Friday, January 31, 2014

Top Trump Cards

Does anybody remember the original Top Trump cards that came out in the late 70's?  They were awesome.  When I was just a wee lad my family was living in England and we purchased several decks.  I don't think they ever caught on here in the states to any real extent, but my bro and I loved them.  As you can see from the condition they're in, we used them quite a bit.  We even had the tank ones laminated before they completely disintegrated.  

Thanks to Mama Aspen Paleo, who had the foresight to keep stuff like this around, we now have them here in Oregon to play with.  My nephew loves them.  He's only six, but he totally gets it.  Not that it's complicated.  To play, you simply split the deck and have one person start by choosing a category they think their particular card is strong in. Then you see who has the highest number.  Basically like the card game War.  The winner keeps selecting the categories until someone has all of the cards.

They have made Top Trumps on and off since the 70's, but the ones currently marketed here just don't have the same appeal to me (I know, nothing is as good as it used to be).  Some of the decks they make for kids these days are cartoon movie characters that have categories like humor, fame and wonder.  Basically, numbers that are subjective.  However, we do have a new deck called 'countries of the world' that is pretty cool.

Oh well, I just thought I'd share a piece of my past which has resurfaced.  Here are pictures of the 5 decks from my childhood:

With the metric system used for all of the measurements, and spelling like 'tonnes', you can tell these babies are the real deal!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Da Gym

It's been over 4 years since I ditched my gym membership and it looks like I might never be going back.  If I was going to be joining again, right now would probably be the time.  It turns out that gym memberships are quite reasonable in real cities.  Even with that though, I can't say I've been overly tempted.  Mind you, I actually like the gym environment and could stand to meet some people and see some new faces, but I can't justify it based on those things alone.
Room Gym

I know I've said this before, but I'll say it again, it takes me about the same amount of time to complete my workout at home as it would to even get to the gym itself.  And the clincher is that I can get just as good of a workout in my tiny room with a very small set of weights.  Heck, you don't even need weights.  Check out Drew Baye's Project: Kratos for information on how to workout with just your body weight.  I've managed to put on some muscle the past year or two by simply upping my intensity and refining my technique.

I realize working out at home is not for everyone though.  I'm sure some people even feel that PAYING for a membership is necessary motivation to get them to the gym for a workout.  To each their own I suppose, but I'm here to tell you that gyms are not REQUIRED in order to work yourself into top physical condition. What is required is consistency.  If you challenge all of your muscles in a safe, effective manor, on a consistent basis, you will be stronger and better able to enjoy the rest of what you do in life.  Amen.

 I'll finish with a quote from one of Drew's blog posts:
Whether you train with machines, free weights, body weight, manual resistance, some other tool, or a combination of all of them, the strength gained will transfer to all movements the muscles trained are involved in. You just have to plan your program so you effectively train all of the major muscle groups - Drew Baye

PS  Check this out.  Considering a monthly fee of $85 (yes, the cheapest in Aspen) from Nov. 2009 to Nov. 2013 I 'saved' $4080 by working out at home. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Tooty Juice

Yep, like a lot of people, I've added some potato starch into my diet to feed the little critters in my gut.  It works well for this purpose.  So well, in fact, that my niece and nephew have named it Tooty Juice.  And I must say, I'm having quite a bit of fun tooting up the house with the kids around.  It wouldn't be near as much of a hoot (pun intended) if I was still living alone.  Nothing better than to just walk into one of their rooms, toot, and then leave.  They love that *
This would be Tooty Juice

Tooting aside, I'm actually not a good subject to be reviewing resistant starch for some of it's purported benefits, like better postprandial and fasting blood glucose levels, weight loss, appetite control, better sleep, etc.  The implications of these are potentially huge for some people, but I don't measure my blood glucose, my weight is spot on, I sleep great, and I don't have any stress (life is good!).  I'm merely convinced by the apparent evidence that resistant starch is a good source of food for our gut bacteria and that this bacteria plays an integral role in our overall health. 

I'm way into soluble fiber as well, and have been for awhile.  I usually have onions, beets, carrots, and garlic with my evening meal.  I also want to rotate in leeks and sunchokes soon.  I've been using a little okra for the mucilage content and have seen some big fat cactus leaves in grocery stores that I might get for that as well ( how to cook it?)  Apples have reappeared in my diet for the pectin (carrots have a bunch of pectin too).  All of this in order to keep my gut bacteria healthy and happy.

I'm still not sure if it's a good idea to eat a wide variety of soluble fibers in a short period of time though.  I've read gut bacteria adapt quickly enough that this wouldn't present a problem, but I've also read the flip side, that if you switch it up too often only 'generalist' bacteria thrive and it might be better to eat a few foods for a longish period of time in order to let bacteria that really specialize in feasting on those particular items flourish.  

Interestingly, resistant starch is actually an insoluble fiber.  One that happens to be able to feed the bacteria in your gut.  As you know, I'm not a big fan of stuffing my face with insoluble fiber (looking at you leafy greens).  It's all good in the hood though.  I'm just tinkering away here with stuff I learn.  What you learn and tinker with will be different, but you already knew that.   

Here are some good blogs worth checking out for information on gut bacteria, soluble fiber, resistant starch, and all that jazz.

Mr. Heisenbug

Free The Animal/resistant-starch 
Cooling Inflammation 

PS  It's interesting watching information begin to see the light of day now that we have the internet machine.  One word you'll see popping up is SBO's (soil based organisms).  I recall learning about these from the company Garden of Life at least 13 or 14 years ago (they called them homeostatic soil organisms), and thinking how much sense it made.  Likewise, I tossed a very old bottle of powdered Inulin before my move that I had originally intended to feed my gut bacteria with years ago (I stopped quickly after much discomfort).

*I'm in my nephews room with him when I let a good one rip, after which I say, oh man, that was a horse fart!  Laughing, we quickly evacuate the room.  About a half hour later I'm somewhere else in the house with my niece and sister-in-law when my nephew comes in the room and exclaims: Mom, my room smells like horses!  She is obviously puzzled by this, but I can offer no clarity as I'm in tears on the floor laughing.  

Friday, January 10, 2014


Calories have been on my mind lately with books and blogs discussing them seeming to abound.  You know, calories in/calories out.  People get worked up on both sides of the issue of whether or not calories are important in terms of health and weight loss.  I'm going to put in my two cents by giving you an analogy that I've come up with.  It has to do with comparing calories and health to working and wealth. 

In general, people associate working hard with making money (wealth).  Seems reasonable.  Work hard, or more hours, build your wealth.  Work less, or not at all, and less wealth you will have. 

But, as it's easy to see in this case, your bank account is not defined by how hard or how much you WORK.  It is defined by how many DOLLARS you have.  There are lots of folks who work plenty hard for long hours but are not capable of building much wealth.  One obvious reason for this is that some people get paid peanuts.  Put another way, monetary wealth is about how much MONEY you have, and working is a only a relative measure of  money.  I know plenty of people (hi Aspen) that don't work hard, or much, but have plenty of money.  Let me now show you how this situation applies to calories and health.

Most people associate calories in/calories out with health (and weight loss).  Again, seems reasonable.  More calories in than out, health goes down and weight goes up.  

BUT,  your body does not deal in calories.  It's currency is nutrients.  The reading on a bomb calorimeter when someone flips the swith and literally incinerates an apple is NOT a measure of it's nutrient value.  Your body utilizes the nutrients in food, or it's metabolites, for everything from fuel, to storage, to repair and regeneration.  NUTRIENTS are used to build your health in the same as money builds your wealth.  
Here is the simple analogy:  Your bank account is only correlated with how hard and how much you work. The bottom line is how much money you put into it.  Similarly, your health is only correlated with the calories in the food you ingest. The bottom line is how many nutrients you eat.

While it's easy to fix the above wealth example by merely talking about how much money you make and spend instead of how much you work, things get WAY more complicated when you want to start taking about health in terms of nutrients and exercise.  For example, how many nutrients are actually in food (seasonal/ regional/ soil differences)?   How many of them do you absorb, or don't absorb (and why)?  What nutrients do our gut bacteria feast on and then in return make for us to use? And on and on.

I'm not fond of talking about calories in terms of health and nutrition, but a) it's a rough gauge of food density which is here to stay, and b) there is no simple way to replace it in broad spectrum terms.  Too much variability. 

So where does that leave one in terms of what to think about calories?  That is for you to decide grasshopper.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Skies

Colorado blue is definitely my favorite color, and I do miss it so, but I must confess, it has been very fun getting familiar with a whole new set of skies and weather patterns.  

Several years back I had become very interested in watching the skies in order to see if I could tell what the weather had in store.  This was born out of necessity as I was wanting to play outside and was tired of off the mark weather forecasts.  The difference of it raining at say 6 in the evening, as opposed to 3 in the afternoon, is huge in this regard, and yet, the typical weather forecast only tells you 'afternoon showers'.  So I learned by observing, and if I do say so myself, I became quite good at close range forecasting for Aspen.  

For example, I could tell when riding my bike to work in the morning if the wind direction was 'backwards' or not ... indicating likely inclement weather on the way.  Or things like when it was 'warmer than it should be', which I linked to the leading edge of turbulent systems that would push hotter air in front of them.  And I could pretty accurately tell from the wind if the clouds and rain hanging over certain valleys were going to be headed my way.

I didn't spend hours on the google machine studying meteorology like I do with nutrition and exercise.  No, I merely observed.  I paid attention.  And in doing so, I learned more than just about the weather, I became more connected to the land itself.  I discovered places where the wind naturally divided or split in some of the valleys.  I was keenly aware of where the sun rose and set relative to the mountains throughout the year.  I could tell whether the wildlife would have enough natural food in the mountains by watching the trees and shrubs in the spring (and if they didn't it meant they were more likely to be rummaging through town in the Fall).    It was all quite fun really, and like I mentioned, I'm looking forward to doing the same here as well.

Some of my initial observations are that the typical winter skies here are a 'monochromatic grey'.  Kind of like we're right in the middle of a cloud with no relief in color to be found.  

Grey skies
To be sure, there is a lot of drab and fog, but to my delight, it's not as dark as I'd imagined.  If you have natural light coming in some windows and make sure to get yourself outside, it seems to be bright enough.  And the sun does pip in and out, more often in the afternoon.  Heck, we've even had a few flat out sunny days, like this past weekend.  I think it will be more challenging predicting the immediate weather around here as there aren't as many natural landscape features to break things up, but I will be looking for patterns every time I check out the skies.  (I know, you're saying just predict rain and you'll be spot on most of the time ... I'm looking at you mom!)

Let me give you an example of how my weather observation skills are spilling over already.  As the end of December was drawing near I suspected that it had been a very dry month for this area.  Very, very dry.  Nobody told me this, I just knew that winter is the wettest time of the year up here in the PNW and something unusual was happening (it was also colder than usual and this WAS something that everybody was talking about).    Anyway, long story short, I was able to find stats saying that last month was the second driest December on record for the Portland area. All the while, my family here was clueless about it.  
So all of this blabbering does really come back around to health, and in a big way.  You see, it's all about observing.  Not just the weather, but taking time to become aware of what's going on around you in everyday life.  Being more in the here and now.  And Lord knows, we could use more people in the here and now.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Tazmanian Chocolate


A friend of mine from Aspen was visiting Tazmania last month and brought back some of their locally made 'dark' chocolate.  It's amazing stuff.  Top 3 of all time for me in terms of taste and consistency.  However, as you can see from the pic below, it's a bit odd in terms of ingredients.  Maybe their idea of chocolate is different than ours, or it could just be that they're upside down!

As you can see, sugar is the first ingredient so I wouldn't consider this 'dark' chocolate.  That's fine with me though ... I don't hold grudges as far as chocolate is concerned.  The other thing you'll notice is that vegetable fat is an ingredient.  At first I was not at all amused by this.  A chocolate PUFA bar I thought.  Swell.  

Then, to my delight, I deduced that the particular vegetable fat they used in this case happens to be coconut oil.  Two things led me to believe this.  First, the texture.  Seattle Chocolates makes chocolate truffle bars with coconut oil and I love them.  They have a silky smooth texture, just like this Tazmanian bar does.  Second, as you can tell from the pic below, I could actually see the white coconut oil.  They must have used quite a bit of it.  For sure, at first, I wasn't convinced I was 'seeing' the coconut oil.  I thought it might be salt, or even chocolate bloom, but it is neither of those.  

I find it a bit strange that they chose to use the wording 'vegetable oil' instead of coconut oil.  Perhaps in Tasmania people still think of it as arterycloggingsaturatedfat.  I'm sure lots of people do here as well, but in a very positive sign, I picked up 78oz of Nutiva coconut oil at Costco for $19.99 the other day.  And, of course, they had a whole frigging pallet of it.  

Go Coconut Oil!!