Thursday, May 31, 2007
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
The first book I highly recommend is The Diabetes Solution by Richard Bernstein, M.D. Here is a man who has Type I diabetes himself and has learned how to control his blood sugar so well that at age 72 he is not suffering any of the serious complications of that disease. He developed diabetes as a child and later became an engineer and married a doctor. When the first glucometers came out they were not available to the general public but he managed to get one with his wife's help and learned to test his own blood sugar before and after eating. What he found was that he could control his blood sugar with a low-carb diet and a little insulin. When he wrote a paper on his discovery, no one paid any attention to him. So at age 45 he went to medical school and become a doctor and is now a practicing diabetologist in Mamaroneck, NY.
True to his engineering background, his book is very detailed. It will tell you exactly what to do, how to do it, and where to go to get supplies. At first, he has his patients test their blood sugars all day and record the results in order to eliminate foods that send blood sugar soaring and fine-tune medications if they are needed. He has therefore collected a huge amount of data that tells him exactly which foods raise blood sugars the most. As a result of all this testing and his own experience, he puts his patients on a very low carbohydrate diet, only allowing 30 grams per day. If I were a diabetic (and I am not), I would certainly want to have this book in my collection. You can read Dr. Bernstein's complete life story here.
One of the things that people worry about when you mention a low-carb diet is the amount of fat and cholesterol one consumes as a result. Did you know that there is an organization devoted to debunking the myth that eating saturated fat and cholesterol causes heart disease? Yes, it's called the International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics (THINCS). Mary Enig, whom I have mentioned several times before, is a member. Another member of the group is Malcolm Kendrick a Scottish M.D. who has written a hysterically funny book on the subject (if you can believe a book on heart disease can be funny) called The Great Cholesterol Con. The book needs a good editor, but you can read his essays online and get the gist of what is in the book and more. Two that I recommend are "Why the Cholesterol-Heart Disease Theory is Wrong" and "What on Earth is a Lipoprotein?"
The third book I would like to mention is on the subject of fiber in the diet, Fiber Menace by Konstantin Monastyrsky. This is a self-published book and not in the same class as the Bernstein book, but it does get you thinking about the assumption that fiber, a non-digestible substance, is good for you. I have tried a few of his suggestions, like not having several cups of tea right after dinner, and have found them to be of benefit. When you drink a lot of liquid after a meal, it swells up the fiber from the meal and can cause blockages in your system. Instead, he suggests drinking water one to one-half hours before a meal. However, although he considers his diet to be low-carb, when you finally find out what he eats all day (white rice with only a little protein at dinner), it makes you wonder. I am constantly amazed at how varied peoples' diets can be and still be low-carb.
Monday, May 21, 2007
To answer that question, her daughter Aiko Cuneo gave a one-hour demonstration on Sunday afternoon. About 40 people were given the opportunity to make their very own little cup-shape sculpture out of copper wire. The technique is not really crocheting because you don't use a hook, but it is very similar. But even after the demonstration and the hands-on experience of doing it ourselves, we were still left wondering how she did it. Her shapes are much more intricate and weave in and around themselves. Some flare out like ruffles on a petticoat.
On display also were some of her drawings and paintings. Even in other mediums, she was drawn to creating flowing, curving shapes that emerge from small details like dots, blobs, or short lines. A short video showed her home filled with hanging sculptures and face masks, another of her mediums. And she did all this while raising six children! I plan to have fun with my older grandson next week looping away!
Across the courtyard from the JANM is the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA site which is currently showing the exhibition, Wack! Art and the Feminist Revolution. I wandered over there after getting my fill of Asawa's artwork. This is a very different exhibition—big and sprawling, and covering many different aspects of the women's movement from the late 60s to the early 80s, and includes many videos. It would require several visits to see the whole thing. Fortunately, some of the works and some of the artists were familiar to me, I had read about them or seen them before. It is an international collection and it was interesting to see what feminists in other countries were doing.
No photography was allowed so I invite you to explore the website for an idea of what was in the exhibit. Warning! There is a lot of adult material here. This exhibit caught my emotions much more than the Asawa works did although they tended to be more in-your-face, making a statement rather than trying to uplift. Some made me laugh, and some brought tears to my eyes. And some brought back memories... Did we really blame our mothers that much? It was sad, too, in a way, because it seemed like women were still afraid to confront the world and spent a lot of time looking inward for the answers to things.
I'll just mention a few of the works that stood out for me. The first was the Mlle. Bourgeoise Noire gown made of white gloves by Lorraine O'Grady. I have a white glove story to tell, but not right now. The needlework arts were represented by several pieces but my favorite was Crocheted Environment by Faith Wilding. (Click on Selected Visual Works and then on Womb Room. This is a re-creation that looks essentially the same as Crocheted Environment.) Senga Mengudi created a very interesting work with pantyhose and sand. The works of Alice Neel stood out because they were more mainstream. My favorite was Linda Nochlin and Daisy on loan from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. And last but not least was a section devoted to the works of Judy Chicago, including Pasadena Lifesaver Red #5. Ms. Chicago is probably most famous for her work The Dinner Party.
Friday, May 18, 2007
On display in the museum are lots of statues, vessels and vases, plates and bowls, jewelry and coins, dating from 6,500 B.C. to about 400 A.D. (The Getty uses B.C. and A.D. in all of their literature.) The building itself and the gardens were interesting to look at and wander through. I was afraid they would not allow cameras inside, but there was no problem with people taking pictures but I turned the flash off for all of these anyway.
Many of the statures were of gods and goddesses so we had a chance to brush up on our knowledge of ancient stories and myths. One whole room was devoted to the Trojan War.
The photo above is a closeup of the draped gown of a seated Zeus. The marble statue had been underwater for many years and if you look closely you can see two mollusk shells embedded in the folds of the gown.
This poor fellow on the right has been doomed for all eternity to try to remove an arrow from his back. It doesn't help that his hand no longer has an arm connected to it.
You might think that these last two sculptures were created by Picasso or some other contemporary artist but in reality they are very ancient. The one on the left is a Cycladic figure of marble dating from 2,700 to 2,300 B.C. The Cyclades are a Greek island group in the Aegean Sea. The fertility goddess on the right was made in Cyprus of limestone and dates from 3,000 to 2,500 B.C. For some reason I was especially drawn to this group of works, maybe because of the simplicity of the lines, or maybe because of the great age of the pieces.
Sunday I will be joining Grace for a demonstration of Ruth Asawa's work at the Japanese American National Museum. Ms. Asawa created sculptures from wire and we plan to attend a demonstration by her daughter who will show us how she did it. As Joan said, we are very lucky here in LA to have so many first rate museums.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
I'll be glad when my duties as Grandma are done for this brood. I have been keeping everyone out of my backyard for two weeks now and the grass needs clipping. Last week I caught a Jay pecking at the nest. Jays will eat the eggs of smaller birds, so I chased him off. Then I spotted a cat on top of my grill with evil thoughts in his head. So after chasing him off, too, I moved all furniture and the grill away from the hanging pot that holds the nest but cats can jump several feet up into the air to catch something if they want to.
It's really tough being a bird!
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
I became a feminist, not when I arrived home with my first child to find that whereas before my husband and I shared most of the household duties, taking care of the infant was 100% my responsibility (I don't think he ever did change a diaper), but before that, when I was pregnant and discovered that the birthing experience that I wanted to have was not allowed by the hospitals and medical profession. I wanted a natural birth, no general anesthesia, I wanted to have my husband with me in the delivery room, and I wanted rooming-in afterwards so that I could nurse the baby on demand. My doctor agreed to the first request but only one hospital in my area permitted husbands to observe the delivery never mind being a coach and actually having a role in the process. And rooming-in, where the baby is not kept in a central nursery but sleeps right in the mom's room, was a brand-new idea to some hospitals.
For my son's birth, I did get the rooming-in. Because of this, my husband was the only person allowed in to see me and he had to don surgicals to do it. They closed the door to the room to keep germs out, but that meant whenever a nurse or someone wanted to come in the room, they had to knock first and I either had to yell, "Come in," or get up and open the door for them. Yeah, right! Meanwhile, on day two, 30 student nurses traipsed into my room, sans surgical gowns, to have a look at this new-fangled concept in action.
But I was luckier than my mother. When she gave birth fathers were not even allowed in the labor room. They put you to sleep and when you woke up they presented the baby to you, all wrapped up. The nurse would unwrap the baby to show you it had all its fingers and toes, and then re-wrap it and whisk it off to the nursery. And her mother was even unluckier. In 1924, the "lying-in" period for mothers after giving birth was two weeks. After two weeks in bed following the birth of her fifth child, my grandmother developed a clot in her leg that moved up to her heart and killed her.
Judging by my daughter's recent experience giving birth, we have come a long way in this area.
So I joined the National Organization for Women (NOW), and the National Women's Health Network, and subscribed to Ms. Magazine which is now owned by the Feminist Majority Foundation. I joined a consciousness-raising group where about seven of us women met once a week to discuss women's issues. Our battles then were mostly around getting recognition for our work as mothers and housewives (it wasn't even considered "work" in those days), raising awareness about sexual harassment and rape, and of course reproductive rights. Out of the seven members of the group, three admitted to having been raped. One woman told a particularly poignant story. She was a new Asian immigrant who wasn't even sure what the word rape meant. She asked, "If your brother-in-law comes to you in the night, and you don't want him to, but he does it anyway, is that rape?" I've never forgotten her words.
We have come a long way in this area, too. Rape is more completely defined. If a woman says no, it's rape. We don't blame the victim anymore (at least in principle). Sexual harassment in the workplace is dealt with firmly if not completely to every woman's satisfaction. You can walk down the street now without being leered at, whistled at, or hearing comments like, "Wha'cha doing tonight, Baby?"
Our group talked about going back to school and having a "real" career. This is probably the area where the greatest changes have occurred. Below is a graph from the National Science Foundation showing the number of men and women who have earned a master's degree in science and engineering and non-science and engineering fields from 1966 to 2004. Below that is a similar graph for doctorates from 1966 to 2003.
Women may still lag behind men in earning higher degrees in math and science, but we have out-stripped the men in other areas. This advancement has led to more women becoming doctors, lawyers, college professors, policewomen, senators and congresswomen, and just about whatever else they want to be. That has been great for society as a whole even if there is still a lot of work to be done.
In my own field of music and violin playing, I was told that I could teach, but forget about being a soloist or a symphony musician. Since then we have gone from there being just one female player in a professional orchestra (Doriot Anthony Dwyer in the Boston Symphony) to the current situation where, at least in the US, women and men are equally represented and may even out-number the men in the string sections. And as for soloists, we have Kyung Wha Chung, Anne-Sophie Mutter-Previn, Midori, Sarah Chang, Nadia Solerno-Sonenberg, and Hilary Hahn to name a few famous female violinists. My students have many more role models than I ever did.
I know this post is getting long, but that's good isn't it?
Another area of great progress is in women's sports with Title IX which was passed in 1972. Since then we have come to realize the importance of giving our girls a chance to exercise and work together on teams. Grace's daughter can take Tae Kwon Do which would not have been possible before. My daughter chose gymnastics. Female athletes can play on professional teams and earn big bucks and nobody says a word about us being the "weaker sex" anymore.
So we did a good job of raising our daughters but it seems we have a ways to go in training our sons. My own son helps out around the house and kitchen without a word and without having had a good role model either! I have seen him do the laundry, vacuum, prepare meals for himself and my grandson, and clean up the dirty dishes after meals all without being prodded or cajoled. When I asked him what prompted him to do all this since I never taught him the importance of those tasks, and he never saw his father do any of them, he replied that he just sees that his wife needs help so he does it. In other words, he has empathy. How do you teach someone to have empathy?
I can't give you a satisfactory answer to your question, Grace. Maybe it is your turn, your generation's task, to create a world where the glass ceiling gets removed in the business world, where women and men get equal time off to care for their children, and where household chores are shared equally.
Monday, May 14, 2007
Chemical -- Source/use
1,4-dioxane -- Detergents, shampoos, soaps
1,3-butadiene -- Common air pollutant; found in vehicle exhaust
Acrylamide -- Fried foods
Benzene -- Common air pollutant; found in vehicle exhaust
Perfluorooctanoic acid -- Used in manufacture of Teflon
Styrene -- Used in manufacture of plastics; found in carpets, adhesives, hobby supplies and other consumer products
Vinyl chloride -- Used almost exclusively by the plastics industry to make vinyl
1,1-dichloroethane -- Industrial solvent; also found in some consumer products such as paint removers
Toluene diisocyanate -- Used in foam cushions, furnishings, bedding
Methylene chloride -- Used in furniture polish, fabric cleaners, wood sealants and many other consumer products PAHs -- Diesel and gasoline exhaust
PCBs -- Electrical transformers; banned but still in environment
Atrazine -- Widely used herbicide, particularly for corn
Source: Silent Spring Institute
While a small percentage of cancers are due to heredity, they are now thinking that the majority are environmentally caused. Towards the end of the article they state that experts have long suspected that diet plays a role but have found no consistent correlation except that regular alcohol consumption, being obese, and being sedentary increase risk. To many of us all this is not news, and it's about time that the topic has been given recognition.
A year ago I read Sherry Rogers's book, Detoxify or Die, and Bruce Fife's, The Detox Book. Dr. Rogers has been warning about environmental toxins for years and her book has the usual inflammatory rantings against modern industrial life. The Fife book is more subdued, but both books offer insights into our world of environmental toxins and ways to "de-toxify." Reading these books, I discovered that I was already doing many of the things they recommend like exercising and eating organic. Just plain sweating is a good way to excrete toxins from the body. And Epsom Salts baths are a treat I like to indulge in every now and then.
But I also began to check out other ways I could avoid possible cancer- and other disease-causing chemicals in and around my home. I never was very fond of make-up, and so that was an easy one to do without. I can't stand sunscreen either, so the only time I wear it is when I am skiing. (The same issue of the LA Times featured a short note in the Health section regarding sunscreen use and the fact that sunscreens mimic estrogen.) I wear a hat and loose long-sleeved shirts, or just limit the amount of time I am out in the sun. (I don't avoid the sun entirely, but that is another blog entry.)
Since I don't eat potatoes or wheat, I don't eat french fries and other fried foods that have been dipped in batter. I don't use Teflon-coated pans. Cooking with lower heat prevents food from sticking and saves on gas. Then I just rinse my pans out immediately after use.
Around the house, I have switched to Ecover dishwasher powder, Seventh Generation laundry soap, and Meyer's all purpose cleaner. Vinegar and baking soda mixed into a paste make a good all purpose cleaner, too. I bought some glass refrigerator dishes to store leftovers instead of using plastic and since I never microwave my food anymore, no worries about the plastic leaching into my food. In fact, I could do a whole blog entry on plastic food containers. I have stopped drinking bottled water from plastic bottles. I figured that if you can taste the plastic in the water, then you probably don't want to drink it. I get water in glass bottles. I bought my daughter glass bottles for feeding Baby C., but I do worry about all the plastic toys they make for babies that go right into their mouths.
For personal care, I stopped using regular soaps and got some of the mineral soap and deodorant from Nature Rich. I don't drink their Neutralizer, but my son does and he swears by it. Says he never gets a cold. I even use their soap for shampoo now but getting rid of hair spray has been more difficult. My hair is baby fine and blows into a mess in the slightest breeze. By the way, the chit chat in the women's dressing room on Saturday night before the concert included the tip that you can use a solution of half vinegar and half water to spritz your hair clean when you don't have time to wash it.
I can't do much about vehicle exhaust. That is a fact of life here in LA. But I do appreciate the afternoon ocean breezes that do a very good job of clearing the air in my area.
In general, what's good for me is good for the environment and vice versa.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
It's a quiet morning here. I've just had my breakfast of eggs with asparagus, avocado, smoked salmon, and strawberries (from the farm stand) with homemade plain yogurt made from raw milk. Yummie. I'll post the instructions for the yogurt later. I played a concert last night and was up rather late and so I indulged myself by sleeping in this morning.
When I was at my local Whole Foods last Friday, I picked up the latest issue of Ms. Magazine. I was one of the original subscribers to that mag and have even saved a copy of the earliest issues somewhere. But I stopped subscribing for some reason when my children were all grown up. Now I wanted to catch up on the latest feminist news. Reading the Spring issue this morning brought back a lot of memories.
Even when I was a little girl, a girl in between two boys, I leaned towards feminist issues. But I became an ardent feminist soon after the birth of my first child and was a women's rights advocate all through the 70s. For my generation, you had to choose between a career and having children (or even in some cases marriage). And the only career choices were to become a teacher, nurse, or secretary. I purposely refused to learn to type because I did not want to go through all the work involved in earning a college degree (I could only dream about a Ph.D.) only to end up being someone's (make that some man's) secretary. In those days, a typing test was part of every job interview if you were a woman. Later, I taught myself when computers came out. But the question I kept asking myself and anyone who would listen then was, who is going to take care of the children?
Judging by the recent entries on Grace's blog at Bad Mom, Good Mom, that problem still has not been solved. I'm afraid that my generation has let down the current generation. We've allowed our daughters to think they could "have it all" when the reality is that things haven't changed all that much. Raising children has never been easy (but I don't like the comment that I have "paid my dues" either.) Yes, you may be lucky enough to have an "egalitarian" marriage but when it comes to raising children, even two dedicated parents are not enough. I see my role as Grandma as one of helping the next generation out as much as possible but both of my children have moved too far away from the nest for me to be of any real help on a day-to-day basis.
We have changed women's lives, but we have not changed society. But even if society were to change to make it easier for the working mother, I think that in the end any woman is going to wish she could be in two places at once. On the job where she can use her skills and at home to watch and guide her precious growing children's lives.
Happy Mother's Day to J. and M., two working Moms!
Saturday, May 12, 2007
The activity of which I speak is due to all the migrating birds that have stopped by on their way north. In the last two weeks I have seen six Wilson's Warblers, a Townsend's Warbler and one Cassin's Vireo. And remember, my back yard is teeny, tiny. You have to be quick to see these small birds. They don't stop for long although they are usually ravenous and will not pay too much attention to humans as they scour the bushes for something to eat. The Vireo looked like he was literally blown in on the wind. He landed upside down, righted himself and was off.
Warblers are such pretty little birds and are still very wild. They will not allow themselves to be domesticated in the slightest. Their colors range from very bright yellow (like the Wilson's) to contrasting black and white to blues, greens, and grays. Here is a link to Giff Beaton's page of Warblers. He has a ton of photos and you will find the Wilson's down at the bottom. I have never gotten a photo of one of these fast-flitting birds. I consider myself lucky to grab them with my binoculars long enough to make an identification. You won't find the Townsend's Warbler on his list, so here is a link to the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology's site that shows this striking bird.
Of course, warblers are named warblers because of their beautiful song and are sometimes just called songbirds. But you won't hear them singing during migration. It's only when they get to their breeding grounds that the males will burst into song to attract the females. One year I was fortunate to be in Canada (Montreal) in late May, just in time to see all these birds arriving in great numbers to set up housekeeping and was able to hear them sing.
Saturday, May 5, 2007
Some of the produce had probably come up from Mexico and frankly did not look very fresh, but there were farms that one might call local and there was some food labelled organic. After reading Nina Planck's book, I didn't worry about that too much at a place like this. She says that lots of times the food is organic, no pesticides were used, but the farmer has not gotten certification from the government and so can't advertise that his crops are organic.
I didn't intend to buy anything, my refrigerator is already full to bursting, but a few things did catch my eye. The avocados were really cheap, as were the lemons. And since my arugula plant is done for the year, I picked up some more.