(sometimes withershins, widershins or widderschynnes) means to take a course opposite that of the sun, going counterclock-wise, lefthandwise, or to circle an object, by always keeping it on the left. It also means "in a direction opposite to the usual," which is how I choose to take it in using it as the title of this blog. We're all in the same world finding our own way.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Chocolatiers Take Heed

Hey all you chocoholics out there, have you been following the news that says the rising price of cacao due to a decline in the continued viability of cacao production could mean a bar of chocolate may one day cost far more than the dollar you pay for that Hershey's bar.

But never fear, despite unsustainable rises in demand there is good news on the horizon.

Scientists in France recently released that they have almost finished sequencing the full genome of
Theobroma cacao
which could result in stronger GMO strains of cacao that would make production easier, though ultimately it will take political stability in the Ivory Coast to guarantee cacao for the future since 40 percent of the international cacao production comes from this tiny, equatorial country.

Here's hoping we won't need to be millionaires to get our chocolate fix. The spoiled American in me shudders to imagine having to resort to indulging in carob chip cookies any more than I have to.

In the meantime, have you considered the possibility of stocking up?

In unrelated culinary exploits, I have yet more French bread success! And on Monday night during Dani/ny time, we made smoked salmon ravioli (of assorted shapes and sizes). I'll post pictures of that night up on Facebook in a short bit.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

You Smell Good

It's almost nine in the morning as I start writing this, I've been up for almost two hours despite having not gone to bed until close to 3am. Despite that, I woke up quite refreshed and will most likely need a nap in the afternoon.

But I feel like lately this blog has gotten a little too personal, a little too me-centric, but first and foremost, Widdershin Writings is about exploration and taking divergent paths. So today's topic? Pheromones, those tricky, hormonal, scent messengers that work within the plant and animal communities to trigger certain actions. They came up in a late night conversation with my friend Alex and have been on my to blog list for a few months now. Also, I got this lovely scent box as a Christmas present from my parents:

Hey, watch the Axe, you might chop off someone's nose with that.

If you do a Google Search of pheromones, after the obligatory wikipedia page, you find a host of pages advertising ways in which pheromones can be used to increase your sexual attraction or boost your power over other people.

Let me distract you with a video of a funny man talking about it for a moment:

A lot of studies have been done regarding the use of pheromones in the animal kingdom. There's a really interesting Radiolab podcast about bugs that talks about the pheromonal trails left by ants leading the nest back to sources of food (which is why they travel in such neat little lines). There are also certain types of hornets and wasps that leave pheromonal alarm triggers when they sting, signalling others of their species to attack, usually to protect the nest. So if you're out in the forest and don't want to attract bees, don't smell like a flower.

M. Night Shyamalan's The Happening is based off the premise that plants, threatened by the ecological destruction caused by humans, started giving off pheromones that elicited suicidal tendencies.

But my real interest in pheromones naturally comes with their affect on the human drives.

Does anyone else remember this viral video of a commercial for Vulva "the intimate smell of an irresistible woman?" Or how about any of the plethora of Axe deoderstank commercials?

The idea, as Dan Savage so rightly pointed out in the first video above, is that scent is powerful. Humans may have trained ourselves to be ocular/aural creatures, but the olfactory sense is one of our oldest and strongest in its ability to associate with thoughts and feelings. For a lot of us, certain smells are able to trigger certain memories. Lavender always brings me back to summers in Leavenworth. Apparently it's because the olfactory bulb is closely linked to the parts of the nervous system associated with memory. Given this powerful natural connection, the existence of human pheromones doesn't seem that unlikely.

For myself personally, I've been told I smell good on multiple occasions when I've been pretty sure I shouldn't, like after I've been salsa dancing for an hour or two. But so long as I showered earlier in the day and remembered to put on my unscented deoderant, I usually find myself liking how I smell.

Mmm, pheromones...

A 2008 article from the Journal of Neuroscience used MRI (note to all my readers out there, MRI imaging is like saying ATM machine, just fyi) to examine neurological responses to different kinds of human sweat. They roughly found that "sexual sweat" elicited more of a response in certain areas of the hypothalamus associated with olfactory control and sex and reproduction. Still, I take this with a grain of salt, this is only the result of one study with a very small testing pool though and I would like to see more in depth research done

Many of the above mentioned sites selling products with these human pheromones will mention at some point that androstadienone a chemical metabolite of testosterone and common ingredient in many of the pheromones on the market targeted towards men, increases the potential for women (and gay men apparently) to show interest in (i.e. find more attractive) the one wearing the pheromone.

It seems there are a few studies looking into this phenomena, so there at least seems to be some merit to the existence of human pheromone-like substances, but I think if you're that interested in finding someone to go home with at the club, having a drink or two and looking like a fun person to be around is likely to get you farther.

The point I'm trying to bring up here is if you smell good, you smell good. If you don't, take showers just a little more often. but honestly, don't worry about it.

And 27 hours later (give or take a little) we have a blog post.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Working out with Nathan Day 8

The Rec center reopened today so we did a combination of exercises.

I think every time we've been to Wade King together this break, without fail I've managed to run into someone I know. Today it was Quentin.

We started with circuit training, alternating sets of weight machines with running laps around the track. I've always gotten a kind of pleasure out of doing circuit training, sprinting my one lap as fast as possible to keep my heart rate up as I force out a set of ten reps on whatever machine I happen to be using at the moment, my feet flying across the slightly padded, synthetic floor.

Nathan and I made ourselves hurt just a tiny bit, especially after yesterday's body weight resistance, which I know I at least was still a little sore from.

After doing that for the first hour, I started teaching Nathan how to erg. We didn't do very much, only 500 meters or so to give him a feel for the machine. Nathan's rowing form, to be absolutely blunt, was terrible, but with just a little bit of coxing, he picked it up pretty fast. Push with the legs on the drive and fall back to a nice finish with your arms and back. Relax forward into the slide so you're leaning forward before breaking the knees.

I guess I'm entirely too into working out right now because when Nathan asked if we should continue or stretch out so we could go home and EAT, I went with further working out.

Asking the rec center attendant to unlock the door for us, went into one of the rooms upstairs and pulled down the judo club mats into a makeshift wrestling space then proceeded with some light pummeling before teaching me some of the basic forms of some takedowns. I'm getting better at putting the movements together, but according to Nathan, the part that hasn't fully connected in my head is being able to use my partner's body and drop this inhibition against being unbalanced. But I'm working on it and getting better and it's damn fun in the process, even if I end up thrown to the ground multiple times each workout.

This is fun and I can't wait to see what we do tomorrow.

Working out with Nathan Day 7?

I lost track of what workout we're on.

Because the rec center was closed Dec 21-26, we ran the last two days, so I guess that would put us at day 7. It really wasn't anything spectacular unless you count the bag full of books and the sketchy trail in the dark.

I liked today's workout.

With the rec still being closed and it being too bleh (and by bleh I mean raining) to really entice either of us to want to run out on the track as I suggested, we stayed in and did some bodyweight resistance exercises.

I wish someone had been there to take pictures. Imagine for a moment though myself thrown over Nathan's shoulders in a fireman's carry with him doing squats. Now imagine me attempting to do the same thing to him, but struggling because I don't really have the practiced balance to feel completely comfortable. That's the kind of stuff we did.

I especially liked the flies and for lack of a better description, horizontal pull-ups we did. There was constant resistance both down and up and there wasn't really a lot of rest even when one of us wasn't doing it because we had to provide resistance. And on top of the actual muscles we were working with each exercise, we were also building grip strength in the fingers and forearms.

Afterwards we dueled in Halo 3. I'm not sure if I should be excited to be getting better at working the magic box, or scared that I'm getting better at working the magic box. But then Nathan's girlfriend Ashley joined us and after a few more rounds we got tired and played Catchphrase which was quite a bit more enjoyable. Conclusion: the roommate's game console needs better party games and at least one more controller. Any suggestions? Xbox360, PS2 and apparently there's a GameCube arriving from Hawaii when Joe returns from his visitations with the family.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Working out with Nathan Day 4: I forgot to blog about Day 3

I apologize for forgetting to blog about yesterday's experience, the excuse that I'm going to give you is that I didn't go home right after working out, but rather made a quick stop to snag a change of clothes, then was off to puppy-sit for my friend Nate who happens to live in the next apartment complex over from Nathan.

Here's photographic evidence.

Her name is Echo, isn't she so cute?

Today I lead us through a pretty simple, piecemeal yoga routine, prefacing our practice with the disclaimer that I am not a trained yoga instructor but merely a light practitioner. I started with some simple breathing exercises, explaining Ujjayi breathing or victorious breath. We saluted the sun, ironically facing away from the window with a beautiful view of the unexpectedly blue Bellingham sky, then moved into some more targeted positions aimed at our legs and chests.

Relaxed and stretched, we worked on some more wrestling, this time starting lower to the ground. Either I'm starting to get it, or Nathan is getting better at explaining how the process and interaction during wrestling works in a way that I can understand. It's still yet to click in my head, but that's the learning curve, a lot like dancing. As a lead in salsa (and I'm sure this applies to other forms of partnered social dance), you have to feel not only the beat, but also your partner and compensate for their weight/height/skill and for the most part it doesn't quite look or feel completely natural until you can balance those things internally and automatically.

Right about now you might be wondering to yourself, but Danny, why all the stretching and taking it easy? I thought this was a workout. First, stretching and keeping the mind and body centered are part of fitness. Second, we were both sore from Day 3.

So yesterday we did weights, which for me at least was the first time I've touched them since probably about May. We were both amused by the guys in the weight room, the ones who clearly visit there often and are able to lift more than twice their weight. Wrapped in glass windows on almost all sides, and mirrors on most of the walls, the weight room on campus is a case study in gym culture.

After a couple sets of a few different things, we went outside and did duck walks. They're kind of hard to explain if you've never done them, kind of a speed lunge walk if that makes sense.

They're the reason my quads and calves have a date with some arnica massage oil I happen to keep handy.

Hello, beautiful.

I may be "in shape" in that I have good cardiovascular health, but I don't do nearly enough speed and strength training for this not to leave me in mild pain until minimum tomorrow afternoon, when once again Nathan and I will be working out.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Working out with Nathan Day 2: Hiking with Trisia

A picture blog seems like the most appropriate venue for today.

We hiked around the trails near Lake Padden.

The start of the trail.

Look! Trees and shit.

Do an epic pose!

This was marked on the trail-maps as being big fallen trees.

So of course Nathan and I climbed on them.

""It's like some kind of rod of power." "What if it belongs to one of the gnomes?"

Working out with Nathan: Day 1

Yesterday was day one of exercise with Nathan over winter break. I was supposed to meet up with him at noon, but since we never specified where we were meeting, I showed up at the rec center on campus early.

So I ran in my black spandex leggings and sleeveless, white t-shirt with a panther printed around the side, going at a "I-can-run-at-this-pace-forever" jog. Made it at least a mile and a half before he showed up, but I wasn't paying attention to distance so much as I was checking out my reflection in the window to make sure my form was good at one end of the track and then checking out the window on the other end to see if Nathan was there yet.

I'm not sure if I quite understand the dynamics of wrestling yet. Conceptually it makes sense: you grab the other person, don't let them grab you (and if they do, don't let that stop you), keep your balance, look for openings, but as far as getting it, it just hasn't clicked yet. The feeling reminds me of my first few weeks salsa dancing, before my body and mind synced what I could do and what I should do and how to think ahead.

Most of our workout was focused on upper body, though I still ended up down on the mat a few times.

From one time I got pinned, a small spot on my shoulder started turning red from a very mild mat burn. You probably can barely see it in this picture. I'm not going to complain about it because I'm sure there will be plenty more.

All in all it was a fun first day. We went back to Nathan's place afterward and shared a cup of tea, then I was off to hang out with my friend Laura.

I'll post about day two when I get home tonight. We're going hiking with Trisia.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Check-in: Is this blog working?

Widdershin Writings, I wonder what's going on here sometimes, what traffic passes by when I don't have a window viewing this little e-ecosystem called my blog.

I paint a picture in my head of a little room full of trophies and thoughts, a storage space for my past. I look back at old posts and I'm tempted to edit, to revise and change, go antiquing with my words and restore everything, covering it in a layer of glossy paint so you can't tell it's even the same thing.

But that defeats the purpose, revision is erasure. I cannot deny my past and so will instead let myself stand in all my imperfections. This scar comes with a story. This post is a story. I will pull a Walt Whitman and let my multitudes contradict themselves. I don't have to like it, but the only change that makes is that I don't have to remain like that.

I started this blog two years ago. And the posts come in waves, peaking in the March through June period (though I wonder how much of that has been influenced by taking a class with Tony Prichard during these times).

So this is a check-in. An evaluation where we see if this is working or if the experiment called my blogging is a total fail.

But first:

This is one of many songs I received through mix CDs from friends over the past two years. It's by no means my favorite song off this particular mix, but on this blustery, dark, rainy evening in the middle of December with my arm covered in henna, it feels somehow appropriate. It's finals week and by any means I should probably be stressed out, worrying about studying. That's not my style.

Henna smells kind of funny. It's reminiscent of grass to me, only sweeter.

This blog as an ecosystem is adapting to the stimulus in my life. Mainly classes and stress if the content is any judge. But it's tracking my journey, taking snapshots of my life and putting out there for the public to see.

I like this, because it's exactly what Widdershin Writings is about. This blog is not about me. It's about my journey, winding and backwards and off in every direction imaginable. Stay with me for a bit and we'll see where the road takes us.

Monday, December 6, 2010

This becamse too long for a comment

So what I see happening here is the artificial creation of alterity. In separating yourself and dividing yourself, you create Others within that you are unable or unwilling to work with(which might explain your paranoid tendencies).

When Jack said, "I posit that we do not exist as the same person through time either. That can be crudely extracted from the ramble I had about it." I wonder if you meant person as synonymous with identity. From where I'm coming from, a "person" has multiple, multiplex identities (they exist across many media in many contexts) over time. These identities change and evolve and how we interact with them changes and evolves but the underlying person (though for clarity's sake I think I would prefer the term "existence") remains constant.

In comparing these existences at various points along a temporal curve, we find that they have differences. If I take the stance that a person is defined by their identities, then they are not the same person, but in that the snapshots I am taking of this existence are removed from the same curve the existence this person comes from is the same.

You create the alterity by removing the common context of the underlying existence.


In writing this I've had to travel to the past.


But I've also had to reach for what some people would call an attempt at the future:


I've also visited other sources:


My culture, or rather this post, is networked.


I have a jogging final to get to, so I'm going to continue this later.