Body, together

IMG_7329So it’s been a long time since I did a post on health-related stuff.

Partly owing to the evolution (de-evolution?) of the blog. When I first started blogging in whenever it was — 2006 I think? — I threw up posts on whatever was on my mind. Personal stuff, health-related stuff, politics, local news, etc. Today, I’m more active on Facebook than here. It’s easier to carry on conversations there — I’m not sure what FB the company thinks it is, but to me it’s an enormous open platform blog. I can post to my website and maybe somebody will chime in with a response. I post to FB and it can trigger a conversation among dozens of people. I like that :-)

There are two downsides. One, of course, is that the stuff I post on FB isn’t visible if you don’t have a FB account or aren’t my FB friend. The other — closely related actually — is that FB posts go down the rabbit hole. Whereas with my blog, once Google indexes a post, it will show up in the search results for-evah. Assuming it’s a decent post.

Which brings me to health-related stuff. Some of my blog pages on specific health-related topics get fairly regular hits from visitors, which I assume means they’re finding what I post helpful.

So I thought I’d update on my personal experience: here are the things I do today that I think have the most positive effects on my health.

DISCLOSURE: I am NOT a medical professional and this is NOT medical advice. It’s me blogging about my personal experience. Be smart and consider getting a professional opinion before you try anything you read about on the interwebs.


Still taking it. Iodine is the only thing I’ve ever supplemented that had a huge, immediate, tangible effect on my health. Here’s my most comprehensive blog posts about it.

You do need to exercise some caution if you start exploring iodine supplementation, particularly if you have health issues. Educate yourself. The links at my old post are a good starting point. Another terrific resource is The Iodine Crisis: What You Don’t Know About Iodine Can Wreck Your Life, by Lynne Farrow.

Next up: Fluoride, Migraines, Resistant Starch, and my fave go-to alt-health blogs . . . Continue reading

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Beagle Date

I once caught a beagle, a stray.
Long tongue,
worldly eyes.
The kind that make the ladies sigh.

I lured him to the yard
and shut the gate.
But he didn’t stay.

Before I got to my phone
he’d found a hole and

he was gone –
Where have you gone?

Maybe home.
Maybe on
to his next beagle date,

The kind that makes
the ladies
ask him why.

Posted in Writing | 1 Comment

Famous neighbors: Scott Adams

A is Oxford, B is Windham.

A is Oxford, B is Windham.

I blogged a few years back about how Camille Paglia lived, for a time, in my hometown of Oxford, NY.

Turns out I had another someday-would-be-famous neighbor — not quite so close as in the same town, but I’m still counting it :-)

Scott Adams, who is three or four years older than me, grew up in Windham, NY.

Windham is about an hour and forty five minute’s drive from Oxford. That sounds like a lot except that the driving consists of winding through 2-lane mountain roads. I speak from experience. Delhi, NY, about halfway between the two towns, was (is?) one of the schools in the same sports section and division as Oxford; anyone who played or spectated Oxford sports was in Delhi several times a year during high school. I remember it as being the looooooong bus ride :-)

And Route 23, the main road into Windham, is well known to Oxfordians. It’s one of the main highways out of Norwich, the Chenango County seat.

As Upstate NY towns go, I don’t need to see Windham to know it has a lot in common with Oxford, although it’s probably a bit smaller (Adams writes in How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life that he had 40 people in his graduating class).

In his book, Adams tells a story of how his car broke down once between home and Syracuse on a “newly constructed highway through a sparsely populated valley in the Catskill Mountains.” I have to think that’s Route I-88, right?

Here’s a WaPo article by Adams — one of several that have appeared lately that are excerpted from his book. I read it today, because of course I want to be happy, and which reminded me that How to Fail… was on my TBR pile.

Highly recommend the book if you’re looking for some New Year’s encouragement :-)

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On Resolutions

IMG_7707 (2)I’ve been thinking a lot about resolutions over the past couple of weeks.

I like to set resolutions. I know some people don’t. But my thinking is very much along the lines of Sarah Hoyt’s, as she blogs about it here. Humans, she writes, “live by ritual and symbols as much as by concrete things . . . I use the rituals and the dates and the symbolic turning points as a fixed point off which to rappel and change my direction.”

[T]here is a dreadful weight of inertia to human life.  Things-as-you’ve-always-done them become established in your mind and you end up doing them the exact same way over and over again, even if you hate it.  It’s kind of like trying to swim in a soaked overcoat.  And in this case, the habits formed during this year are the kind that, like that soaked overcoat, will be the end of me, if I don’t change them.

Exactly. Which is why resolutions can feel good. They can imbue your life with a sense of “getting somewhere,” of having some measure of control or at least influence on your destiny.

Only if you are kind to yourself about them, however. As Dean Wesley Smith notes in this post about setting writing goals, when it comes to goals, it’s important to be flexible about how we define “success.” If you set an “extreme” goal, he advises, “have fall-back success levels.” Understand that missing a goal doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve failed.

Er .  . . no.

Er . . . no.

Seven of my eight 2013 resolutions were writing goals, and guess what: they were all extreme. I didn’t meet any of them. But I made substantial progress on three. So out of kindness to myself, I hereby christen 2013 a success :-)

And also out of kindness to myself, I’m going to be careful about my 2014 resolutions.

I realize, in retrospect, that the resolutions I made last year set me up to fail not only because they were extreme, but because meeting them depended too much on things outside my control.

Without going into too many personal details: the daily claims on my attention are real. I’m a mother. I have bills to pay. Etc.

The time and energy I can devote to writing fiction are limited. That’s a fact. And if my resolutions don’t accommodate that fact, I’m doomed to miss them. So:

Lesson #1. Don’t set goals/resolutions that are too vulnerable to factors I can’t control.

So how do you get to goals/resolutions that are within your control? Continue reading

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Final cover, Dark Chemistry

Makes you want to read the novel, doesn't it?

Makes you want to read the novel, doesn’t it?

It’s done :-)

What do you think?

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Into the body of the protagonist

Via Futurity, researchers  at Emory University’s Center for Neuropolicy are exploring what happens to your brain when you read a novel.

It’s a small study, but intriguing — and reinforces my sense that what we experience internally is, in some respects, indistinguishable from what we experience in the 3D world:

“The neural changes that we found associated with physical sensation and movement systems suggest that reading a novel can transport you into the body of the protagonist,” Berns says. “We already knew that good stories can put you in someone else’s shoes in a figurative sense. Now we’re seeing that something may also be happening biologically.”

Read a book, and the protag becomes your avatar :-)

Posted in Science, Writing | Leave a comment

RACGate Update

I’ve been diligently pursuing RAC and LA Fitness to try to get some resolution to my request for a refund, as I laid out in my previous post here.

Here’s what’s happened since I first posted:

1. I talked to a couple more people, bringing the total to around 8 different individuals to date (some with RAC, some with LA Fitness). I.e., I’m still being bounced around, which is frustrating and unpleasant. That said, I’ve found the people in Rochester to be professional and sympathetic. I REALLY appreciate that.

2. As of 1 pm today, however, nobody has done the right thing, yet — I still haven’t received an assurance that my money will be refunded.

3. In the flashiest news to date, I was interviewed this afternoon by Vanessa Herring, a reporter with WROC Channel 8. Big thanks to Vanessa and WROC for supporting us in this! And Vanessa was terrific, very personable and professional. The interview will air tonight at 4, 5, and 6 pm.

4. I’ve heard that there are individuals who are getting refunds for unused personal training from LA Fitness. I REALLY hope that means I’ll be getting my money back as well. However –

5. Once again, that points to how muddled and inconsistent this is. If some people are getting their money back, why aren’t others?

6. I’ve heard from several other people who are in a similar situation to mine. Please keep reaching out — as much as possible, let’s coordinate our efforts to make sure that we are ALL treated honorably!

Posted in Rochester, New York | 2 Comments

To RAC/Fitness First & LA Fitness: DO THE RIGHT THING

Late last week, the Rochester Athletic Club (RAC) announced that it had sold two of its Rochester, NY locations to LA Fitness.

One of them is the club where I work out.

I wouldn’t mind all that much, except for one thing: I can no longer work with “my” personal trainer — a trainer who is qualified to do the type of work I need, which is exercise fitness therapy — and to date, neither RAC nor LA Fitness will return the money I pre-paid to work out with him. Continue reading

Posted in Rochester, New York | 2 Comments

On pheromones

smoke pic (533x800)

Pheromones are not scents. They are completely odorless. But any time you’re near another human being, you’re being exposed to them . . .

One of the big “what if” questions that got me started on my current novel-in-progress, Dark Chemistry, was this:

What if a bad guy figured out how to manipulate a woman using pheromones?

So as I started working on the novel, I did a bunch of research on pheromones.

It’s a fascinating topic.

For example, did you know that there’s a structure in the nose of mammals, called the Vomeronasal Organ (VNO), the purpose of which is to detect pheromones?

If you were to examine the human VNO with a microscope, writes Michelle Kodis in the book Love Scents, you would find that it is connect to a “tube lined with columnar cells.”

These cells are classified as pseudostratified columnar epithelium, and what’s intriguing about them is that they are not found anywhere else in the human body–they are unique to the VNO.

Caveat. Some scientists are less than impressed by the VNO and VNO lining. They believe that in humans, the VNO is vestigial.

But hey. Until a few years ago, scientists thought the appendix had no purpose, either.

And there’s no question that we humans respond to pheromones. Pheromones probably explain why, when women live together, their menstrual cycles synchronize. They’re probably one reason blindfolded mothers can identify their babies. They probably explain why we –instantly — find some people physically attractive, but not others.

Pheromones act on the subconscious mind. Spooky!

Pheromones have the potential to influence everything from your heart rate to your mood — but their effect is entirely below the threshold of conscious awareness. (Image credit:

Something else that’s fascinating to me: our reaction to pheromones happens below the threshold of conscious awareness.

Pheromones, you see, act directly on the autonomous nervous system: the chemical signalling system pheromones activate delivers impulses directly to the hypothalamus — the portion of the brain that controls body temperature, hunger, thirst, sex drive, our moods — and the pituitary gland, called the “master gland” because it controls most of the body’s other endocrine glands, from the thyroid and adrenals to the testis and ovaries.

So think about it: when we’re near other humans, we’re reacting to chemical signals — and we don’t know that we’re reacting to them.

Kinda spooky, isn’t it?

But stay tuned . . . it gets spookier . . .



Posted in Dark Chemistry by Kirsten Mortensen, Writing | Comments Off

The Strong Female Character, con’t

Fact of life: when women assert themselves in Real Life, we generally do *not* look like this.

Fact of life: with rare exceptions, when women assert themselves in Real Life, we don’t look *anything* like this.

Writing in The New Statesman, author Sophia McDougall makes some interesting observations about “The Strong Female Character:” that what passes for strength, on the movie screen at least, is often an act of unjustified (or barely justified) physical violence:

[T]here are characters who’ve clearly been written with SFC-compatibility in mind, who nevertheless come at least halfway to life.  Captain America’s Peggy Carter, along with Iron Man’s Pepper Potts, are much the best of the Marvel love interests. Peggy shoots Nazis. She never has to be rescued or protected by Captain America or anyone else. She has a decent amount of screentime. Her interesting status as a female British soldier in World War Two is not actually explored, but implies a compelling back story and an impressive depth of conviction and resilience, and her romance with Captain America is never allowed to undermine this. While her role is clearly ancillary to the male hero, it’s not so much so that she feels defined by his presence; it’s possible to imagine a film about her – a woman determined to overcome everything in her path to fight the evils of Nazism. Most importantly to the character’s success, she’s played by the superb Hayley Atwell.

She’s introduced briefing a number of potential recruits to the super soldier programme. This is the scene clearly written to establish Peggy’s SFC cred, and it unfolds like this: One of the recruits immediately starts mouthing off at her, first insulting her accent and then, when she calls him out of the line-up, making sexist, suggestive remarks.
She punches him to the ground.

McDougall also points out that male protagonists don’t have to be “strong.” (She offers Sherlock Holmes as an example: his “physical strength is often unreliable… His mental and emotional resources also fluctuate. An addict and a depressive, he claims even his crime-fighting is a form of self-medication. Viewed this way, his willingness to place himself in physical danger might not be “strength” at all – it might be another form of self-destructiveness.”)

She concludes her piece by calling for

. . . a wealth of complex female protagonists who can be either strong or weak or both or neither, because they are more than strength or weakness. Badass gunslingers and martial artists sure, but also interesting women who are shy and quiet and do, sometimes, put up with others’ shit because in real life there’s often no practical alternative.

I suppose you know where I’m going next: right back to my experience with poor Libby: a woman who spends an entire novel putting up with others’ . . . stuff.

Here’s part of the comment I left on McDougall’s article:

I happen to think that putting a hapless character in a situation where he/she is overwhelmed by outside circumstances makes for humorous situations. A great example most of us can relate to is Hugh Grant’s character in Four Weddings & a Funeral. He was funny and loveable in his haplessness. He “got the girl” in the end only because his brother stood up for him.

But swap genders and make Grant a woman, and you’ll earn the Wrath of the Mob.

I know firsthand. I pubbed a novel with a woman who gets pushed around by family members and strangers.

I thought it was comic that she did things like sneak out of a window of her own house to avoid people who were camping on her yard.

My readers were not amused . . .

The fact is this: it’s complicated.

The Strong Female Character is something of a sacred figure. It may not be conscious, but writers use her because they know she is what readers/movie goers want and expect.

She’s also a SAFE figure.

Take that. And that.

Take that. And that.

It’s also likely that readers — and by this I mean female readers — want SFC because of their own ambiguity about strength and power.

In our personal lives, power is a double-edged sword. As a rather simplistic example: a woman who asserts herself can easily be perceived as unattractive. We’d like to think we can be powerful in the overt,  masculine sense and come across as sexy at the same time, but in reality, that’s not so easy to pull off.

In movies/novels, otoh, the SFC does pull it off. And guess what: readers want that.

One of Libby’s 1-star reviewers wrote:

[I]f I wanted real life, I wouldn’t be reading this book.


People read novels and go to movies to escape from “real life.”

They don’t want characters who mirror life’s uneasy ambiguities.

They don’t want books that are realistic about the trade-offs we all have to make between being loved and being powerful . . .

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