Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Monday, September 12, 2005

Tantric pizza

You may have heard the saying, “Sex is like pizza. It can never be bad, but some is better than others.” I will leave it to you to decide whether there is such a thing as bad sex, but there is definitely such a thing as bad pizza – and until you have the really good kind, you just don’t realize how bad most pizza is.

I used to work in a place called the Whitby Mall. It’s in Whitby, ON at Thickson and Dundas Streets. The place is a hole as far as malls go (some would even say it’s cursed), but there’s a little restaurant called “Under Wraps” that revolutionized my expectations of pizza. It’s delicious, it’s phenomenal, it’s the tantric sex of pizza. Instead of using dough, they use pita shells as crusts, so after baking, they’re thin and crisp. Then they load up the pita shell with all sorts of fresh vegetables (tomatoes, onions, green and red peppers, olives, hot peppers, whatever you want) and then lots of shredded cheese.

Tantric pizza is one of the things that I really miss about living in Whitby. If you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend stopping by Under Wraps, saying hello to my very funny friends Liz and Rob, and trying a personal tantric pizza for yourself!

If you try to make it at home (as I’ve done tonight, with results almost as good as Under Wraps), here are a few hints:

  • Use white pitas unless you can find whole wheat pitas that taste really good. A pizza isn’t tantric if its crust tastes like recycled cardboard.
  • For meat, you can just chop up some luncheon meat. For instance, tonight I used 3 slices of honey-roasted chicken.
  • Chop/slice your vegetables thinly so that they soften a bit in the oven. I’ve been keeping sliced peppers, onions, etc. in the fridge so I can quickly use them in salads or on pizza.
  • Cook the pizza at 300 degrees F until the cheese is melted and starting to crust over.
  • Use at least a little bit of onion (not you, though, Joe) – it really adds to the flavour.
  • Send me a thank-you card for introducing you to the best pizza you’ve ever tasted! LOL

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Recipe for maple-glazed salmon

This is an amazing - and easy! recipe. My roommate Farzanah and I just tried it out. Five stars!!!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

I Have No Shame!

No, I’m not modeling this year’s Hallowe’en costume, nor am I auditioning for the latest Star Trek movie – I am wearing a mask that goes with my CPAP machine! This device has started to have a tremendously positive impact on my life – I have more energy and am able to be more physically active, even with my demanding job. So much so that I’m willing to humiliate myself a little (and probably jeopardize any chance I ever have of dating again LOL) in order to share the benefits of getting treatment for sleep apnea, and encouraging anyone who feels tired all the time or has been told by a partner that they stop breathing while sleeping to get help that will change your life!!!! But let me start at the beginning …

Several months ago, my cat Cleo kept waking me up multiple times every night. There were more than a few nights that I thought I’d surely take her to the vet the next day and not bring her home! But then I realized that the poor thing was just as exhausted as I was by morning, and I began to wonder if I was unknowingly doing something in my sleep that was waking her up. So I talked about it with my family doctor, and we arranged for me to attend a sleep clinic (see here for the blog I posted about that). And sure enough, I was diagnosed with sleep apnea. According to the lab results, I stopped breathing an average of once every two minutes during REM (personally, I think if I’d slept more comfortably at the clinic that night, the frequency of apneas would have been higher, but that’s just my uneducated opinion!). After consulting with an ear/nose/throat specialist and ruling out surgery as an effective solution, I decided that the best course of action was to get a CPAP device.

The CPAP machine provides continuous positive air pressure that helps keep the patient’s air passage open when it would otherwise collapse until s/he woke up just enough to activate the muscles that would open it back up again. The air is sent through a hose to a mask that is held in place by Velcro straps. In my case, the mask just covers my nose – breathing through the mouth is not an option! LOL In my case, I even bought a machine with a little humidifier to moisten the air before it gets sent through the hose.

When I picked up the CPAP device at the medical supply company, the consultant there assured me that I would notice changes in my energy level right away, and that over time I would feel dramatically different. She told me she could see physical changes in her patients after they started to use their CPAPs – they looked more refreshed, and the bags under their eyes would go away. She even told me about an extreme example of a client who lost 120 pounds (!) after he started to use his CPAP device – he had the energy to be more physically active than he had been before receiving treatment for his apnea. No, that wasn’t a typical result, but she said that most patients do in fact lose weight after starting to use a CPAP, as they tend to be more active as their energy levels increase.

At the time, I couldn’t even allow myself to believe what she was telling me. I think I’ve been continually tired since 12 or 13 years old. People would tell me that I was too young to be so tired. My hobbies, my activities, even my social life were limited by my fatigue. I was even told by doctors in the past that I just needed to exercise regularly in order to increase my energy levels, and when I told them that I tried, but sometimes was too tired, they said just to force myself to go to the gym, as though I were just lazy or lacking in willpower. (I don’t really blame them – I certainly don’t fit the profile of a person with sleep apnea.) I would crave carbs and sweets and drink colas to keep me awake at work. And throughout, I would feel a sense of shame and embarrassment that I couldn’t do as much as everyone else.

So now I’ve had my CPAP device for two weeks. I’ve noticed that the bags under my eyes aren’t as bad as they’ve been for years, and my face looks somewhat younger. I have definitely had more energy to exercise, and have started going to the gym at 5:00 AM on weekdays – and I feel better all the time! The last couple of months have been extremely busy for me at work, and yet I’ve recovered in a fraction of the time it would have taken me without the CPAP.

So … you may not be a middle-aged overweight male (the typical profile), but:

  • if you feel tired all the time
  • if you’ve ever been told that you stop breathing in the middle of the night or that you snore very loudly
  • if you have problems staying awake or alert during the day even when you’ve had a decent number of hours of sleep
  • if you consistently fall asleep within 5 minutes of going to bed
  • if your head always starts to bob if you’re in a darkened room (I always found it hard to stay awake in training or meetings if the lights were turned off for presentations)

then I say run don’t walk to your doctor and talk with him/her about a possible sleep study. It might not be sleep apnea for you, but if it is, there is treatment for it that really is successful!

For those who are curious, a CPAP device can be $1500 - $2200 Canadian. In Ontario, OHIP will cover $780. I am fortunate enough to have a benefits package through work that paid for the rest.

I am so excited about what I will be able to accomplish now that I have made this discovery. I can't say my energy level is 100% yet (I'm still getting used to everything, but it's coming along ...) My first objective is to get in shape – I can’t wait to see what adventures I’ll take on after that!



Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Jen C. gets big opportunity

And some amazing changes also for my awesome friend Jen C:

No I have not disappeared off the face of the earth - I'm still here in Vientiane, Lao PDR. One term at Vientaine College to escape infinite thesis hell has turned into one term at a provincial hospital plus five months (so far) with the ILO on their anti-trafficking project... and despite my best intentions to at least visit home this summer/fall... well... not happening. Mass mailings aren't my bag, but I thought I wanted to share some cool news with you - that some of you may already have caught wind of. Though it's not 100% (I need to be approved by Lao Ministry of Foreign Affairs), I have been offered and accepted a position with CUSO as Lao Country Director. It's going to be tough, a huge change and loads and loads of work - CUSO's had a rough past 5 years in terms of high turnover of Country Director - and the projects and programmes in country are tough to manage, too. Anyhow, conference/training in Bali at the end of this month; then one more month with ILO (to finish up three months' worth of work!) and then picking up at CUSO (depending, of course, on ministry approval). So, based on my work obligations, I think that I will probably never sleep again.
I'm sooooo proud!!!!!!!!

Melissa and Jeremy: It's a boy!

From Jeremy:

We're happy to announce the birth of our second son, Lucas Trent D.

9 lbs 5 oz

24 inches long

Mother and baby are resting comfortably, pics to come soon.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Was it all just a photo-op for Bush?

Senator Landrieu from Louisiana is a Democrat, but she's always been Bush-friendly. However, while touring the devastation in New Orleans with George Stephanopolous (ABC) this Sunday, she had this to say:

“Yesterday, I was hoping President Bush would come away from his tour of the regional devastation triggered by Hurricane Katrina with a new understanding for the magnitude of the suffering and for the abject failures of the current Federal Emergency Management Agency. 24 hours later, the President has yet to answer my call for a cabinet-level official to lead our efforts. Meanwhile, FEMA, now a shell of what it once was, continues to be overwhelmed by the task at hand.

“I understand that the U.S. Forest Service had water-tanker aircraft available to help douse the fires raging on our riverfront, but FEMA has yet to accept the aid. When Amtrak offered trains to evacuate significant numbers of victims – far more efficiently than buses – FEMA again dragged its feet. Offers of medicine, communications equipment and other desperately needed items continue to flow in, only to be ignored by the agency.

“But perhaps the greatest disappointment stands at the breached 17th Street levee. Touring this critical site yesterday with the President, I saw what I believed to be a real and significant effort to get a handle on a major cause of this catastrophe. Flying over this critical spot again this morning, less than 24 hours later, it became apparent that yesterday we witnessed a hastily prepared stage set for a Presidential photo opportunity; and the desperately needed resources we saw were this morning reduced to a single, lonely piece of equipment. The good and decent people of southeast Louisiana and the Gulf Coast – black and white, rich and poor, young and old – deserve far better from their national government.

“Mr. President, I’m imploring you once again to get a cabinet-level official stood up as soon as possible to get this entire operation moving forward regionwide with all the resources – military and otherwise – necessary to relieve the unmitigated suffering and economic damage that is unfolding.”

Saturday, September 03, 2005

The current head of FEMA had no previous experience in emergency management

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo writes:

Earlier we asked who would track down the story about FEMA Chief Michael Brown's apparent firing from his last pre-FEMA employment.

The Boston Herald is on the case. The lede from this morning's piece by Brett Arends ...

The federal official in charge of the bungled New Orleans rescue was fired from his last private-sector job overseeing horse shows.

And before joining the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a deputy director in 2001, GOP activist Mike Brown had no significant experience that would have qualified him for the position.

The Oklahoman got the job through an old college friend who at the time was heading up FEMA.

The agency, run by Brown since 2003, is now at the center of a growing fury over the handling of the New Orleans disaster.

A bit further down, there's this ...

Brown was forced out of the position after a spate of lawsuits over alleged supervision failures.

``He was asked to resign,'' Bill Pennington, president of the IAHA at the time, confirmed last night.

Soon after, Brown was invited to join the administration by his old Oklahoma college roommate Joseph Allbaugh, the previous head of FEMA until he quit in 2003 to work for the president's re-election campaign.

Takes your breath away, doesn't it?

I'll say! But, unfortunately, the current American administration is full of people who are not qualified for their positions, starting with the President himself! But they all have their connections ...


"Look in this baby's face"

You have GOT to watch this video - two journalists in New Orleans who refuse to stand down from the assertion of what they can see with their own eyes - that thousands of people are still without help.

More on the Gulf Coast tragedy

I have spent a lot of time the last few days watching CNN coverage of the Gulf Coast tragedy, as well as visiting a number of websites on the topic. The conditions in New Orleans are apocolyptic. The federal government's response has been incompetent and inexcusably slow. People are dying due to lack of potable water, food, and medicine. It is a blight on western civilization.

Two nights ago, I was watching Paula Zahn interview Michael Brown, the head of FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Association), and he said Wednesday was the first his staff knew that there were people holed up at the New Orleans Convention Centre! (Nevermind that there had been hundreds, if not thousands, of people there - at the instructions of the city mayor - for two days!!!!)

While horrified that such suffering continues, there are a few aspects of this story that fascinate me. One is just the logistics of the rescue operations - over the last few years I've developed an interest in urban planning and emergency response. (Yeah, I'm a lot of fun at parties ... LOL)

Another aspect of this story that captivates me is what can be learned about leadership (or lack thereof). Truly, this sad, sorry episode is a cautionary tale. You can read some interesting comments on leadership in relation to this tragedy by retired General Wesley Clark here. (He's an extremely intelligent man - it's worth a look.)

The critical importance of government has also been underscored by this event. There are those (particularly in the U.S.) who have preached for years that government is useless, a waste of money, etc., and that "the market" (!!!) is a more effective regulator of all things public and private. The very influential Republican Grover Norquist is famously quoted as saying, "My goal is to cut government in half in twenty-five years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub." Well, Norquist and the Repulsivecans have been very effective, as we all can see, yet there's no private corporation stepping in to coordinate the rescue efforts, to organize shelter for refugees, to provide for their basic necessities such as food, water, and clothing ... Wal-Mart, where are you????? Hmmm ... Hear that crashing sound? That's idealogy coming smack up against reality. The truth of the matter is that it is for this cause that government exists and should exist - to ensure the safety and well-being of its people.

There are two corollaries to this, in regards to poverty and law-and-order:

It's very evident that most of the victims who have been or still are trapped in New Orleans were too poor or too sick to get out when the warnings came. (And there was no organized effort to evacuate those without transportation.) These people don't have money, skills, or political clout - and so they were left to rot for a couple of days before the public became outraged. I saw Laura Bush in a press conference yesterday be asked about this, and she said something to the effect that the poor are always the most vulnerable, and that this "always happens". Well, for a party that has a sick fixation on saving fetuses and brain-dead vegetables, saying "every life is precious", they seem just a bit cavalier about hundreds (if not thousands) of people (including babies) dying day by day of dehydration and lack of medical care. Too bad they're not the "haves and the have-mores" that Bush considers his base.

In terms of law and order, it's now patently clear how thin the tissue of civilization can be. Rescue workers have been shot at, women raped, etc. I don't blame hungry people for walking into abandoned stores looking for food and water - what else are they to do? And I have never seen such an idiotic display of total denial than people robbing stores of big-screen TVs (yeah, good luck with that!). But it also underscores for me how I should not take our governments and police forces for granted. My roommate and I are two single women, living apart from our families and not really knowing anyone else around us. We don't carry guns, we don't have men/bodyguards to protect us, and yet we can travel freely around our neighbourhood, without (much) worry of being attacked or victimized. That's because of the law and order maintained by our police officers/justice system, and the fact that the government ensures that *most* people's basic needs are met.

I am sure that this has just been a long-winded diatribe, but lastly, I am thrilled that the American press actually is calling the Bush government to account for something!!!! The journalists are witnessing desperation and incompetence, and they're not giving anyone a free pass. (Check this out on the CNN website - "The big disconnect on New Orleans"). While for the sake of the victims, I hope Bush gets his act together, I still hope that rat bastard and all his sick cronies get their asses nailed to the wall but good!


P.S. - Another couple of thoughts on leadership:

Lt. Gen. Honore a "John Wayne dude"
Mayor to Feds: "Get off your asses"