My grandmother grew them in her garden, and as a child, I scarfed down a lot of pickled beets. But they never became a part of my typical menu rotation as an adult. Usually I have them only a couple of times a year at most. Kyle fixes beets for the New Year dinner and they’re always lovely, but I guess due to my own unfamiliarity with how to prepare them, I’ve never cooked beets at home.
Now they’ve become a part of my daily routine.
Like everyone else, I’m daily learning the many joys of aging. Most of the little aches and pains are nothing more than a nuisance, just a constant reminder that things ain’t what they used to be and they aren’t going to get better. But I had become concerned about my rising blood pressure, measured several times in the past year in the low 140s. That’s not what would be considered dangerously high – but it’s also not optimal, and if it follows the trajectory of the other physiological changes I’ve experienced, it will get worse. Aches and pains are one thing – strokes are entirely another. So this is something I decided I needed to be worried about, even though those low 140s readings were outliers. More typically, I was seeing readings in the mid 130s and wanted to get them back to 120 or below.
Medical experts have concluded that blood pressure meds for slightly elevated pressure don’t show much appreciable effect over the long term, and I really would like to avoid having to take any kind of daily prescription medication, so I had tried CoQ10 supplements a while back after reading that they could bring blood pressure down around 10 points. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice any improvement after several months of taking the supplement, so I continued to look for other things that might help.
Then a few weeks ago, I heard something about beet root juice helping to bring down blood pressure. I looked into it, and determined that while it would be worth trying, it would be too expensive for me as a long term solution. Beet root juice isn’t all that common so you’re looking at either ordering online or buying from a place like Whole Foods, at a cost of $15 or so for a 5 day supply. Then there’s the whole thing of drinking beet juice – the recommended dosage is 1 cup per day, and I imagine that it may not be the most delicious beverage around. $90 a month is a lot to spend on something that you don’t really like.
So I thought, why not try beet powder? It’s just dehydrated beets, so it’s got all the stuff that would be in the juice or the beets themselves. I found some beet powder capsules on amazon and they were cheap, so I ordered them. I took a blood pressure reading 3 or 4 days before I started taking the capsules and I was at 138/84. Two weeks later, after taking the capsules for about 10 days, I took another reading…and was down to 107/74.
This was with a daily dosage of 6 capsules – approximately 1-1/2 teaspoons of beet powder, equivalent to eating 1-1/2 medium sized beets. If you have any concerns about your blood pressure being too high, you need to give this a try. It’s not a quack remedy; it’s actually scientifical. Apparently there’s a compound in beets (nitrites or nitrates – like I said, this is scientifical, not scientific) that boost the levels of nitric oxide in the blood, and nitric oxide has the happy effect of relaxing blood vessel walls. Bottom line – even if my before and after readings were outliers – that is, the before was higher than average and the after lower than average, I figure I still got at least a 20-point drop in my blood pressure within 10 days. Compare that to the 10-point drop – or less – doctors hope to achieve with many of the prescription meds for reducing pressure, and it’s even more remarkable.
Of course, the first thing I did was email Dr. Lyta to tell her to add beet root powder to her Vitamin Manifesto. Then I did what I always hoped I would never do – I sat down to write an Old Fart blog post. Sorry about that, but I thought this was something that should be shared with friends, so hopefully it will help at least one person out of the five who read this blog.
One of these arrived in the mail last week. Pay special attention at around 0:14 of the clip:
Eartha Kitty, of course, is a wuss, so her reaction was to cower under the bed while I was flying it. Then I had to find a place to hide it, because she doesn’t forget the toys that have frightened her when they’re running. If she finds one sitting around after it’s turned off, she abuses it.
I’m not sure yet who I will eventually end up gifting with this treasure.
You can get your own Flying Fuck at ThinkGeek.
If you know me, you know I am motivated primarily by smell. I inhale deeply before I eat or buy or use anything .
So I got a kick out of this site.
A friend of mine once had a job naming colors for a carpet company. She loved to make up lipstick color names. However, she did not have a manifesto.
CB shows us that smelly titles can be just as much fun.
The first thing I thought, in fact, was that I could use a good house spray this morning. Because CB could waft into my house and bottle “Essence of I cooked 3 heads of garlic last night trying to get rid of all these tomatoes.”
Lyta, I couldn’t find “Absolute Pissant.” Maybe you could recommend that one.
Some of my own favorite smells: Clean Cubbie, the back of my children’s heads, bleached white towels, pinched basil, old books (but not mildewed books), daphne, dirt, lavender soap. And Chanel No. 5.
Bonus > Guess which four I just had to buy samples of?
From what I consider to be a vastly underrated band.
Chumbawamba had the misfortune of having one of its worst songs become its “breakout hit” in the US. As a result, most folks here have never heard anything by the band other than that one annoying 2-dimensional tune, which is a shame, since most of their music is multi-layered and delivers a biting political and/or social commentary. What I’ve always loved about the band is how upbeat and happy their music is even as it’s delivering an often harsh message – and quite often with very naughty words, which thrills my inner juvenile delinquent. A band with a peppy sound that’s also aggressively anarchist and atheist? With profane and hilarious lyrics? Count me in!
These videos are boring, but I only put them up for the audio, so listen with an open mind. There’s quite a story behind this first one:
That’s a cut from the 1992 album Jesus H. Christ. Only around 7,000 copies of this recording ever made it into circulation, thanks to a suit brought by Sir Paul McCartney. Jesus H. Christ was an ambitious sampling project for Chumbawamba – they borrowed not only audio samples but lines from other songs, melodic lines, etc. Unfortunately, one of the samples they borrowed (to brilliant effect) was the opening sequence from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. McCartney sued & won, and the band was enjoined from releasing any more copies.
This album haunted me for years because I didn’t know what it was. All I had was a copy of a tape someone brought into the used record store where I was working while in grad school; the only information on the tape was the name of the band, and the guy had given us the back story on the lawsuit. I played that tape over and over again for the next 10 or 12 years until it was wearing out, then began searching in earnest to find out what it was. Fortunately, by this time, the internet was around, but still, it took a couple of years of searching until someone finally posted information about the album and I found out what it was called. Then there was another year or so of scouring the internets looking for a copy for sale. Finally one turned up in 2006 and as soon as it arrived I put together my setup for recording my vinyl to digital files. Now it seems that parts of Jesus H. Christ have made it to YouTube.
This next is from their 2004 release, Un. Again, not much as a video, but what a fabulous, peppy song for probing the depths of the darkest, looniest conspiracy theories:
Accordion music with a funky beat you can dance to and darkly humorous lyrics? Again, what’s not to love?
If you’ve never been properly introduced to Chumbawamba, now you know what you’ve been missing.
Update: As commenter Pete Shanks notes, the entirety of Jesus H. Christ is now on YouTube, divided into segments 1-4. The recording quality on some of it isn’t quite as good as it could be, but at least it’s available for your listening pleasure. These have only been posted for a couple of months, so thanks for the sleuthing, Pete!
You won’t get the full effect thanks to the divisions; on the album itself all the songs meld one to another in a seamless bridge of sound, ala Pink Floyd/Alan Parsons Project. And yeah, a lot of folks will listen to a bit and say “meh,” because this is, after all, an obsession I developed way back in 1993 and the recording is in some ways very much of that era, and of course, the music any of us likes is such an individual preference. But if it grabs you the way it grabbed me all those years ago and you’d like your very own copy of it, drop a note in comments.
You can listen to part 1 here; each part has a link on the page to the next part.
Our friend Kyle over at kyle+blog posted a piece the other day about partner Neil’s love of opera, and in particular, Wagnerian opera. This season the New York Metropolitan Opera is doing the entire Ring Cycle, which apparently is being simulcast in HD in theaters all over the place (though not here in Redneckistan). I had recommended in comments that Neil might enjoy the Tristan und Isolde segment from the 1987 movie Aria. That got me thinking about it, so I went and watched it and thought I’d throw it out here on the blog.
It features a very young Bridget Fonda, and “old” Vegas shows up as one of the real stars of the show. It’s a fairly disturbing video, but then again, the story of Tristan and Isolde isn’t supposed to have a happy ending. Note for those of you who work for anal-retentive employers who can’t distinguish between art and porn – the video features nudity, boobage and some sexy-sexy-time, so if you work for one of these types, best to wait until you get home to view it. Anyway, this one’s for you, Neil:
This is several years old, so you may have seen it already (I know I shared it with Beth and maybe Lyta), but if not, enjoy:
The band’s name is Hard N Phirm, and the song is called Trace Elements. Very clever! I even love the opening with the CPBS logo.
There are a lot of visual puns in there as well, so you may want to watch it more than once.
I’ve just completed reading Jessica Snyder Sachs’ fascinating Good Germs, Bad Germs: Health and Survival in a Bacterial World, a rather eye-opening look at both the futility and danger of our modern war on germs.
I’m not a germophobe per se; in fact I’m personally somewhat filthy compared to many people I know. I did get really freaked over the swine flu that was making the rounds last year, but that was the result of both having read in-depth accounts of the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 and my admittedly limited knowledge of biology, which is still broad enough that I recognized that any type of flu virus novel to humans could become a Very Bad Thing if it managed to get into even one human body at the same time another flu virus was residing there and the two started swapping genes. Even a relatively mild virus can become a killer when given the right human petri dish in which to mutate.
The same, of course, is true of bacteria. They are living organisms and like all life, they evolve and adapt to their environment. In the case of the human body, they’ve adapted so well that we each carry around an estimated 9 times as many bacteria in and on our persons as we have living cells in our bodies. We are, literally, biomes for bacteria. This carries both blessings and curses; blessings in that the bacteria in our intestinal tracts literally feed us – without their activity, we could not break down food into its constituent nutrients for absorption. The curses are of course well-known and recognized – the wrong bacteria can kill us, either directly through damage to body systems, somewhat directly with their toxic byproducts, or indirectly by over-exciting our immune systems which end up destroying our own bodies. Given their ubiquity and ability to reproduce – and mutate – a million times faster than we can, probably any attempt to outflank the bad bacterial actors via development of antibiotics is predestined for failure.
That’s the bad news – and it gets worse: every time we use an antibiotic to fight off a bad bug, we also kill the good bugs, opening up new niches for colonization by bacteria that may be less helpful than the original inhabitants. We’ve made the problem worse with use of “antibacterial” cleansers such as products containing Triclosan which function more as an antibiotic than a true sanitizer. Bacteria have proved just as adept at mutating to be resistant to these cleansers as they have antibiotics. Worse yet, use of these products is making bacteria more resistant to the antibiotics we count on to fight off infection when a bad bug gets into the human body.
This is not to suggest that we’re worse off for modern sanitation – keeping cholera and E. coli out of the drinking water supply has had nothing but beneficial results. But we have become perhaps wimpier due to our isolation from the wide variety of bugs, both good and bad, to which humans for most of our evolutionary history were exposed on a regular basis. Most of us intuit this on one level or another, regardless of how obsessed we are with cleanliness – we know that animals both wild and domestic are exposed to more bacteria than we are. We don’t think twice about feeding food we’re not sure is still fit for human consumption to a dog or a cat – or at least we don’t if we’re sensible. Dogs eat crap – both their own and other animals’. Cats kill and eat rodents, ingesting along with them all the germs they carry. Most of us recognize that a burger or chicken that’s been in the fridge for a day or two beyond when we would eat it won’t faze an animal – they have “tougher guts” thanks to their closer daily contact with the microorganisms that abound in soil and elsewhere.
The current hypothesis is that rates of auto-immune disorders such as allergies and asthma have skyrocketed in the past century for exactly this reason – we have sanitized the good bacteria which have beneficial effect on our immune systems out of our environment. Perhaps not coincidentally, rates for these types of disorders are lowest among farmers and others in rural areas, and almost unknown in many rural Third-World nations.
The new horizon in the war on bad germs seems to be identifying the good ones and encouraging them to take up residence. As Sachs details, various researchers are working with a wide variety of bacteria to advance treatment for everything from gingivitis to Crohn’s disease to rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, and a host of other human ailments. In some cases they’re working to make the good bugs more effective colonizers; in others, they are genetically engineering bacteria to operate the on-off switch that causes auto-immune disorders.
Many obstacles remain, of course. Physicians still over-prescibe antibiotics, often for conditions where their use accomplishes nothing more than wiping out our beneficial microflora. Livestock are fed tons of antibiotics on feedlots which has led to soil bacteria that literally eat antibiotics for breakfast – not to mention outbreaks of deadly E. coli infection. And far too many of us seem to believe that we can sanitize ourselves to health, in the process accomplishing little more than aiding bacteria in gaining resistance to our only current line of defense against them while at the same time killing the good bugs and opening up niches for the bad ones in our homes and on our bodies.
So while it may be “filthy” for me to pet the cat and then eat without first washing my hands, or give her a kiss on the head after seeing her rolling in the dirt in the backyard, it hasn’t killed me yet. I’ll continue on with my nasty ways, eschewing the antibacterial soaps and cleaning supplies as well. As I like to joke, I’m the least medicated person in America, having taken only one course of antibiotics in over 20 years now, that being a relatively wimpy few doses of amoxicillan when the dentist suspected an infection that might require a root canal (fortunately, he was wrong – just an inflamed nerve from an ill-fitted crown). I’ll continue to spray down the raw produce with vinegar and hydrogen peroxide – with all the E. coli out there, you’d be foolish not to – as well as the countertops, because no bacteria adapted to causing illness in the human body will ever develop resistance to oxidation or over-acidity. But as for running to the doctor every time I have a sniffle, or nuking the house with Triclosan? No way. I want to keep my friendly bacteria alive and thriving.