Monday, 29 August 2011

Good morning!

I am, without a doubt, a morning person. I have always been a morning person, with the exception of a short period where I worked as a bartender and my natural sleep schedule was altered so that I could work between the hours of Happy Hour and Gutter Puke.
Otherwise, I have been a devotee to the day, immune to the siren song of the night time party bar action rock out. I’ve never been much in to parties, unless there was a lot of soda pop and some kind of cake involved. And I didn’t have to talk to people I don’t know. People who might not have cake.
The best parties I’ve ever attended have been the ones I’ve hosted because I can always busy myself with slicing cheese and cutting cake if I can’t focus on any of the myriad conversations around me (see previous blog about my difficulty locking in on a tete-a-tete). Plus, my parties always end by 10:30 pm. A half hour past my bed time.
So, I am early to bed, early to rise. There is research that shows that our bodies natural alarm clock is set in our genetic code (Brown, et al. 2008; Ramsey & Bass, 2009); being a morning person or a night owl is not a choice, but rather an imperative. Further, being an early riser is, apparently, the result of a genetic mutation (He, et al., 2009).
I have always suspected that I was a mutant. 
I am the only one in my immediate family who prefers sunrise to moon shine 

(No one in my family likes the one-word variety of moonshine- long line of abstimonious Methodist ministers. Then again, my mom has been known to drink up to two rum punches in an evening. Drunkard.). This is interesting because recent research suggested that people who are extreme night owls, but are forced to function outside their biologically coded best hours, are more inclined to smoking and drinking (Whitman, Paulus & Roenneberg, 2010 ) Maybe this is why there are no super cool day time dance clubs. And why my parents and brother had such huge match book collections and weird friends sleeping on the couch all the time.*
 My parents thought I was quite the little oddity, marching to the tune of my own circadian drummer. When I was not more than three, my mother would set out a bowl of Cheerios and a blanket before bed, so that when I woke up at the crack of crazy on Saturday mornings I could feed myself, keep warm and watch cartoons without waking up the others who invariably slept in until 11. 
I was not allowed to have milk (would have spilled it) or touch the thermometer (would have burned the house down) or turn the tv volume past whisper level (would have awoke the beasts).  I am sure that this instilled in me my love of peaceful mornings and carbs and excessive blanketing.
Ergo, I blame my Vector addiction, my constant state of being chilly and huge, gory feet on my mother. 
J’Accuse, Mickey. J’Accuse!
By the time you are 18 you have a pretty good idea whether you are a lark or an owl. But you might not, at that tender age, know what you want to do with your life. So here are a list of career options based on your chronotype. 
Morning person:
personal trainer
folk rocker
dental hygienist
Milk Maid
Police Detective, Comedic
Night Person:
art thief
international man of mystery
card dealer in Vegas
performance artist
Tavern Wench
rock star
security guard
Drag Queen
Funeral Parlour Director, weird type.
Scientist, Evil Type
Police Detective, Sexy, Hard-Boiled Type.
It used to be that conventional wisdom stated that those who rose with the dawn were more productive. This may or may not be true, depending on how you define “productive”. While we morning people might do better on some tests, we are invariably less cool, dress like dorks and tend toward silly things like community theatre and train spotting. I’m thinking the kind of people who listen to  Katrina and the Waves while speed walking.

Typical Early Riser and Typical Night Owl.

Larks might do better initially, but we tend to crash much faster than do our owly friends, who function better in the later hours when morning people are whining and scrounging for coffee. So I figure it all evens out in the end.
I do not do well in the evenings. I tend to start to fade at around 8:30. I get bleary eyed and cranky like a toddler if I am forced to stay up too much past my bed time. I haven’t seen Saturday Night Live in 15 years. Brian and I love when people invite us to things that don’t even start until 10pm. Gives us a good laugh. Then we go back to sipping our tea and making detailed lists about what we are going to do for the next 40 years.

On the rare occasions when I have to stay up late, I feel like I’m being subversive and part of some grand mysterious club that only university students and drug dealers are a part of. Maybe I’m a little bit cool. Maybe I’m going to party all night.
 I’m not fooling anyone, I’m sure, with my stifled yawns and squinty, pathetic attempts to follow conversations that AREN’T  about how we really should be leaving now, everyone is fully aware that I am a morning dork and while they are planning which after hours clubs to hit, I’m thinking about drinking my morning coffee after I clean up the raccoon assaulted organic waste bins.
Because this is the kind of thing morning people do. 
I have in my mind that Germans and Swedish people are all morning people. French and Spanish people are night owls. 
Nobody knows what time the Dutch get up. I’ve Googled it, and it’s a bit of a scholarly dead end. Maybe they just don’t go to bed.  Dutch non-sleeping zombies with their bikes and windmills and awesome cheeses. They can’t afford to sleep. Their words are so super long that they have to stay awake 3 extra hours a day just to say “Good morning” to each other.

Anyway, back to sleep cycles. 
Or not. I’m tired.
Brown, S., Kunz, A., Dumas, A., Westermark, P., Vanselow, K., Tilmann-Wahschaffe, A., Herzel, H. & Kramer, A. (2008). Molecular Insights into Human Daily Behavior, PNAS, 105 (5), 1602-1607.
He, Y., Jones, C., Fujiki, N., Xu, Y., Guo, B., Holder Jr., J., ROssner, M., Nishino, S., & Hui, Y. (2009). The Transcriptional Repressor DEC2 Regulates Sleep Length in Mammals, Science. 325 (5942), 866-870.
Ramsey, K. & Bass, J. (2009). Obeying the Clock Yields Benefits for Metabolism. PNAS, 106 (11), 4069-4070.
Wittmanm M., Paulus, M. & Roenneberg, T. (2010). Decreased Psychological Well-Being in Late “Chronotypes” Is Mediated by Smoking and Alcohol Consumption. Substance Use & Misuse, 45 (1-2), 15-30.
*Never happened.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

I Hear You

Maybe you are on a bus or streetcar, or in a cafe with a friend catching up over burnt tasting lattes. Or perhaps on a train with your sweet, sweet lover, trundling through the German countryside touring castles and pastry parlours. You might be on a plane with your co-worker, discussing a new project at work and how your boss makes it obvious he goes commando. 

It doesn’t matter where you are.
It doesn’t matter what you do, or what you are talking about.
If I am in earshot, I am eavesdropping on you.
I promise I would never reveal your identity.  But I CAN’T promise that if you say something interesting, awful or stupid, I won’t tell people about it.
I’m just not that strong.
I find it impossible not to eavesdrop, even though polite society dictates that it is in bad form. Can’t help it. I could be sitting with  a friend who is telling  me about their engagement, their new baby, their incurable illness,  but if someone else is in earshot talking about, say, the Kardashians, or sandwiches, or lumber - well, I’m incapable of following my friend’s story and instead focus in on the prattled buzz of strangers.
Don’t be too angry at me. Eavesdropping is the highest form of flattery. It means that your discussion about your new jeans is way more interesting than anything I could be thinking about in my own brain.  I think it’s pretty clear from this blog that that is the honest to goodness truth.
Here are a few random conversations I have overheard and recall now for your dining pleasure:
I was in the ER room waiting with my neighbour. It was about 5 in the morning. A rather odd looking couple in their late twenties were enacting their own private soap opera in a very public venue. They were totally high on something. They vacillated between being madly in love and striking each other in rage. Security kept shushing them (And we all know that crazy crack heads HATE to be shushed!). At one point they were quiet for a moment and then suddenly the woman looked at her lover-man, with tear brimmed eyes and shakily said:

No. No you really can’t. They were at fisticuffs in the parking lot 15 minutes later.

Traveling provides not only an abundance of eavesdropping opportunities, but also, just weird interactions. At the  front desk of a hotel where we’d stayed the previous night, I was checking out and paying my incidentals, and the trainee who was serving me turned to her supervisor for guidance on the transaction:

Truck stops are nothing but hilarious. They have so much candy and so many people who were dropped on their heads repeatedly as children (by accident, of course). In a Kentucky Truck stop bathroom for example: 

In Tennessee, a truck stop cashier, friendly as can be: 

you have to say it out loud to get it.

Overheard in airport waiting area; Porter Airlines, by the way (which is a freaking awesome airline):

We had made a pitstop in Nashville at a Starbucks. A young woman bolted in, looking panicked and hair akimbo. She was breathing heavily like she had been chased. I asked her if she was ok:

 Relieved that it was nothing major, and, as usual, trying to be jokie I asked her:

I stare at her. Count about 5 beats here. Girl says:  “You’re kidding right? 
I respond:

This other time, a million years ago when I worked in a bar I overheard a guy telling a girl he was hitting on:

-Overheard outside  after a Crash Test Dummies show: 

Clearly if I am within 100 yards of you, you need to be hyper aware of what you’re saying because I am totally listening and forming an unflattering opinion of you based on the small snippets of conversation I can hear. To my friends, if you really need to talk to me, it’s best to hold my head and force me to look in your eyes while you are talking to me. If my eyes glance sideways, that means I am focussing in on a peripheral conversation about someone’s disappointment with their work schedule at East Side Marios this weekend and not really taking in that you are telling me about your car accident.
Maybe me friends should start talking to me only in rhymes. And holding up sparklers. That would probably help. I could wear blinders like a horse.  Or just communicate via the internet where my friends can’t see that I’m descaling the coffee maker before I get back to them about their house burning down. 

I have no idea how I have any friends at all. Thank you for tolerating me.

Saturday, 20 August 2011


You know what is endlessly fascinating? 
I mean, other than, just basically, me?
Well, what I eat on a daily basis is, to be honest, pretty spellbinding. Are you ready to be spellbound? And if not spellbound, at least you’ll feel sorry for me.
I have been breaking my diet for 35 years.
They say that a good habit to have when one is trying to lose weight, is to write down what you eat. I have been doing that for over two years now. I promised myself that no matter what it was, how much and how shameful, I would commit to a storage medium an account of every thing I ate. I also kept track of my exercise and a computer program told me if I was a good person or a bad person based on math. And science.
Mostly, I am a very bad person.
In  two years, between August 2009 and August 2011,  I consumed at least:
60 pounds of oatmeal

equivalent of 60 lbs of oatmeal

190 Cups of Vector cereal

this many boxes of Vector have I digested.

1200 Cups of milk

A typical dairy cow produces 5 litres of milk a day. Therefore, I have milked dry these many cows on one day to supply my  1% milk requirements for 2 years.

77 pounds of chicken

Biok buk buk

40 bags of raw carrots

Assuming that there are about 20 carrots per bag

164 cans of tuna (41 pounds)

I prefer white flaked tuna canned in water. And I've eaten at least this much in two years. At least.

334 pounds of apples, or about 680 apples

I feel like this doesn't look like enough apples. I ate a lot of apples. I like them apples.

Other stuff, too.
While I believe that being aware of what I consume is, ultimately, a good practice, I do find that it is inextricably linked to how good I feel about myself in a given day and therefore, NOT a good thing. So what’s a girl to think?
At the very least it is interesting to see how my eating habits change during times of stress, like when I am on the road. Holy crap, you’ve no idea the amount of garbage I consume. Or when the dogs are barking like mad and otherwise making me crazy, my first thought it, “Hey wouldn’t 3 bowls of Vector make this all better?”. 

 I can also see that times when I have lost weight, I have had a 700 calorie deficit per day. This sucks in such a major way. My GP told me “Sometimes you just have to be hungry if you want to lose weight”. Same as Kristen Bauer, who plays my beloved Pam on True Blood. She said“The other day I realized as long as I’m in this business, I’m going to be hungry”. I’m not an actor, but I have the insecurities of one. 
The problem is, I hate being even a little hungry. I like feeling like I’ve just eaten an entire loaf of bread, and you can guess the best way to accomplish that feeling. Maybe by eating at least 85 loaves of dark rye bread over the course of 2 years? Might be a plan.

Man can not live by bread alone. But I could.

At least I know I am not alone in this psychotic struggle to be something close to the cultural ideal. I want people to find me to be attractive AND to take me seriously. Like these women:

Sometimes, I wonder what would happen if I just let it go (Don’t worry, Brian. Not going to happen). What would happen if I ate an entire bag of President’s Choice Decadent Chocolate Chip cookies every day for a year? If I ate that stadium full of risotto? That canyon filled with croissants? 
There’s a woman out there who is doing just this. Her goal is to become the world’s heaviest woman

 She claims she can do this while remaining healthy. This is interesting on so many levels, but if I were her, I would not be too interested in being a living experiment for obesity research. 

Here’s her explanation of her crazy quest.

(I do not endorse the porno music in the preceding clip)
This will not screw her kids up one little bit. I have to wonder what the local child welfare services have to say about this situation. The kids are cared for and everyone seems to be loving and supportive, but basically, the mother is slowly killing herself. She’s had psych evaluations that determine she’s not a crazy pants. Who is going to be blamed after she dies (because this is what happens to people who are 1600 pounds)? Will they pin it on the over-worked, resource stretched social worker? The family physician? Heads will roll, that much is certain.
Eman says that outside of being the world’s fattest woman, her goal is to break down the stigma of overweight and that people need to “accept others for who they are”.
I seriously can not understand how making herself into a circus side show and most likely orphaning her children is a good way to create positive awareness for size acceptance. There’s gotta be something in the DSM-IV about this (shut up about the DSM-IV). If she doesn’t make it to being the world’s fattest woman, she might be able to claim to be the world’s slowest suicide. Depending.
Obviously, Eman is an extreme. I don’t want to eat like her, even if I never gained a pound. I like doing other things besides eating. I just can’t think of them right now. 

She is right that we need to be more flexible in our definitions of beauty; that there is room for all shapes and sizes in our list of acceptable silhouettes. People need to know that they are perfect the way they are. 
Except me. I need to look like Gisele Bundchen. Pass the chocolate chip cookies, please.