Dividing Lilies

Plants are great. They are so chill that they are like, hey, if you divvy us up, we'll propagate more, free plants and flowers. I am very new to the gardening game, but I'm going to take advantage of these last few relatively warm fall days and divide some lilies. Here's a page from my garden journal (that is a sticker, I am not that skilled). Also, I enjoyed both of these helpful videos on the matter. 


Podcast on migraines and new developments in treatment and prevention

In general, I don't experiences headaches or migraines. A blessing, indeed. Yet, many friends and family have struggled with migraines for quite a long time and I never really understood them or why they are so debilitating. The cause of them hasn't been understood very well, until now. 

This podcast from the BBC World Service was really amazing in not only explaining what migraines are, but some new developments in treatment and prevention. Peter Goadsby is Professor of Neurology at King's College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, and describes migraines as:
"...a disorder of the way the brain deals with incoming information. Of how the brain perceives or overperceives [light], sounds, or smells. Areas of the brain that you don't well understand that help someone concentrate are not working in the synchronous way they should. That broad brain dysfunction is what produces the broad manifestations."

The professor goes on to talk about the visual aspects of migraines, the auras, that get the most attention. I only experienced the auras in a single reliably remembered instance. I certainly could not concentrate and being at work while my vision was changing was a nightmare. Thankfully, I did not live far from home and left for the day. Real migraine attacks are not nearly as tame.

If you'd like to learn more about migraines and some of the newest research out, I definitely recommend listening in.


Summer and the grilling is easy. And safe.

I have family members that have long been in the food safety industry, so I really can't be messing around when making food for them. Since I do a lot of grilling, I especially want to keep things safe when handling meat, fish, and poultry. 

The CDC has a nifty Grilling Safety Infographic and the bottom corner has the most important info (pictured to the right). If you're a carnivore or eat fish, make sure your food reaches the listed temperatures. 

Don't overcook your food in the name of safety. If you can, spend a bit of coin on a good instant read thermometer. I have this Lavatools Javelin PRO thermometer and I love it. I'm actually on my second one because I accidentally submerged my first one in water. Overnight. It's easy to use and accurate. It takes a second to check and it will be worth it to keep germs out of your family and friends' bellies. 


Checking your sunscreen and hand sanitizer for bad news benzene

During the summer months, my pale skin will get crispy quick. Each year, I stock up on some spray on, 50 SPF protection stuff. I love the Neutrogena stuff because it does not irritate my skin and doesn't feel gross. 

The other night, my mom told me something vague about a recall on sunscreen. Investigating further, I found that a company called Valisure "has tested and detected high levels of benzene, a known human carcinogen, in several brands and batches of sunscreen." The company found benzene in 43 out of 224 sunscreens and in 8 of 48 after-sun products. The FDA guidance suggests that no level of benzene is safe, and it is not permitted in these or other products.

Naturally, I immediately went to the study and found the product I use (the list starts on page 12) to see if I've been spraying carcinogens on myself for years. The lot number on my product did not appear on the list, but the product itself did. 

Perfect. If the sun's radiation doesn't get you, the shield you apply to your skin will. Stay as safe as you can out there. Remember, a tan is you just damaging your skin cells. Apply and reapply often.


Shipping and solipsism

The older I get, the more comfortable I force myself to be with change. It has been a long time since I read something that was like, "Hey, create something for others, not for yourself." Seth Godin's The Practice is doing that for me right now. 

For a long time, I wondered, is art still art if no one has seen or experienced it? This book is making me reflect on that question. I have long wanted to force myself to write. When my father died, I went to journaling and compulsive note taking. I want to practice for myself, learn for myself. This book is making me realize it might be time to shift that focus. My healing will continue through journaling and note taking, but the writing, the creation, that's gotta' be for the people. 

So here I am.  


OED's words of 2020 and also: cognoscente

In the olden days, I started a Twitter account to keep track of vocabulary words. Sometimes a word just hits different and today I had to share this one with you: cognoscente. Make sure to listen to this one's pronunciations - flavors include "fancy" and "normal". I chuckled listening to the differences between an American and UK speaker. 

cognoscente, n. - One who knows a subject thoroughly; a connoisseur: chiefly in reference to the fine arts.

From my #1, the Oxford English Dictionary

Also, don't forget to check out the words of 2020. I know, I know: 2020 was some bullshit. Yet, the report is worth the download and wow, our use of language tells the tale.


Search the Collection: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Much like in most of the Midwest, it's dang cold in Michigan and I'm not interested in leaving the house. If you are looking for something to do in the comfort of your own home, head over to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. I just delighted in browsing the collection for two hours. Don't forget to take stretch breaks!


Roasted Chicken

There are about a million ways to roast a chicken. I looked. For my first chicken roasting attempt, I was dismayed to find the grocery store shopper picked out a monster, 6.5 lb. bird. Was it going to be raw? Was it going to overcook? I had no idea, but you gotta' start somewhere and apparently this beast would be my first roast chicken. I needed a base recipe and could improvise from there. I found a two step process that I will cherish. 

Step 1: Brine that bird.

I dry brined the bird. This means salting the hell out of the whole chicken, and seasoning with additional flavors. On the skin. Under the skin. In the cavity. Do not fear the seasoning. The bird's mighty girth made maneuvering a bit difficult, but I got the job done. Have it sit in the fridge between 24-72 hours. I did 48 hours. I did not truss the fatty, but this did not seem to be a problem.

Step 2: Cook that bird.

The bird cooked at 350°F in a roast pan on the second from bottom rack (had to take one out). The regular heat method called for 20 minutes for each pound, plus an extra 15 minutes. My final cook time would be 2 hours and 25 minutes 😳. That seemed...excessive. I seriously thought I was going to pull a lump of coal out of the oven. I pulled it out and let it sit for about 20 minutes as I prepared the sides.

It was perfect. Juicy. Crispy skin, flavorful meat fell off the bone. I also learned I need some better kitchen shears, but the struggle was worth it. I really should have taken a picture, but it really didn't look that amazing. It appears looks can be deceiving. 


New habits for the new year

Recently I finished a book called The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. This book sat on my "To-Read" shelf in Goodreads since 2016! It was time, and there was no better time, frankly. 

Interestingly, I gave this book a piddly 3 of 5 star rating. When I looked it up for this post, I updated it to four. I haven't stopped thinking about this book for the last couple of weeks. It prepared me to get ready to make real changes in the new year with a focus on good habits.

The book talks about both sides of the habit coin - the good and the bad. Exercise is a great habit. Gambling is not. Habits give our brains the ability to go into auto pilot on some things (morning hygiene, driving to work, etc.) so that we can give energy and literal thought to other, more complex stuff, like reading, using a new tool, solving an equation, etc. 

I FINALLY learned more about the "reptile" part of the human brain - the great basal ganglia. It's a more primitive part of the brain that is about the size of a golf ball and is "primarily for motor control, as well as other roles such as motor learning, executive functions and behaviors, and emotions." This area controls your habits. 

My favorite and most actionable learning from this title was about the habit loop. This really simplified it for me and got me thinking about my own habits. This habit loop helped me articulate three simple, new habits for 2021. 

Water Habit.

  • Cue: "Dang, I'm dehydrated." 
  • Routine: Every morning after I make my coffee, I now also empty the tea kettle and prepare some drinking water for the day. The reason I have drinking water out of the kettle is because I hate buying plastic bottles and I have sensitive teeth, so a nice, tall glass of lukewarm water is my jam. I fill up the kettle and boil it for the next morning. 
  • Reward: As I ripen, dehydration impacts me a LOT more, so I'm trying to stay juiced with H2O. I have fewer stomach problems, my skin is less dry, and I avoid sugary beverages and snacks by constantly sipping.

Breakfast Habit

  • Cue: My stomach contracts into painful hunger pangs throughout day. Also, need to take Vitamin D with a meal. Was scolded by primary physician. 😒
  • Routine: While I mention oatmeal in that example, I'm really going to focus on keeping breakfast quick and simple. I'm going to bore myself to death with a week-long, repetitive breakfast with the goal of taking my Vitamin D with a meal. So far so good, but I have a lot of oatmeal I don't want to waste, so I will be bored to death with oatmeal breakfast until spring, probably. I will say this - I get really friggin' intense hunger pangs in the morning. The moment some coffee hits the belly, it triggers my metabolism in an unpleasant way. 
  • Reward: Since I've been eating this boring ass oatmeal every day, I haven't had hunger pangs at all and my appetite is a little less, uh, ravenous throughout the day.

Gratitude Morning Meditation. There are lots of studies out there that tell us the positive impacts of gratitude. Feeling grateful for stuff is a practice in mindfulness. And while it's not easy for me to sit still, I know I have time for this quick meditation. 

  • Cue: It's important to feel gratitude every day and preferably first thing in the morning.
  • Routine: Set timer for one minute and focus on or say aloud the following: "I am grateful for this water. I am grateful for this food." (I should mix in a few Sun Salutations or a walk with this habit, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.)
  • Reward: I will have set the tone for the day. Even if the rest of the day falls apart, I will have started the day being grateful and positive. 

Yes, these are pretty boring, lowkey resolutions, if you even want to call them that. But they were spawned by the ideas around habits and how they form. I'm also quite interested in getting more and more habits developed, but I don't want to overload myself and get discouraged. 

This year, I'm looking at habits around writing and reading that are more specific than I've committed to before. Reading more and writing more is great, but what does that even really mean? I really started listing out some initial goals and thoughts. A blog post a month. An article for a newsletter I put together for a group at work. And journaling and counting how much I write every day. The word count has been eye-opening. 

One of the most important points that I picked up from Duhigg's book is that following and maintaining good habits leads to more good habits. And shortly after finishing the book, I heard Seth Godin on the Design Matters podcast, where he said: “Do enough bad stuff, and some good stuff is going to slip through, no matter how hard you try.” The quote captures the design thinking spirit. It let me break free of worrying about the perfect being the enemy of the good, but it also got me thinking about getting my writing out of my personal journals and notes and into the world, beyond what I do for a living. Design thinking comes through again, friends.

Good habits will lead to good things. And let's be honest, after 2020, we can all use a little more good in our lives. Cheers. 


Arm yourself to battle fake news and misinformation

It's not easy for American citizens to wade through the onslaught of fake news. There are many forces in play and the strategy to manifest this mess of misinformation has been a strategy of the powerful for a long time. I can't tell if I'm supposed to be really impressed or infinitely horrified. Both, I suppose.

Sadly, many Americans admit getting their news from social media, and we all know social media is the cesspool of society. Then, we don't have trustworthy leaders. I'm sorry, say what you will, but just one example of this is the White House and Center for Disease Control regularly disagreeing and providing contradictory info. This foolishness is confusing Americans about literal life and death situations. Lastly, public education has been poo-pooed by the United States for a lot of decades and it shows.

Intense propaganda (domestic and otherwise), conspiracy theories, chipping away at the U.S. public education system... these are the ingredients cast into the cauldron of confusion, and the result includes everything from apathetic voters to violent plans to kidnap state governors and overthrow the government. 

What is a confused citizen to do? Here are 2 resources that will give you a great start to combating misinformation in less than 40 minutes.

  1. Watch this TED Talk (~12 minutes). Mona Chalabi was a data editor for The Guardian newspaper when this was recorded. Now she is an artist and illustrator in New York City. In her TED Talk, she offered three questions to take a closer look at statistics - ANY statistics.

    Can you see uncertainty?
    Can I see myself in the data?
    How is the data collected? 

  2. Listen to "Fake News: How to Spot Misinformation" (~26 minutes). The Life Kit podcast is good for all kinds of stuff and offers another five recommendations to stay alert and informed. 
Both of these start with skepticism. It's okay to question stuff, but are you asking the right questions and do you know where to find the next step to the right answer? 

Good information is hard to get, but by following a couple of these tips, you will be well on your way to sniffing out the nonsense.