I love Trader Joe's as much as the next guy, but jebus, it's becoming truly unpleasant to shop there. I just got back from my semi-monthly on-the-way-home-from-work trip and I couldn't wait to get my misanthropic ass home. It's so crowded you can barely get down the aisles anymore! If you stop to actually look at the shelves, you get run down by a cart or smacked in the elbow with a purse. I guess you're supposed to just grab things and keep moving.

And then there are the stinky hippie moms and their obnoxious kids. Every time I go there there's some precious little angel running up and down the aisles and screaming at the top of his lungs. Mom ignores him as she ponders the organic meatless corn dogs.

When I finally got to the checkout line, the checker seemed to be in some kind of obsessive compulsive haze, actually sorting all my groceries into categories as she ran them slowly by the scanner. Not bagging them, mind you. Just sorting them. There was a pile of frozen veggies, a nice row of cereal, and all the sodas lined up alphabetical order. I started bagging them myself because I couldn't take it any longer.

Oh, the indignity of it all.

April Winchell

One of my favorite people, April Winchell, has added video blogs to her Web site and they're super bitchen. I can't wait for her podcast with her best friend Roy, due next week.

Dear Eddie

Dear Eddie Vedder:

I think you'll agree that we've been growing apart for some time now. In the 1990s, we were the best of friends. I would listen to "Nothing Man" or "rearviewmirror" in my car and wallow in sentimentality. Your soaring vocals, stories of alienation, and big, swelling power ballads were the soundtrack of my single, living-alone-with-my-cat years. That time I saw you in concert was one of the most thrilling experiences of my life.

To put it plainly, I ate that shit up.

But now, as I careen toward 40, I'm sorry to have to tell you that I've found someone new. He likes to wear tight red clothes and pretend that his ex-wife is his sister. He doesn't dabble in rock star politics or play benefit concerts for the Democratic party. His lyrics don't talk about young women escaping smothering relationships. He writes playful songs about losing his manners, or settling down with a nice girl. He plays the blues and the marimba. He moves effortlessly between projects and always comes up with something new.

You and Pearl Jam, however, haven't really made the transition to the 21st century with me. I bought your most recent album and felt like I was back in 1995. (That's not a good feeling, trust me.) I didn't get choked up at any of the songs. I didn't feel any teenaged angst or righteous anger. Actually, I felt kind of bored.

Songs from the other new album I bought recently keep ringing in my head. I've only had the CD a couple of days now, but I find myself humming phrases from it in the grocery store. "You're making me hungry...." "My blue veins..." "You've got to learn to give and wait your turn..."

It makes me happy, and gives me hope. Sorry.

Good luck with that whole comeback thing,


One more nail in the coffin

Great NY Times article on psychiatry's move toward genetic and physiological explanations for mental illness.

One woman spent 18 years at the lodge, barefoot, unkempt, closeted in her room. One day, he said, he looked out a window and saw her going for a morning walk, smartly dressed, wearing shoes; she had recently been given medication and began taking daily walks.

You're a great American

Cosmo sometimes likes to torture me by making me listen to Sean Hannity's radio show. Have you heard it lately? For four hours a day, the callers from Hannity country congratulate each other on being a "great American". "You're a great American Sean!" "Thanks caller, you're a great American."

Now we're doing it. I make dinner, and it's "honey, you're a great American." He takes out the trash, and it's "Aw, thanks. You're a great American!"

Stick a fork in me

I'm done with the Shangri La Diet. I did have some reduction in appetite, but I didn't lose weight any faster than I did with calorie restriction alone. And I felt like such a chump swallowing tablespoons of olive oil. It was for science I tell you!

Poke at Bristol Farms

We checked out the splendiferous new Bristol Farms in Westchester last night, and found a great surprise. Of all things, they have self-serve ahi tuna poke for sale, that you can buy by the pound. There are three versions, regular, spicy, and one other that I don't recall. And it's good! How 'bout that? We had quite a continental feast of sushi, poke, and and octopus salad.


Here's a great way to waste time. It's like Tivo for the Internets! You rate Web pages and StumbleUpon collects all the info and refers you to other sites that you might like. It's totally addictive. Here's my page.

Web-based RSS aggregators

I've been a loyal Bloglines user for some time, but lately I've been looking around at some of the other Web-based RSS aggregators. I tried Newsgator, which was very slow. I took a look at Yahoo, but I couldn't figure out how to import my feed subscriptions. Then I tried Google Reader, which I'm now in love with. Like all Google products, it's simple and elegant and a joy to use. I particularly like the ability to add a "clip blog" to your site (see sidebar to the left), which shows visitors blog posts that you have highlighted for their enjoyment. All I have to do is click on a post and it automatically feeds to that list for all to see.

Next I'm going to try out Google Notebook. I've already played around with and Kaboodle so far. I find kind of hard to use. Kaboodle is pretty cool. I've used it a lot in my home remodel, creating pages of bathtubs and tile vendors. But maybe Google will blow them out of the water. I'll report later.

Shangri-La Diet Week 2

I was all ready to declare defeat and give up on the magical appetite-suppressing properties of extra-light olive oil (ELOO) yesterday, but today I feel like giving it another shot. I took a look at my weight loss record and found that I've lost 1.4 pounds in the past two weeks, despite hormonal fluctuations, an enormous Mother's Day brunch, and other shameful deviations from the Jenny Craig plan. Hope springs eternal, right?

Today I weighed in at 142 pounds (I was 142.8 a week ago). I had my tablespoon of ELOO an hour after my bowl of lo-cal cereal this morning and by golly if I didn't feel strangely full all morning. And now, after my sensible lunch, I'm stuffed. Could the promised appetite suppression finally be kicking in? Or did I have some bad shrimp at Acapulco? Stay tuned...

Life in the big city

Man, they sure know how to overreact in Marina del Rey. Here's the scene from my apartment window last night. I counted eight cop cars, and later a fire truck and an ambulance showed up. The police stopped a vehicle and ordered the driver to get out with her hands up. It took her a while to get herself together, and there was a long period where the cop was instructing her through the loudspeaker: "No, the left side! No, put your hands up! Turn left! Lie down!" Finally she figured it out and was handcuffed and whisked away to a squad car.

Afterwards I noticed a woman sitting on the grass near the sidewalk. A couple of cops were talking to her and seemed to be taking her blood pressure. When the ambulance arrived they brought her a wheelchair. She got up, but was violently shaking. I don't know if she was scared, or injured, or what. She got into the chair, they covered her with a blanket, and took her to the ambulance. The cops stood around talking and joking for a while, then everyone left.

Baby Suit

Today's disturbing image, compliments of Boing Boing.

Shangri-La Diet Experiment, Week One

On April 30 I read Seth Roberts’ book, The Shangri-La Diet. I had first heard about the diet a few months ago, online, and tried drinking fructose water to curb my appetite as described in the book. I didn’t feel any difference in my appetite and gave up after a few days.

After reading the book, I realized that I had been doing a lot of things wrong, and decided to try again. This time, I decided to try taking two tablespoons of extra light olive oil every day, an hour after, and an hour before, eating. (You’ll have to read elsewhere for the details.)

I was already on the Jenny Craig diet, which is basically just portion control, eating about 1200 calories a day. I had lost about 11 pounds since the end of February this way. Since two tablespoons of olive oil have 240 calories, I decided to cut out the Jenny Craig-mandated snacks to compensate for the calories, even though Seth Roberts says you should just eat normally.

I started drinking one tablespoon of olive oil in the morning right before I go to work and one right before I go to bed. This began May 1st, 2006. That day I was 143.4 pounds (I’m 5’3”). My initial weight loss goal is 130 pounds. My lowest adult weight was 120 pounds.

When I started this experiment I decided that my criteria for success would be whether I felt less hungry and how fast I lost weight. So far I don’t feel less hungry. Many of the accounts of this diet that I’ve read online describe feeling very full as a result of the oil/sugar. People go all day without eating because they’re just not hungry. I do not feel that way. Rather, I feel pretty much normal.

As for the weight, here are my readings for this week:

5/1/2006 - 143.4
5/2/2006 - 142.6
5/3/2006 - 141.8
5/4/2006 - 142.8
5/5/2006 - 141.4
5/6/2006 - 139.8
5/7/2006 - 139.6
5/8/2006 - 142.8

As you can see, I appear to have lost steadily, then jumped up three pounds this morning. I don’t know if there’s something wrong with my scale, or if I’m retaining water, or if this is just a normal fluctuation. We’ll have to see how it goes next week. Before this experiment I was losing about a pound a week. If I was really at 139.8, then I lost about 3-4 pounds last week. That would be very promising. I’ll report back next Monday.

Shangri La Diet

Since Seth Roberts was kind enough to send me a copy of his new book, the Shangri-La Diet, I thought I might as well read it. It looked pretty short, and there were a few chapters of notes at the end that I figured I could skip. At first I was a bit put off by the “no hunger, eat anything weight loss plan" line, which sounds like something Suzanne Somers would say, but after reading the book I was relieved to find that it was actually unlike most diet books.

In fact, I would say the overarching feeling I got from the book was sincerity. It came across as if Seth Roberts stumbled across this interesting idea and wanted to share it with the rest of us. It worked for him and lots of other people, the science looked reasonable, and he just wanted to pass it along. The book is well written, interesting, and worth reading.

The other big thing I noticed about the book is the reliance on blogging. Roberts seems to have relied heavily on comments in blogs like Annie’s Shangri La Diet Blog. In fact, I found a couple of my own comments quoted, which was kind of a strange experience (guess that’s why he sent me a copy). I imagine this might be the first diet book to be researched and developed via blog discussions.

They say anecdotal evidence is the worst kind of evidence, so I’m still very skeptical of this diet. I know animal studies seem to support the idea, and I know lots of people have had success with the oil and sugar water, but when it comes to diets there are so many variables that come into play that I think it’s very hard to know why people lose weight.

I tend to think that much of the time the success people have from a particular diet comes from the novelty effect. Simply by doing something different, such as writing down what they’re eating, exercising, or drinking sugar water, people introduce an artificial element into their life that can give them a new sense of control (for a short time). Maybe the oil or sugar water have some kind of placebo effect? Maybe just by doing this weird thing they feel more obligated not to overeat? Maybe they just pay more attention to what they’re eating than usual?

I’m dubious, but interested. So I decided to try it for myself. I’ll describe my Shangri-la diet experience in a separate post.

You Are Going to Die

Today's reading, from David Sedaris.

Let's roll

We saw United 93 last night. My neck muscles are sore from the tension it caused. I expected to cry, but it wasn't really that kind of movie. I got choked up seeing the pictures of the World Trade Center, as I always do, but mostly the movie was just intense, frustrating, and suffused with dread from beginning to end. There are no names, no back story, no exposition, and no subplots. No one falls in love or is reunited with their long lost father. It just unfolds before you as if you're there, and you wish you could join the passengers in rushing those little twerp highjackers and beating the crap out of them.

A Holiday for the Latin People

Today is the day of the big immigration protests, and where I am in Los Angeles it's pretty quiet so far. Random thoughts:

  • There was hardly any traffic.
  • One of my coworkers didn't come in to work, but I'm not sure if it's because of the protests.
  • The guys who are installing our tile aren't working today. The (Israeli?) sales rep said it was because today is "some kind of holiday for the Latin people."
  • I love the t-shirts the protesters are wearing, with the yellow traffic sign that warns drivers of immigrants crossing the freeway.
  • I debated staying home today, but I wasn't willing to give up the vacation time and calling in sick would be dishonest. I'd feel guilty all day and that would be no fun. I guess I can show my support by not buying anything, even though we need groceries. Yes, sometimes you have to make tough sacrifices.
  • Our Mexican-American friends Rene and David, who are helping to renovate our house, aren't working, and they confirm that there are big rumors of immigration raids today.
  • I'd like to hear coverage of the protests on the radio, but I can't stand the non-stop immigrant-bashing on KFI and KABC.