, and Shenzhen Xinbaoyuan Weaving Co. corrected it. However, the tags I was sent were very thin, and I will be ordering from someone else for my next batch. I should have taken the faulty initial run as a warning. 

In the end, 500 cloth tags and 500 metal tags were shipped to Rwanda and placed in the clothing.

I still have to make the hanging price tags for the clothing. I'm going to go with something ecofriendly, since these get tossed after you buy the jackets. I think I'll make them from recyclable material.

Note: this part is a series about my experiences starting a fashion import business. Want buy some gorgeous African clothing (and at the same time, support workers in Rwanda?) The store is online at Umudozi.com.

You can help by following us on instagram, twitter, and all other social media as @umudozi. 

 

Fire poofer weekend

I've been interested in fire my whole life, but only started working with it as an artistic medium in the past year. Let's be real though - when I say artistic medium, I basically only mean that I make things that take me a while to build and I have some degree of control over how much and when the fire comes out. 

 

Last summer I got to work on some of the electronics for Martin Montesano (AKA Moltensteelman)'s piece for burning man - The Three Wishes. 

THREE2ISHES.jpg

 

Code for the project is here: https://github.com/zebular13/PooferButton

One of the most satisfying feelings in the world is pushing a button and watching fire poof out.

 

In April this year I attended the Flame Effects for the Artist workshop in Garberville, CA, put on by PooferSupply. Not only did we build our own poofer over the weekend, we also learned lots of useful information about safety and how to work with authorities. Eric, aka Propaniac, who runs the workshop, is not only a volunteer firefighter, he's also worked in the LP Gas Industry for over 30 years and is involved in writing their regulations.

flame.jpg

And now, finally, I've started creating my own flame effects from the plumbing to the code. I hope to share more posts about this as I learn, and hopefully share a project or two on Hackster. For now, I leave you with this video:

Huge thanks to Paul Stoffregen, Moopi and Moltensteelman, who initiated me into the cult of the poofer.

Ivy

Living in the suburbs, you have to strike a fine balancing act with your neighbors.
You want to be close enough to them that if your house is burning down they’ll come help you. At the same time, you have to keep enough distance that they won’t stage an intervention when you wake up at noon and wear the same stained sweatpants five days in a row.
 
I’m new to the suburbs, so my neighbors still treat me with friendly caution. I have a butch haircut, but I wear mermaid leggings and dresses while I’m gardening, so I'm pretty sure they don’t know what to make of me yet.


Today, my neighbor and I had a fake argument about whose job it was to cut the ivy growing between our homes. I said the roots were on my side of the fence, so it was my job, and he said the roots were on his side, so it was his job. In the end, he ceded and I continued with my task. 


English Ivy is a terrible invasive species. It crawls up trees and sucks the lifeblood out of them. It crawls everywhere. To kill it, you have to burn it, like a zombie corpse. Otherwise the clippings grow roots and come back to life again. 
Ivy is now my arch enemy. I enjoy hacking at it. I love mutilating living creatures that can’t run away or resist. 
That’s why I’m a vegetarian. 


Not that I have any beef with people who eat meat. In fact, I respect people who shoot their own food, like Mark Zuckerberg. What do you think Mark Zuckerberg wears when he goes hunting? Do you think he has a camo sweatshirt and little camo flip flops?

Update: 

I missed out on The Boring Company's flamethrower sale,  but thankfully you can buy a weed torch (basically a mini-flamethrower) for under $50, which is way more affordable and apparently just as much fire. I think this is going to be my ivy destroying method.

One simple trick to wake up early

I’m terrible at waking up.

In the winter in Seattle, when the sun doesn't rise until nearly 9am, it's especially hard. I have a 10K lumen happy light, and it helps a bit. I highly recommend it. But I still hate mornings. I've tried other tricks, like writing down what you're grateful for (nope, doesn't help), putting Beyonce as my alarm (I ended up hating Beyoncé), and peppermint oil (bullshit). This trick won't make you jump out of bed, but it might at least keep you from hitting snooze.

Ok, here’s how to do it:
Drink a tall glass of room temperature water as soon as you wake up.

That's it. 

Unnecessary (Sobras)

I took the liberty of translating this piece from an opinion column in El Espectador by Fernando Araújo Vélez. It needed to be shared. The original title is Sobras

It was hard for me to pick an English translation for sobras. I went through the following synonyms:

Redundant, Superfluous, Unneeded, Extra, uncalled for, leftover, remaining, Surplus, excess, leftover, remnants, scraps, dregs, waste, one too many, Finally I decided that Sobras = Unnecessary.

 

We have unnecessary words for humility, submission and pardon, when these words come from those who benefit from them and for them, and we have had too much of their impositions and their deeds.

 

Their words and discourses are unnecessary, because they tend to be lies to deceive us, and we have superfluous variations of their tricks throughout history...

 

We have unnecessary texts that praise them, and we have hundreds of monuments which have perpetuated them so that we might follow their examples. We have unnecessary sell-outs who repeat history, and we have too many heirs who have conformed comfortably. We have too many tariffs, when they have been stained with blood and with death, and we have too much of the idea that money is the end, instead of the means.

 

We have unnecessary queens, princesses, prince charmings, aristocrats, vassals, exploiters and exploited. We have unnecessary dozens of thousands of people in uniform, because without having someone to fight, they invent and follow invented, invisible enemies so that they may continue to be indispensable. We have unnecessary uniforms, schedules, wars, and armies of those who are unable to talk and be convinced, and instead of dialogue they use force, which is to say, bullets.

 

We have unnecessary people who traffic in bullets, who traffic in drugs, who traffic in words, who traffic with man and who convert him into a tiny lunatic with immense gear created by them. We have unnecessary people who traffic in gods.

 

We have unnecessary geniuses, inspired people, who tell us what we should do and how, and disperse the idea that they are geniuses and walk around inspired so that the rest of us believe it’s impossible to be like them. We have unnecessary owners of the truth, judges of contests, and prizes. We have too many medals for heroism, and too much of the belief that heroes are those who give their life for the motherland, and we have way too many motherlands. We have unnecessary borders, parades, latest fashions and new styles. We have unnecessary estates, fences, walls, notaries. We have unnecessary goals, productivity, and perfection, because perfection is condemning ourselves to centuries of centuries of serving a patron, and all of the patrons are uncalled for.

 

We have unnecessary front men, their firms and their works, and all of the work of those who write for convenience. We have unnecessary fear, acting out of fear, and living for obligations determined by others, and being employed by those others. We have unnecessary employees, which is to say people who are used, and what’s more, we have too many people who want to be the employee (used person) of the year. We have too much naiveté of voting over and over again for the same people, believing for some reason that our education, our health and our life are somehow important to these people.

 

We have unnecessary learning and living to the letter of the law, and we have so many unnecessary things perhaps because we ourselves are unnecessary.

Link to original piece in Spanish.

Tonight my dog is still alive

Tomorrow she’ll be gone.

I love her so much. I love her like my sister, my daughter. I can’t bear it. I can’t bear her leaving me.

Everyone has a pet die. I lost my first pet, Little Red, when he was four years old and I was five. He was a guinea pig.
But you, you’re more than a pet. I love you like a sister, a daughter. I’ve never heard a story of anyone who lost her mind after she lost her dog. Maybe I’ll be the first.

We stood in the woods and I let her run through the knee high hay. I never wanted her to wear a leash. I didn’t even make her wear a collar when she ran away. We were equals and friends.

In August on our vacation in Maine I stared into her eyes and I saw more than what I’ve been taught that ‘animal’ should be. She looked at me with eyes that were perfectly knowing, perfectly capable of understanding. There’s a reason our dogs aren’t at eye level. We could never treat them the way we do, as our subordinates, if we had to stare in their eyes constantly.

I felt uncomfortable staring at her, realizing that she was so much more than I expected. And the strangest thing was that I could tell she was feeling the same emotion - discomfort at realizing that I, also, was able to understand her in a way that she’d never known I was capable of understanding. At first she looked away, awkwardly, and then she held my gaze and we stared at each other placidly for a long time.

 

“She just don’t look like a normal dog to me sometimes when I look inside there. “- Rocky Balboa on his dog


On a sunny day in November, Mungo ran across a field and I followed lazily with footsteps crunching on the frost. She turned and waited and gazed at me, her eyes exactly what a narcissistic human needs; to feel needed, wanted, loved.

I hugged her more than I've ever hugged any human. I gave her affection knowing that she could never pay me back in material things, but only with the things that mattered, like licks and tail wags. I made her wear a Santa hat at Christmas and she indulged me for a few seconds.

She was a tiny thing once, and I could hold her in one hand. The morning, nine years ago, when we drove her home from the farm where she was born, she got carsick and threw up on the seat. She didn’t know how to wear a leash. She was so adorable. I set her photo as the background on my flip phone and showed her off to my new friends from college.

Last summer she discovered toads. At nine years old she discovered toads. She ran away for the very first time to catch the toads in the creek.
I let her run away because I wanted her to enjoy life while she could. When I found her she looked at me with guilty eyes and muddy paws, but she didn’t even come when I said “come.” She just wagged her tail. She was enjoying life like only a dog can enjoy life. As Walt Whitman said of animals, “they don’t lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins. They don’t make me sick, discussing their duty to God.”

Carefree as she sometimes was, she wasn’t without emotions and loyalty. Last spring she stopped eating. She stopped eating after Dad died. You can say it’s not connected but I know it is.
Once, years before, she peed herself because she was so happy the day Dad got home from a long trip. She never did that for anyone else. For some reason she adored him more than the rest of us.

Maybe it was because they both knew how to live a good life. They both knew had to put others first and love everyone and somehow be happy doing that. That’s why they got along.

Screen Shot 2017-11-05 at 21.29.30.png

The secret of Oz - a rambling review

Despite the low budget, this film was engaging. The main thing I took away from it, which was shocking to me, is that banks just make up trillions of dollars to ‘loan’ to the federal government, and then the government owes them billions in interest. So banks are making money by doing nothing, leaving taxpayers in debt. 
Call me stupid, but I had never realized this before. In 2015, the U.S. spent $223 billion, or 6 percent of the federal budget, paying for interest on the debt. That’s absolute bullshit. They have to pay interest on money that the banks MADE UP to lend them in the first place. What a fucked up system.

But honestly, I don’t know. I know NOTHING about our financial system, to be honest. I know a bit about bitcoin, especially the slightly more technical parts. But I know NOTHING about banking, or the history of banks, or the history of finance. A lot of things that I watch or read leave me wanting a lot more information, and feeling like I’m only getting part of the story. 
Here’s this article, about how congress was bouncing their checks and not getting fees, and their constituents complained about it: 
http://www.bankrate.com/finance/banking/congress-now-banks-like-the-rest-of-us.aspx
Why should congress get hit with fees when the fees they have to pay come out of OUR pockets? This is an absurd article on an absurd site. 
Oh, nevermind, it was their personal checks that weren’t getting charged. Not a big deal, but I’m glad they fixed it. 

Taking Macroeconomics freshman year of college, I immediately knew that the professor was oversimplifying things, and that his graphs of supply and demand were honestly just plain useless. 

THE FREE MARKET
I think the myth of the free market is a lie people tell themselves because they want to *feel* free. 

As Max Weber says, bureaucracy helps the economy because it slows things down to a predictable and manageable pace. I think he’s right - I think more people are better off when we have a predictable market with red tape and socialism and a large middle class and state controlled funds. Better off financially though. Mentally, they might feel trapped and frustrated, so they might be worse off overall. In which case, the free market would IN FACT be better. Is it better to be fair or to be free?

THE HISTORY OF FINANCE
Why don’t people talk about the history of finance the way they talk about the history of war, or the history of politics? 
People are interested in hearing stories of people, and the history of finance is largely anonymous. Probably this is because bankers don’t want people to know or understand what they’re doing. J.P. Morgan - who was he? Chase? What about Charles W. Morse?

Oh wow, J.P. Morgan merged my great great uncle’s electric company with Edison Electric! He had a lot of the same interested as me. philosophy, electricity, teaching, science:

Life goal - have a wikipedia page as good as Edwin Houston. I feel very close to him - as if I shared his genes (I do). Maybe I should do a series of blog posts about him.

WOW. Old J.P. was a fascinating character. I started out the article convinced that I would hate him, and ended up liking him quite a bit. What a life!  He was the vision of the protestant work ethic - doing work to stay busy and make things more efficient, not necessarily to get rich. Charles Morse was his antipode, doing things just to get rich quick, and failing in everything. It’s funny that he has his own wikipedia page when he was such a giant fucking failure.

From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panic_of_1907:
Although suffering ill health, J. P. Morgan testified before the Pujo Committee and faced several days of questioning from Samuel Untermyer. Untermyer and Morgan's famous exchange on the fundamentally psychological nature of banking—that it is an industry built on trust—is often quoted in business articles:

Untermyer: Is not commercial credit based primarily upon money or property?
Morgan: No, sir. The first thing is character.
Untermyer: Before money or property?
Morgan: Before money or anything else. Money cannot buy it … a man I do not trust could not get money from me on all the bonds in Christendom.

1873 there was also a panic I think...
THE PANIC OF 1893 
THE PANIC OF 1907
GLASS-STEAGALL ACT 1922

Ok, I have quite a bit of reading to do about finance.

I wish someone would write a copy of this article with cartoon illustrations: 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margin_(finance). Maybe that's my next project.

Had it not been for those pesky Borromeos,

...the Pope might still be holding orgies. I’ve had a fever all afternoon, so I stayed in bed part of the afternoon instead of going to CES, and I’ve learned some amazing things.

The Borromeos were one of the ruling houses of Italy during the Renaissance, and several of their most prominent members were Cardinals in the Catholic Church. Carlo Borromeo in particular was a noted reformer. He became the Archbishop of Milan, and reformed the whole city. He tried and found some of the Jesuits in the area to be guilty of "unnatural offenses" (coincidentally, they also happened to be his political enemies). He also helped to organize the council of Trent. Overall, he was a pretty cool guy - he helped lots of poor people and fed the hungry. He also burned 150 people alive for practicing witchcraft. That's not very cool. 

Carlo happened to have a nephew, Gesualdo, who he encouraged to become a monk. Gesualdo was a prodigy, and probably insane as well. He was something of a rock star in his day. His fame was cemented when he murdered his wife and her lover with a knife and mutilated their corpses. He was never charged for the crime (after all, it was just his wife). Later in his life was rumored to keep attractive young maids and manservants around that he forced to submit to his sadistic whims. Also, he made beautiful church music. 

 

Having a fever has opened up delusions in my brain. I’m listening to Gesualdo’s madrigals right now, and they are taking on a 3D appearance. Sometimes a voice darts out from the piece as if it were in the room, speaking to me. It’s frightening. Part of me enjoys it and part of me wants it to stop. It makes my stomach roil.

https://youtu.be/Z3FJxDsa-5k

I started listening to Gesualdo because I am reading Aldous Huxley’s “The Doors of Perception,” and he mentions Gesualdo’s madrigals being a bridge back to humanity.
Look at that sculpture of the Veiled Christ? Does it give you chills? Huxley also talks about the universality of billowing robes in artwork. This is the perfect example of that. He talks about how much he enjoys the wrinkles in his grey felt pants. I get that.

I really wish my dad were around so I could call him right now. I would have him listen to Gesualdo’s music. I would send him this video of Thomas Tallis’ music:

https://youtu.be/36Y_ztEW1NE

She tried on magical realism as if it were the fall trend

Everything she thought in her head, she imagined writing as if she were a magical realist author. The night she had a fever, she imagined describing herself as having caught fire, and been consumed by the flames, and risen like the Phoenix. As she ate her mom’s granola, her teeth crunched through the seeds of he mother’s love. Sitting across from her mom, she saw a frail and tiny bird come down and land on the table, tucking its head under its wing. Everywhere her mom went the tiny bird went, getting smaller and frailer by the minute, until it could no longer fly, but crawled on the ground. Her mother’s watery eyes went blank and turned light blue and could no longer see the present, only the past.

But her father…her father was not dead. Someone who is with you for 28 years takes at least that long to die. He wasn’t a ghost exactly, but he might have stepped into the room anytime, and the fact that he didn’t pained her. There was his diploma on the wall. There were more photos of him than ever in the living room. How could he be dead when so many images and thoughts of him still existed? If she had actually seen him dead, he might have become a ghost. But she had only seen a casket. There was no body. The last time she had seen him in person was helping him to put on his socks at her brother’s place in New York. Or maybe it was at her mom’s house. It must have been, because they had all driven there the next day. She had watched David Bowie’s ‘Lazarus’ in the car.

Somehow she couldn’t remember him in her childhood home that trip. Maybe because all her memories of him there blended together. Maybe because he was still grading his student’s tests. Maybe he was still grading his student’s tests somewhere else. It seemed more probable than him being in a box underground.

Once she dreamed that she visited him in the box underground. He was certainly dead, but he looked the same as ever. She dreamed about him frequently at first, and woke up to crappy days at work. She held her tears in and felt them waterfall down her neck into the deepest part of her stomach where they turned into ice.

She was in Pennsylvania for a month after he died. And then the month was up, and she was back on the road, doing business trips and acting strong, with her back straight. She cried in the airport in Austin because she imagined calling him and telling him she was in Austin. She went to a conference about silicon chip manufacturing, and left halfway through because the people scared her and the tears she had swallowed in order to hide them were coming up ice cold from her stomach and she felt like she would vomit. She ran back to the airbnb and the tears ripped out of her as sobs. She roared like a bear, and her hair grew into a lion’s mane, and she became a wild animal, dangerous to look at. She ripped the pillows into shreds with her claws, and threw the furniture against the wall. Nothing was going to stop her from her reign of terror in this place. Nothing was going to stop her roars and bellows. The earth shook, and a crack appeared in the asphalt that tore its way up Congress Ave. A man in cowboy boots fell into the abyss and was never seen again, and a stray dog was also lost, but neither were missed.

A tiny woman baking cornbread in her apartment felt the lion’s roars and remembered when she herself had been transformed into a lion. She rushed downstairs and found the door and knocked three times. The roars stopped. A crack opened in the door and the woman saw an animal, a girl with the mane of a lion but a face that was gentle and bewildered. The tiny woman gave the lion-woman a hug and her sobs petered into whimpers. The crack in Congress St heeled itself up, and the sun came out from where it was hiding behind the clouds.

She never sobbed like that again, and she had never sobbed like that before. Her lungs lost the capacity to do anything more than a small sob. Her hair, however, remained like a lion’s mane, and from then on, no matter what products she used or what salon she went to, within 24 hours her hair was back in its manelike form.

N=1 diet experiments

I spend inordinate amounts of time researching diet on the internet. Like politics, diet is confusing and there's lots of fake news out there. That's why I'm happy to have found a blog that I think cuts through the bullshit - https://deniseminger.com/. After obsessively reading for a couple months, I finally wrote Denise an email. 

Dear Denise Minger,

I'm writing you a letter to you on the world wide web. I found your blog in August, when I decided to attempt a vegetarian ketogenic diet. Several of my friends in San Francisco were doing keto (it's just becoming popular there - all the tech geeks claim they discovered it) so I figured "what the hell - let's try this." I was interested in finding something that would increase my focus and improve my race times. Also, let's be honest - I wanted to get 6-pack abs. This actually wasn't my first time trying a ketogenic diet.

I'd done keto 10 years ago, the summer before freshman year, after I gained a ton of weight on a Rotary exchange. Keto made me feel great and I lost all the weight I'd gained in Argentina, although it was a hard diet to stick to. Also I remember that I had to pee constantly, which made my first internship awkward. My mom, a nutritionist, recommended that I do a low carb diet.

Anyway, I mentioned to Mom in August that I wanted to try keto again, and she gave me the book "Keto Clarity." It was kind of a fluff book, but it did point to a lot of interesting studies. Of course, being my mother's daughter, I couldn't just accept the studies at face value, so I dug into them a bit more, and that's when I found your fantastic blog post "In Defense of Low Fat.".

To be honest, after spending approximately two days reading through the whole damn thing (I can't imagine how long it took you to write it!) I almost wished I hadn't read it. I was 10 days into keto, I'd just gotten over the "keto flu", and here you were telling me that maybe all of this was in vain?

I stuck to keto for another week and a half before finally giving up after Burning Man. I did win the "Fastest Naked Woman" award in the Burning Man 50K, which may have been partially due to having been in ketosis, or glycogen depletion, or something...

I've been researching for years and doing various diet experiments on myself, including: raw vegan (duration: one month - I did this because I was reading Steve Pavlina's blog)

  • Went wheat, sugar and corn free (duration: one summer - I felt amazing!)
  • Vegan (I watched Forks Over Knives in 2012 and immediately called my Mom, who let me down with the news that the China Study had been debunked. I still stuck to veganism for two years until my doctor at Bastyr told me I needed to start eating eggs for protein)
  • Vegetarian (I started eating eggs in 2014)
  • Pescatarian (I started eating fish again in early 2015 when I visited Peru and I couldn't resist the ceviche)
  • Vegetarian ketosis (duration: 3 weeks)

Being off wheat, dairy and corn seem to have the most positive effect out of all the experiments, but they're also the most difficult to avoid. I was tested for celiac as a high schooler (ugh, the procedure was horrible!) but my test came back negative. It may have been a false negative, since I hadn't been eating gluten for several months at the time I had the test, so my celia wouldn't have been flattened, if they ever had been. My doctor at Bastyr also suggested that I had a wheat allergy. I've noticed that wheat and dairy cause congestion and often bring on a sinus infection. Because I have frequent sinus infections, I got my sinuses checked out this spring to make sure everything was draining correctly. 15 minutes and $500 later (after insurance), I was assured that they looked great, and drainage wasn't the problem. It must be the wheat. Not all breads are created equal for me. Eating wheat in Argentina, and especially eating European bread, doesn't seem to have the same negative effect on me as eating wheat in the US and Southeast Asia. Other things I've tried:

  • I've done the 21 day Standard Process cleanse 1.5 times. It made me feel GREAT - maybe because I was off wheat.
  • I've tried to do a weeklong juice cleanse. I got so sick I thought I would die. I ended up giving up the cleanse after 3 days and spending the next 4 days in bed watching non-stop Woody Allen movies and vomiting into a bucket.
  • Also, I've been seeing a nutritionist, Sam, off and on since fall of 2014 (he's the one who recommended the Standard Process Cleanse as part of an allergen elimination process). He does a lot of weird voodoo (look up 'nutrition response testing'). Even though I don't understand or believe in his arm pushing and pulling, he managed to give me some amazing supplements that cleared up my persistent acne, made my belly stop hurting, got rid of my anxiety, and even cured a chronic IT band problem caused by overruse.

After all this research and experimentation (seriously, how many years of my life have I spent researching nutrition on the internet?) your blog really touched something in me, and made finding my perfect diet actually seem obtainable.

Because of your blog, I just plugged my 23andMe info into Genetic Genie and discovered that I have the same genetic mutations as you do. I have both the 'Warrior Gene' (MAOA R297R Gene - 2 TT alleles) and the Bad MTHFR gene. Yup, I'm a bad MTHFR (2 A alleles). This could explain many things, including why I'm prone to anxiety, why I've been diagnosed with ADHD, why taking hormonal birth control makes me literally insane, and why depression and heart disease run in my family. It might also explain why the supplements that Sam gave me actually did something - maybe they provided methylfolate? Or helped with methylation? Either way, I'm excited about discover this! 

I'm glad that you spend the time researching things in depth so that I don't have to go that deep. I still have a bunch of questions that I'd love to chat with you about, so I'm looking forward to our consultation. Here are a few of my questions:

How can I get 6-pack abs? What should I be supplementing with? (My current favorites include D3, ginko biloba, bacopa complex, wine and coffee :D) What do you think of Cod Liver Oil? Are PUFAs really bad? What do you think of MCT oils, like the ones Bulletproof Exec sells? Have you heard of, and do you have an opinion on Standard Process Supplements? What diets, or dietary supplements, have you found to be best for skin, nails and hair? Have you tried any nootropics? Any other genetic analysis that you recommend? Have you tried anything like Self Decode? Are you into biohacking at all? Have you ever been to HiveBio? Are we related?

Sincerely, Monica

Trying not to stop and walk

Often when I run by myself I end up just walking instead.
It's not physical. It's purely mental. It's extremely frustrating, because my mind seems to just forget why I wanted to run in the first place (to clear my head, or get a serotonin boost, or because I had too much energy) and decides to stop my body, and then I'm stuck walking back.

Tonight while running I got the urge to stop and walk about three miles in. I decided to focus on the feeling of wanting to walk to see what was causing it, and also as a way to keep me from walking.

I remember doing something similar while riding along the California coast on a bike. I had been taking short breaks every 10 miles, but I decided not to get off the bike just to see what it was like. It was extremely difficult not to give in and get off, but in the end I made it 60 miles without even stopping to pee, and the mental reward was tremendous.

The first thing I realized was that the desire to stop came when I was halfway into my run, and I knew I would have to start running back. Even though I was doing a loop and I wouldn't be retracing my steps, it was still in the direction of home. I realized that running "back" was a demotivator. It's really typical for me to walk when I reach the halfway point. Even if I were to decide to just run out and then take the bus back, I would probably still start walking halfway to the bus stop (wherever that was).

Everytime my mind would shift to think about being home or going home, I would want to walk. On the run out, I rarely think about that, but as soon as I start heading home I start to count the steps and look up to see how far away I am. Thinking about how much farther I have to run a real demotivator. In my ideal running state, I'm so lost in thought I barely realize where I am. But as soon as I look up and start to think "I have to make it past that stopsign and then run a mile down that road" my mind just wants me to stop and walk.

Running on trails is helpful because they twist and turn and don't give you good landmarks to go off of. The coast is similar, since the horizon doesn't serve as a mile marker. In both places I feel like I could run forever. Running at night helps somewhat too. The worst place for me to run is on a flat sidewalk or track in the middle of the day. There, you can't help thinking about how much farther you have to go, and it becomes pure torture.

I also realized that I wanted to walk whenever I thought about what I would be doing when I got home. This is especially true when I run before work or in the middle of the day, and I have to get back and do something boring. But it's also true when what I'm going to do is fun. I realized that's because it makes me think about how much time I have left until I get home, and when I think about time it demotivates me.

In fact, time is the greatest demotivator. Why do anything, when time will pass and make it irrelevant? Why run, when the time spent running is short and will be over soon? Why not just walk and take things slowly?

Sometimes to make myself keep running I check what the next mile marker will be, and decide that I have to make it at least to that marker. But that doesn't work 4 times of out of 5, and when it does work, it's because I've gotten lost in my thoughts again and forgotten that I set a goal at all. I used to be much more strict with myself about running. For eight years I had the same four miles that I would run each morning at 6am when I had to catch the bus, then at 7am when I started biking to school, then at 8am when I was in college. I enjoyed those mindless miles that I did as soon as I woke up. Maybe morning running is the trick to not stopping. Or running with friends. When I run with friends I don't stop because I feel ashamed of stopping. Also they distract me by chatting. But for long runs, my own mind is my greatest friend and distraction.

I'm not sure if there's a threshold of miles that I reach where suddenly I lose the desire to stop. Typically around five miles I start to feel good. But I've been struck by the desire to stop at two, three, four, and fifteen miles. Maybe the threshold is fifteen miles. Once you've run that many, you might as well just keep running until you reach your destination.

I wonder if I were to make a strict training schedule I would stick to it and finish my runs without walking. I kind of doubt it, and I suspect it might actually demotivate me.

Top 3 things I think about while running:

  1. Composing a blog post in my mind, usually about feminism or running.
  2. If I were a DJ and I were playing the playlist I'm listening to right now, what song would I mix in next, and would I be wearing?
  3. The art car I'm definitely going to build for Burning man next year

The Flight Home

This has always been my worst fear. Dad Dying. When my guinea pig Little Red died and Isaiah made him a tiny cross and wood-burned it with the fourth grade letters “R.I.P.” I realized that one day my parents would die too. That whole summer, maybe that whole year, I cried myself to sleep each night with the worry thought that Dad would die. Once he came into my bedroom and found me crying and I had to tearfully explain my anxiety.

It’s happened. Somehow, miraculously, I’m able to handle it. My worst grief happened in January and February, when I first found out he was having heart problems caused by his cancer, and then when I visited him and he was so helpless. On January 7th right after Mary had left I scream-cried into the blankets and fell asleep spent and dehydrated waiting for Tony to get home. I don’t even remember him coming home that night. The next night I slept on the divan so I could continue to scream-sob into the pillows I’d piled around myself.

The night I arrived in New York and saw him sitting in my brother’s apartment, he told us he was feeling fine but ready to face his maker. Neither of us doubted that he didn’t have much longer to live. Isaiah and I went out to a bar because Dad told us it was fine - he was just going to sleep anyway - and I started to cry while we drank our nasty cocktails and he looked at me, pitying me, like he wished he could cry too. He confided that he hated the thought that soon he would be having to make a speech at Dad’s funeral. His worst nightmare was people coming up to him at the funeral and telling him that Dad was in a better place and that he should place his trust in Jesus. “I just don’t know how to respond to them,” he said. “I’ll freeze. Because they’re so well-meaning that it hurts.” I agreed that I hated that thought also. I hated the faithful words I knew people would give. “He’s in a better place.” “He’s finally with Jesus.”

Mom believed so fervently that the treatments would work, and yet she also knew exactly what was going on. If there was a 1% chance, she was going to make it a 100% chance. She is someone with a will that can bend iron. Break iron. Stiff, scrappy, sometimes mean. She told us the truth on the phone as the doctors told it, and yet also led us to believe that there was a chance of survival. She was doing it because that was the only way. Believe until you can’t believe anymore. What else would she have done? Accepted his inevitable death?

“If I get five more years, I’ll take them,” Dad said, and my soul rose. Five more years. Five more Thanksgivings. Five more Christmases. I wouldn’t be ready for his death at that point, but I would be readier. It was still a long way off. Maybe he could live forever.

When he died the thoughts came, but my brain didn’t have to work hard to push out the painful ones. “You broke his heart. He died of a broken heart.” Not true. Next. “You should have called him on his last day when Mom told you to call.” It would have been too late - he was already wearing an oxygen mask and couldn’t talk. And it would have been too distressing. I’m glad I facetimed with him two days before and remembered him healthy looking and smiling. I know he’s not mad at me for not calling. He’s dead so all his pain is past. “If only you had made more money you could have found a cure for him.” That is an insult to the amazing doctors who worked with him, and to my Mom. He had the best care and the best treatment. He would have died five years ago without them. I would still like to get rich enough to find a cure for death though. “You should reread every email he ever sent you on the plane home.” Nope. Not ready to do that. Maybe not ready ever. “Dad, I miss you.” No. Don’t address him as you. You can’t communicate with him. He was here and he’s not here anymore. Don’t hurt yourself like that. Pay attention to the people who are still alive. “When I get home I can’t wait to tell Dad about…” He’s not there. The reason that you’re flying home on the middle seat of this miserable red eye is that he’s not there anymore. Again, pay attention to the people who are still alive. “Mungo will be so sad. She’ll never see Dad again.” I dwelt on this one for a half-second to long and started bawling. There’s something so heartbreaking about the innocent, unspoken grief of a pet. “Dad will never see you grow up and have your own kids. He wanted grandkids so bad.” I don’t even want kids, so this is less pressure to have them.

I feel like I can deflect each of these thoughts as they come and live inside my bubble of semi-shock until I’m ready to come out and feel. I don’t ever have to think these thoughts though. They’re too sad, too hopeless, to useless. Just live and try to be happy.

Even being home, in his house, next to the garden he tended, my emotions aren’t taking over me. I’m still afraid for tomorrow. I’m scared of mornings. I’m scared of dreams where I resurrect him, only to wake up and relive his death. But I’m not scream-crying into pillows. I’m not waking up and feeling empty. I’m waking up and feeling full of love. So many people loved him and so many people love me. I can’t watch home videos yet. That would hurt too much. I can’t look at photos, or listen to tape-recordings of his voice. I don’t want to.

I feel like I have emotional antenna that I feather out around me, searching for signs of his presence and finding both too many and too few. Every plant whose name he told me reminds me of him. May apples. Sassafrass and spruce. Every drawing of mine that he took pride in. Music by Bob Dylan. Playing Guantanamera on the guitar. That’s one of the only songs he knew how to play.

I want to show Dad all the kind people who are standing by us. I want him to see their multicultural outpouring of love. But he’ll never see it. Instead I try to be gracious like he would be. Put others first.