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September 2017

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[A Russian version of this text was published at https://bluedrag.dreamwidth.org/246592.html.]




Rainsford Island was the first reachable-only-by-private-boat island that we have explored, two summers ago, and this is my report which I wrote down back then but never published in English before.

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In my Peddocks Island report I started recounting my slow-moving project to explore all the islands in Boston Harbor. There is also another, even slower-moving project: to explore the Boston area and Massachusetts lighthouses. Ideally, this exploration should happen by sailboat, but in real life, we reached some of them by bike or on foot.

It seems like my plan for this year is to review one lighthouse a month, and the lighthouse for the month of June happens to be Brant Point Light on Nantucket.

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[A Russian version of this text was published at https://bluedrag.dreamwidth.org/204240.html.]



Well, not quite a manifesto. Not really a manifesto. But still.

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For a few years after I learned how to sail, I regarded sailing as a process to enjoy. When I went sailing, I, well, raised my sails and went sailing. That was the entire point now, wasn’t it?

And then I had an epiphany: sailing is not just fun, it’s a mode of transportation! You can go places on a boat! In particular, you can go places inaccessible without a boat.

Thus, a project was born: to visit and explore every single island in Boston Harbor.

And so, on a Sunday couple of weeks ago we (the crew: Sergey and Lena) pointed our boat towards Peddocks Island. Peddocks Island is, in fact, reachable by a ferry; also, I’ve been here before (most recently, with my friends Sasha and Anthony); but it’s an interesting island, and a fresh east breeze was on our starboard bow, so on we went: past the Spectacle Island dock; under the demolished bridge to Long Island—funny thing, that bridge, they blew it up a couple years ago, but it was etched so deep in our consciousness that no amount of industrial explosives could change the fact that the bridge still exists, and we sail under it;—then between the mostly underwater rocks of Sunken Ledge and Hangman Island; and finally turning into the wind towards Peddocks.

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[This is an English version of the Russian text published in January 2016.]



Looking back at my blog posts, I see that I never really wrote about sailing in the specific context of slow life. What a glaring omission! After all, sailing is a very important activity for me, the only pastime I managed to acquire as an adult.

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When people ask me what to bring for a day sail, that’s my response.

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Sailing Books

Aug. 2nd, 2016 07:24 am
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I am asked from time to time to recommend a sailing book, so here is a short list of books on my shelf (to be expanded later). I am not including specialized topics (such as celestial navigation), history books and travelogues (with one important exception below).

Know other good books? Post them in the comments!

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I keep being asked how I bake bread. I am sort of proud of my method—I tweaked it over the years to require as little work as possible and to fit my schedule—and I just realized that I never wrote it down in English. So here goes.

Important note: I only bake bread with whole wheat flour. Generally speaking, “white” flour is easier to work with and rises better, so my recipe should work with it as well (just use less yeast), but I have not really tested it.

This is a pretty minimal recipe. We will only need the following:

Whole wheat flour, 6 cups
Salt, ⅔ to 1 table spoon
Yeast, ½ tea spoon (plus or minus)
Water

This produces two standard-size loafs of breads (in 9×5″ baking pans) or one large, even tastier loaf. When needed, it is straightforward to half or double this recipe.

The algorithm goes like this.

In a very large bowl mix the dry ingredients (everything but water). Then slowly add water (preferably, cold water in the summer and warm water in the winter, but not hot water!) until the flour is wet. Mix well with a large wooden spoon. Cover and leave it to rise for 12-24 hours, the longer the better. If at any point during the rising you decide to postpone the baking, just put the bowl in the fridge. You can keep it there for suite some time (up to two weeks!). Generally speaking, the longer the dough rises, the tastier the bread is.

After 12-24 hours, get the dough out of the bowl and fold it a few times onto itself to agitate it a little bit. If baking two loaves, split in half and put into the pans. I find it necessary to grease or oil my pans beforehand (I use a thin layer of a vegetable oil, usually canola oil).

If there is time, cover the dough and let it rise again (maybe for an hour or an hour and a half). If you have no time for this, just skip directly to baking.

Put the pans in the cold oven and set it to 450°F. Bake for 1½ hours, until done. (The baked bread should have hard crust, make a hollow sound when you tap it and the internal temperature of 195°F or over).

The last step (important). When done, get the bread out of the oven and out of the pans and leave it to cool exposed to air from all sides (for example, on a turned-off burner of a gas stove). You can only start eating bread after it has fully cooled down.

This method has a few major differences with the traditional bread recipes: I don't knead the dough; I put very little yeast and leave it rise for a very long time; I don't preheat the oven. (The lack of preheating, by the way, allows to put the dough in the pans in the oven overnight, to program the oven to turn on one hour before the wake-up time and to wake up to the delicious smell of bread being bake. That was my last breakthrough when I realized that my oven can be programmed).

So, how much work is required here? Three minutes to measure the ingredients and to make the dough, one minute to put it into the pans, and one more minute to take it out of the oven and set to cool down. Five minutes for two loaves! Not too shabby, I say.

Even more importantly, the method works great on workdays when I have to leave in the morning and come back in the evening. For example, it is possible to make the dough in the evening after work, and either bake next evening, or leave it overnight, so it gets baked in the morning.

The outcome? Minimalistic wheat bread, well liked by many people including my kids (and that's saying a lot!).

It is possible to build up on the recipe by adding more ingredients while following the basic method. I personally always try to add at least ½ cup of whole rye flour and/or 2 table spoons of caraway seeds. But this deserves a separate post.

Enjoy, and bon appétit! Baking your own bread is good for the body and for the soul.
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Packing list for the "credit card touring" (no camping, no cooking).

Bike gear
* spare inner tubes
* tire levers
* patch kit
* multitool
* lights: front (helmet mounted, doubles as a flashlight) and rear
* emergency repair: electrician tape, zip ties
* bungee cords, the more the better
* bike lock
* hand pump (on the bike)
* chain oil

* plastic plate/bowl, cup, spoon/fork
* knife
* corkscrew

Personal/hygiene
* toothbrush
* toothpaste
* floss
* soap
* toilet paper

Medical
* antibiotic ointment
* bandaids
* gauze pads
* stomach remedies
* ginger cookies
* insect repellent

Documents
* if traveling internationally:
- passport
- for children: birth certificate; other parent consent letter (notarized?)
* driver's license
* medical insurance
* credit and debit card
* cash + coins

Electronics
* camera
* cellphone
* chargers

Food
* water bottles: at least 2 (on the bike)
* energy bars: many
* food for the first 1-2 days: sandwiches, fruits
* tea

Clothing
* shorts: 2
* t-shirts/jerseys
* underwear: a few
* socks: 1 pair, wool
* sweater
* bike gloves
* rain coat
* pants?
* rain gloves?
* rain pants?
* sun hat
* bandana

Beach
* towel (!!!)
* swim suit
* sunglasses
* sunscreen

Misc
* maps; route notes; addresses/phone numbers of potential overnights
* list of bike shops along the way
* pen and paper
* compass?


Pre-departure checklist
* tires pumped
* chain oiled
* water bottles mounted
* pump mounted
* reset odometer
This list has started as a packing list for a week-long summer vacation in Buzzards Buy, so it is somewhat more involved than needed for a quick overnight, but it's a good starting point. Things it doesn't cover, but the actual packing list should: food; drinks; clothing; entertainment (books/games/toys/music); first aid kit/medicine. For trips with potentially more demanding sailing one should also start thinking about some safety equipment, starting with a personal life vest.
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A few people liked my essay on bike touring, so I translated it to English.
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In The Line

Jan. 13th, 2015 08:53 pm
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A short story by my wife.

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The time is November-December of 1991, I am 18 years old, the historical context is the collapse of the Soviet Union. A lot of friends and relatives have left for United States and Israel, and I feel it keenly. Still my mood is pretty upbeat and happy. Who is not happy at eighteen?

It is quite hard on my parents though. The supermarkets are empty. One needs to stand in a long line to get anything. Once we spend the entire Sunday standing in line to get sunflower oil.

But for us, students, it is all is quite funny. Except sometime it is not.

The supermarket (Gastronom) on Preobrazhenka is located right next to the subway station. I guess there is a liquor store right next to it because I remember the constant swarms of drunks in the area. The sickening booze breath smell stays there constantly. Upon entering the store the disgusting slush under the feet (a mix of snow, salt and sand) makes one walk very cautiously. There is a feeling of total hopelessness.

One day I am coming home from the university and notice a huge crowd storming the Gastronom. The store is selling cheese! I get in. The crowd looks like a picture from a horror movie ­— not just the density but the facial expressions are… it is hard to explain… they do not look like normal people. Not a single one of them. It is suffocating. I think to myself, “If I won't find a single normal face in this crowd I am leaving this country”. Suddenly I notice one human-like face somewhere in the corner. A feeling of relief washes over me. Then I realize that I see my own reflection in a store's dark window.


Picture: Vasiliy Kolotev, The Line
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Forgot to post here.

There was the news in September that NASA had run out of plutonium to power its probes. No more deep space missions, kids. (The Russians have promised to sell some, but they either lost it, or spent themselves, or just are in a wrong mood.)

This is exactly what I predicted in the children's tale I wrote four years ago. Here is a rough English translation.

* * *


THE SPACE DREAM


In the largest city, in the very center of the Earth, there lived a little boy. He was little, very little, and the buildings around him were high, very high, and he was always scared to get lost.

Time has passed, he grew up and went to school. The school was at the other end of the city. To get there, the little boy had to take subway and then three different ground trolley lines.

The little boy was a good student: it turned out that he was very smart. The winter nights were long and cold, and while walking home from the subway station, he would always look up into the black, black sky. Millions of far, far stars shone there brightly. The little boy had a dream to become a spaceship pilot and to fly to the distant stars and planets.

At school, the little boy met a little girl. She also liked to look at the night sky, and so they quickly became friends.

“You know what,” the little boy told her one day, “I had enough of our school. I am bored. I have learned everything there was to learn. I want to work as a spaceship pilot.”

“Look at you, you are just a little boy,” said the girl. “They won't accept you.”

“Maybe you are right and they won't accept me as a pilot,” said the boy. “But this is not the end of the world. There are many other ways to work for the space.”

The girl could not argue with that. She put on her most beautiful dress, and they went to the Department of Space together, holding their hands.

“Good morning,” said the boy. “I was dreaming about the space all my life. I want to get the job of a spaceship pilot.”

The people at the Department looked at him carefully.

“You know what, little boy,” they told him, “you are too little. You don't even have a license. We can't make you a pilot. But still, we are so glad to have you here. We have a lot of work, and we really need the help of the people who were dreaming about space all their life. Do you accept?”

Of course, the little boy accepted right away. The children were immediately put on a large plane with shining wings and sent to the new job: to mine uranium, which was used to fuel spaceships.

The little boy never flew in a plane before, and he was very curious. He spent the entire trip looking at the window. The girl meanwhile was daydreaming. She imagined how they would buy a nice house. She would sit by the fireplace, look at the fire, and wait for the little boy to come home from work. The girl liked very much to look at the fire.

The plane was flying for many hours, and then landed in the middle of nowhere. A bus came and took the children to the uranium mine. The little boy worked as hard as he could. Soon, he got paid, and they bought a little house not far from the mine. In front of the house there was a garden. Beautiful flowers grew there. Unfortunately the house was very little. It didn't even have a fireplace. Every day the girl sat home, waited for the boy to come from work, and felt very lonely. Soon she also went to work at the mine, helping the space.

Many people worked at the mine. There were other children, there were adults, there were even a few world-famous scientists. They also were dreaming about the space all their lives, and realized that it was more important to mine uranium than to look in their telescopes and publish smart papers in scientific journals.

The little boy enjoyed his work. It was interesting but not hard. He just had to stand in the mine and to put the uranium into the rail car with the shovel. The little boy knew that his girl was standing in the next tunnel and was likewise working with a shovel, and it made him happy. The little boy's legs started to get numb after the long days spent standing in the mine. The little boy bought himself a unicycle to exercise his legs, and rode it on the weekends. Sometimes he even juggled apples while riding his unicycle. The girl looked at him and clapped her hands.

At night, they looked up into the black, black sky. Millions of far, far stars shone there brightly, and spaceships flew there to the other planets. The uranium, mined by the boy and the girl, burned brightly in their engines.

One day, a manager from the city came to the mine. He was dressed nicely in a white shirt, black suit and a tie, and he looked very worried.

“All other mines have run out of uranium,” said he. “There is no fuel for the spaceships.”

The workers looked down into the mine, and they saw that there was very little uranium left. The mine bottom was barely covered. The manager sighed sadly, didn't say a word, turned around and left. Nobody saw him again. He must have gone back to the city.

The workers dug all the remaining uranium and piled it next to the mine. Nobody came to collect it. The little boy understood then that he would never be a pilot anymore. Never will he fly to the other planets and to the distant stars. He got a can of gasoline, poured it over their little house and set it on fire. The house burned brightly, until it finally burned down to ashes. The girl was looking at the fire and clapping her hands.

There was no more work left at the mine, and it got closed. The little boy has found a job with a traveling circus. He rides around the arena in his unicycle and juggles apples. The girl always sits at the first row and claps her hands.

And every night they hold their hands and look up into the black, black sky. Millions of far, far stars shine there brightly. But they can't see any spaceships anymore.
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I was rereading that book, and again got carried away by it, so I decided to translate my old review to English. Here goes.


Sailing people who live in houses often envy those who live on boats. But those who dwell afloat all year around miss one great thing: the annual pleasure of throwing off a land-based existence in exchange (however briefly) for a seagoing life that will rock them with different demands and buoy them with different delights.

Anthony Bailey, The Coast of Summer


Anthony Bailey is a British writer/journalist who worked for The New Yorker for many years. At that time he lived in a village (town?) of Stonington, CT and sailed a lot with his wife and kids. Later, he returned back to Britain, but since then he returns every summer (sometimes alone, sometimes with his wife Margot) to spend the summer sailing in his sailboat.

Anthony Bailey wrote a wonderful book how he spent his summer. Remarkably, it has no storyline, and nothing really happens there.

Here, he lands at Logan, catches a bus to Connecticut, makes small repairs on the boat, buys some provisions and takes off. His life immediately acquires a simple and unsophisticated pace: during daytime he sails to the next island-peninsula-mainland, drops the anchor in the next harbor, maybe goes ashore, walks around, swims, get back to the boat, sleep aboard. A day or two passes. Time to take off and move on.

Bailey’s prose flows lazily and unhurriedly, like a hot summer day. New day passage, new harbor. Nothing happens.

Towards the end of the book though, something finally happens: they are caught by a real hurricane in the town of New Bedford. Luckily, the Baileys are ashore. They anchor the boat as carefully as possible (three anchors), stow the sails below, and wait the hurricane through with friends at their place. “The radio rounds up the coastal devastation: beaches, houses, ships, yachts, trees, powerlines. The National Guard is patrolling to prevent looting. Somewhere sandwiched in all this is the real news of the day, at least for the rest of the world: A coup in the Soviet Union—Gorbachev has been deposed.” That’s our only hint as to when the story is taking place.

But that episode is quite unusual, one of two three things happening to the author, maybe the only mention of the outside world. The hurricane is over, and as soon as power is restored and the drawbridge, separating him from the ocean, is open, he takes off and keeps sailing.

The slow, measured rhythm of the book bewitches the reader. Life becomes wide open as the ocean, and at the same time narrows down to the minute details. What’s the current right now, how to trim the sails, which anchor to use. All harbors are beautiful, and each one is beautiful in its own special way. Each one has a history, the history immediately told to us, and as often as not it has to do with the author’s previous visits here.

This is the book about a quiet happiness of the sailor. About his total freedom, and total dependence on the wind and the current. The freedom to choose every morning where you will spend the next night, and the freedom to change your mind at any point.

At the very end of the book the author is peering into the window of a plane taking off from Boston, and making sailing plans for the next summer. It’s impossible for the reader not to follow him.

Some time ago, I started to look for a challah recipe that would be healthy (100% whole wheat if possible) and simple to make. Still haven’t found it, but on the way I am slowly learning how to make bread in general, and whole wheat bread in particular. (It is both harder and less well described in the literature comparing to the “white” bread.)

The main problem with making bread by hand is how long it takes. Even though the most of the time the dough is just seating there and rising all by itself, it is still very hard to fit into one’s schedule.

Because of this, I am even more impressed by this recipe, for 100% whole wheat bread, which doesn’t even require kneading, and uses only one short rising. (By way of comparison, most recipes in the excellent book The Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book: A Guide to Whole-Grain Breadmaking use three risings!)

This recipe is originally taken from a rather old book Beard on Bread by James Beard (long out of print, but available at your local library), and described in great details here. Here is just a quick summary:

Ingredients:
3¾ cups whole wheat flour
1 tbsp salt
4 tsp of active dry yeast
2 cups warm water
2 tbsp molasses

The recipe, as given, is designed for one 9×5″ loaf pan. I usually split it to two 8×4″ pans, or multiply by 2-2.5 to get three 8×4” pans. I sometimes sprinkle the pans with sesame seeds for a little bit extra flavor.

Algorithm: Combine flour, salt and yeast in a bowl. Separately, mix water and molasses. Pour to the flour bowl, mix well. Put to pan(s), cover, let rise for 1½ hours. Preheat oven to 450°F, bake 40-50 minutes “until ready” (brown crust, hollow sound, 205°F internal temperature). Take out of the oven and of the pans, and let cool before slicing.

Result: Not a great bread (no surprises here, the recipe is just too simple), but quite good, and, to my surprise, well liked by other people. I’ve already baked quite a few loaves, and will continue to bake them until I master more involved recipes.

Well, the fast experiment seems to be over. It took me 4 or 5 days to regain a desire to eat after I broke the fast, and then for a few days I walked hungry all the time, and probably was overeating. Will have to be more careful next time.

I am very, very satisfied that I did it, even though my wife seemed to be downright scared sometimes. It has probably been the most profound experience of my life. I think I understand now why people fast for religious reasons, though I am not going to bother to put it in words.

My decision to continue working through the fast was a misguided one. Both because I was not very efficient, and because fasting seems to be a perfect time to meditate, and to think about other, more important things. Big things, like life, the universe and everything, and small things, like weather, and grass, and air. Next time I will take

The very fact of being able to live without food, and not suffering from it, was a revelation for me. One day a few years ago, I bought the famous Bragg book, “The miracle of fasting”, where he advocates fasting for one day weekly, and decide to follow this approach. The very first day was rather bad; I came home in the evening feeling horribly, broke the fast prematurely, ate a lot, and fell down feeling even worse. Then I came to a conclusion that fasting is for supermen, and my genetic makeup requires me to eat regularly.

Well, this turned out to be simply wrong. Food is just an addiction for the vast majority of modern people. Once you break the addiction, you are free to deal with food on your own terms: fell to choose when to eat and when not to eat when you want, not when your body tells you to. In a sense, fasting is an ultimate spiritual experience: the triumph of the spirit over the body. My own fasting has definitely made me more aware of the power of both my spirit and my body.

On a more mundane level, one interesting result of the fast is that my taste has changed: I guess it became much sharper. I just can’t eat salted, spiced or sugared food anymore. Real, natural food seems good enough these days. I can’t even tolerate much garlic, which is a pity, because it is said to be good for the health, and I used to like it a lot.

Another result was a total loss if interest in tea. I’ve been addicted before, and though I stopped to drink it completely at some point, I reverted back later. Now I just have no interest in any kind of tea, and am quite satisfied with water.

So, the experiment was a success, and I am looking forward for more experiments!
Just for the record keeping, here is graph of my weight for the last month. I was fasting from May 24 till June 1. At the lowest point, my weight was at 130 lb; currently it seems to have stabilized around 135.
Strictly speaking, the experiment is over — I am eating for the forth day now — but it is not really over. I am still trying to adjust to the life with food, and it will definitely take quite some time. For the first two days I was only drinking freshly squeezed tomato juice (just as I planned), and didn’t feel any hunger or desire for it. I’ve probably drunk 3 tomatoes on the first day, and four on the second, and even that was too much. On the third day I decided to switch to more solid food and ate some watermelon, and today I ate more fresh fruits and vegetables, but still very little overall (maybe 300-400 calories if not less). Still no hunger, though the mouth sometimes wants to explore different foods.

The day I broke the fast was the worst throughout the experiment. Very low energy, felt quite lethargic. It is getting better, though. I was loosing weight up until yesterday, but today it went up a little (from 130 to 132 lb). It can probably be explained by the contents of my stomach (I had no bowel movements yet). Oh, and my fingernails started growing again!

I need more time both to return back to the normal eating pattern, and to think over the experiment. There is no doubt in my mind it was a great thing to do, though. I’ll write more later.
Weight: 133 lb * Body Fat: 15.7% * Cycled: 16 km * Ran: 1 km

Yesterday’s energy surge has hardly left any traces. I cycled the kids to the school today on my tandem bike, and got back exhausted. However, my body fat suddenly went down a notch (from 14mm to 12mm pinched skin). It’s a rather important notch, since (according to their chart) it moves me from the “normal” to the “ideal” category. We’ll see if it holds.

Today is the last day of my fast, and it makes me a little sad. It’s obvious that I could have achieved more by fasting more, but I think what I’ve done is quite good for the first time.

Just to complete the record: almost all cracks on fingers disappeared, the pain in the liver (?) area continues intermittently, and I got another bowels movement today.

I feel no hunger at all these days, so tomorrow’s return to food will be a completely conscious decision. Breaking fast is an important and delicate process, since it is so easy to do harm by overfeeding oneself.

I decided to break the fast with juices, just as I entered it. Tomorrow I will be drinking fresh tomato juice, half diluted with water. I am going to start with very small portions (a quarter of a cup every hour) and see how it goes. If it goes well, sometime during the day after tomorrow I’ll switch to undiluted juices, and in two days will probably sample some more solid food.
Weight: 134 lb * Body Fat: 17.5% * Cycled: 40 km

Today started like the other days. Throughout the day I had intermittent dull pain in the stomach, both the right top part (where, indeed, the liver and the gallbladder are located) and the left top part (what is located there?).

In the middle of the day, something rather unexpected happened: I felt a sudden burst of energy. I was feeling like my normal self: I could go down the hall fast, and really concentrate on what other people are saying. Then it went down somewhat, but I still biked home quite faster than before, and got less tired. Very curious to see what happens tomorrow.

And finally, I had some bowel movements tonight, after not eating fro 8 days! Something interesting is going on inside my body…
Weight: 134 lb * Body Fat: 17.5% * Cycled: 33 km * Ran: 1 km

It’s interesting how uneventful my fasting is. I cycled to work again, and in took a big part of my energy again. Sat at work, was slow but (I hope) adequate. In general, I think that it was a big mistake to work while fasting. The work suffers, and it distracts your mind and body from properly concentrating on the body cleansing. Next time I do a long fast I’ll definitely take a vacation.

After work I cycled back, again at a a pathetically slow pace, and then later on ran a little bit with my wife. I noticed that I completely lost the ability to force my body to do something it doesn’t want to, but other people can help. I can’t run alone these days.

All my symptoms are broadly the same as the last few days. The skin on the fingers is slightly better, I think. The cracks on the heel are worse. I decided not to treat them (or anything else, for that matter) until after the fast. Interestingly, I just noticed that my nails stopped growing! Very convenient.

No signals from the colon, so I guess the enema might have helped.
Weight: 136 lb * Body Fat: 17.5% * Cycled: 37 km

I went to work after the long weekend. Cycling to work was nice, but quite slow. Work was acceptable. Cycling back was very, very slow. Still nice, though. I had a few mild ache-like feelings in the stomach, particularly in the top right part. What’s there? Liver? Gallbladder?

I also had a prolonged discomfort in the colon, though no bowel movements, so after some thought I gave myself an enema in the evening.

Overall, these days are not much different. I feel quite good in the morning, but get weaker and weaker during the day, especially when I can’t nap during the day. I just measured my heart rate, got about 60 beats per minute. Much lower than I usually have.
Weight: 137 lb * Body Fat: 17.5% * Walked: 10 km * Cycled: 9 km : Ran: 1 km

The fifth day without food! Unbelievable. Only a few months ago I was feeling rather bad after skipping a meal, and a thought about fasting for a few days would have been inconceivable. Actually, it is quite amazing how body is able to function with no external energy sources. I cannot say I feel great, but I definitely feel acceptable, and feel no hunger.

Today was rather similar to yesterday. I tried to run in the morning (without children) and could not make myself to, so I just walked. I thought that I was walking slightly faster than yesterday, but I still was quite tired at the end. The skin on fingers and the tongue coating are also slightly better.

I noticed these days that I get rather dizzy when rising abruptly. I’ve read about this effect in the literature; it is caused by lowered blood pressure when fasting.

Update: In the evening, I ran a little bit with my wife. I would’ve never even started without her! I also got some unexepected bowel movements
Weight: 138 lb * Boy Fat: 17.5% * Walked: 10 km

Not much to report today. Everything is more or less the same as yesterday. In the morning, I decided to take a walk instead of running, and it took me maybe 3 hours to cover 10 km. Pathetic, but I just can’t move fast.
Weight:142 lb. * Body Fat: 17.5% * Ran: 5 km * Cycled: 21 km

Today is, to my surprise, somewhat better than yesterday. In the morning, I ran again with my son, and it was pretty tough. I would’ve stopped, if not for him. Shows that children are useful sometimes! After the run I decided to skip exercises altogether and instead mowed my yard with my new cool manually-propelled mower.

I still feel weak, slow and somewhat dizzy. I guess, my overall better feeling may be explained by not going to work, and by drinking more water (I came to a conclusion that I might have had a mild dehydration yesterday). Being able to rest when you need definitely helps a lot, and I did a few times today. I sleep a lot these days 2-3-4 hours a day more than usual. I have essentially no hunger feeling today, though I must say that it does annoy me when people eat in my presence.

After three days of mil stomach discomfort, I broke down and gave myself a warm water enema. Seems to have helped.

Looking for the symptoms: the tongue is coated, but (again, to my surprise) less so than yesterday. I also notices I got cracked skin on my fingers. Hopefully, it’s a sign of toxin elimination!

My weight didn’t move much comparing to yesterday, which proves that watching daily weight is useless (we still need to record it to build the average graph, though). My body fat percent swung back to 17.5% (and I sincerely hope it stays there!).

Tomorrow I will be entering uncharted waters for me — I have never fasted beyond 3 days. I am quite excited to see what it looks like!
Weight: 142 lb. * Body Fat 19.2% * Ran: 3.7 km * Cycled: 3 km

Practically no hunger today, but I feel rather weak. Ran 3.7 km this morning with my son, and got pretty tired. Then went through a few exercises from my strength training routine. Was rather slow going, but not too terrible, until at some point I got dizzy. I find it hard to concentrate, to speak loudly and to move fast. It is, again, worse than day #2 from my 3-day fast (as far as I can remember).

My tongue is white-coated, but not too bad. No other visible symptoms, as far as I can see. Except that I can’t type properly — every word gets misspelled or with letters in wrong order — I wonder if my coordination got worse.

About statistics: I am three pounds lighter than yesterday, but of course it can’t be all fat. Probably water. To measure my fat percentage I use special calipers (which I described here). They are graduated in 2 mm increments, and I currently fluctuate between 14 and 16 mm (of the skin pinched in a certain location), which, according to their chart, corresponds to 17.5% and 19.2%. So even though I went from 17.5% to 19.2% in a day doesn’t mean that I suddenly got a lot of extra fat. It’s just within the measurement error. (If you are really interested in my body fat percentage dynamics, you can see a live chart here.)
Weight: 145 lb. * Body Fat: 17.5% (barely) * Ran: 6 km * Cycled: 39 km

So, here it is, the first day. When you start a journey for a first time, it often looks so big, so daunting. And the way you handle it, of course, is just to move forward, step after step.

I had similar thoughts this morning, when I ran a 6 km loop, my record for this season (and for many, many years). When I started, I couldn’t believe I would be able to make it. So I just kept going, and eventually get used to the pace, and finished with relative ease.

Since the morning, things went a little bit downhill though. Today was worse than my typical one-day fast. I felt some hunger couple of times — not much, but more than I expected — but worse than that was a constant feeling of low energy. I am not sure how to accurately describe in words. Dispirited and light-headed, maybe?

Well, let’s just keep going. Let’s see what tomorrow brings us. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to do any cycling tomorrow — have to drive to work — but probably I can run in the morning, if I have enough time.
So, this is it. I drank a last cup of freshly squeezed juice, and I am done with eating for more than a week.

I’ve spent the last two days according to the plan. Yesterday I ate only fresh fruits and vegetables (and managed to overeat, to my surprise); today I only drank juices.I like the juice fast days the most: really delicious.

The goal of this preparation is to make sure that the colon is more or less empty when one enters the fast. In certain circles, it is considered obligatory to take laxatives before the fast, and to administer enema during the fast. I flatly refuse to the former, an will do the latter only if really necessary. Luckily for me, a day or two of juice fasting seems to take care of the colon in a pleasant and natural way.

Well, I am really looking forward to tomorrow. Better to have more patience, though. I know from experience and from the literature that the good things only start after three-four days.
I mentioned many times that I wanted to do a longer fast (so far, the longest I did was a three day fast), probably about a week long. Yesterday, I suddenly realized that I keep postponing it because “the conditions are not right”. That is either I “need” to eat for some reason, or I “need” the energy for some reason.

Well, you know what, my dear brother Simpleton? The conditions are never right. The conditions don’t choose when you do something: you choose. And my new simpleton philosophy is very, well, simple: the future doesn’t exist. The past doesn’t exist. There is only now. Either you do something now, or you never do it. Every second of your life, that’s your choice.

It’s nice to have a simple philosophy. You just follow it. So I immediately decided to start fasting next week. I call it “the Fast Experiment”, because I have never done it before, and I truly have no idea how my body will behave. I am going to blog every day to report my progress here.

The timing is somewhat complicated, because I am still going to go to work, and some things are just much easier done at home (for example, when you need to drink fresh juices throughout the day). I am going to be home next Wednesday, though, so here is the rough plan:

Tuesday, day -2: only fresh fruits and vegetables and juices, unlimited
Wednesday, day -1: only fresh fruit and vegetable juices, unlimited
Thursday, day 1: first day of the fast

Friday, next week, day 9: last day of the fast
Saturday/Sunday: breaking fast with juices
Monday — ?: continue to break fast, solid food

From my admittedly very modest experience I have learned that it is very important to correctly enter and break the fast. I am going to try doing it with juices this time. I would’ve wanted to have much more time to do it slowly — a few days of juice fast both before and after the real fast, maybe — but well, I have as much time as I have.

Since I expect the fasting be sometimes challenging, I am going to define the rules beforehand. The first rule is, of course, that I am not going to eat anything at all, and only going to drink plain water. I am going to continue to lead an active life: to work, to bike and to jog. I might scale down or even stop my weight training depending on how I feel. I am not going to break the fast prematurely, unless I am in serious prolonged pain that prevents me to functioning normally. And I am not going to fast beyond the ninth day, unless I am feeling especially well, or there is some specific process in my body which I’d want to let finish naturally. I think both cases are unlikely, but who knows?

So, the plan is here. Please stay tuned to the reports of the Fast Experiment.

Update: You can see all the Fast Experiment reports under the fast-experiment tag.
Another full month has passed, so it’s time to summarize my progress. This is a graph for the month.

20070518-30.png

Overall, my weight loss has visibly slowed down. Maybe, it’s more “visibly” than actually — after all, the red averaged line went down 8 pounds in a month — but it did feel a little bit frustrating sometimes. Though now, looking at the number, I am quite satisfied. 2 pounds a week looks like a healthy rate.

Why did it slow down? Many people report that the closer is their weight to the “ideal” — whatever it is — the harder it is to loose it. I don’t quite understand why it could be the case, but I don’t have any reason not to trust them.

Actually, one explanation could be that as they progress with their diet, their metabolism slows down, so they spend less energy. And the metabolism slowdown may be explained both by the body adjusting to not having enough calories, and by the decreased weight (the less you weigh, the less energy you need to carry yourself around).

Another explanation to me personal slowdown is that I became less strict in counting calories. I still do it, and I still aim to 1600 calories per day, but I am generally less pedantic and pay less attention to it.

I did a couple of one-day fasts and a couple of juice fasts this month, and I find them quite helpful, both psychologically and physiologically. I think that that’s how I am going to use them going forward: to compensate for the bad eating behavior, or just when the body feels it needs some rest.

To put things into perspective, here is my weight for the entire time (four months since January 18):

20070518-all.png

Now, the question is, when do I stop? I honestly don’t know. I still feel fatter then I want to be, so I guess I am going to continue shrinking myself until I am satisfied with the results.

At work, many people finally started noticing that I am getting thinner — that’s after 50 pounds, heh — and many people tell me these days that I should stop loosing weight and work out more, to convert the existing fat to muscles. Of course, it is physically impossible. Fat and muscles are two different types of tissues, and they just don’t convert to each other. Sadly, it’s also physically impossible to grow muscles while loosing fat, and that’s why: to loose fat, one needs to eat less calories than he spends. To gain weight (the muscle mass, in this case), one needs to eat more calories than he spends. There is just no way to have it both ways at the same time.

So let me finish the loosing weight business, and then we’ll talk about the body building.
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As I have written already, in January I was diagnosed with a mysterious disease called "fatty liver". It is mysterious because its causes are not known, and there is no treatment.

There are no medical or surgical treatments for fatty liver
American Liver Foundation


Well, guess what. Today I finally received the new ultrasound resuts, and there is no fatty liver whatsoever. Gone. Disappeared.

JanuaryMay
Abdominal ultrasoundDiffuse increased echnogenicity throughout the liver, consistent with fatty infiltration. More severe forms of liver disease [...] cannot be excluded.The liver has normal size and appearence without any evidence of fatty infiltration.


This adds to my list of ills and diseases just evaporated with extra pounds. I am going to write about this separately, but important point is this: if you ever get (non-alcoholic) fatty liver, know that it can be reversed with proper diet / weight loss.

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