Archive for May, 2012

Clogs that Fit

May 31st, 2012

The best of shoes for the worst of weeks…by coincidence…

Lands’ End seems sure it can’t sell red-by-God shoes to men, at least not to men who aren’t comfortable in their character and confident in their sexuality. Thus, these clearly red clogs, which I wear as I type, are in their catalog as Orange Brick.

I just recently ordered these to replace two pairs of no-longer-waterproof/resistant Hummer and Lands’ End slip-ons. I’d gone to the sizable Dedham Sears, a major LE store to hear whiny jive from the saleswoman. It was size — my 13, or as she put it when I sent her to the storeroom for slip-ons in 13, “We normally don’t carry any shoes in that size.”

Well, I happen to know that LE makes and sells virtually all their men’s shoes in 13. That the managers at the Dedham store choose not to stock the range speaks to marketing and customer satisfaction skills and attitudes of those managers.

As it turns out, the online LE store had black all-weather mocs at $10 off. I wanted a second slip-ons pair and appealing to my frugality, a $50 total meant free shipping. There weren’t many choices for the fill-in second pair to make the minimum, but for my size (ahem, Dedham managers, most of the 13s were sold out) they did have the red clog, Sasquatch size.

I never had a pair of clogs, preferring the feel of a higher rise at the heel. A few days later, I was happy to own them.

Come the bike wreck — broken clavicle, cracked or broken ribs, agony bending, shifting or rising — shoes I step into and kick off are perfect…and all I’ve worn.



So Wanda

May 28th, 2012

#1 son called from California to get an update on my broken clavicle. That’s not remarkable. Adult kids do that for parents as well as the other way round.

Noteworthy was the sound of breakfast he was cooking in his background. That is so much like my behavior, which is so much like Wanda, my mother, his grandmother.

I learned an efficiency from her that surprised friends, hers and mine. She taught me to make one efficient trip. Most other folk go out for one visit, say grocery or library or dry cleaner. Not Wanda or those down her line, who plan and spend twice as much as single destination but do all five or six.

In groceries, for example, my late mother-in-law expressed astonishment that I could and would select, clip, organize and use coupons, which she understandably found complex in their limits, sizes and such. Moreover I knew which store I’d do the major shopping in that week and wrote my list in the aisle order I’d find the items in that store. No oversights or backtracking for me…

I suspect my family has more “RAM” than most. I know we have a stronger desire for efficiency.

Light Posting Ahead

May 27th, 2012

I won’t be putting up much here or at Marry in Massachusetts, maybe for a couple of weeks. Friday, I had a serious bike wreck. I’m limited to one hand and may need some surgery. Typing and sitting among other acts are big, painful deals.


Live Free, Even a Schoolgirl

May 17th, 2012

A long, often emotionally wracking struggle finishes with this school year. In September, Jen will attend a new public school. She’ll no longer be ostracized or isolated or punished or sent hither and yon to use a toilet.

Almost all of us are wont to say this or that is “only common sense.” Likewise, many of us see respect for each other and our shared humanity as right and necessary. Jen finally will have those baselines.

Background: The original post on her schooling and the bizarre, hostile behavior of school officials is here.

In the case of this smart, loving transgender child, only a family support system, augmented with the straight-ahead savvy and attitude of a GLAD lawyer brought respect and kindness. Jen’s mother and grandmother did battle as necessary school officials, while buoying Jen at home to compensate for the daily angst. They lavish praise on the GLAD attorney who helped them, or as they put it, “the most wonderful, caring, thoughtful, selfless man, My Attorney Janson!!!! He gave us more than we could ever ask for.”

And there you have it. Yes, he negotiated with school officials. He educated them (and Jen’s family) on the requirements and limits of the law. (The national Americans with Disability Act, for example, excludes transgender, relying on state statutes and public officials to be savvy and humane.) Certainly having legal oomph behind you never hurts.

The solution of switching schools would seem less than ideal. The other elementary school students were fine with Jen’s transition. It was only a parent or two and the administrators who were crazed over her closing the bathroom stall door once or twice a day. They should have been the ones to change and mature and humanize.

However, The key here is that Jen gets to be a student and a child and a girl in school. That really shouldn’t have been so hard.


Boston Mayor’s Spring Ritual

May 16th, 2012

Ah, it’s the annual series of Boston neighborhood coffees. Mayor Tom Menino truly loves these. He knows many in the crowds by both name and face. He gets to hand out pots of flowers to all comers. Dunkin’ provides coffee and Munchkins too.

Each neighborhood has a session in a park. You get the glad hand, a big smile, and this year a pot of salvia from da Mare. Oh, there are handouts about summer activities, his health challenge and such as well. Plus, there’s a chance to ask about things you care about, as I did.

Today’s in his Hyde Park was maybe cozier than some. It’s his Readville area and he knows even more locals than in some spots, calling out many by name even before he gets to the plant-distribution table.

Boston Parks and Rec. Commissioner Antonia Pollack joined him in handing out the pots from the city greenhouses. Last year, they were marigolds or salvia. I used the former to help guard my tomatoes from bugs, but the uxorial unit loves red salvia, so it’s still a win.

There were a bunch of uniformed cops and a detective or two, along with District City Councilor Rob Consalvo. It’s as jolly as any government function in town at 9 AM.

As a cyclist, I’m always asking him about his own biking. He previously told me how much he loved his newish recumbent bike. Then he broke some bones and for the three months as been in a protective boot and limping about.

Today he said he hoped to get it off next week. Then he doesn’t know when they’ll certifie the bones have healed enough for him to saddle up again. I encouraged him with a personal vignette about how I finally got a checkup after my broken leg with a surgeon who biked, and who told me, sure, it may hurt a little, but cycling will only increase the blood circulation and speed the healing. He seemed to like the sound of my version.

He did have to sit several times, apparently to rest the left foot and ankle. He also told staff that “These things are too long,” which I took to refer to how much time he spent on his sore limb.

He endured a different kind of pain, in Munchkin form. There were boxes of them about, including on the plant table. He did not eat a one. However, he was quick to offer the box to the little kids who came with parents or daycare providers. He’d urge them to take another and seemed to enjoy their smiles as much as those of the flower-taking crowd. (By far, the 100-plus crowd were largely grey. They too liked both the Munchkins and the fresh-fruit salad.)

Pollak said Menino was dieting and was enjoying the Munchkins vicariously. Likewise Consalvo had a diet soda in hand and avoided the sugar. They both seem to have taken the Mayor’s challenge seriously to get moving and lose a million collective Boston pounds.

For my concerns, Pollak and I chatted up the replacement process for Nicole Freedman, the bike tzarina. The likely replacement, Kris Carter, still has to go through the open-hiring process, but has a leg or more up. He’s been working on bike programs. Moreover, we all agree that Freedman made amazing process as well as laying out detailed plans. The new person doesn’t have to pioneer, just do the hard work of implementation including finding adequate funding.


Cross-post: This originally appeared at Marry in Massachusetts.

Interminable Sports Dinners

May 15th, 2012

I was a jock. I ‘fess up.

Now, I was also a scholar, but I was also a wrestler, then a swimmer into college. Compounding that, I was my high school paper’s sports editor. I didn’t want that spot, but it was the one that was open. Once I got to college and in J-school, I became the the loudmouthed pinko for the world to recognize.

Regardless, in my time and then our sons’, I went to a lot of sports dinners. The boys were (#1 son) baseball, (#2 and #3) soccer. #1 did crew in high school, following my edict that he had to do three years of some team sport, any team sport. Then he blissfully announced that he’d done his time. A deal is a deal in our house. I didn’t bother with his siblings. If they didn’t get the love of team sports in years of youth soccer, they didn’t. They didn’t.

My sports-dinner evenings seems Sisyphian even then. They were seasonal, so all the fall sports together, then the winter, then the spring. My high school had 2000 students…a lot of jocks. How many damned plaques can you call out in an evening? Something a little short of infinite!

Bromances flowed. Those of us with sainted coaches (Victor Liske for me) could go on and on and on. We did. I even wrote a farewell column to my coach, as our swim team was his last after over two decades. He was so fabulous as a person and mentor, his boys still quote it.

After my first such dinner though, I knew the routine and was resigned to it. What I came to resent was the blazer.

After a couple of years of lettering, I was due a PHS letterman sweater. Then the athletic director unilaterally decided that the sophisticated, manly option should be a blue blazer instead. Pissed I was. I had the letters and the team pins to attach to them. One did not sew a big maroon P on a blazer, nor dangle it before a current or potential girlfriend.

The solution wasn’t bad — go to the sporting goods store and buy the navy-blue sweater with the proper number of maroon stripes on the right arm. Yet, we in my situation thought of getting the sweater at the dinner as a reward for the agony, bruises and many hours of practices. Somehow the heavy-handed decision rankled.

Moreover, when we got the blazers, they sucked. Turns out that the school went as cheap as possible, which meant they were constructed in New Jersey prisons…badly. I have a huge chest and shoulders. The big sizes in particular had absurd shoulder pads, giving them the effect of bad formal football uniforms.

Fortunately, my grandfather, the man of many jobs and an unbelievable skill set, was among other things a tailor. I showed up with the stupid, insulting, ill-fitting, ugly blazer and started to complain. He was on it and shut me up. He took it next door to his dry cleaning and tailoring shop immediately. He returned in less than half an hour, with an altered, customized jacket. He’d taken in the waist to suit my build as well. The shoulders were flat and beautifully contoured. Granddad was an artist. I could only say thanks and wonder why I’d been upset.

Book Review: The Information Diet

May 9th, 2012

Let me say two things plainly. First, Clay John tortures the comparison of food and information consumption to death…and beyond. He loves his cleverness. Second, the middle of his book contains ample rewards for sticking with it out that far.

Note on the tail end: The author buries links to three remarkable blogs on the very last page. These cover the brain and information processing. I am glad I plugged through the pretty tedious, tacked-on conclusion and found these gems.

You should also be aware that the author ran Barack Obama’s online campaign. He is never more than a few keystrokes from little d democracy, civil duty, and politics. None of that really gets in the way of his central message, nor distracts from the theory and processes he presents for dealing with too much and too much bad information. He also does not push his own left leaning on anyone. The principles are for all.

What you get with The Information Diet includes an overly wordy background on how we get and use our data, opinion and entertainment. Then, he presents the inherent problems and why we feel so overwhelmed. Of course, like any diet book, he also presents what to “eat” and how to solve the problems.

Unfortunately, he wanders off at the end into some ethical prescriptions. I suspect most readers will be with me in thanking him for the good, useful tips and techniques on controlling our info flow, and forgive him his excesses.

Honestly, he could have done the whole thing without the food/obesity/diet conceit. His main point include that there is no such thing as information overload. Rather, most of us are not aware of how information that intrudes on us or we seek controls us, from email to cable TV to opinion from those we already agree with.

As a remedy, he offers a plea for conscious consumption. That includes extremely useful methods for doing so. He specifies sites and applications, as well as philosophical decisions that will return the control back to us. That middle part of the book is worth its price and time.

If you are like most of us and fairly well versed in dieting, including Atkins, you may snort at the first third of the book. He is so fond of his metaphor of information as mind food, that he makes risible comparisons. For example, he notes that neither William Banting nor Robert Atkins’ advice “solved” obesity, and that he is chubby himself, but he doesn’t follow their advice. Eh?

Set that aside and if you are so inclined, skip the first section. The real, if you pardon, meat is in the middle. You feel overwhelmed by information and entertainment intruding all day, every day. What do you do?

Johnson has both general and specific fixes, including apps to help. His related website ( has links to the resources he recommends, and additional ones. These include to record honestly how you spend you computer day (and recommend efficiencies), to winnow wasteful email automatically into folders, and even to strip website articles of ads and other distractions.

He also devotes several pages to a methodology for increasing your attention span and desk productivity. It’s well worth reading and implementing. The man loves is metaphors and compares this to the walk-run system distance runners use to increase their exertion periods and reduce the rest ones. It is quite workable and for many like worth the time and expense of the book.

To use Johnson’s lingo, The Information Diet is like a sandwich. The white bread is on the outside and the real meat in the middle. There’s a lot to sustain you inside.


The Information Diet
A Case for Conscious Consumption
By Clay A. Johnson
Publisher: O’Reilly Media
Released: December 2011
Pages: 160

Ebook: $19.99 list
Print: $22.99 list
Print & Ebook: $25.29 list


Phat and Fat: Call It Lifestyle

May 4th, 2012

I’m steeling for the next doctor visit. He’s sure to ask how I have been losing weight, without adding that following his and the nutritionist’s advice did not work. I’m sure he can’t begin to accept that the super-simpleminded just-eat-fewer-calories-than-you-burn-up cliché might be flawed. He’s like most medical professionals, totally invested in that conceit.

It’s likely that when he hears low-carb, he’ll react with the litany of provably false slams. It’s water weight that will come right back on, it’ll clog your vessels with fat and plaque, and you can’t sustain that loss, no one does. My case has been continual week-to-week loss of fat and pounds; if there were water loss/regain, it disappeared into the non-stop and net.

I did my research and continue to tweak and added knowledge that he doesn’t have though. The trick of course is no trick at all. It requires that overworked phrase lifestyle change.

I snort severally. That term lifestyle does terrific work. The anti-LGBT folk love to call homosexuality a lifestyle, so they can pretend that disdain and discrimination are not those at all. However, food choices certainly can be.

Fortunately, as the main cook and shopper around here, I have more than a one-man vote. I stock the pantry, fridge and food bowls.

My research has resulted in a new mini-library in that process. My low-carb books, printouts and PDF files almost all come with recipes as well.

Unfortunately for us low-carb converts, many of those dish and meal maps don’t excite us. Many of the docs and nutritionists who developed them tried sincerely, but seem to have been more concerned with paralleling their guidelines rather than pleasing the mouths, eyes and noses of the new lifestyle followers. I can project what these recipes’ output will be like from reading their ingredients and preparation steps. Many lack sensuality and attention to savor (a.k.a. sapidity).

I’m  confident that I can augment those to please me and my family and guests. I cook to please.

Meanwhile, I’m fine-tuning my planned food lifestyle as I add more carbs from the base level. I’ll report on both what I try in carb/fat/protein percentages/grams, and how I tweak those from the scale and body-fat analysis as I get into it. There are bound to be changes.

This series includes:

Call it Lifestyle on the intellectual and emotional commitment to low-carb
Watching the Struggle on my grandmothers diet woes
Wrestling with Fat on overcoming fear of dietary fats
Hunger? do you starve on a low-carb diet?
Low-Carb Eats on what’s on the menu in the regimen
How Much of What Food on calories-in/calories-out cliché
Dr. Cadaver on mindless trust in group averages
Who’s Counting on body fast v. weight
Part 1 on pants don’t lie


Phat and Fat: Watching the Struggle

May 1st, 2012

My maternal grandmother, Mable, was handsome, strong and big boned. We got our huge honking feet from her among other attributes. I’m sure she did not accept that she was good looking and she worried over her weight.

She was the eldest of a large family. The youngest was a sister, from their father’s remarriage after he became a widower. Mable’s angst was the worse for sister Anna’s slender build from a different mother.

Meanwhile, let it be known that I watched her in her 50s and 60s battle vigorously and without real success with body image and what books, doctors, family and women’s magazines told her she should weigh, as well as how much of what she should eat to get there. That had the extra nasty wrinkle of the insistence on height/weight charts, already disproved by insurance stats on longevity and health measures, but beloved by physicians.

I heard the scale whirr every morning. She had maybe two feet of diet and nutrition books on one shelf. Many were by the naturopath and chiropractor Gayelord Hauser. He straddled wise and foolish. He advocated natural foods, eschewing white sugar and white flour. Good enough, but he pitched his brand of blackstrap molasses as a kind of panacea, preached absurdly low caloric intake, and in effect expected everyone to thrive on what he did. In fact, he was a high-metabolic-rate ectomorph who wowed his celebrity friends like Greta Garbo with his wit as well as trim physique.

For Mable, the ideals were unworkable. 900 calories a day left her constantly hungry and often weak. She went for Hollywood Bread and another brand I recall as Lite Diet; both had small, very thin slices with few calories, maybe 45? The unamusing joke here is that she was the best baker I’ve ever known. Her pies, cobblers and cakes were superb and treasured by all who knew her. She baked great whole wheat and rye breads in which we delighted. There she was, starving with napkin-thing slices of tasteless junk in her effort to slim.

Sometimes she obviously failed. She was never a porker and her diet breaks did not mean she needed bigger dresses.

Instead, she simply had to eat more to be healthy. Rather than accept that and realize Hauser and the others she trusted were wrong, she snuck. She was not a pantry stuffer, scoffing out of sight. Rather, when she just couldn’t stand her hunger, she’d join us all at the dinner table, as we did each evening. Of course, as family, we had the serving dishes in the middle of the table. Mable would bring a plate with a napkin covering it.

It was sad and fooled no one. She’d tucked more protein under there. She’d stick a fork under the napkin and eat the few extra bites that let her go onto breakfast and another day of food struggles.

We were then as I remain, a straight-ahead, candid family. We would rather she had felt comfortable eating what she needed in plain sight. Yet, our candor did not include calling her on this emotional issue.

It was years later as I trimmed down successfully with Stillman that I reconsidered her struggles and body-image issues. She was large and muscular. She needed more to survive than scrawny folk. She’d never have the body type or metabolism of Hauser or starlets he accompanied. She couldn’t even become like her sister-by-the-second-mother Anna.

Yeah, it’s bad that most medical types are pretty ignorant about nutrition. It’s worse that so many rely on the easy, lazy formulae that fail most of us.

For me, I’m working on my own nutrition plan, regardless of the bad advice from doctors, nurses and a nutritionist. It’s a fair amount of work and requires iterative testing of calories/carbs/protein/fat with my scale and body-fat measurements. That’s still a lot easier intellectually, emotionally and physically than what my grandmother did for those many years. And as a big bonus, I’m not starving myself.

This series includes:

Call it Lifestyle on the intellectual and emotional commitment to low-carb
Watching the Struggle on my grandmothers diet woes
Wrestling with Fat on overcoming fear of dietary fats
Hunger? do you starve on a low-carb diet?
Low-Carb Eats on what’s on the menu in the regimen
How Much of What Food on calories-in/calories-out cliché
Dr. Cadaver on mindless trust in group averages
Who’s Counting on body fast v. weight
Part 1 on pants don’t lie