Category Archives: Health

Seed Crackers

Another opportunity to post pictures of food and pass it off as a blog entry! Yesterday I made crackers out of seeds. I got the recipe from an app called 8-fit. I take credit for the brilliant name, though. They just call them “healthy crackers.”

All you have to do to make them is combine sesame seeds, chia seeds, and sunflower seeds with water. The chia seeds soak up the water and become a binding agent, then you cook at 400 degrees for 35, flip and cook for 25.


The texture is pretty cracker-like, and you can add a little salt and garlic powder for flavor. They’re packed with protein, and sesame seeds even have calcium. They’re so easy I might make them a staple.


Sam’s Guide to Swimming

Swimming is an art form just like competitive street polo and professional Hungry Hungry Hippos. It is relatively quick to pick up, but mastering it takes a lifetime.

When swimming, if you find that you tend to sink to the bottom of the pool easily, not to worry. It is simply that you are heavy. No, you’re not fat. You’re just dense. No, not stupid, just, well, never mind.

In ancient prehistory, our ancestors were the ultimate endurance swimmers. We would swim for miles chasing the large fish that once inhabited the African ocean until they’d eventually become exhausted and be unable to continue to flee. Modern humans have fish delivered to their doorsteps already killed and cooked, and they no longer use these skills, but they lay dormant in all of us. One day in the near future the carbon generated by our fish delivery systems will heat the atmosphere to the point that the icecaps melt and the entire world will be one great African Ocean, and the people that survive will be the ones who can best return to these ancient practices. Kurt Vonnegut agrees with me.

In a modern pool, one of the most important secrets to swimming faster is to be able to turn around quickly when one reaches the wall. The commonly accepted technique to deal with this is the flip turn. Here is a professional performing a flip turn. Be wary, though, pool walls are something humans never dealt with during our evolution, and thus can be very dangerous. As an amateur, you should be sure to have someone nearby to resuscitate you when water gets in your nose and you drown. With practice, you will learn to stay conscious long enough to get to the surface and clear your nose of water to breathe again. Good safety practices have dramatically reduced the high death rate from flip turns in the history of the sport of swimming.

In this modern era, it is tempting to sit on your couch and have cooked fish delivered to your door. Remember that you can take better care of yourself if you drive to the supermarket to buy fish and cook it yourself with only a small amount of added oil and salt. Swimming in a pool is also good for your health, once you have mastered the technique of not dying. So get out there and swim!

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Informal Qualitative Personal Psychometrics

Two of my co-workers took an energy management class recently. I happened to join them the other day when they went to meet with some of their former classmates. It was a lunch meeting, so I had my usual salad. The people at the table who had not seen this before were aghast that I was eating what amounted to kale, spinach, lettuce, and carrots with no dressing whatsoever.

Without time to think of a better answer, I said “dressing is superfluous.” A little later I brought up the conversation again. I said I had considered a while ago what it was that made me reluctant to eat salad. The inconvenience of fast-decaying greens made it difficult in my house, but at my work the high quality salad bar resolved that issue. As I mentioned in last week’s post, eating in and of itself is a calming activity for me. Salad greens and carrots, I learned, were not outright unpleasant to eat so much as just boring. Therefore with an interesting main dish, a large salad is a perfectly acceptable side. I do not trust salad dressing as a regular part of my meals. In general, it’s a highly processed vector of salt, sugar, and other mysterious chemicals to wreck an otherwise healthful salad. The fat in dressing is supposed to be helpful for properly digesting salad nutrients. My mother is a public health researcher, and after a very long conversation that I had to repeatedly bring back on track when she reacted with horror to every hypothetical food I suggested as an example of the non-salad parts of my meals, I managed to get her to agree that if I am eating something fatty elsewhere in the meal there is no need for additional fat directly on the salad.

When I said this, one of my co-workers immediately identified it. “Psychometrics,” he pronounced. “You are using psychometrics.” I found this characterization amusing. I would normally refer to this as introspection, but it may also be reasonable to think if it as a sort of informal, qualitative, personal psychometrics, or IQPP. Just kidding. I’m going to refer to it as introspection.

One of the first IQPP introspection-based lifestyle improvements I’ve made surrounding food in particular has been to recognize the pace at which I cease to enjoy a food. I have long been aware that my second bite of ice cream is not as good as my first, and that by the time I get to the bottom of a large soda I am either hardly noticing the flavor anymore or actively feeling sick. Selling food in small quantities is not something that capitalism encourages. The economy of scale and simple matters of supply and demand mean that the more food companies can get you to eat, the more money they’ll make, even with extremely steep bulk discounts. At my work, I have an unlimited supply of free lemonade and every week we have our aluminum cylinder of peanut M&Ms refilled. It lasts about two days on average. This resolves the issue of purchase volume as I am free to commit myself to no more than one M&M at a time. All that remains is self-control. By focusing my attention on the diminishing pleasure achieved by each additional peanut M&M, I have resolved the age old paradox, “you can’t eat just one.” I also use the roughly quarter-cup plastic container given for these snacks when I feel like I want some lemonade. A sporadic single peanut M&M and a quarter cup of lemonade now and then maximize my pleasure-to-sugar ratio when I might otherwise be distracted by temptation or feel sick from overindulgence.

With Halloween nearly two weeks past now, we’re still receiving bags of candy in our break rooms. After helping myself to four pieces of candy, I decided it was time to stop. This did not relieve me of temptation, though. Introspection to the rescue! Shortly after picking up a full-size bag of sour skittles, I analyzed my response to it. Without even opening the bag, I was already enjoying the experience. The crinkling of the gaudily colored packaging paper and the feel of the rough sour crystal-coated skittles inside served as the lead-in to the eventual experience of eating this snack. I decided to try treating it as the entire experience, and walked back to the break room to put down the bag of skittles.

Another treat from my childhood, Nerds, is a small, tangy candy that comes by the hundred in colorful little cardboard boxes. Lifting one of these boxes in my break room, I felt and heard the candies jostling and bouncing around. This was part of the experience, no doubt like the skittles carefully designed to keep people coming back and filling up on more sugar. Again, I was able to make it the whole experience. Every single time I saw that particular box of Nerds I picked it up and tilted it, remembering the joy I had received from others like it as a small child while suffering none of the consequences of adding so much sugar to my diet.

Do any of my readers have healthy eating strategies? Share in the comments.

Greetings from The Dystopian Future!

Another break from “The Cleaners.” If you’re worried about what happens next, I’ll just tell you right now, William Cleaner is Diane’s Father. Also, Diane was a ghost the whole time, Henry Whicker is just a projection of the other side of Diane’s split personality, and Walter was never Diane’s late husband, just an ordinary conman from Omaha, Nebraska. “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” he will protest just before Diane reveals him and we find out that we were on Earth the whole time.

Ordinarily I wouldn’t take another break at this point, but my own real life has become rather dramatic as of late. I’ve got another big presentation for the high ranking executives of SAS, and I’ve been working twelve hours a day to prepare and stay on top of my other duties, which have not abated. My paper has been accepted to Artificial Intelligence in Education, which meets in Madrid this year, and there’s an unusually short deadline on the camera-ready version. At the same time I have a flurry of paper reviews, two of which were self-inflicted, that I have to complete. I spent most of yesterday writing three of them. Other tasks, such as arranging to get forty-eight symposium and workshop papers added to the Intellimedia paper database, have been put on the back burner.

Now it’s time to put aside wastes of time and get work done. I’ve declared web browsing to be banned. No more going on the web without an explicit purpose, and then once finished, I go back offline again. Also, just in time, my Soylent arrived. Now I, too, get to enjoy the only food in America with an eleven-page instruction manual complete with a version number, changelists, and a page dedicated to warnings. It tastes like pancake batter, but is probably better for me than any other breakfast food I could eat. Certainly better than an Eggo waffle or any other such pre-processed quick-make breakfast food that often characterize the diets of busy graduate students. I don’t replace all my meals yet, but I have been known to replace as many as two meals in a day as the need arises. One fun thing about Soylent is that now that I’m also wearing a facemask to avoid spreading a head cold I have I look like a poster child for the dystopian future. I also have a device I wear on my wrist that keeps track of my life signs to report to a server in an unknown location and I’m working extremely hard to develop advanced artificial intelligence. Maybe I am living in a dystopian future.

Omelette Syndrome

“The Cleaners” will continue next week. Today let me tell you about something particularly interesting that happened to me this week. You see, I’ve been eating a lot of eggs lately. Poached, added to fried quinoa, and made into omelettes, these eggs have copious vitamin B-12 and, equally important, are delicious. I get them from the Raleigh Farmer’s Market where organic vegetables may be hard to come across, but ethically raised free-range animal products are readily available. The below eggs are from some special breed of chickens and, if you look very closely, they have a subtle green tint. The tint is subtle enough that I might not have noticed if I hadn’t been told, but apparently these eggs are very popular with customers, which supposedly makes up for the fact that the chickens that lay them are finicky and difficult to work with. For my part, I looked at the green eggs and told the vendor “I do not like them.” She looked surprised and told me she could get me normal eggs instead and I had to point out to her that I was Sam.


In any case, I have been enjoying cooking with these eggs. They’re so easy and fast and versatile and delicious! Below is one of many omelettes I have made from Farmer’s Market eggs. This is a four-egg omelette with a filling of Tilamook cheddar and roasted vegetables and tofu. I roast the vegetables and tofu ahead of time to add them to many dishes. The dressing is Food Lion brand yellow mustard. Alice says I’m highly opinionated, and I disagreed until I realized I can make a reasoned argument for why mustard is the best condiment. It’s sugar-free and the coloring comes from turmeric so it has no artificial colors or flavors – just vinegar, ground mustard seed, salt, and turmeric. Delicious, gaily colored, and good minimally bad for you! Maybe I’m opinionated, but mustard is the best condiment. IMG_20150112_175626825

Here is a picture of poached eggs on top of roasted vegetables and tofu.

IMG_20150201_133027348Just a week ago, I started getting some unexpected tearing in my right eye. It happened multiple times a day for seemingly no reason. After three days I consulted some optometrist friends, and they couldn’t identify a cause, so I chose to ignore it and hope that it would eventually resolve itself.

Unfortunately, I had to work and conduct business while looking like the native American in the old anti-littering ads. I was always worried people would think I was crying, especially when my advisor was delivering me some bad news about some extra work I’d need to do. My co-worker Andy repeatedly apologized whenever he accidentally dropped a paper on the floor or missed a shot at the trash can. On Wednesday I was sitting in an empty room at the Unitarian Universalist Church waiting for someone to come to the intergenerational game night I’d organized and I worried that someone would come in and think I was crying from lonesomeness even though I was happily passing the time working on my computer. Good news: shortly afterwards a lovely family did arrive with their adorable daughter and we all had a great time.

Then on the sixth day, I bicycled into work and as I was locking up my bike I burst into a fit of sneezing. When I looked at my handkerchief, among the usual contents of a nose there was a large piece of omelette. From that moment forward, my symptoms ceased. One of my optometrist friends, Kelly, agreed with me that the omelette had most likely ended up in my oral-nasal passage during some recent breakfast, then managed to climb up into my right sinus, where it stayed, blocking my tears from draining properly and forcing them out into my eye, until I managed to sneeze it out. She also agreed that this event was patently bizarre. “LMFAO,” she said, “my advice to you, based on my experience in optometry, is to only figuratively inhale your breakfast from here on out.”

The Video Game Fast

This Smelter Demon guy is a real jerk.

So, I was playing a bit too much Dark Souls II the past few days. Eventually I decided that things had gone too far and I told my girlfriend Alice that I would play no video games for a week. I had tried this many times before, but this time I had an external entity to keep me honest. I asked Alice to ask me every day she saw me if I had played any video games since the last time she’d asked. If I had, she should be ashamed of me. Alice, as only Alice would, decided she would take it one step further and be publicly ashamed of me, explaining in detail to everyone we jointly knew how I had set myself what a normal human being would see as a simple goal and failed miserably. Then she suggested she could cook me a whole chicken if I succeeded, but I declined, finding the threat sufficiently motivating.

I started my video game fast late Friday afternoon, so I’ve been clean two days. It’s gotten markedly easier since yesterday, when it seemed I could think about almost nothing but enchanting my blacksteel katana with poison to get through the Smelter Demon’s heavy armor. In the meantime I’ve made significant progress on my work and done a lot of cooking and exercise with Alice.  Yesterday we made another kale salad with miso tofu dressing, which we took to a potluck with Alice’s covenant group through the Unitarian Universalist Church.

Today, though, we had a particularly exciting lunch.

“What is that?” You may ask.
Believe it or not, that is a slice of tofu. We’ve prepared it as “Tofu Steak.” It was one of the multiple items piled onto our dish today. I cooked this tofu in a miso and ginger marinade while Alice fried some radishes. Between us we had only one stainless steel spatula, and we were neither of us interested in using the plastic one, so we passed the instrument between us in a sort of frenzied dance, each trying not to let our own dish burn. I repeatedly added too much oil to my dish, which reacted violently with the water in the tofu,  treating us to a relatively constant boiling hot spray as we worked. At one point Nate came in and asked me to pick up a plate for him,  since I was standing in the way of the cabinet, which I did with one hand while flipping the tofu with another, carefully maneuvering my chest to keep my apron pointed towards the stove to protect me from the brunt of the boiling oil spray. My neighbor knocked on my back door and said he wanted me to meet somebody, and I chatted with him for a few minutes until he asked me about the thick fog of smoke billowing from my kitchen.

Somehow despite all the wacky hijinks, we managed to make a plate stacked high with delicious food.


Then we went out to Lake Johnson, which baffles me in that I haven’t been kayaking on it the whole three years I’ve been here in Raleigh. For $10 we rented two kayaks and explored the various coves, dams, and bridges for an hour that seemed simultaneously to go on forever and end too soon. Not pictured here are a seemingly unlimited supply of puppies that crowded the shoreline and dock.IMG_20140518_160539320[1]

In short, it wasn’t nearly so hard to maintain my fast today, although I do look forward to giving that demon what’s coming to him next Saturday.

My Personal Trainer

That time I climbed mount Iwate

Now that she’s been sick and nearly bedridden for two months, my girlfriend Alice is at about the same level of physical fitness as I am. This makes for an interesting opportunity – while she trains herself back into shape, I can train alongside and get into shape for the first time. So far, things are progressing nicely. I suspect that even recovering from a debilitating disease, Alice is still finding she has to go easy on me, but that’s not much of a surprise.

Currently our plan is to exercise for twenty minutes each time she visits, which is frequently. We’ve just started recently, so we’ve only had two workouts. The first workout we used a Wii game in which you perform various exercises that are measured by Wiimote instruments strapped to your body. I thought that I had mine in the right position, and when I squatted as the game asked me to my on-screen character squatted, but the game still didn’t register it. So, I did about five or six squats for each one registered, and then I squatted over and over again twelve or thirteen times with no response on the part of the system. Fortunately, we were on our second run-through (the first did not have this issue) so eventually we turned off the system and called it a day.

Nevertheless, my quadriceps are quite sore. When I’m in a state like this, I feel that I can begin to empathize with the plight of the arthritic. I walk stiffly, fall rather than sit into chairs and couches, and approach stairs with suspicion and distrust. I dare say I haven’t been this sore since that time I climbed Mount Iwate.