Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Your dog is not your child

Bart: Hey Homer, are there dogs in heaven?
Homer: Yeah! Of course there are.
Bart: Are there dogs in hell?
Homer: I guess so.
Bart: Tell me one dog that's in hell.
Homer: Um, Hitler's dog?

-- The Simpsons (from memory, not the script)

We just spent the holidays with my wife's family, like we usually do, and, once again, my in-laws' dog did a fine job of wrecking things.

But it's not the dog's fault.

See, you may own just one dog, and you may think of it as your baby, or your child or whatever, but it's a dog, and dogs need training. Because when you don't train the dog, the dog takes over. If the dog is a German shepherd or a pit bull, and it starts running the show, you are going to notice really fast, and probably do something about it. That "something" is either going to be getting rid of the dog, or training it and you. If you don't, someone is going to get hurt.

But if the dog is a ten-pound Bichon/somethingelsereallyfuckingsmall mix, and you are my in-laws, you are going to do nothing. And it turns into mess.

This dog is in charge of the house. She thinks my in-laws are subordinate to her, the pack leader, and she guards them. She even guards them from each other. On Christmas day, my mother-in-law bent down to peck my father-in-law on the cheek as a thanks for a present. But Little Mussolini was on his lap and took a snarling leap at her face, missing by inches and growling at her until she backed off. Her reaction, "Oh, Maggie [Mussolini's actual name], it's OK."


We were sitting across the room with our three dogs, all of whom had looks on their faces that seemed to say, "Hey! Dogs can't do that!" and my wife said to her mom, "You know mom, this wouldn't be cute if she were a big dog." Her mom, totally missing the point, replied, "Oh, we would never have a big dog!"

I repeat: really?

And, before any of you dog haters start, it's not that LM is a "bad" dog. She just needs, like all dogs, some discipline and guidance. She is a pack animal -- again like all dogs -- and a pack animal is either a leader or a follower. No canine should be "leading" a pack of humans. When LM is away from her owners, but still in the same house -- like when they go off to church on Christmas and leave us at their home with LM and our dogs -- you should see LM immediately get in line. Zen quietude envelopes the home. There is no snarling, growling or any bad behavior at all. When our puppy approaches LM, instead of acting like Linda Blair's stunt double in The Exorcist, LM acts like a dog -- sniffing butts, wagging tails, the whole nine yards. Or if she really just doesn't want to be bothered by the annoying puppy, she walks away.

But the moment her owners return, LM is right back to battling Hitler's dog for that nĂºmero uno spot in Simpsons canine hell.

It will never change, and, in the end, I am just bitching like a a crabby motherfucker who had much of his Christmas holiday interrupted by a miserable dog's endless kvetching and snarling. But, if you are reading this, do all of us a favor that my in-laws will not: train your dog. He/she doesn't have to be perfect, but your dog has to know its place in the pack.

And that's not in the front.

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Monday, December 26, 2011


If you had a disease that negatively affects your life in a significant way and someone told you that you could beat that disease and get off your meds simply by eating animal protein, vegetables and fruits and not eating grains, legumes or dairy, would you do it?

Better yet, would you at least *try* it?

I wonder.

I just had a conversation with two people recently about paleo eating. Both eat a standard American diet (SAD), full of grains, seed oils, processed foods, "low-fat" foods, etc. One has hypothyroidism, possibly Hashimoto's disease, and is having a tough time with her weight management and a host of other issues as a result. The other has an autoimmune disorder that sends him to the hospital for platelet transfusions every so often when his body, as a result of the disorder, destroys his supply of platelets. He also has pretty serious eczema, which is almost always an autoimmune-related condition.

When my wife and I suggested how paleo eating, particularly under an autoimmune protocol, might improve both of their conditions, you would have thought we suggested eating dirt and giving up indoor plumbing. We even were sure to present the whole deal as a 30-day-trial sort of idea -- you know, go on a strict 30 days of eating right and see how you feel. But I doubt, from their collective reaction, that they are going to give it more than a moment's consideration.

What the hell?

I mean....Really? You are *that* attached to pizza and beer because it makes you feel all warm and fuzzy when you eat it that even the prospect of beating a disease that ruining your life isn't worth giving up the crap diet and just eating meat, veggies and fruit? This isn't eating weird food, or raw food or anything unusual. It's just giving up the bad stuff. There is a world of delicious, fat-filled, wonderful food you can still eat that is waiting for you.

Better yet, you can beat a disease that is making you feel horrible and, in one instance, sending you to the hospital on a regular basis.

Even better, it's a *30-day trial* fergodsakes. At the end of 30 days, if you don't feel better, you can go back to that SAD you love so much, and you will have lost nothing in the attempt.

Really, I just don't understand.... I have a world of respect for nutritionists who deal with this nonsense on a regular basis. It is hard to imagine how they don't just say, "Look, I don't actually give a shit. Do it, or don't. If you want to feel better, stop eating the following foods and eat these ones instead. If you don't, keep on digging a grave with a fork. It's your call. But for godsakes, stop pretending that the absence of pizza in your life is a crisis."

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Saturday, December 24, 2011


I haven't blabbed on about politics in a while, but don't let that fool you into thinking that I haven't been following the sideshow like the hardcore junkie that I am.

I can't help but be obsessed/fascinated with the fact that most of the GOP primary/caucus field seems to hate Mitt Romney. The man has been out there campaigning for six years now, and he can't top 25%. And in Iowa, he is somewhere lower than that. His penchant for taking both sides of almost any issue has not served him well.

So, my going theory for a while now has been that the GOP nominee will likely be Anybody But Romney, despite the fact that Romney (and Jon Hunstman) easily have the best chance of any of the current crop of candidates to appeal to independent voters in the general election.

This theory means that when Rick Perry got into the race, I just kind of assumed that the GOP would jump for him, but then he couldn't debate his way out of a wet paper bag and, somewhere along the line, the bulk of that party thought, quite reasonably, that President Obama would make him look like a dope in a debate, and they ran elsewhere. But I never really believed that Bachmann, Cain or Gingrich could emerge as the new Not Romney. Bachmann can't stop saying stupid things -- like the HPV vaccine nonsense -- and Cain was never *really* running to win; it was all just a low-tech book tour for him. And I don't think Gingrich was on much more than a book tour either, a fact which has played out in recent weeks when his Iowa numbers have risen briefly only to tumble because he has neither the money nor the organization to seal the deal there.

I still think there is some ultra-remote chance of Jon Huntsman gaining a foothold in New Hampshire. Although where would he go from there, you have to wonder, but I am going to lay off the NH prediction for now. Let's wait to see what happens in Iowa, and, really, Huntsman is not even competing there at all -- an acknowledgment of his from the outset that he couldn't hope to win in such a socially conservative state. Huntsman is not even on the radar in Iowa.

So.... what will Iowa do? From here, it looks to me like Ron Paul is going to win there, or at least do very very well. The only hitch in that prediction is whether he can get his supporters to caucus for him, but if they do you can be damn sure they are not going to compromise once the "caucusing" gets going and end up throwing their support to someone else. The Paulistas are a loyal lot. Getting them to show up at a caucus -- this is no five-minute exercise in "voting"; it is a night of work -- is the only potential problem. But if his folks show up, Ron Paul will do very well in Iowa.

Where I think the candidate-switching, caucus-style, is going to occur is among the social conservatives. Right now, their votes are spread out among Perry, Bachmann, Gingrich and Santorum. When the chips are down, and none of them are pulling enough caucus support to get over the hump into credibility, alliances will change and re-shape. Given Bachmann's status as yesterday's news, Perry's inability to speak more than a few coherent sentences in a row under pressure, and Gingrich's plummeting numbers overall, I think Iowa may shock everyone and give big numbers to Rick Santorum. Big enough to beat Romney? Yeah. Big enough to beat Paul? That seems a little less clear. It depends on just how much horse-trading goes on when caucus night arrives. But, in the end, I see Paul and Santorum as the top two in Iowa, in one order or the other, with Romney struggling in third place.

And yes, I know that my thoughts on Santorum are somewhat biased. You may recall that a long time ago, I pegged him as the Repub that Dems ought to fear the most, not necessarily as the most electable, but as reasonably electable while simultaneously so far out to lunch on the crazy train of social conservatism that the prospect of his election as president ought to scare you. My only caveat at the time was his seemingly uncontrollable urge to turn *every* issue into a diatribe against abortion and/or gay marriage. If he couldn't get that nonsense under control and stress the economy over the bedroom issues, then his "electability" rating for the general election would plunge.

Put differently, Rick Santorum scares the crap out of me -- I have told you before that social conservatives freak me out -- and part of my long-ago post about him was driven by that fear. But, for whatever reason -- perhaps linked to that penchant he has for bringing up abortion and gay marriage at every turn -- he has been labeled "unelectable" in the press and has never caught on with the nationwide GOP. And, up until recently, despite making a second home out of Iowa, he has not caught on much there either. But that Iowa situation has been changing rapidly. Santorum has recently picked up social-conservative endorsements and, pretty obviously, that primary electorate is in a huge state of flux lately. The only thing they seem to be sure of is that they don't want Mitt Romney. Some of them like Ron Paul a lot, but then there is a whole block of social-conservative moralizing retrobots, eager to re-instill the "morals" of 1952 in us, whether we want it or not. It's *those* people I fear the most and who just may, on caucus night, band together, like they have in the past for Mike Huckabee and Pat Robertson, and vote for the biggest moralizer of their bunch as their Not Romney of the evening-- Rick Santorum.

And now that I have said that, it puts me in a real spot when it comes to whom to root for on Iowa caucus night. Now that Gary Johnson has skipped town to run for the Libertarian Party nomination, the only one of these folks I genuinely respect is Huntsman. He has the gravitas, the smarts and the experience to be a good president, even if I disagree with him on some things (e.g., abortion rights). I would like to see him get the nomination. It would make for a fascinating/adult race with him running against the president. That is an unlikely scenario, and its only chance is if Huntsman does very well in NH. "Doing really well in NH" for Huntsman requires the winner of the Iowa caucuses to be: (a) not Mitt Romney (indeed, the worse Romney does in Iowa, the better for Huntsman's chances in NH), and (b) someone who can't carry that victory to NH and do anything with it. The "a" part of that scenario will take care of itself, I believe, and the "b" issue is well-served if Rick Santorum wins Iowa, because if there is a political candidate out there without a prayer of winning the NH primary, it is Rick Santorum. NH Republicans are famously pro-gun/pro-choice libertarians, and Santorum's moralizing-bedroom-monitor schtick simply does not sell there (file under: why I love NH).

But... gross.... That means I am not only predicting Rick Santorum to come in first or second in Iowa, but actually rooting for him to win there? Ugh. If that all comes true, you'll find me: (a) briefly spiking the football and shaking my moneymaker over my accurate prediction, and then (b) shuddering in fear. Because, really, no one in that field scares me like Rick Santorum.

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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Keep on moving

The recent death of Christopher Hitchens, whose writing and intellect I enjoyed very much over the years, brought up a predictable line of discussion on the interwebs that focused on two questions: (1) was he going to have a deathbed conversion from a lifetime of atheism** to belief in a higher power? and (2) depending on the answer to the first question, was he, ultimately, in some sort of afterlife where he regretted (or reveled in) his lack of faith (or newfound faith)?

Neither of those questions hold much interest for me. The first seems rather insulting -- as if to think he would change the very core of who he was at the last moment out of convenience or fear. Indeed, in an interview with Anderson Cooper, Hitchens specifically rejected the notion of a deathbed conversion, going so far as to say that the only possibility of such an event would be if his medication caused him to lose his mind. And the second question, obviously, presumes an afterlife -- an idea for which which I am not onboard, not out of any sort of militancy; I just can't wrap my brain around it, and I can't "believe" in something that simply does not compute for me.

But, despite all that, the second question got me wondering nonetheless, just in a different direction: about how belief or non-belief in an afterlife affects one's ability to "move on" when grieving the death of a loved one. Being a "here and now" sort of guy, as well as a libertarian-ish sort, I don't care whether you believe in an afterlife (or a god, for that matter, but we are focused on the afterlife question, which doesn't hinge necessarily on belief in a deity). That is your gig. Rather, I am curious how that belief, or lack thereof, affects your life in the here and now. Does it get you to a better psychic dimension in terms of coping with, and overcoming grief, or does it simply prolong the suffering?

I think the reflexive response that most believers in an afterlife would have is that it gives them great comfort to know that their dead friend/relative is "in a better place" rather than simply "gone." But I wonder. "Gone" is stark, but it is also: (a) absolutely factual in terms of your ability to interact with that person in *this* lifetime, and (2) because of its starkness, the first step toward "moving on" in the here and now. The believer treats the dead loved one not as "gone," but as living in a place where he or she cannot interact with the living and, so, one's thoughts about the deceased are not merely confined to happy memories, but rather necessarily extend to suppositions and mental machinations regarding just where the person is ("heaven" or otherwise) and what the person is currently doing. As a result, there is not merely the loss of death to deal with, but the ongoing separation of the living from those "living" in the afterlife. You haven't just lost your son/daughter/wife/husband/friend. You've lost them and they are living somewhere else where you can't see them in this life. And imagine the even greater, more awful, complications in the case of suicide; some religions do not believe in a happy afterlife for those poor souls. What then for practitioners of such a faith who have lost a loved one to suicide, and now have to cope with thoughts of so much more than just the loss in the here and now?

Ouch. What a burden. It's not one I care to bear. In fact, it seems unduly painful. When a friend of mine died a few years back, it hurt, but I can't imagine how I would have moved past that moment if I thought he were taken away to be elsewhere where I and his other friends could not see him. It would be as if he'd been shipped off to North Korea.

Instead, yeah, I miss my friend, but I have, for lack of a better term, "compartmentalized" his death. He was "then"; he is not "now." None of my "now" thoughts include him. Sure, I think about good times we had. I even occasionally think how much he might have enjoyed something-- a band, an album, whatever-- from the present, but I never think about how or what he is doing right now. He isn't doing anything. He's dead.

Harsh? Yeah. But I have moved on. I suspect I wouldn't have done so very well if I believed in an afterlife.

And I am not claiming to have all the answers on this question. I am just offering a point of view that you may not have considered. Like I said, I don't care where you are at on this issue. You might, for instance, say that it gives you great comfort and even a thrill to envision the reunion you will have in the afterlife with your dead loved one. My only answer to that is that it has little to do with the here and now, which is my concern. It strikes me as a horrible shame to spend one's days focused more on the ethereal, unknowable aspects of the future than on the issues of the present day. Life is wonderful; live it.

I keep returning to this theme, but it's a short time we have on the planet. Do your best. And that may not be possible if you get hung up too long on anything that, ultimately, you need to get past.

**A short digression: I am not an enormous fan of the word "atheist" as a label because it describes a person based on what he or she does *not* believe in -- a very odd notion, if you ask me -- but it is such common parlance at this point that I have used it here. Any "atheists" that I know believe so fervently in so many things (often so many *different* things, depending on the person, but, almost always, in science and reason) that it seems like an insult to label them in the negative based upon what they do *not* believe in, as if their core is a black hole of non-belief in anything.

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Thursday, December 15, 2011

What's in a name?

This time, I didn't just change the name of the blog; I changed the URL. Sure, the old blogspot URL works too, so if that one strikes your fancy, blows up your skirt or otherwise suits you better, go right ahead and use it. It'll still get you here. But it is officially "The Paleo Drummer" from here on out.

This blog-name thing all started back in the days when this was called "More Spiel," an homage to the Minutemen, just about my favorite punk-rock band ever. But, somewhere along the line, things took a turn away from the musical and more toward the food/exercise/life angle. So, being the patient sort, I gave myself about 30 seconds to come up with a new name (NOW!), and I chose: "Hit Drums. Bang Rocks. Eat Meat," which I kind-of liked. It had the drummer and the caveman thing in there, at least.

But my wife asked a reasonable question: "How do the rocks come into it?" I had a limited number of reasonable answers to that. ("Limited" = none). So for about two hours the other day, the name was shortened to: "Hit Drums. Eat Meat." It was mercifully concise.

But eventually -- meaning two hours later -- I started to lust after my very own real/honest-to-bejeezus URL, y'know, one without the "blogspot" in there. Like a real website; y'know, like on the internets.

And, truth be told, not only does "Hit Drums. Bang Rocks. Eat Meat" look unwieldy and long when compressed into a single run-on one-word URL, but, more disturbing, whether you use that one or even the compressed/one-word version of merely "Hit Drums. Eat Meat," the resulting URL appears to have the word/phrase "seatmeat" in it.

I don't know what "seatmeat" is, but I am positive that it has nothing to do with this blog.

So that was right out.

Some other guy was already calling himself the Primal Drummer, so that was out too, even though my way of eating is technically more "primal" (i.e., includes some grassfed dairy) than strict "paleo." Plus, "primal drummer" sounds like someone you would meet at a drum circle.

You would never meet me at a drum circle.

So... "The Paleo Drummer" it is. I like it. It is short, to the point and still has the drums in there along with the food/caveman reference.

And, really, now that I have changed the URL, you and I are pretty much stuck with it. So get used to it, and look at the positive side: no seatmeat.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The never-ending quest to cheat the reaper

It's kind of funny that I just recently did a short spiel on supplementation, and now I am about to launch into another one that indicates that I have, well, changed all that. But, really, information-gathering in the paleo/primal world is an ongoing process, and I have read some smart things written by smart people lately that convince me that I need to adjust my approach.

The bottom line is that I still take a One-A-Day Men's multivitamin and 1100 mg of magnesium, but.... I traded out the fish oil and the D3 for this little beauty -- the vaunted Green Pasture butter-oil/fermented-cod-liver-oil blend in capsule form. I say "vaunted" because Liz Wolfe of Cave Girl Eats speaks highly of this stuff. It is a power-packed wallop of vitamins A and D -- which work oh-so-much better in synergy with one another than separately -- plus the (double-vaunted) supremo power of K2.

(Insert dorky mountaineering joke here if you must....)

K2 is one of those super vitamins that we just seem to be learning more and more about. Not only has Ms. Wolfe given it her seal of approval, but Richard Nikoley of Free the Animal has waxed on about it as well. When you start talking about something that has positive effects on anti-aging, anti-calcification, dental health and heart health, you have a winner. Nikoley says that K2 appears to send calcium to all the places it needs to be -- like bones and teeth -- and none of the places, like arteries, where it shouldn't be. And it works synergistically with A and D, which (you might know if you have been paying attention even a little) are already doing their own little special pro-you tango with one another when taken together.

This whole switch also addresses an ongoing concern I have had for a while that the PUFA (polyunsaturated fatty acid) levels in fish-oil capsules are too high, to say nothing of the fact that the fish that they, er, milked to get that oil probably were farm-raised, not wild-caught. (Mmmm, delicious pesticides). Robb Wolf even backed off the mega-fish-oil-dosing recommendations that he once made, causing the Whole9 folks to readjust their fish-oil spiel recently too by taking down their "fish-oil calculator." It's all enough make even a drummer pause a moment to think. [Pause]. I plan on compensating for the absence of fish-oil capsules in my life by adding in a can of wild-caught salmon to my lunch three times a week.

So, "Why the Green Pasture stuff, Steve-o?" you might ask. Because it's the only fermented, not heat-processed, cod-liver oil that also can be bought with the butter oil in combo, giving you the A/D/K2 whack that you didn't even know you were caring about until you read this.

And yes, it's kind of expensive. I don't know what to tell you about that. Buy the ticket; take the ride. They had me hooked at "anti-aging." I am firmly against aging.

So am going to give this stuff a whirl, a test drive, a spin around the block, so to speak. If Wolfe's and Nikoley's results (although Nikoley is actually not taking the blend, but, rather, just the GP butter-oil pills) are any key, I should be bragging about feeling even better than I already do in no time. If that sort of thing annoys you, uh, beware?

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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Scary, scary brain

Two (very short) stories.... Both involve the brain. Beware what is hidden in there.

My wife and I were recently in Germany. I knew that English would get us by just fine, but I was nevertheless interested in trying to kickstart my long-dormant German conversational skills. I was never a grammarian in German (which I find vaguely amusing because I am a card-carrying member of the "I think bad grammar makes you sound stupid" club in English) but my German conversational abilities were pretty boffo at one time. My high-school German teacher always stressed vocabulary and idiomatic turns of phrase over formal grammar, and so that is what I learned.

But high school was a very long time ago, and I don't think I actually learned anything in college German, so the vagaries of life's responsibilities being what they are, I hadn't thought a German thought in many years -- 27 of them to be exact. I was in Germany in 1979, 1980 and 1984. That's it.

So I bought a German-conversation CD set and put it on my iPod. That vaguely got the brain gears turning, but not to any extreme degree. I found myself striking out often when trying to remember a particular word.

It all changed on day three in Germany. It was as if a switch had been flipped and, suddenly, German words were pouring into my conscious from my subconscious. Really, it was crazy. As long as I didn't think too hard, conversation came easily. Idiomatic phrases were flowing like water. Long-dormant parts of the scary scary brain were activated.

It was fairly mindblowing. I got so damn excited about it that we will definitely be back to Deutschland in the near future. It also got me wondering what else is hidden in there. I mean this stuff was dead for 27 years, and, with just a day or two to ignite the brainy juices, I was rolling along like it was 1984, just with a better haircut.

Story two....

I was at yoga the other day -- a welcome once-a-week addition to my CrossFit life -- and I happened to exchange a quick "hey/welcome" glance with a new guy in the gym as I headed out the door. By the time I got to my car, I said to my wife, "Wait a minute.... Did you happen to hear that new guy's name?" She said she thought it was Chris, and my response was, "No fucking way.... I think I went to high school in Philly with that guy. I am going to go back in and see if that is him."

It is a bit unbelievable that I recognized him in that brief few seconds. I haven't seen this guy since, at best, about 1986, and I think it is actually a few years prior to that. He really doesn't look the same. Obviously, he looks older, but he is also significantly bigger/not the scrawny high-school kid I knew.

Which brings us back to the scary scary brain. I mean... What the hell? Something about that guy's face was still stored somewhere in my cerebral cortex that I recognized him in that sort of brief encounter?

Again, it makes you wonder what else is in there. So far, it's been pretty interesting of late rekindling the stagnant bits of el braino, but you have to wonder how many bad things are in there too, and how often are these memories *actually* triggered on a normal day and we just ignore them, or, more likely, they vaguely alter our approach/reaction to whatever is going on, and we don't even realize it.

Scary, scary brain.

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