Deep calming games 2018
After receiving an alarming medical diagnosis mid-month in January*, I've been very actively using computer games to help manage my situation. This autoimmune disease manifests itself in scores of itchy bumps. The initial treatment is prednisone, the main side effects of which have been insomnia and mood alteration (primarily an increase in anxiety). Games have been enormously helpful in managing both, and in lowering my stress levels overall as I deal with this.
While many games can appear soothing in early stages, they are often designed to increase in intensity, which is counter to my goal of calming my system. Below are a few which I've found which do work, and which have interesting side benefits. There are three key patterns I leverage as I (and my meds) work to reduce inflammation.
1. Stillness as a Constant Option
The one absolutely vital quality of a deep calming game is that at any moment you can stop the game without penalty to take a deep breath, let your eyes focus on the other side of the room, or otherwise pause not only your hands but your mind. This can take the form of simply stopping doing anything—as in turn-based games where there is no ticking clock—or changing out of the game screen—as in games which pause and retain your exact position when you switch applications. Some games are mostly turn-based with brief sections that don't allow pausing; Another Case Solved is a good example of that non-ideal mix, but it is just calming enough to remain on my list.
2. Impulse Interference
It turns out when you're trying not to scratch, it's possible to divert the physical world pattern you shouldn't act on into a virtual pattern where relief is easily available. The game element you want here is a random or semi-random resource which appears and needs to be 'harvested' or otherwise responded to individually. Collecting the magic fountain energy in Sunken Secrets or the tax revenue in Townsmen are ideal examples. I found that my brain slipped pretty easily from "argh! itchy spot I want to scratch!" to "aha! another coin to collect!" and that, amazingly, the act of touching the resource on my iPad screen with my finger took away the urgency of a specific physical itch on my body. This trick was probably the key ingredient to my getting through the initial awful weeks while I waited for the corticosteroids to begin reducing my symptoms. It's highly likely I would have scarring if I hadn't been able to divert that scratching urge.
3. Sense of Positive Action
Maintaining an optimistic attitude during very gradual change is a challenge. When my body is less able and my mind is less focused that becomes even harder, especially in those grim grey hours of the night when prednisone wakes you all the way up after three hours sleep. Games offer a space where I can act toward both short- and long-term goals and feel less powerless. The difference with deep calming games is that this needs to take place within a low-conflict (or at least very low-consequences) mood. When managing anxiety and using mental imagery to reduce bodily inflammation are the goals, tough battles against powerful foes are definitely not my friends. Enter, therefore, games of constructive, peaceful acts which build upon each other. These can range from the very simple—growing my fish and expanding my pond in Zen Koi—to the more ongoing and epic—building my farm and improving things for my imaginary neighbors in Stardew Valley. The tough part here is finding a game with the expansiveness that makes it maximally calming and yet which doesn't require fighting off attackers. (I've got enough of that going on with my autoimmune system, thankyouverymuch.) I am a long-time fan of simulation games, particularly old Windows city-builders and economy-simulators like Pharaoh and Cleopatra, but there are very few around which don't involve (or allow you the option of turning off) combat as a major part of the game. Farming and house-building games are the dominant form now, but many of them are tainted by in-app purchase models which render the games less fun as you progress in an effort to make you spend money to make it easier again. That flaw is what led to my abandoning Gardenscapes and Homescapes, neither of which I can recommend anymore despite their fun aesthetic and sense of humor. For the moment, Stardew Valley, and to a lesser extent Townsmen, is best to fully engage my mind in creating and achieving goals.
*Thanks to corticosteroids this diagnosis is not life-threatening, but it is life-altering.
media I've enjoyed recently 2014
Advertising and Selling
- Morgan Spurlock: The greatest TED Talk ever sold (TEDtalks)
- Full Price Beats Penny Saved for Selling Some Items (60-second Science)
- Candidates Affect Viewer Reactions to Ads in Debates (60-second Science)
- Jacqueline Novogratz: Inspiring a life of immersion (TEDtalks)
- 100,000-Year-Old Art Studio Discovered (60-second Science)
- Patricia Kuhl: The linguistic genius of babies (TEDtalks)
- Science Grad Students Who Teach Write Better Proposals (60-second Science)
- Doodles and Drawings Help Cement Concepts (60-second Science)
Food and Drink
- Student Researchers Find Secret Tea Ingredients (60-second Science)
- Molars Say Cooking Is Almost 2 Million Years Old (60-second Science)
- High-Pressure Food Treatment Can Kill Microbes And Up Nutrients (60-second Science)
Health and Growth
- Molly Stevens: A new way to grow bone (TEDtalks)
- Gamekeeper's Thumb Condition Outlives the Occupation (60-second Science)
- Test Tells Viral and Bacterial Infections Apart (60-second Science)
- Poultry Farms That Stop Antibiotics See Resistance Fall (60-second Science)
- Endurance Exercise Has Stem Cells Make Bone Over Fat (60-second Science)
- Carbon Nanotubes Impale Compulsive Cells (60-second Science)
- Online Gamers Help Solve Protein Structure (60-second Science)
- Health Data Could Spot Genocide Risk (60-second Science)
- City Cyclists Suck In Soot (60-second Science)
- Rapid PCR Could Bring Quick Diagnoses (60-second Science)
- Pathogen Genomics Has Become Dirt Cheap (60-second Science)
- Kid Scientists Show Medicines Can Be Mistaken For Candy (60-second Science)
- Fever Increases Numbers of Immune Cells (60-second Science)
Nature and Sexuality
- Mole's Extra Finger Is Wrist Bone-us (60-second Science)
- Full Moon May Signal Rise in Lion Attacks (60-second Science)
- Send Ants to College (60-second Science)
- Sea Lampreys Flee Death Smells (60-second Science)
- Toxoplasma Infected Rats Love Their Enemies (60-second Science)
- Modern Rivers Shaped By Trees (60-second Science)
- Upright and Hairless Make Better Long-Distance Hunters (60-second Science)
- Electrolyte Balancers Set Stage for Multicellularity (60-second Science)
- Flesh-Tearing Piranhas Communicate with Sound (60-second Science)
Politics and Philosophy
- Jody Williams: A realistic vision for world peace (TEDtalks)
- Martin Jacques: Understanding the rise of China (TEDtalks)
- El Nino Ups Conflict Odds (TEDtalks)
- Steven Pinker: Violence Is Lower Than Ever (60-second Science)
Technology and Physics
- Johanna Blakley: Social media and the end of gender (TEDtalks)
- Medieval Armor: Was It Worth the Weight? (60-second Science)
- Traffic Cameras Save Millions in Canceled Crashes (60-second Science)
- Juno Mission Gets Goes for Launch (60-second Science)
- Channeled Chips Can Spot Substances (60-second Science)
- Smartphone System Saves Gas (60-second Science)
- Sound Sends Electron to Specific Location (60-second Science)
- Moon Not Made of Cheese, Physicist Explains (60-second Science)
Posted on February 21, 2014 at 01:38 PM in creativity, Food and Drink, health, linky goodness, politics & philosophy, school, sex, the big room with the blue ceiling, warnings & kvetches, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)
Feeling great 2012
My relationship with my body is doing so much better since I started exercising and eating fresh foods more! I feel stronger and more alive.
Some of that liveliness may be coming by contrast to the less articulate of my coaches: the shambling hordes of zombies pursuing me at least three times a week, thanks to Zombies, Run! Great writing, voice acting, and a compelling story fight against procrastination to make sure I keep on my exercise schedule of 30-60 minutes at over 3.1mph on the treadmill every other day. That's enough to get me in a great sweat and (I think, though I'm not measuring it) get my heart rate up.
I'm walking fast rather than running because it's so much gentler on my body. With my previously injuries to knee, ankle, toes, it's better to play it safe and steady.
I'm now trying to do 12,000 steps a day, including on days when I don't have a workout. The treadmill desk really helps for that. I don't always make it, but now I'm embarrassed to end the day under 7,000 steps, so I can tell I've created a good new normal.
The desk has also made me really good at typing under odd circumstances. Currently going 3.5mph. Usually, I'm going about 2.1mph or so, but the music was so good when the last mission ended seven minutes ago, I just kept going at the same pace as we went into radio mode. Hadn't even noticed I was still moving that fast. Yay!
In parallel, I've upped our produce delivery from Planet Organics to come every week instead of every other, which means I'm eating a meal of a big chopped salad or pan-seared greens several times a week now.
I've also gotten the app Paprika for my iPad, which I'm using to create recipes for all the things I know how to cook, to remind myself to do that more instead of ordering in, eating something pre-packaged, or going to a restaurant. Just went through all my Flickr photos in the past week and captured lots of reminders of recipe names and images, plus in some cases detailed recipes where I'd written them up. There really is something motivating about a personalized cookbook. Haven't gotten into using Paprika's other menu planning and shopping list features, but am looking forward to them in future.
All in all, I'm feeling really good, which was the main motivation for this. Going down in weight or clothing sizes might be nice, especially if it reopens certain options in my wardrobe, but it's really about feeling strong and happy and healthy.
Getting healthier 2012
I'd grown dissatisfied with how strong and healthy I was feeling and frustrated over clothes that didn't fit anymore. Here's what I've been doing to change that:
- Eating more fresh food and cooking more from scratch.
This is an old habit I'd fallen out of so I have good skills here that just need reviving. One of my biggest tools to help with this is a weekly produce delivery from Planet Organics. They have grocery items as well as produce and even have recently added a CSA box within the order, selectable or not by the week rather than being locked in, which is a big help for folks who travel a lot.
- Walking 10,000 steps or more a day.
Still trying to reach the point where I do this without fail, but the treadmill desk helps a lot. I haven't left the house today and haven't been doing much around the place, but as I write this I'm going 1.9mph and have already hit 3300 steps just catching up with email, doing my weekly review, etc. The tool that helps motivate me here is my Fitbit. I thought about adding a Nike Fuelband, but I tend to hate bracelets since I'm typing a lot of the time.
- Measuring my weight and BMI.
I use a Withings scale for this (Joe has one), but actually track the measurements on the Fitbit site. The other tool that supports me here is the Bang Bang diet app, which is basically a tracker tool for the Hacker's Diet: if you're on track for your weight loss goal, eat normally, and if not, eat light. Haven't tried the Withings app, but am about to try it out.
- Making chopped salads.
I know this shouldn't seem like such a big deal, but I think having one of these every week has really helped, and they're so delicious I feel confident I could up that to twice a week. I got the idea from this Jamie Oliver podcast.
Is it working? Well, after gaining about 10lbs in the last year (when I was actually trying to lose 13lbs), in the last two weeks I've lost over 4lbs. I blame restaurant dining, inactivity, and cocktails, but mostly restaurant food. Now probably half of this recent weight loss comes from when I had food poisoning (not salad related, I'm pretty confident), but even if I am losing a couple pounds a month, I'm going to be feeling a lot better by spring and will have installed some good habits under my skin.
Simple signs, simple actions 2012
An easy way to save a life in hot weather. Great advice.
Mundane chance to be a super hero 2012
Just got swabbed by Be The Match outside Nopalito (who aren't terribly busy today!) It was quick & easy. Thinking fondly of @superamit! :)
specific realities 2012
Bad science has bad consequences 2012
RT @kottke: The Jenny McCarthy Body Count
Psychiatry Giant Sorry for Backing Gay ‘Cure’ 2012
Media I've enjoyed recently 2012
Productivity and problem-solving
Lewis Pugh's mind-shifting Mt. Everest swim (TED video)
Bosses Who Work Out Are Nicer (60-Second Science podcast)
Gun-Toting Increases Bias to See Guns Toted (60-Second Science podcast)
Environment and climate
Lee Hotz: Inside an Antarctic time machine (TED video)
Politics and philosophy
Nic Marks: The Happy Planet Index (TED video)
Carne Ross: An independent diplomat (TED video)
Technology and the Web
This was great. Really impressive piece of research. (It never occurred to me that fine bone china has actual bone in it.)
Sebastian Thrun: Google's driverless car (TED video)
Breathe Easier with Electric Car Charging Overnight (60-Second Science podcast)
App Turns iPhone Into spiPhone (60-Second Science podcast)
A non-health takeaway from this one: Corporations (or as more benignly referred to, "brands") will be analyzing and acting on our social activity in staggering detail in ways that are not automatically or even always possibly perceptible to us. Individual rights now and in the future will require people with an understanding of the technology and techniques of analysis who are working on our side. We will need watchdogs with deep understanding of advanced analytics.
Annie Lennox: Why I am an HIV/AIDS activist (TED video)
Sebastian Seung: I am my connectome (TED video)
Didn't enjoy his presentation style, but the content and its implications are impressive.
Wonderful projects and encouraging data on the power of psychosocial counseling to help break cycles of violence.
Hans Rosling: The good news of the decade? (TED video)
"The time has come to stop thinking of sub-saharan Africa as one place. Their countries are so different and they merit to be talked about in the same way that we don't talk about Europe as one place. I can tell you that the economy in Greece and Sweden are very different."
It's bigger than that, though:
"There is no such thing as a Western world and Developing world."
"You can clearly see the relation with falling child mortality and decreasing family size."
"Almost 50% of the fall in child mortality can be attributed to female education."
It's this kind of tight focus on the actual data—on what really works—that makes me love and respect Hans Rosling. It also reinforces my commitment to only vote for presidential candidates who place a high priority on the family planning and female education efforts which will drive that reduction in child mortality while at the same time slowing population growth.
Boys Who Lack Empathy Don't React to a Fearful Face (60-Second Science podcast)
Animal Production Practices Create Antibiotic Resistance (60-Second Science podcast)
Amateur Planet Hunters Find Exoplanets (60-Second Science podcast)
Monika Bulaj: The hidden light of Afghanistan (TED video)
Large Hadron Collider "Big Bang" Analogies Put Under Microscope (60-Second Science podcast)
Elephants Ask for a Helping Trunk (60-Second Science podcast)
Black Plant Life Could Thrive on Other Planets (60-Second Science podcast)
Box Jellyfish Eyes Aim At The Trees (60-Second Science podcast)
Bat Ears Deform for Better Ping Pickups (60-Second Science podcast)
Body Hair Senses Parasites While Slowing Their Blood Quest (60-Second Science podcast)
Boa Constrictors Listen To Loosen (60-Second Science podcast)
Bloody Mary Gives Up Its Flavor Secrets (60-Second Science podcast)
You Probably Get That A Lot (TMBG Podcast Video Bonus)
Cutbacks Hurt a State’s Response to Whooping Cough 2012
Lucy on the couch with tissues 2012
Hot toddying up before Yellow Submarine. Will a fading dose of Robitussin Cough & a bit of whiskey be acceptable mind-altering substances?
If you're looking for me at the movie, I'll be in the row that reeks of Ricola cough drops instead of more traditional hippie scents.
Double blargh 2012
Warning: this cold that's going around is a doozy. Commence evasive action: frequent handwashing, waving instead of hugging, etc.
sweet relief 2012
Fellow cold/scratchy throat sufferers! Take an orange & put it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Cut into 8ths. Eat the cold tart bliss
Lest I need remind anyone why I don't eat the stuff 2012
RT @thelancearthur: Wellness center leaves four fast food meals out to see what happens. After two years: Not a damned thing.
Media I've enjoyed lately 2011
Wow. Lots to catch up on since the last time I posted on podcast episodes I really enjoyed. Not to worry, though, most of them are from 60-Second Science.
Science and Technology
Creativity and Learning
Good news and an opportunity for San Franciscans 2010
I'm very relieved that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Budget & Finance Committee has maintained funding for the Neighborhood Emergency Response Team program. This is a wonderful, practical, and free program to train ordinary San Franciscans to stay safe and, where possible, help others in case of disaster. Unfortunately, there's no guarantee the funding will be preserved in the future, so take advantage of the program now while we have it.
Why should you care?
California has a 99.7 percent chance of having a 6.7 magnitude earthquake or larger during the the next 30 years. The likelihood of a more powerful quake of 7.5 magnitude in the next 30 years is 46 percent. Such a quake is more likely to occur in the southern half of the state than in the northern half. ... the probability of a 6.7 magnitude earthquake or larger over the next 30 years striking the greater Los Angeles area is 67 percent and in the San Francisco Bay Area is 63 percent [source]
The best way to deal with this threat is to understand what it would mean for you and your household and how you can reduce your risks of being badly hurt during a quake. Take the classes, they're free and interesting. Download the NERT manual and learn how to put together an emergency kit. Get involved with your local team and stack the deck in favor of coming through the next big shakeup unharmed.
San Franciscans, once again, why should you care?
Because we have 17,000 residents per square mile and only about 300 firefighters on duty at any given time. You will need to be self-sufficient, especially in the first three days after a major quake.
It's not hard to be ready, but you do have to start preparing.
Every week, from now until the ground moves, devote a little time – even just a few minutes when you can't take a class or do a bigger safety project in your home – to providing for your future.
Definitely in motion on my road 2010
My latest Discardia post is about choosing what you most want and don't want in your life and then bearing those priorities in mind when faced with options (which we are all day, every day).
Here are my choices:
1. to be thriving in a great relationship.
2. to feel healthy and strong.
3. to be a published author.
I don't want...
1. to work in a cubicle.
2. to have little control over when I do what.
3. to be stressed all the time.
I'm making great progress on all of these goals. I quit my office job just over a year ago, went into business for myself as a productivity and life coach, started writing my book about Discardia, devoted more of my energy to my relationship with Joe, and consciously began designing my life for less stress.
The feeling healthy and strong part has been tough, though, I have to admit. I hate gyms. I have a weak knee and a weak ankle which make running or jogging very unattractive. Really, the only exercise routine I actually like and seek out many times a week is walking. As someone with a project of walking the city of San Francisco – every street, every block – that's not a surprise, right? :)
During the past two years I've made various attempts to up my activity level. I tried the Wii Fit for a while; fun, but not inspirational for daily activity. I got a pedometer and renewed my focus on my SF walking project; definitely a help, but not always compatible with working on a book and maintaining a happy home many hours a day.
Yesterday, I think I finally found the sweet spot: a treadmill desk.
I moved my Ikea office armoire to the other wall so the space in front of it wouldn't block our path to the back bathroom, switched the shelves around so that the extending desk surface could hold my monitor at face height when I'm standing, and put my treadmill in front of the desk. There are a couple tweaks needed – the typing surface needs to be an inch or two lower and the stereo speaker buzz needs to be resolved – but in the first part of my day today (less than two hours) I've already strolled at a comfortable speed of 0.7 miles an hour (while typing and reading) and logged over 2700 steps.
I can see that with this setup it will be very difficult not to reach a daily goal of at least 10,000 steps. Also my energy and alertness levels are both higher than when I'm sitting in a chair. Awesome!
Notes on my setup:
- LifeSpan Fitness TR200 Fold-N-Stor Compact Treadmill
- nice finished board
- two scarves to tie board on treadmill handles
- blanket under board for padding and as additional safety grip
- Ikea armoire with extendable shelf
- cheapish monitor
Time with Grandma Susie 2010
On her 94th birthday.
[She'd taken a bad fall soon before this and hit her head, resulting in some bleeding under the skin which left dramatic bruises down her face (even where she hadn't hit). Quite alarming to see, but not, apparently, painful except in the spot where she'd hit.]
dental work 2009
Something for San Franciscans to be proud of 2008
Really nice news in my email this morning: Healthy San Francisco is now providing health care to over half of the 60,000 uninsured residents the program is expected to reach. This is after just 15 months and it's wonderful to think about the impact this has not only on the city economy, but also on individuals' lives.
I'm proud to live in a city where the practicality of universal heath care is being demonstrated.
You can hear more about the program, and about hopes that other cites & counties around the country will take similar efforts in this short video from Mayor Gavin Newsom:
I just got a Wii Fit and I'm much too self-conscious about my physical coordination - or rather my lack of it - to film myself, but here's a great little video of someone playing Table Tilt that shows both how much fun it is and how you will clearly become more limber & balanced over time while you play.
I'm hoping I'll lose a bit of weight too, but that may not happen until my ankle is stronger. I've figured out that it isn't ready for the running or the strength/balance things that make me put all my weight on the left foot. No harm, but it was a bit achy after only a little of that, so I'm playing it safe for now and working up to relying too much on the left ankle.
Unexpected Time Off 2008
Tuesday night after dinner Joe and I were going to go over to Momi Toby's cafe and do an hour or so of work to make our Wednesdays go better. Since it's just round the corner I was carrying my laptop in my hands rather than in my backpack. On the bottom step I wasn't paying close attention to my feet and slipped, twisting my ankle to the side sharply. Fortunately, I had my precious lovely 12" PowerBook in my hands and so without thinking, instead of putting my hand out to catch myself and probably breaking my wrist or something, I landed hard on the sidewalk on my ass. Let's just say it's good that baby's got back; big bruise, but no lasting harm.
What was clearly not okay was my ankle. I lay still and had Joe bring me a big ice pack immediately so my foot could chill down while I assessed my condition without trying to stand. Clearly gonna be a bruise on my butt, yep. Scraped the right ankle a little falling, but doesn't feel like any internal problem, okay. But that left ankle, not good. Big twist and I think there was a kind of a noise. On the bright side, a very cautious exploratory wiggle of the big toe hurts like hell on the top of the foot but doesn't make me scream.
So into a cab, off to the ER and back home a couple hours later with a splint & crutches. Lay in bed or sat on the couch with my foot raised up on an ottoman all day yesterday. In the evening crutched my way verrrry carefully down the stairs for door to door delivery to & from Absinthe for a simply lovely anniversary celebration: their first cocktail pairing dinner.
This morning a follow-up appointment with the doctor to learn, yes, a break, but it's more of a chip really and at this point I'm not going to damage it further provided I keep it elevated & let it heal for week. No going to work. My company doesn't generally allow telecommuting (*sigh*) and if I can't go to work I'm certainly not making the planned weekend trip to Vegas, so I'm suddenly and surprisingly faced with the next 5 days completely free except for the physical constraints.
We'll see how I do at actually catching up on my reading and online projects, but prepare yourselves for more than the usual amount of blogging.
Sigh. That time again... 2007
Yes, it's the amazing breast-squashing mammogram machine.
Am I cranky tonight? You bet your fucking ass I'm cranky.
Detox/Recharge project 2007
step 1: reduce visual clutter
Gotta get the bedroom nice so I wake up to a non-stressful environment.
clutter reduction continued
Someday we'll get a coat rack instead of piling our hoodies on the library stair/chair, but it works for now.
step 2: stage things for next activities
step 3: optimize for relaxed housemate
windowseat primed with New York Times, Wired & New Yorker for Joe to recline with when he gets back from day 2 (of 3) of his class for work
step 4: get clean
I even shaved my legs, a hassle I confess to frequently putting off...
step 5: good dinner & scratch some things off the general shopping list
Step 6 not photographed: Sleep as long as I want, which turned out to be over 10 hours.