It's a Resolution, Baby!

52 Weeks. 52 New Year's Resolutions.

Week 20. Resolution 20. Notice other numbers. May 24, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — H-Ro @ 7:34 PM
Tags: ,

The number 33 has haunted me all my life.  Rather than just ignore it, as any sane person might, I have instead interpreted it as an omen that at the age of 33 I may spring off this mortal coil.  This week I turned 33 and to avoid a year of paranoia I wanted to prove to myself that other numbers are just as prevalent.

Generally I’m not a superstitious person.  Sure, I may have a momentary lapse of judgement if a black cat crosses my path or I’m forced to walk under a ladder, and I definitely try not to break mirrors (more to avoid cleaning it up than anything to do with bad luck) but then, who doesn’t?  If luck is indeed real then I already experience enough on the bad end of the scale.  And the few attempts I’ve made at trying to improve my luck (possibly involving casting a sneaky eye over a clump of clover looking for the elusive four pronged variety) have always proved fruitless.

But when something constantly demands your attention it becomes hard to ignore.  It is unclear when I first began to notice the 33 phenomenon—perhaps in high school when I was placed in homeroom 33.  For as long as I can remember it has had a recurring presence in phone numbers and addresses and other numbers of significance.  I remember the great relief I felt when my parents moved into their current house eight years ago to find that the address and phone number were both 33-free.  That was until I found out the house was built on ‘Lot 33’.

I decided to look into the number 33 to see what importance it holds and found some surprising results.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/33_number

  • Apparently Jesus died at the age of 33 in 33 A.D.  He performed 33 recorded miracles.
  • 33 is not only a numerical representation of “the star of David”, but also the numerical equivalent of AMEN. 1+13+5+14=33.  (I don’t plan on working out the numerical equivalent of the important words in my life for fear of edging ever closer to the brink of insanity.)
  • According to Al-Ghazali, considered by many to be the greatest Muslim after the Prophet Muhammed, the dwellers of Heaven will exist eternally in a state of being aged 33.
  • 33 is the coming-of-age of a Hobbit in The Lord of the Rings.
  • There is a Smashing Pumpkins song called Thirty-Three which was released while they were my favourite band.
  • In Dan Brown’s most recent novel, “The Lost Symbol”, the number 33 leads to the essential meaning of life.  Mum told me about this after she read it and I found it a small blessing that I hadn’t discovered it myself.

For the record I am an atheist.  I do not believe in God or fate or “things happening for a reason” although I am captivated by the nature of faith and am very fond of the Arabic word ‘Inshallah’, meaning ‘if God wills it’.  But I can’t imagine why the strong symbolism of 33 in religion would hold any meaning for me.

To prove to myself that I am seeing reason where there is none, my resolution this week was to pick another number and make a concerted effort to chart how regularly it appears in my life with a view to alleviating my 33-related fears.

In choosing a number I had to set certain parameters.  The number had to be under 60 but over 12 so I could include times, but only minutes, not hours.  Dates would not count as they don’t go as high as 33.  It was preferable that the number also had double digits as these tend to stand out more.  In the end I settled on three numbers – 19, 22, and 32.

On the first day I tried very hard not to notice that the program I use to view Twitter was version 33.3 and that there were 333 photos of me on Facebook.  It was reported on this day that 33 people had died during the protests in Bangkok.

Over the next few days the only numbers that caught my attention were those in the time which I generally only looked at when I noticed this blog open on my computer.  While usually in the 30s, I only saw one 33 and 32.  I also spotted one 22 but I couldn’t help but feel that the numbers were staying away on purpose.

On the Friday I was watching an episode of FlashForward when I was struck by a sentiment being expressed – that by knowing or anticipating the future, you are likely to make it happen—a self-fulfilling prophecy.  This was shortly before they showed that there were 33 seconds left on the device that was about to kill one of the lead characters, just before they managed to shut it off.

On Saturday, my birthday, I was counting the number of discs in the Bewitched boxed set my mother had just bought.  There were 33.  Then I noticed the Australian / US exchange rate that lives on my desktop – US$1 was AU$0.833 and because it was a weekend it would stay that way for two days.  As we were waiting to be seated at dinner that night I noticed the only table outside was number 33.  Mind you we were seated at table number 22 which also happened to be the date.

I didn’t notice the number 19 once.

Not really a raging success.

So in order to comfort myself I’m trying to believe that perhaps the 33rd year of my life will bring great things.  Maybe this will be ‘my year’ when all the crucial components for happiness will fall into place.  Or most likely it means NOTHING WHATSOEVER.  I simply have to remember that no one in history has ever been special enough to receive divine foresight into such matters and it’s not about to start with me!  Particularly someone wacko enough to spend a week looking for numbers that prove the end of the world is not nigh.

This resolution is not without success as I’ve realised just how ridiculous this all sounds and I think it’s time to stop with the crazy now.

 

Week 19. Resolution 19. Free the West Memphis Three. May 14, 2010

I have never been interested in the crime genre, true or otherwise, unless you count the whodunit novels of G.K. Chesterton’s ‘Father Brown’ or Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘Sherlock Holmes’, because it encompasses aspects of human nature I’d just rather not be exposed to.

Roughly nine months ago I was loitering in the lounge room while my dad was watching the Crime & Investigation Network on pay TV when I found myself being sucked into a documentary about three young boys accused of the horrific murders of three children.  That documentary was called ‘Paradise Lost:  The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills’ and it has changed my life forever.

In May 1993 three eight-year-old boys, Christopher Byers, Michael Moore and Stevie Branch, were found dead—suspended in a creek in West Memphis, Arkansas.  Due to an almost comically botched and corrupt police investigation a month passed without any suspects.  The local residents, baying for blood, seized on the nationwide concern about the rise of satanic activity which resulted in a modern day witch hunt.  As a consequence of desperation and lies police attention turned to Damien Echols, an 18 year old local boy with an interest in Wicca, who dressed all in black and  listened to heavy metal music.

It was upon questioning an associate of Damien’s, Jessie Misskelley, that the police finally received a confession implicating Damien Echols and his best friend Jason Baldwin leading to their arrests.

What was not common knowledge at the time was that Jessie, only 17 and with an IQ of 72 rendering him mentally handicapped, was questioned for 12 hours without a parent or a witness and only 45 minutes of that interview, towards the end, was recorded.  In the confession he provides incorrect information a number of times and there is evidence of police coercion.  He later recanted the whole confession however the damage was already done as it was leaked to the press.

EVERYONE believed the boys were guilty, including their defence teams and the documentary film-makers (who later went on to direct Metallica’s ‘Some Kind of Monster’), which is why the first documentary ‘Paradise Lost’ may seem biased against them.  Yet throughout the course of the legal proceedings many began to realise that a terrible injustice was being committed due to complete lack of evidence.  However Damien, considered the ringleader, had not been properly schooled in the ways of behaving in court and feeling himself to be an outsider, clung to his desire to be different which cast him in a negative light.  The prosecution pounced on this and pushing the devil worshipping angle convinced the jury that Damien was evil and completely capable of murder.

Damien Echols has been on death row for 16 years.  Jessie was sentenced to life plus 40 years and Jason to life imprisonment.  In subsequent years much evidence has come to light which first pointed at Christopher’s disturbing stepfather, John Mark Byers (the main subject of the second documentary ‘Paradise Lost 2:  Revelations’) and now at Terry Hobbs, Stevie’s father.  No evidence has ever directly linked Damien, Jason or Jessie to the crime.

Judge Burnett, who proceeded over the original trials and has overseen every appeal and request for retrial since, is so convinced, suspiciously so, of their guilt that they continue to rot in jail even when the world is certain of their innocence.  Evidence that could prove it has always been ruled inadmissible.

After seeing the first documentary I immediately went to Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Memphis_3 to learn more about the case.  Obsessed, I tracked down the second documentary, read many of the original court documents and considered opinions of those both for and against their innocence.  I have read Mara Leveritt’s ‘Devil’s Knot’ which goes into explicit details of the case and also Damien Echols’s autobiography ‘Almost Home: My Life Story Vol 1’.  I own a ‘Free The West Memphis Three’ T-shirt and bumper sticker and rant about the case every opportunity I can.

I’m not sure exactly why I’m so drawn to it.  Maybe it’s because their innocence is undeniable to the point that the quest to free them has become so much bigger than the need to find the real killer(s) and I can’t stand by while these men are stripped of their freedom.  Maybe it’s because I, too, dressed all in black, listened to gothic music and explored witchcraft around the same time and just as easily could have been the subject of a witch hunt.  Or maybe it’s because I feel a real affinity with Damien Echols, a creative and sensitive soul, a gifted writer with an inquisitive mind, utterly incapable of the horrors he’s been accused of.

For this resolution I was originally going to write Damien a letter to express my support but after reading his diary entry here:  http://freewestmemphis3.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=104:ebruary-12th-2010&catid=38:letters-from-damien&Itemid=89

I learned that Damien’s eyesight now gives him trouble so I decided to show my support in other ways.  Unfortunately I can never give the WM3 the kind of publicity their more famous supporters can, celebrities like Johnny Depp, Ozzy Osbourne, Henry Rollins, Eddie Vedder, Winona Ryder, Chris Cornell, Marilyn Manson, Trey Parker, Margaret Cho and many, many others.  But I can talk to you about it here.  And I can show my support in other ways.

Firstly I have downloaded the track ‘Justice At Last’ by A Sound of Thunder from iTunes for AU$1.69 because, even though it isn’t great, 100% of the proceeds go to the WM3 legal defence fund, so sorely needed because  justice is expensive.

http://itunes.apple.com/au/album/justice-at-last-west-memphis/id368804016

I have added my photo to their supporter’s Photowall which requires a US$6 donation with the option to donate more.  http://wm3.org/Photowall

I have also sent a postcard to their support fund to add to their postcard project.

http://wm3.org/Page/view/How-To-Help

Their next appeal will be heard on September 30, 2010 by (thankfully) a new judge and may be the first real chance they have to prove their innocence.

A quote on the WM3 forum says, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”  I hope I have at the very least piqued your interest in the case so you will consider offering your support too.

 

Week 18. Resolution 18. Make Homemade Ice Cream. May 10, 2010

I hate winter.  If hell is a place where we are forced to contend with our greatest fears, I expect to be battling mine in sub-zero temperatures wrapped in winter woollies, not drenched in sweat from the fires of hell like they’d have you believe.  And with winter breathing its chilly breeze down our necks once again, it’s merely a matter of time before I begin to feel SAD (seasonal affective disorder).

And what relieves sadness?  Ice cream!  Yet winter makes consuming ice cream a less than pleasurable experience.  Oh winter, you are indeed a cruel beast.

So in a desperate attempt to cling to summer before its yearly demise and ward off the sadness for as long as can be I decided to make a big, fat tub of ice cream to melt away my  sorrows.  All the better because homemade ice cream has that extra splash of love so sorely lacking from the store bought variety.  That’s because they removed it and replaced it with paint stripper.  “Yummy, yummy, yummy I’ve got paint stripper in my tummy” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Now I KNOW this is in contradiction to the invaluable lessons learnt in last week’s resolution but as I’m still putting together my healthy eating plan (effective from tomorrow) that gave me one more week with the artery clogging stuff (convenient, huh?) plus I decided to also make sorbet, ice cream’s healthy cousin.

Having never made ice cream before I nearly ditched the idea altogether on learning that an ice cream machine is a necessity.  But there was no need to fret because (as previously mentioned) mum owns every kitchen appliance known to man.  In fact, you don’t really need one at all, but if you want it as smooth and creamy as possible without spending all day alternately freezing and whipping your mixture to get as much air into it as possible, then an ice cream maker is the way to go.

After scouring recipe books I considered making a pineapple/mint sorbet and some form of coconut/vanilla/passionfruit ice cream but when I discovered a recipe for Toasted Coconut Ice Cream with a Raspberry Sorbet Ripple I knew it was made for me.

I won’t repeat the recipe here in case you aren’t interested in the details but you can find it at Bron Marshall’s cooking blog:  http://bronmarshall.com/?p=1162 (scroll down to the bottom).

I made the sorbet the night before I made the ice cream so the ice cream maker had time to refreeze.  The next morning I spent a number of tasty, tasty hours making the ice cream which I fed into the maker that night.  I suspect I’ve now been turned off cream and coconut for life.

The end result is delicious.  The tartness of the raspberries is perfectly complemented by the creaminess of the coconut ice cream.  And while it’s a lengthy (yet rewarding) process to make ice cream, sorbet can be whipped up in a jiff, plus all that fruit provides an excellent low-fat alternative to most desserts.

So … winter in our tummies = good.  Winter on the outside = bad.

Bring back summer so ice cream can reign again!  Mmm, chocolate ice cream rain.  Sticky.

 

Week 17. Resolution 17. Learn about Nutrition. May 5, 2010

They say there are two certainties in life – death and taxes.  Perhaps that’s why so many of us zealously squander our money and our health, because in the end it’s all a bit futile isn’t it?

Or is it simply that spending money and indulging in stuff that’s bad for us is just way more fun?

My guess is that it’s c) all of the above and if that’s how you choose to live your life, full power to you.  But personally I got sick of struggling financially which is why, a couple of years ago, I decided to learn about personal finance and found it astoundingly easy to grasp and not nearly as dry as you’d think.  And although I may be on hard times now, if all goes to plan, keep an eye out for me waving to you from my yacht in years to come.  Many, many, years to come.

It’s also why I chose to learn about nutrition this week because knowing how to look after yourself seems like common sense, yet we live in a time where a healthy diet is probably the least of our concerns.  In fact, most of us downright rebel against it.  I only got the kick-start I needed after attending a nutritional talk that actually made me excited about diet.

The quest to learn more was bound to involve extensive reading so I chose a week where I would be spending time in planes, trains and automobiles to visit the rellies and my childhood home.  It was a weekend of firsts, all of which would have made adequate resolutions – walking dogs from the RSPCA, visiting old folks in nursing homes – I even ended up with my photo in the paper!  But every other spare minute my mind was immersed in the world of food.

I began reading ‘The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Total Nutrition’ with my heart still pounding from running to catch the plane.  At this stage my approach was mainly negative.  It’s such a dull subject that it’s only natural to feel some resentment and I found myself developing the mantra that I only wanted to learn about nutrition to cut through the myths rather than to change my eating habits.  I even felt great glee when crumbs from my fat-soaked white chocolate and macadamia cookie scattered between the pages.

What quickly became obvious is that everything you eat is both bad and good for you, so while one food may be fantastic in promoting healthy body functions it may also have links to cancer.  There is still SO MUCH we don’t know about nutrition with research ever-changing and what may be true one day could be obsolete the next. Trying to balance all this information would quickly send you stark-raving.

Although the book was frustratingly American focussed, which meant I had trouble determining portion sizes and grasping what amounts of foods are acceptable, my intention was never to become a calorie counter.  But over time I did end up with a full page list of foods I plan to incorporate in my diet.  I even sought further information on areas that interested me – multivitamins, probiotics and diet myths.

Some interesting things I learnt:  (which you may already be aware of but I guarantee you’d learn something new if you were interested in looking into nutrition yourself)

  • Cholesterol is a substance formed in the liver and is therefore only present in animal products.  There are two types of cholesterol with different functions – LDL (bad) and HDL (good).  Cholesterol and fat do not dissolve in water / blood so the body binds them together to transport them.  The more saturated fat (bad) you consume, the more LDL cholesterol you form which eventually clogs your arteries.  That’s why you should stick to the poly and mono unsaturated forms of fat.
  • To successfully lose weight it is proven that those who exercise in the morning are 50% more likely to stick with it.  Also, if you deprive yourself of bad foods altogether you will fail, which is why all good diets allow you to incorporate the “bad” stuff now and then.
  • Drinking room temperature water is not preferable to cold water.  In fact you burn more calories by drinking cold water as your body needs to convert it to body temp.
  • You cannot burn fat off a particular part of your body.  For example – sit-ups will tone your stomach muscles but you won’t lose fat from your gut.
  • Cutting out fat from your diet altogether is dangerous as it is responsible for vital body functions.  The same is even more applicable to carbohydrates.
  • Vitamin C has never been proven to ward off a cold, although it may lessen the symptoms as it has a mild antihistaminic effect.  Strangely, smokers require 50% more vitamin C than non-smokers.
  • Tea contains more caffeine than coffee by dry weight but a typical serving contains much less coffee.  Coffee contains 100-150mgs, tea 50mgs, red bull 80mgs and coke 25-45mgs.

From all I’ve learnt I would advise that if you do plan to change your diet make absolutely sure you know the facts about nutrition beforehand, otherwise you’re potentially causing unnecessary harm to your body.  In fact the wisest way to lose weight is simply to eat smaller, healthier portions.

I struggle to think of anyone I know who eats well and am certain everyone could benefit from more nutritional knowledge, particularly when frozen, packaged food is the norm, not the exception, and incidences of cancer are on the rise.

Ironically, while doing this resolution I’d never felt fatter in all my life, gorging as one does when on holidays.  Even the book’s meal suggestions for gaining weight contained less food than I was currently eating, but this has only made me all the more committed to eating better.

Over the next week my aim is to formulate some meal plans to replace all the bad things I eat with better, lower-fat options.  I also intend to utilise our Wii Fit after learning that for overall fitness you need to include BOTH cardio and weight training, whereas my exercise routine has previously involved the odd turn on the cross-trainer.

If I can come away with a more positive attitude to nutrition then so can you and I implore everyone to consider a healthier lifestyle before it’s too late.