Anthropocene Reviewed

Hello, and welcome to the Anthropocene Reviewed, a podcast where we review different facets of the human-centered planet on a five star scale. Today, I’ll be reviewing a 17,000 year old painting, and the Taco Bell breakfast menu.
— John Green

One of my favorite podcasts.

Things I Learned While Eating Breakfast at The Mecure Annemasse in France

  1. 12” tweezers exist, and are suprisingly functional when picking out individual breakfast meat slices.

  2. The French, like most other Europeans, eat lunch meat for breakfast. Which I routinely steal in the form of a sandwich for later.

  3. Christopher Cross has a greatest hits album, which the Mecure breakfast cook or someone in a position of power loves a little too much.

  4. French cottage cheese is tweaked yogurt, no chunks.

  5. Serving filter (“American”) coffee and American bacon pains the French to no end, although they are resigned to it.

Death In Samarra

A servant buying provisions in a local Bagdad market was abruptly jostled by someone behind him. Turning to confront the person, he was overcome with terror upon seeing it was Death, with a surprised expression, staring back at him.  In a panicked run he returned to his master, describing the encounter and asking, in a fit of desperation, for the master's horse.   The master obliged and the servant mounted and drove the horse in a full gallop to Samarra, in order to avoid his fate with Death. 

His curiosity piqued, the merchant returned to the market and saw Death still standing amongst the crowd.  He approached and asked him about the encounter, and about his look of surprise upon seeing the servant.  Death replied: “Indeed, I was taken aback upon seeing the servant, as I have an appointment with him tonight in Samarra."

Resolution #1, Update 4

It has not been a great weight loss month.  I struggled with eating while on travel, and while guests were visiting.  I have learned that a single day of overindulgence can be difficult to overcome; I have acknowledged that my body is now aware of the reduced caloric intake and in response has become suddenly far more efficient in energy consumption;  I am now resigned that in order to achieve my weight loss that there is no other way, really, than to go to bed hungry, sometimes very hungry, every night.  

There is also a finality to it:  the eating excesses of my youth, which should have ended over 20 years ago for me, have got to come to an end.  I cannot order a pizza and simply eat the whole thing anymore.  I cannot eat fish and chips and believe that constitutes just one meal, instead of the three (or four, thanks Ireland) that it actually is.  I need to measure the spaghetti I cook.  I need to eat a great deal of fiber, fruits and vegetables.  And I need to disassociate the act of eating from the act of social interaction, even though the two are almost inextricably linked.  

It seems clear to me now, that a failure to lose weight is a failure to reckon with the reality of one's body and one's corporeal existence, and a simultaneous failure to appreciate the consequences of not accepting that which cannot be changed.  

Nothing there that millions of first-worlders have not endured at some point in their weight loss endeavours.   It's just getting very personal for me.  

Regarding the chart:  I'm so far off the original target that I've added a new target line.  July 2nd is now the date.  


Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, Update 1

Over the course the past years I have travelled a lot, but after a particularly intense schedule in 2017 I thought it would be interesting to track my whereabouts via the transportation modes I took.  And hence the chart below.  

To keep it simple, I'm recording individual trips rather than time spent or distance travelled.  So the chart below indicates I have thus far, in 2018, flown in a helicopter once (oy vey), and took four trains, ten planes, and 18 automobile (taxis and uber) rides.  


As I Lay Dying

This past Thursday my cousin abruptly died at the age of 48.   Colon cancer, undetected until it was far too late, that slowly and methodically consumed her body.  She lived six days past the official diagnosis, and the doctor—I can’t even imagine how the conversation went—-had little to say and provided no course of action to follow, save for an oral chemo pill that might buy her a few extra days.  

As chilling as it would have been to be her in that office, being told there was nothing really to do besides go home and await your imminent death, it is actually a subject I think about regularly.   Not obsessively, but enough such that her predicament resonated with me.  We will all meet our own demise of course, and yet it is unlikely you’ll ever know how it’s going to play out until you’ve arrived at or near that moment.   And to not be prepared for however it ends—to be caught unaware, as if the omnipresence of your own mortality had somehow slipped your mind—I find personally troubling.

To the extent I can plan for it, I want to.  To the degree I can meet death with all the dignity I can muster, I will try to.   With the hope of ending it all with a measured note of acceptance, of gratitude for even having lived at all, and with the acknowledgement that it is the definitive end of my existence.  

On a side note, ”As I Lay Dying”  is supposed to be a tragedy laced with comedy.  But I found nothing funny about it.  

Resolution #1, Update 3

Birthday celebrations towards the end of the week were difficult to overcome, but hail mary fasting on Saturday and Sunday saved the week from being a loss.  Hardly a plan for long term weight control, but...well, I've got some time to figure it out.  

By the way, Stewart is likewise on a weight loss program, a little more surreptitious than mine but he's lost nearly 10 pounds so far.  

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Resolution #1, Update 1

The first week of weight loss has been bearable.  I find it impossible to count calories, so my main lines of attack were the avoidance of the obvious--scones, ice cream, and the like--plus two days of semi-fasting, from after lunch to breakfast the next morning.   I did not give up alcohol, because Ireland, and what I consider my one addiction, diet soda, I have limited myself to one can a day.  I have also not begun an exercise regimen, as I have found in the past that I have difficulty managing a simultaneous reduction in caloric intake and an increase in calories consumed. 

That being said I am resigned to the fact that my body will soon catch wind of my plans, and so additional measures will be required as it dials back the metabolism.  But Oprah Winfrey looked great at the Golden Globes last night, so if she can do it, so can I.  


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New Year's Resolution #1: Weight

On a number of fronts it is probably inadvisable to announce New Year's resolutions, particularly when most of them are ones that you failed at during the previous year.  But hope springs eternal, even for a realist such as myself, and so here we go.   

I am not technically overweight, according to the strict definition of the term, although I'm on slippery top slope of the normal body mass index (BMI) range.   Every year my family doctor gives me the one raised eyebrow and cold, knowing stare upon reading my weight on the scale, a look that becomes permanently affixed after glancing down to my muffin-top waist.   He then proceeds to ask me about my exercise regime, a question he already knows the answer to but asks anyway for rhetorical emphasis.   A week later my cholesterol result comes back above 200, and the change in the tone of his voice says it all:  I'm on the fat train to hell. 

And hence, my New Year's Resolution Number 1:  lose 17 pounds, or 56,700 calories, worth of body fat.  As you can tell from the chart below I have given myself a slight head start, as this morning, January 1, I clocked in at 176.2. 

Here we go, 2018.    

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European Surprises

Sometimes people ask us what the most expensive, surprise item has been for us living in Europe.  During our Italian sojourn I would say it was the combination of incessant highway tolls and parking and moving violations, the latter of which we accumulated many--out of ignorance mostly, as we were not careful enough to mimic the locals' patterns of speeding up and slowing down.  Which appeared random at first, as we mistakenly assumed they were the result of the Italian laissez-faire attitude of driving.  But come to find out they were closely attuned to the position of speed cameras.   Parking fees were mostly of our own making (by 'our own' I mean 'Stewart's'), and our oblivious jaunts into forbidden ZTLs, the inner city zones that require special permits, were not cheap either.    

In Dublin, it is turning out to be the gas and electric bill.  While San Diego takes the cake in that category, Dublin is seems is not far behind.  The matter isn't helped by our quixotic heating system in the apartment that randomly creates a steam-room setting in the hallway and one of a refrigerator in the kitchen.  An honorable mention goes to the Irish TV tax:  a two hundred dollar ANNUAL fee for the privilege of having a television in one's home.  

Putting those things in perspective though, we have been lucky.  It could have been most certainly worse, and for that we consider ourselves fortunate.