Monthly Archives: February 2013

Con Survival Guide, Post #13: Surviving Con Crud

Con Survival Guide, Post #13: Surviving Con Crud

 

        Obviously, the best way to deal with Con crud is to avoid catching it in the first place.  The key to that is getting some sleep, eating some healthy food, taking extra vitamins and, well actually, if you check out my earlier post on Fatigue you will get some really good tips on dealing with this sort of thing and getting ready to go back to work on Monday.

        Con crud is any one of a huge number of generally unidentified illnesses that people regularly pick up after going to a convention.  They are usually viral in nature and leave you feeling achy   They can vary from a general feeling of crappiness to a ‘flu or intestinal virus.  It is generally a good idea to help head these off by taking a little extra Vitamin C, Cat’s Claw, or an immune-boosting formula like Wellness Optimizer by Jarrow or Planetary Formulas Astragalus and Cat’s Claw formula.  Frequently people will come away with a cold as well.

How you deal with these things depends a lot on the symptoms.  If, for instance, I were having diarrhea, I would take either Immodium or Plum Flower Brand Coptis.  For a bad cough, I would tend to use my mother’s home remedy of ⅓ Tequila, ⅓ raw honey and ⅓ lime juice.  Most of the time, however, I don’t let things get that far.  Before getting sick, I will typically take a half dose of the Chinese Plum Flower Brand formula Gan Mao Ling.  It boosts the immune system and will tend to prevent most viruses.  I always drink a little extra water during the course of conventions because dehydration can cause a lot of symptoms of illness and is the basic cause for hangovers.  OK, actually hangovers are caused by a combination of dehydration and the effects of congestants found in alcohol (especially rum and beer).  Vodka actually has the least amount of congestants, and is less likely to give people a hangover, but I will have more to say on that in the “Responsibly drinking” blog yet to come.

If I actually get sick, I will usually take Oscillococcinum and Plum Flower Brand of Gan Mao Ling at the first sign of illness,   After that I try to sleep it off.  Now, you may have noticed that I am consistently recommending Plum Flower Brand.  The reason is because they consistently use higher quality herbs, have never been found to contain heavy metals or unlabeled drugs, and tend to work reliably well.  I also never use the sugar coated pills because I have found that they don’t work as well, and if you just swallow the pills there isn’t that much taste anyway.

For a cold, I use Ginger and Onion Tea.  This really isn’t as bad as it sounds.  It tastes kind of like chicken soup without the chicken.  Note: It is acceptable to add chicken and noodles to it.  If I feel like I’m coming down with a cold but don’t yet have it, I take the green parts of a bunch of green onions and three slices of ginger, put them in a small boiler with a cup of water and bring it to a boil, then pour off the liquid and drink it.  If I already have a cold, then I use the white part of the green onions.  Usually, I find that one dose gets rid of the cold, though it could take as long as a few hours.  You can take this tea once an hour, but if it hasn’t gotten rid of my cold by the first hour, I definitely switch to the white part of the onions and if I still have it after three hours I use ginger, lemon and honey tea, which is an old African remedy.  I use three slices of fresh ginger, one teaspoon of raw honey, and the juice of a whole lemon and throw the peel into the tea.  I add one cup of water and bring to a boil just like the Chinese tea above.  If those two teas do not get rid of it, I know that it’s not a cold and probably is the ‘flu, although it might be some other virus.

If symptoms persist, definitely go see your qualified medical practitioner, whatever their initials may be.

Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease.

Copyright © 2013 Julian Thomas Reid III

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A Balanced Diet from the Chinese Medical Perspective, Part Two: Five Elements Theory and Deficiency/Excess

A Balanced Diet from the Chinese Medical Perspective, Part Two:

Five Elements Theory and Deficiency/Excess

             While there are a number of superficial similarities between the Chinese medical concept of a proper diet and the Western, the theories behind them are vastly different.  Both emphasize a balanced diet containing small amounts of meat, lots of vegetables, and grains, but that’s where the similarity diverges.  Yin Yang Theory and Five Elements Theory tend to both be applied to medicine, diet, martial arts and exercise. They are central to the internal martial arts and consciously or unconsciously shape Asian culture.

The first aspect of the Chinese concept of food combination is that when taken all together the meal should be neutral or only slightly heating or cooling.  Many of the things that are eaten in an American diet involve combinations of foods that are all heating or are all cooling.  In the long-term, this causes an imbalance that leads to ill health.  Thus properly combining your foods can lead to promoting your health or can cause deterioration of your health.

While this concept is different from the Western viewpoint it actually has certain similarities.  The Chinese believe that you need to carefully balance your foods and that this leads to good tasting dishes which promote health.  The problem of course for most Americans is that they have no idea which foods are heating or cooling, let alone how they apply to the five elements.  Some are obvious and others are not.  Some make no real sense at all without the extensive study that their medical system put into it, and a few you have to take on faith.

While in the West there has been quite a bit of research showing that eating particular foods can worsen a health condition or make it better, this research is largely ignored.  The average citizen in America has no idea that there has been research showing that broccoli and tomatoes will decrease the size of a prostate cancer tumor or that artichokes flush the gallbladder, preventing stones from developing.  Most people are entirely unaware even of the research that has shown that eating either five green leafy vegetable servings or five servings of yellow vegetables a day of the seven that are recommended will decrease your chance of getting any kind of cancer by 75%.  In Asia, however, a great deal of emphasis is placed on diet both for preventing and curing disease.

So your basic meal consists of one meat, two or more servings of vegetables, one to three servings of rice or pasta, and spices which complement the flavor and energetic qualities of your food to bring about a mostly neutral result with it more heating in the winter, more cooling in the summer, and somewhat neutral in spring and fall.  In addition, you would tend to eat foods that are appropriate to the particular season based on Five Elements Theory.  So it would be good to eat more bean sprouts, for instance, in the spring.

Each food has its own temperature related to it as well as one or more elements associated with it.  Fish, for instance, is a cooling meat.  For more on this subject, see my previous blog entry: A Balanced Diet from the Chinese Medical Perspective: Part One: Yin Yang theory.

One aspect is the division of all conditions into either excess or deficiency.  This derives from Yin Yang Theory.  From a Western perspective, you might liken this to the Western concepts of thyroid health.  If you have an overactive or hyperthyroid condition that would be a yang excess or yin deficiency or both.  If you have an under-active thyroid or hypothyroid, then that would be a yin excess or yang deficiency or both.  So what you’re looking for is a properly functioning thyroid or relative balance.

That being said, you would never look at thyroid function or any specific organ in Chinese medicine.  Instead, it operates off of a functional system based on the five elements.  Those elements are metal, water, wood, fire, and earth. Each one represents a different principal.  Fire would be metabolic fire; for instance, it would most closely be associated with the endocrine system.  Wood is associated with growth, and water is associated with bodily fluids including but not limited to tears, saliva, urine, and lymph.  If you’re interested in learning more about the five elements system as it relates to medicine, I would recommend Ron Teegarden‘s books Chinese Tonic Herbs and The Ancient Wisdom of Chinese Tonic Herbs, as well as The Web That Has No Weaver and Between Heaven and Earth.

Yin Yang Theory applies to every element and can lead to deficiency or excess in each element.  In addition, there are five types of disorder: heat, cold, dampness, dryness, and wind. Heat is characterized by feeling hot, fever, rash, and any other symptoms of heat.  Cold is characterized by having a low temperature, feeling cold, shivering, and other such symptoms.  Dampness may be characterized by excessive weight, congestion, runny nose, cancer, and edema; thick mucus indicates extreme dampness, etc.  Dryness is characterized by such conditions as diabetes where the organ is not producing excretions; this would include mucus, saliva, and similar bodily fluids, usually characterized by dryness of the mouth, lips, tongue, and in severe cases it can involve the lungs.  Wind factor may accompany any other and is characterized by rapidly changing symptoms.  It is often associated with viral infections.  Once again, those are heat, cold, dampness, dryness, and wind and they can be found in pretty much any combination.

Your diet is considered part of the medical theory, and lifestyle is considered the first preventative measure for disease.  Therefore it is good to have foods that are representative of each of the five elements.  The five elements consist of water, would, fire, Earth, and metal.  They each have a yin and yang to them and are associated with certain internal organs, but as it is a functional relationship several of them may apply to different aspects of the same organ.

  • To nourish water, which is associated with the kidney, you would want foods with a salty flavor, and you would need to consume water and organ meats such as liver, kidney, or heart and “black foods” like eggplant, black sesame seeds, water chestnuts, and black walnuts, and other foods such as watermelon, seaweed, and raspberries;
  • For wood, which is associated with the liver, you would need to consume sour and woody foods such as bamboo, mung beans sprouts, green peas, string beans, and avocado;
  • For fire you want to consume foods which are bitter and red such as tomatoes, as well as scallions, beets, and dandelion root;
  • Earth is associated with the spleen and is stimulated by sweet and pungent foods such as carrots, spinach, pumpkin, papaya, pineapple, fig and squash; and
  • Metal, which is associated with the lungs and the color white, and is stimulated by foods that are pungent or spicy such as asparagus, broccoli, almonds, cucumber, mustard greens, apricots, bananas and pears.

Each element is associated with a particular taste, and the tastes have specific therapeutic characteristics:

  • Salty foods (associated with Water) are generally cooling or yin.  They encourage energy to move in and down;
  • Sour foods (associated with Wood) are generally cooling or yin.  They encourage energy to contract and collect;
  • Bitter foods (associated with Fire) are generally cooling or yin.  They encourage contraction and the descending of energy;
  • Sweet foods (associated with Earth) foods are generally strengthening or yang.  They encourage energy to expand upward and outward; and
  • Pungent foods (associated with Metal) are generally warming or yang.  They encourage energy to expand and move outward.

With this small amount of information, you can start to balance your diet from a Chinese perspective.  While this is far from a complete list, it does give you a basic background.

Copyright © 2013 Julian Thomas Reid III

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A Balanced Diet from the Chinese Medical Perspective, Part One: Yin Yang Theory

A Balanced Diet from the Chinese Medical Perspective

Part One: Yin Yang Theory

             While there are a number of superficial similarities between the Chinese medical concept of a proper diet and the Western, the theories behind them are vastly different. Both emphasize a balanced diet containing small amounts of meat, lots of vegetables and grains, but that’s where the similarity diverges.  Yin yang theory and Five Elements Theory tend both to be applied to medicine, diet, and even exercise. They are central to the internal martial arts and consciously or unconsciously shape Asian culture.

The first aspect of the Chinese concept of food combination is that when taken all together the meal should be neutral or only slightly heating or cooling. Many of the things that are eaten in an American diet involve combinations of foods that are all heating or are all cooling.  In the long-term this causes an imbalance that leads to ill health. Thus, properly combining your foods can lead to promoting your health or can cause deterioration of your health.

While this concept is radically at variance from the Western viewpoint, it can actually be very easily understood. Certain foods like citrus and spearmint are cooling while other foods like ginger and cayenne peppers are heating. Excesses in any one direction can cause your metabolism to become unbalanced. One generally agreed on classical example of this is the belief that if you consume too much sugar, which is excessively cooling, it will lead to dampness factor such as obesity and in extreme cases the yin yang imbalance can flip causing dryness factor giving you diabetes.

The Chinese believe that you need to carefully balance your foods and that this leads to good tasting dishes which promote health. The problem of course for most Americans is that they have no idea which foods are heating or cooling.

Some are obvious and others are not and some make no real sense at all without the extensive study that their medical system has put into it.

OK, let’s start with some of the basics.  Sticky rice is the higher-protein, short grained version of rice eaten as the primary staple by the Chinese.  It is considered to be neutral.  It is, nonetheless, primarily starch, so it is essentially empty calories.  Noodles are considered slightly warming and are therefore preferred in cold weather and Northern China, whereas rice is eaten in the summer and the majority of the time in Southern China.  These take the place of foods like potatoes or bread in America, providing the bulk of calories so that you don’t have to eat really large amounts of other foods.

You would think that something like red meat could all be classified together, but that is not actually the case.  Pork is classified as cooling, venison is classified as slightly warming, and beef is considered to be heating.

Chicken is considered to be neutral/slightly warming.  However, this phrase refers to most domesticated birds, not just chickens.  Primarily what they mean is chicken or turkey.

Most fruits are considered to be cooling, with the exception of durian and lychee.  While eggplant and tomatoes are fruits, Chinese Medical theory classifies them as vegetables.

Most vegetables are slightly yin and cooling.   They are more so if they are raw and less if they are cooked.  Tomatoes are warming and eggplant is neutral/slightly warming.

So your basic meal consists of one meat, two or more servings of vegetables, one to three servings of rice or pasta, and spices which complement the flavor and energetic qualities of your food to bring about a mostly neutral result with it more heating in the winter, more cooling in the summer, and somewhat neutral in spring and fall.  In addition, you would tend to eat foods that were appropriate to the particular season, but that, once again, is related to Five Elements Theory.

The second aspect is the division of all conditions into either excess or deficiency. There are a number of ways to become obese but one classic manner is to overeat and under exercise. In China this would be viewed as a yin excess with yang deficiency, meaning you need to get off your couch and get some exercise instead of sitting there eating. Alternately, it can be caused by metabolic problem, but that becomes a matter for Five Elements Theory.

So, malnutrition would be a deficiency disease, whereas hyperthyroidism would be an excess disease.  While we are not discussing Chinese medical theory, please understand that your diet is considered part of the medical theory, and lifestyle is considered the first preventative measure for disease, so you don’t want to get too much meat or too little meat, and the same goes for vegetables.  With this small amount of information, you can start to balance your diet from a Chinese perspective.

Copyright © 2013 Julian Thomas Reid III

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Death Is the Ultimate Form of Writer’s Block

Death Is the Ultimate Form of Writer’s Block

“I write for the same reason I breathe … because if I didn’t, I would die.”
― Isaac Asimov

             Steven Barnes, who is currently writing a sequel to his excellent book The Kundalini Equation, defines writers block as anything that interferes with your writing and getting published. For most of the rest of us, we are just concerned with not getting stuck while writing. Now while the title of this blog is literally true for most of us, I mean it in a semi-metaphorical manner.

On a side note, L. Ron Hubbard became well-known as the most prolific dead writer after his death as book after book came out with his name on it. I am not sure, but the real record may belong to the late great J.R.R. Tolkien.

So what do I mean by, “death is the ultimate form of writer’s block” in a semi-metaphorical sense?

I realize that if that was not intended as a metaphorical question then there is a fair chance you would want to hunt me down and beat the snot out of me. Unfortunately I have the obligatory respiratory problems associated with writers. Fortunately I really did intend it as a metaphorical question.

Let me first put this one disclaimer: everyone writes differently and however you write if you actually are writing (and it doesn’t suck) you are doing it correctly.  Don’t let anyone tell you differently.

I find that most people who are actually dead don’t really do a lot of writing. I also find that it’s really hard to do writing when you’re busy attending other people’s funerals. Furthermore, I find that it is extremely difficult to write when all your friends are dying. There even comes a point where casual acquaintances dying will throw you off your game. Now for the metaphorical part. Generally speaking I find that, at least for me, the more stress I’m under the less productive I am as a writer. I had decided that I was just becoming less and less creative as I got older and possibly suffering from some cognitive decline until I went on my first vacation in this century.

To be honest, I don’t remember the last time I went on vacation. I had jobs that I pretended were my vacations in the ‘80s. Well, let’s not get too sidetracked here. So lounging on the beach in the Bahamas at the end of the one whole day I spent there and two notable things began to happen. First off, the warm trade winds seemed to blow away layer after layer of tension and stress. The second thing that happened was I started getting writing ideas. For instance, I started working on an idea for doing a story or possibly a screenplay mashing together the ideas of a superhero and science fiction story. Several other ideas came to mind and I started processing data that had been floating around in my head for a while.

I have noted before that a high percentage of famous authors were alcoholics.  (I keep meaning to take it up myself.) I think there are two aspects to this. One is that when you’re too tense and worried it is very difficult to be creative. The other is sometimes it’s better to have fewer inhibitions when writing.

Yeah, I also found out that when your potential publisher dies, that can be a serious block to getting published. A similar thing might be said for one’s agent or even their parents depending on the situation. Don’t ask!

If you burned all your bridges and everyone who might publish you hates you, then the industry itself would be dead to you. Obviously that would seriously impede your ability to get published.

I realize that you know while I’m saying this, somewhere out there there is someone who doesn’t drink, who has good health, is worried about losing their house, is having a lot of pressure put on them at work, is at a friend’s funeral and just received a text telling them that a beloved relative is in the hospital and terminal who, due to this juxtaposition, just became inspired to write what will be the next great novel because not everyone works the same way and the universe is that perverse. Frak you, seven to nine word rule!

The first unbreakable rule of writers is to write, and the second rule is to read but the third necessary rule is to live, have a real life. The difficulty with this is that real life is stressful and stress makes it difficult to write sometimes. There are a lot of ways of dealing with stress such as (my favorite) going for a long walk, meditation, getting drunk (not good for you), smoking (worse for you), smoking and drinking (I’m not going to say anything), going on vacation, or slowly and gruesomely murdering the people you’re really annoyed with metaphorically somewhere in the middle of chapter three.

At this point, we’ve reached a spot where I no longer feel like I have anything to say.  I’m concerned that I may not have said anything that will be useful to you or new, and that is an example of the death of inspiration.  Unfortunately, it hit at the same time as I ran out of directly related information, so I’m afraid I’m going to have to kill this one.  I hope you enjoyed this blog post and will share it.

“Sorry, thought I’d something more to say.”  — Pink Floyd.

Good bye until next time.

Copyright © 2013 Julian Thomas Reid III

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