Friday, April 30, 2010

MOPLA Group Show Opening Night

The one word that comes to mind for being accepted in the MOPLA group show is grateful. I am so honored to be selected to be a participant in the opening lastnight.

Simply put, the show was amazing.  To be included alongside such talented and creative photographers was such a thrill (for a complete list, click HERE).  I am completely inspired by the work that was showcased in the show and the entire experience left me with a heightened feeling of hope.  I can't wait to continue on this journey to see what's next.

The moment I stepped foot in the Smashbox studios gallery (hosted by Dee DeLara), I knew that I was in for treat.  Every inch of space on the walls were filled with photographs portraying beauty in every aspect.  I had several favorite artists and took a tour around the space over and over again, seeing something new each time.  If you were not able to make the show, the photographs will remain on the walls for the next few weeks and I would recommend a visit.

"Dixie" (The Corgi with the Airstream) would like to say hi to you from the wall.  Just like she's saying hello to these gentlemen.

When I wandered across the USA last year with my little point and click in hand, I had no idea that it would lead up to this.  Taking photographs has completely changed my life.  I see things differently, feel things differently and I have this constant urge to see more.  Good news is...that is precisely what I am going to do.  In exactly a month, I am packing the few things I need in my car and am headed out once again on the open road without an agenda.  My dog, Max and I are going to set out to get lost in this country to see where that takes us.  I look forward to this journey and sharing it with you.

I wanted to extend a heartfelt thank you to Cat Jimenez and Hossein Farmini for the opportunity and to Jamie Familara for her constant coordination and excellent attention to detail.

I am truly grateful.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Grains as Food: an Update

Improperly Prepared Grain Fiber can be Harmful

Last year, I published a post on the Diet and Reinfarction trial (DART), a controlled trial that increased grain fiber intake using whole wheat bread and wheat bran supplements, and reported long-term health outcomes in people who had previously suffered a heart attack (1). The initial paper found a trend toward increased heart attacks and deaths in the grain fiber-supplemented group at two years, which was not statistically significant.

What I didn't know at the time is that a follow-up study has been published. After mathematically "adjusting" for preexisting conditions and medication use, the result reached statistical significance: people who increased their grain fiber intake had more heart attacks than people who didn't during the two years of the controlled trial. Overall mortality was higher as well, but that didn't reach statistical significance. You have to get past the abstract of the paper to realize this, but fortunately it's free access (2).

Here's a description of what not to eat if you're a Westerner with established heart disease:
Those randomised to fibre advice were encouraged to eat at least six slices of wholemeal bread per day, or an equivalent amount of cereal fibre from a mixture of wholemeal bread, high-fibre breakfast cereals and wheat bran.
Characteristics of Grain Fiber

The term 'fiber' can refer to many different things. Dietary fiber is simply defined as an edible substance that doesn't get digested by the human body. It doesn't even necessarily come from plants. If you eat a shrimp with the shell on, and the shell comes out the other end (which it will), it was fiber.

Grain fiber is a particular class of dietary fiber that has specific characteristics. It's mostly cellulose (like wood; although some grains are rich in soluble fiber as well), and it contains a number of defensive substances and storage molecules that make it more difficult to eat. These may include phytic acid, protease inhibitors, amylase inhibitors, lectins, tannins, saponins, and goitrogens (3). Grain fiber is also a rich source of vitamins and minerals, although the minerals are mostly inaccessible due to grains' high phytic acid content (4, 5, 6).

Every plant food (and some animal foods) has its chemical defense strategy, and grains are no different*. It's just that grains are particularly good at it, and also happen to be one of our staple foods in the modern world. If you don't think grains are naturally inedible for humans, try eating a heaping bowl full of dry, raw whole wheat berries.

Human Ingenuity to the Rescue

Humans are clever creatures, and we've found ways to use grains as a food source, despite not being naturally adapted to eating them**. The most important is our ability to cook. Cooking deactivates many of the harmful substances found in grains and other plant foods. However, some are not deactivated by cooking. These require other strategies to remove or deactivate.

Healthy grain-based cultures don't prepare their grains haphazardly. Throughout the world, using a number of different grains, many have arrived at similar strategies for making grains edible and nutritious. The most common approach involves most or all of these steps:
  • Soaking
  • Grinding
  • Removing 50-75% of the bran
  • Sour fermentation
  • Cooking
But wait, didn't all healthy traditional cultures eat whole grains? The idea might make us feel warm and fuzzy inside, but it doesn't quite hit the mark. A recent conversation with Ramiel Nagel, author of the book Cure Tooth Decay, disabused me of that notion. He pointed out that in my favorite resource on grain preparation in traditional societies, the Food and Agriculture Organization publication Fermented Cereals: a Global Perspective, many of the recipes call for removing a portion of the bran (7). Some of these recipes probably haven't changed in thousands of years. It's my impression that some traditional cultures eat whole grains, while others eat them partially de-branned.

In the next post, I'll explain why these processing steps greatly improve the nutritional value of grains, and I'll describe recipes from around the world to illustrate the point.

* Including tubers. For example, sweet potatoes contain goitrogens, oxalic acid, and protease inhibitors. Potatoes contain toxic glycoalkaloids. Taro contains oxalic acid and protease inhibitors. Cassava contains highly toxic cyanogens. Some of these substances are deactivated by cooking, others are not. Each food has an associated preparation method that minimizes its toxic qualities. Potatoes are peeled, removing the majority of the glycoalkaloids. Cassava is grated and dried or fermented to inactivate cyanogens. Some cultures ferment taro.

** As opposed to mice, for example, which can survive on raw whole grains.

The Lost Art Of The Handwritten Note

When was the last time you sat down with a pen and paper and took the time to write a note to someone?  I know that I used to do it a lot more when my grandparents were alive to let them know I was thinking of them.  In college, I sent them small items that were made in town along with a note to tell them a little about what I was doing each day and what it was like to live there.

On my journey last year, I took a watercolor set with me and started to paint each campsite view from the picnic table in small postcard size papers.  That lasted about 3 campsites.  I then bought some beautiful postcards with our national parks to send and, you guessed it...I still have them.  However, I did buy some watercolor cards for kids in Yellowstone, painted them and sent them to a few friends. That was the extent of sending a hand written note in the mail.

Isn't it a great feeling to get a nice note in the mail or a postcard from someone?  Each day I sort through the junk that comes in the mail and when I see something that is handwritten to me, it's an exciting day!  This year, I will try to send more postcards.  Perhaps, taking my national park cards and actually sending them out.

I've received a few emails from people that have stumbled upon my site and I am thankful for each and every one of them.  I try to respond to each one and I think I have done just that.  Thank you for reaching out to me.  Recently, I received a note from a woman in Colorado named Maggie who loves nature and the outdoors (just like I do!).

She wrote: "I am a 38 year old woman FULL of adventure in Colorado.  However, I have been sidelined since this August. I woke up with some crazy foot pain that has now spread into both feet and hands.  My husband and I are lovers of the great outdoors--my husband actually builds hiking trails for a living!  We spend our summers in a tent, on mules, in the woods, loving each other and life.  Well, now my days are filled with doctor visits, frustrations, scary nerve diseases being mentioned! ( I have a big old bad nerve biopsy scheduled for next Thursday in Denver!) and some feelings of hopes dashed."

Today she wrote to tell me how excited she was to receive a simple hand written note in the mail.  It made her day!  Since she is no longer able to travel, hike and live life the way she is used to, it was nice to receive something to bring her mind to the joy of being in nature...what she loves to do most.

In our world of texting, emailing and doing everything as fast as possible, we often forget to slow down and take the time to visit with a friend without a phone, or sit down to express our feelings on paper.  I know I plan to send more postcards on my travels this year...I will make a goal of it.

In the meantime, Maggie would love to receive a note from you to hear about your travels and adventures.  Since it's probably not a good idea to throw out her mailing address out on the web, you can email her at to say hi.  I hope you do.

Make someone's day today...send a note to let them know you are thinking of them.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Unique LA Experience

I hate shopping.  I am one of those people who knows what they want when they go to a store, get it and leave as quickly as possible.  Also, I tend to look online for the best deals and prefer to buy online then step foot in a store.  I would rather buy from someone who took the time to make an item themselves, rather than a mass produced item.  Yesterday I attended "Unique LA" in downtown Los Angeles.
It was a gathering of people who dedicate their lives to their passion of making goods by hand.  Everything at the event was made directly from the person standing in the booth.  It was a good time of browsing funky items and chatting with the people who make them.

There was also a photographer taking pictures of a car scene and of course I had to play along.  I decided that cruising in a car with a pet Rooster would be fun.  This is what it would look like if I decided to choose an impala convertable car and a bird to travel with instead of my old suv and Max.  I think Max would be a little bit easier to travel with.

A lot of the items sold at the event can be found on Etsy.  If you are not familiar with the website, I would take a look at the items.  Everything is handmade or vintage but all items are unique.  As a matter of fact, I have an etsy store with some of my photographs that you can purchase if you click HERE. The proceeds will go for a gas budget that will be much needed soon when I get on the road.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Max And His New Trailer!

I thought it would be fun this year on the road to be able to take Max with me while I wander around.  Last  year, my only option was to keep him in the car while I rode my bike, but sometimes it was way too hot to do so.  Now he is able to get on the dirt road with me in this handy bicycle trailer from Doggy Ride!

When I put it together, I didn't want him to be afraid of it right away so I put his small bed in it and put treats inside so he would have to hop in to eat the treats.  I did this all day (not moving the trailer), until I was able to zip it up and move it around slowly with him inside.

I thought he got the hang of it pretty quickly so we went for a spin around the neighborhood.  He didn't bark once but growled at a cat he saw.  I look forward to touring around in this with Max while we wander around the country soon!   Of course I still use a cheap tent that's over 10 years old to camp in but Max gets a brand new luxury coach!  Lucky Max.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

MOPLA Month Of Photography Los Angeles Group Show

I am very excited to be selected to participate in the MOPLA (Month of Photography, Los Angeles) group show on April 29th!

As you might have noticed, I love to take pictures and I seem to snap away and take a lot.  At the beginning, I didn't show a lot of the photos I found interesting but once I decided that it didn't matter what other people thought, I put up what I enjoyed looking at and it turns out...others like them too!  In this short period of time, I have been fortunate enough to have my own show of my Long Beach Images, I participated in an art walk and wrapped up another smaller show lastnight.  All of these things have been great experiences and I am thankful for each one.

I am so thrilled that MOPLA chose one of my favorite photographs, "Dixie" to show in the exhibit.  She is the baby of a fellow "Silver Sister," Martha.  I took this picture of her on our silver trailer weekend with the ladies.  She was such a sweetie coming up to me to say hello while I was on the ground to her level but just far enough away that her leash wouldn't allow her to get to me.  Of course I gave her love and attention once I took the picture.  I was able to capture two of my favorite things in a single love of Airstreams and dogs.

If you are in the Los Angeles area, I would love to say hello to you at the show.  There are several events planned for the month through this fantastic organization.  Please check the MOPLA website for more information by clicking HERE.  The group event is scheduled for Thursday, April 29th from 7pm-10pm (photographs will stay up for 3 weeks). I am grateful to have this opportunity to be participating alongside some pretty amazing photographers. I look forward to it!  The list of group show artists are listed on the front page of the MOPLA home page, under "News."

To see more of my photographs, click HERE.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Goal Completed: See SIA In Concert

Another goal I get to check off of my 39 things I want to do on my 39th year list.

Lastnight, I went to see SIA in concert.  I doesn't sounds like a hard goal to achieve, but sometimes you have to remind yourself what you would like to accomplish in order to make plans to actually do it.

My all time favorite musician is Elvis Costello, which I usually see each time he goes on tour.  Lately, I have been listening to SIA and Zero 7.  If you have never heard of them, I would recommend a listen.  It's a little funky and little kooky and perhaps a little loungy or popish, but I could listen to her for hours and sometimes, I do.

She is a bit quirky, which I like.  The opening act was Body Language.  They are a band from Brooklyn and they fit in just fine with the Sia fans.  They had a beat that made you want to dance and a performance that put a smile on your face.  I think they raided my closet in the 80's.

The stage was covered in quilts from floor to ceiling.  Once Sia came on, the room erupted with cheers as she came out with one of many head accessories to follow throughout the night.  She loved opening presents from the audience, reading cards, accepting flowers.  You could tell she was having a good time along with us.  Someone even brought her a blow up heart which was tossed around the audience for a few songs.

It was a good night.  I don't go to a lot of concerts since I am not a fan of large crowds testing the capacity of an arena, but this was one I didn't want to miss.  The only thing I am missing today is my hearing.  The venue was way too loud or I am just getting old.  I am going to lean towards the "it was too loud" side.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Long Beach Grand Prix

The biggest event in Long Beach is the annual Long Beach Grand Prix that happens each April on the streets of Long Beach.  I've been in attendance about 5 times and this year it was about capturing what I came across in photographs.  I rode my bike to the entrance and once I stepped foot on the grounds, I knew I was in race car fan fantasy land.

It's a must see if you are a fan of car racing, beer, fair food, loud noises, or people watching.  For me, it was all about the people.  This is an indy car series race, but if you haven't been to a NASCAR should go to one event in your lifetime.  It's a brand marketer's dream.  Car racing is a way of life to many people and it is pretty exciting to watch for the first time.  If that's not for you, I suppose a trip to the movie store is in order.  Rent "Talladega Nights," for your NASCAR education needs.  Ok, race fans...don't get upset with me, but you have to admit that the movie is pretty funny.

I began my tour with the food stands.  I love a nice trailer and if you are into grilling your meat on an open fire, they had some of the best BBQ trailers in town!  I am more of a corn on the cobb type of person, but the food trailers were fantastic.  It was nice day of wandering around and people watching.  One of my favorite things to do.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Dinner with Taubes, Eades and Hujoel

Gary Taubes gave a lecture at UW last Thursday. Thanks to all the Whole Health Source readers who showed up. Gary's talk was titled "Why We Get Fat: Adiposity 101 and the Alternative Hypothesis of Obesity". He was hosted by Dr. Philippe Hujoel, the UW epidemiologist and dentist who authored the paper "Dietary Carbohydrates and Dental-Systemic Diseases" (1).

Gary's first target was the commonly held idea that obesity is simply caused by eating too much and exercising too little, and thus the cure is to eat less and exercise more. He used numerous examples from both humans and animals to show that fat mass is biologically regulated, rather than being the passive result of voluntary behaviors such as eating and exercise. He presented evidence of cultures remaining lean despite a huge and continuous surplus of food, as long as they stayed on their traditional diet. He also described how they subsequently became obese and diabetic on industrial foods (the Pima, for example).

He then moved into what he feels is the biological cause of obesity: excessive insulin keeping fat from exiting fat cells. It's true that insulin is a storage hormone, at the cellular level. However, fat mass regulation involves a dynamic interplay between many different interlacing systems that determine both overall energy intake and expenditure, as well as local availability of nutrients at the tissue level (i.e., how much fat gets into your fat tissue vs. your muscle tissue). I think the cause of obesity is likely to be more complex than insulin signaling.

He also offered the "carbohydrate hypothesis", which is the idea that carbohydrate, or at least refined carbohydrate, is behind the obesity epidemic and perhaps other metabolic problems. This is due to its ability to elevate insulin. I agree that refined carbohydrate, particularly white flour and sugar, is probably a central part of the problem. I'm also open to the possibility that some people in industrial nations are genuinely sensitive to carbohydrate regardless of what form it's in, although that remains to be rigorously tested. I don't think carbohydrate is sufficient to cause obesity
per se, due to the many lean and healthy cultures that eat high carbohydrate diets*. Gary acknowledges this, and thinks there's probably another factor that's involved in allowing carbohydrate sensitivity to develop, for example excessive sugar.

I had the opportunity to speak with Gary at length on Thursday, as well as on Friday at dinner. Gary is a very nice guy-- a straightforward New York personality who's not averse to a friendly disagreement. In case any of you are wondering, he looks good. Good body composition, nice skin, hair and teeth (apologies to Gary for the analysis). Philippe and his wife took us out to a very nice restaurant, where we had a leisurely four-hour meal, and Dr. Mike Eades was in town so he joined us as well. Mike has a strong Southern accent and is also a pleasant guy. Philippe and his wife are generous and engaging people. It was a great evening. The restaurant was nice enough that I wasn't going to be picky about the food-- I ate everything that was put in front of me and enjoyed it.

* I'm talking about prevention rather than cure here. I acknowledge that many people have had some success losing fat using low-carbohydrate diets, including two gentlemen I met on Thursday.

Los Angeles Brewery Art Colony Spring Art Walk

I love looking at art, meeting artists and watching them create their magic.  Each year, the colony of artists who live at the Brewery art building in Los Angeles open up their homes to display what they are working on.  It's a wonderful way to meet the artists, look at their work and see how they live.

I walked into the home of Andre Miripolsky and was able to see him surrounded with all of his beautiful art.  Miripolsky is a "world renowened artist who pushes the limits in many media, creating his own stlye of expression in painting, sculpture, mobiles, graphics, branding, production design, sets and costumes: groundbreakig provocateur who marries idioms of art, music and film: name translated in Russion means "field of peace.""

There is also a loft where you can take cooking classes through "Hip Cooks."  The chef lives there and has a very cute little one that was playing on the kitchen table in her beautiful loft.

If you are drawn to the quirky, odd, weird and obscure (I know I am!), there are several artists showing their creations made of dolls, everyday items, musical theatre, lamps and the like.  The overall vibe is one of, "welcome, make yourself at home."

Sometimes I dream of living in a loft not unlike the ones I see in the brewery art colony.  Even though it's right in the middle of the city, it seems to be its own city within a city of artists.

I walked around and snapped photographs of everything I found interesting.  Believe me, there were a lot of interesting things to see in the area.  I am glad that I took a moment to soak up the beautiful art and energy of the event.  There are several art communities in all cities.  I would recommend seeking them out and supporting your local artists.

Thank you for supporting my photographs by being a facebook fan HERE. :)