Coupon – 70% off Enzo Labs services

June 25th, 2015

If, like me, you’re uninsured, your physician should already have one of these coupons for you. If NOT, download it, print it up DOUBLE-SIDED and in COLOR, and then send it in with your bill and reduced payment. FYI, this is not an official distribution of the coupon, and I’d probably get in trouble for posting it online (or at least told to take it down), so follow instructions. I’m posting it because the last time I needed to get my annual just-to-be-safe slew of STD tests, my midwife didn’t have the coupon, and it was a royal pain in the neck to get the bill reduced.
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Chakras and Architectural Space

October 27th, 2014
Jung believed that when a person dreams about their home, it’s a direct metaphor for the psyche.[1]

In our waking lives, the home as a reflection of self hardly requires of a jump. Regardless of whether you prefer the terms of Architectural Psychology or Feng Shui, it’s plain across rhetoric and culture that our structures are as much a canvas for expression as they are determinants of our mood, health, and relationships.

I started thinking about the architectural significance of the chakras while living in a house with a dozen other adults. My partner at the time and I had bought the 4-story, 4-unit home with the idea of architecting something more inclusive, supportive and dynamic than the traditional nuclear family. As we worked to create a sense of community in the evolving patchwork of private spaces, public spaces and roommates, I poured over blueprints of schools, hotels and ashrams — while trying to figure out why it just wasn’t working.

Living with anyone can be difficult. I once heard a comedian say that there are two choices: loneliness, or irritation. Most of us in the western industrial world first experience non-familial cohabitation when we are but adolescent maggots blindly feeling our way through relationships, careers and life, and simply too broke NOT to have roommates. Armed with little in our conflict-resolution toolbox, we hobble our way through differences, or throw up our hands to resignedly despise our roommates. So we work hard, earn more money, and eventually move into a half-decent studio or one-bedroom, to more properly begin our next quest: settling down with a romantic partner, maybe to have children, but especially so as not to die alone. And once we do, whether it’s married or living in sin, we receive a shocking reminder: living with anyone can be difficult.

Now, obviously it’s not all bad, or we wouldn’t bother at all. Coming home to a gaggle of roommates watching a movie, or a lover who’s cooked you a meal, or your little one rushing at you with open arms, can be heaven. And it’s hell to clean their hair out of the shower drain, discover someone has eaten all your organic imported chocolate, or be kept up by your neighbors having loud sex the night before your presentation. Depending on the nature of the relationship, some activities are more easily shared than others, some transgressions tolerated more than others.

According to the Vedas, there are 7 types of relationships corresponding to the chakras. Or perhaps better put, our relationships are ruled by certain chakras, some more than others. If our social realities are also ruled by the daily structures we physically inhabit, what is the relationship between architectural space and the chakras? How can our homes be designed to create a socially harmonious flow of energy exchange that bonds and comforts, without crowding or irritating?


Click to enlarge

The sketch above is a brief summation of the chakras and areas of a typical western home with which I thought they corresponded. I’d be interested to see a cross-cultural chakric breakdown of dwellings, but for now, I can only write from my experience living in the US and Europe.

The progression from the first to last chakra suggests a continuum from highly private, intimate and subjective, to shared, public, and objective. The highest chakras connect us to a great number of beings. The lowest connect us with fewer, in our most intimate relationships. Changing diapers or having sex are things we share with a special few. We’re likely to share a meal more casually – though probably not with just anyone. Books and lectures connect us with a great many, across time and geography. Our spiritual pursuits connect us with everything. Relationships ruled by the lowest chakras require a higher level of trust and shared values than those ruled by the higher chakras.

When I talk to people about communal living, one of the first things they blurt out is that they would need their own bathroom, and sometimes, but less often, kitchen. I noticed while living in a house teaming with other adults, how annoying it could be to share these amenities with others that aren’t intimate familiars or who didn’t share the same values (like cleanliness). Anyone with a toddler knows how messy that first chakra can be, and a private toilet for parents and child is more likely to be comfortable for a budding family and everyone else. Sharing a kitchen is something I usually enjoyed, whether it was making coffee in the morning or breaking bread in the evening — provided it was happening with people that followed a similar diet to myself. By the same token, I noticed that I almost never got to know people with whom I did NOT share a bathroom or kitchen, and it was an odd kind of estrangement, despite being a mere staircase away. There was a common area on the top floor, but it instigated only superficial contact when we threw parties. There were occasional conflicts in how it would be used and maintained — people wanted to cordon off studio space for their disparate crafts, and once after performing a major impromptu childproofing sweep, I unwittingly earned the ire of a childless roommate that didn’t like the new furniture arrangement.

My conclusion was and is that in domestic relationships, shared resources and shared values are critical to constructive, harmonious, long-term social bonding. If the group shares a common pursuit, be it parenting, painting or pilates, they are more likely to find parity in their preferences for the arrangement of space and allocation of resources. It’s a surprisingly far cry from the kind of Marxist theories that were partially responsible for my initial pursuit of a community-oriented living situation. According to Engels, labor is the basis of all relationships:

“the development of labour necessarily helped to bring the members of society closer together by increasing cases of mutual support and joint activity, and by making clear the advantage of this joint activity to each individual. In short, men in the making arrived at the point where they had something to say to each other.”[2]

This is not to say that parenting, painting and pilates are not laborious, but these days, the thing we do for a living isn’t necessarily the thing we value or define ourselves by. It can be, but not always. Gone is the tribal work-collective, where we labored together for shelter and sustenance, along with it’s collectivist habits. In its place is the nuclear family and the office, each with their fair share of shortcomings, each in flux.

The following diagrams represent a few layouts driven by consideration of the chakras as the driving design factor. Public and private spaces are organized around individual needs for privacy surrounding lower-chakra activities and inclination towards social connection surrounding higher-chakra activities.


1. Rough beginnings with NY as my context. Space in NY is scarce, and one is often boxed into a rectangle. Inhabitants have the option of one or two-bedroom units, all of which spill out into the central shared areas.


2. Pie in the sky: This circular layout offers some more flexibility in combining and separating spaces. For example, if a couple has a child, they could eventually expand into the next unit fairly easily, or two families could spread across 3 units, with the central unit shared by the kids.


After designing the second one, I realized that it’s not unlike the arrangement of many old European squares, with a central meeting point surrounded by restaurants, and residences tucked away on the upper floors.


Square in Komarno Slovakia.
Image from album.sofeminine.co.uk

Square in Prague.
Image from prempoint.blogspot.com


A friend of mine pointed out that my design is also similar to a kibbutz. [3]



Steve Jobs was occupied with the redesign of the Apple Headquarters up until his death in 2011 and envisioned a circular ring of open workspaces, surrounding a greenspace. The layout of amenities was designed to create happenstance social interaction between colleagues.


Rendering of Apple Campus 2

There are of course, infinite possibilities, and every social group will develop it’s own coda on what should and should not be shared. If there is to be fluidity between the chakras, between the private and public, collective and neo-liberal, the space must be easily combined and partitioned. For this reason I included a lot of pocket doors to allow spaces to be opened and closed frequently and liberally with minimal spatial interference. Soundproofing is critical, which means 6-inch walls between units and soundproof doors. The provision of individual bathroom and the most meager of kitchen facilities allows each unit has to operate autonomously, with an incentive to use the more elaborate shared kitchen and living areas. All of this is to reflect the reality of the modern self: independence and solitude are available and well-supported if desired, but joining forces with others is a more complex and enriching way to navigate daily life.

While the socioemotional benefits are appealing, the economic reasons for a redesign of the family that scraps our current architectural conventions are far more compelling. There is no shortage of skepticism on the subject of communal living (which I suspect is a relic of McCarthyism), despite the fact that the nuclear family is a post-industrial phenomenon, historically too impoverished to exist before the wealth of modernity made it possible. I still consider it impoverished. After nearly going bankrupt when my daughter was born, the need for co-located collaborative family support became glaringly apparent. Two-income families are buckling under the cost of childcare, and having a child in the US increases one’s statistical chances of bankruptcy three-fold.[6] Teaming up for childcare swaps or nannyshares with the immediacy and ease of knocking on someone’s door is just one way families could ease the financial burden of starting a family. While living in the house with a group of adults, I discovered that 10 people can very easily and comfortably share one vacuum-cleaner, one juicer, one iron, one printer, one broadband internet connection, various power tools — I’d estimate roughly a 50-75% reduction in common household expenditures (accounting for the need of a higher-quality appliance or service to handle the increased load). The equal marriage rights movement has opened the question of what a “healthy” family looks like – to which there are many right answers. The rate of marriage continues to decline, as women’s income goes up. I don’t suggest that we should attempt to return to collectivism; We are postmodern, we are neo-liberal, we have personal property. But this doesn’t mean we need to be alienated, isolated and artificially impoverished in our two-bedroom, one-or-two-parent households.

I believe our homes can be run with the efficiency of our profit-oriented organizations, by operating on industrial principles like specialization, professionalization, economies of scale and co-location. Replace co-workers with a group of moms (or dads, to be gender-neutral, but to be fair and give credit where credit is due, it is vastly more moms that I witness exhausted and overwhelmed by the demands of career, housework and childcare). It begins to look something like Adam Smith’s pin factory: While one makes breakfast, another pops out to the store to get more coffee, another watches the kids (who are busy entertaining each other, and subsequently require less attention from their adult caregiver), another cleans up, and the last one takes a shower — blissfully uninterrupted. Imagine a home where there’s always an extra set of hands to hold up one end of a shelf while you drill the other side, and help with moving a piece of furniture is never further than a knock on a door or a call across the courtyard. This is not to suggest that it’s all roses. There will be differences and disagreements, and these will require commitment, the right tools, and daily work to resolve — just like a marriage.


Sources:

1. Man and His Symbols. Carl Jung, 1964. (Ed.) Dell Publishing

2. The Part played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man. Marx, K., 1895. Progress Publishers, Moscow

3. Kibbutz & Archipelagos. 2010. www.deconcrete.org

4. Why Our Ancestors Built Round Houses – and Why it Still Makes Sense to Build Round Structures Today. Rachel Ross 2012. inhabitat.com

5. Towards Collaborative Community. Paul S. Adler & Charles Heckscher, 2005. www-bcf.usc.edu

6. Interview: Elizabeth Warren – The Two Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Mothers and Fathers Are Going Broke. Books of Our Time. Dean Lawrence R. Velvel, 2004. www.youtube.com

Stop itching: A few things to prevent and treat mosquito bites

August 7th, 2014
garlic peppermint mosquito

Got bit? Cut a clove of garlic in half, and rub the cross-section over the bite. I just tried it on my 2-yr-old and after a mere 10 seconds she confirmed that the itch was “fixed.”

Avoiding the bugbites in the first place is of course, far better. Eating 1-2 cloves of garlic the night before exposure has corresponded to me being bit less than my comrades — but not reliably. There seem to be multiple factors involved in one’s appeal to the little bloodsuckers.

So I try to have a bottle of essential peppermint oil with me when out in nature. They hate the smell and will avoid you for the most part, however if persistent enough to find a patch of unanointed skin, they will go for it. So I put a few drops on my hands, rub them together, and then rub my hands over any exposed areas. BE CAREFUL around your face. Peppermint oil, even just the fumes, will STING your eyes. So I’ll rub my anointed hands around my neck, and a little at my hairline, but never closer to my eyes than this.

Poly and Pregnancy: A staunch polyamorist makes the case for monogamy (sometimes)

August 10th, 2013


Poly is hard. Polamory and pregnancy is exponentially harder. 6 months into the ashy aftermath of our break-up, I can’t help but wonder sometimes, if it wouldn’t have saved a lot of heartache had my partner and I put external affairs on hiatus while focusing on the very new, very intense relationship we had just started with our newborn daughter.

Things were pretty easy before the baby. Sure, we had occasional spats or jealousies, but overall, we felt pretty confident not only that we had the poly thing down, but were more or less a shining example to friends of the sweetness of constructive non-monogamy. Our thoughts on poly had meandered into alternatives to the traditional nuclear family in an effort to provide a more enriched experience for children as well as parents. We had bought a townhouse, a fixer-upper, with the intention of re-architecting it to this end. It was a lot of work, but we reveled in the mess and excitement and absurdity.

The problems started after I became pregnant, despite it being planned and calculated all the way down to which month we wanted the baby to be born. I was working full-time with an hour commute and was quite unprepared for the fatigue of the first trimester. Each day I would come home, eat like it was my last day on earth, and sometimes fall right asleep on the floor or bed, surrounded by leftover containers. But it was a well-paid gig, and I make significantly more than he does/did, so I felt it was important for me to bring in as much money as possible for the time I’d take off once the baby arrived.

“It is rather the incapacity to love which robs mankind of his possibilities. This world is empty to him alone who does not understand how to direct his libido towards objects, and to render them alive and beautiful for himself, for Beauty does not indeed lie in things, but in the feeling we give to them.” [1]
–Carl Jung


If you consider that all our activites require Qi, or Libido, or Svadisthana, or whatever the hell you want to call that thing that keeps your world in orbit, pregnancy takes a lot of it. When a task of enormity usurps a lot of it, your other endeavors often get put on hold until there’s enough to go around.

So making a baby left little time for my art, fitness, extracurricular activities, dating. At the time we decided to conceive, I took a break from other lovers to ensure paternity. After the pregnancy was confirmed and I considered it safe to frolick, I was so exhausted, I had no time or interest.

The sudden incongruence in our dating didn’t really start to bug me until I noticed that I would ask him for help, or to stop leaving messes in spaces I needed to use, and get ignored, or refused before he launched into some defense of why couldn’t or wouldn’t or shouldn’t be bothered. Things finally hit the roof when he repeatedly refused to reach out to someone I liked but didn’t have excuses to hang around once I decided soccer was too dangerous for my growing belly, shortly followed by some miscommunication that resulted in me not knowing he was having someone over for the night. We’d already had one talk about my desire to move out, and he had responded temporarily by fervently cleaning up after himself. But something about having the great disparity in our sex lives thrown right up in my face reified the inequity in our relationship enough for me to tell him it was over. At the time, in the heat of emotion, I don’t think I knew how right I really was.

“Marrying has been found to bring a net increase in domestic work for women, and a net decrease for men. [2]


Whether or not you’re poly, inequity in the division of labor between husbands and wives is a cliche, most especially in families where both spouses work. I suspect this disparity in sweat equity investment will be fueling the already steady demise of heteronormative marriage until the institution is nearly a relic of the past. As I am writing this, I’ve been “poly” in various forms for over 13 years. I didn’t come across the word until around 2005, but since the very beginning — since losing my virginity and since my first boyfriend shortly thereafter, I knew monogamy just didn’t quite feel right for me.

I think something a lot of poly’s do, at least initially, is try to mash down their feelings of jealousy by labeling them as “insecurity” or “conditioning.” With time and attention to one’s personal growth, the deconstruction of irrational jealousy ultimately dissolves it until it doesn’t form at all. If you’ve opportunity to explore and your needs are getting met, the scorecard doesn’t really matter, and if you’ve cultivated a bit of emotional independence, and you make the effort to maintain your friendships outside of your primary relationship, the prospect of not always being romantically involved isn’t all that terrifying either. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t sometimes reasons to feel concern if a third party actually shows hostility to your relationship, or like you’re giving and not getting back. I’d given up a lot of my needs to embark on the shared decision to make a baby, and not only was he not helping me in any of the comparatively small ways I was asking, he was getting his needs met right in front of me, like a glutton shamelessly feasting before a someone who’s starving. Is it the glutton’s fault for not seeing the hungry person, or is the hungry person not being loud and clear enough?

During the first year of our daughters life arguments over money and space and effort swelled on what was already shaky ground. I’d gone into quite a bit of credit card debt in order to keep nursing when he was unable to keep the bills covered beyond the third month, and when I was discovering that none of my usual agencies were willing to give me offsite work. I can’t help but assign some blame to the US’s lack of social protections and shortage of organizations valuing the contribution of working parents and the next generation enough to accommodate their needs. A culture that only values the bottom-line creates an insecurity that seeps into our sexual relationships in very touchy and unpleasant ways. I think a culture of social support, whether it’s public or private sector, allows men and women to relax a little more over an act that cn and does have very real economic consequences.

We tried therapy and things seemed to get better for a while, but as anyone with kids knows, once the baby is born, things get harder, not easier. Our patterns continued, fueled by mounting resentment and lack of understanding. When our daughter was just over a year and a half and I had finally paid off the debt, with very little help from him (and even that most grudgingly after numerous fights), I decided to move out.

Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.” [3]
–Helen Keller


From etymonline.com
fidelity (n.) early 15c., from Middle French fidélité (15c.), from Latin fidelitatem (nominative fidelitas) “faithfulness, adherence,” from fidelis “faithful, true,” from fides “faith” mid-13c., “duty of fulfilling one’s trust,” from Old French feid, foi “faith, belief, trust, confidence, pledge,” from Latin fides “trust, faith, confidence, reliance, credence, belief,” from root of fidere “to trust,” from PIE root *bheidh- (cf. Greek pistis; see bid). For sense evolution, see belief. Theological sense is from late 14c.; religions called faiths since c.1300.


My uncharacteristic discomfort with his personal life prompted me to wonder if there isn’t some subliminal function to monogamy that gets eclipsed by Evolutionary Psychology’s pragmatic explanations involving genetic succession and resources. Is it really as simple as ensuring one’s DNA gets passed on and one’s offspring are provided for? Or is there a promise of one’s libidinal resources in building a home & family together wrapped up in the package? When you submit to each other as sole sexual partners, a certain regulation occurs. If your partner is too tired or busy for sex, or cross with you, you won’t be getting any either and your incentive is to mitigate whatever is blocking their affections. Here lies a misgiving I sometimes have with non-monogamy – I believe some pursue it out of a fear of sacrifice or fear of being alone, rather than sovereign respect for another’s freedom to connect with others. If one lines up enough people, one will never run out of nookie and validation to save one from working through differences.

This is not to say I have been converted to monogamy – perish the thought. I don’t see myself ever committing to monogamy long-term. But this experience got me thinking about monogamy in a more nuanced way. In the same way that I learned to see value in temporary celibacy based on my artistic practice and my yoga practice, I can see value in temporary or periodic monogamy. These are 2 of the vast multitude of mechanisms we employ to temper the sexual impulse in an effort to achieve other ends.

Would a temporary hold on external lovers have saved our relationship? It might have saved some strife while transitioning to being a family, but ultimately, I doubt it — my decision had more to do with him not pulling his weight, and my needs for art, eroticism, travel, and health going unmet than it did with the notches on our bedposts. It also makes me wonder if perpetuating the illusion of monogamy evolved as a symbolic gesture of dedication, which many monogamists seem to turn a blind eye to when the relationship is healthy and fulfilling in other ways.

Is libidinal dedication a survival tactic that natural selection mandated we follow [5], if only from conception to weening of a new life? In the US, we don’t really have anything in the way of economic structures outside of the institution of marriage to support child-bearing and childrearing, especially now that families are often geographically spread out. Many mothers, if dependent on their husbands for financial support, are just one divorce away from bankruptcy. This makes it much harder to not feel a twinge of concern if he’s off courting another. If we were to alter the socioeconomic structures that currently support the task of childbearing and child-rearing such that they remained separate from our romantic relationships, would this necessarily create a context more accommodating to healthy non-monogamy?


Sources
1. Jung, Carl G. 1916. Psychology of the Unconscious. Princeton, NJ : Princeton University Press

2. Craig, Lyn and Sawrikar, Pooja. 2007. Housework and divorce: the division of domestic labour and relationship breakdown in Australia. Melbourne, Australia: HILDA Survey

3. Keller, Helen. 1937. Helen Keller’s Journal. New York. NY: Doubleday, Doran, Incorporated

4. Hartford, Tim. 2008. Divorce is Good for Women. Washington DC: Slate Magazine

5. Rogers, Deborah S. and Ehrlich, Paul R. 2007. Natural selection and cultural rates of change. Standford, CA: PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), Stanford University’s HighWire Press®

Cure a yeast infection – with just yogurt!

February 13th, 2013

Stuff you’ll need:
-organic, sugar-free, plain yogurt cup(s)
-organic, cotton tampon(s) (without applicator)

Directions
Place the tampon in the yogurt cup, string-end up (see photo). If your tampon has an applicator, remove it so you’re only working with the cotton portion. Leave the tampon in the yogurt to soak for 10-15 minutes — it should be at least twice it’s original size when you remove it. Insert the tampon into your vagina, as you would normally when getting your period. Leave it in no longer than 8 hours.

Repeat this process until you feel relief and see a normalization in your vaginal discharge, and then continue it for another 24 hours to ensure you’re killing off lingering excess candida. The number of days necessary will depend on the intensity of your infection. Yogurt is pretty benign, and nothing I have researched indicates that one could “overdose” or create an undesirable imbalance by prolonging treatment. I haven’t had a serious infection in years – but these days if I start feeling a lil itchy, I’ll do this and just once overnight is enough. I prefer to approach feminine health as a perpetual awareness and management of one’s flora & fauna, rather than “OH NO I have contracted an infection, I must ERADICATE it and then I can STOP THINKING about my nether-regions.”

If it doesn’t bug you to eat a yogurt cup that’s just had a clean tampon in it, do so. Why waste it? Your body can use that additional acidophilus when consumed orally!

Prevention
Stop consuming sugar. Just stop. Next time you eat a candy-bar, see how your honeypot feels the next day. Kind of itchy, right?

Stop taking the pill. Now I was on the pill for years and never had this problem — but I have personal acquaintances that suffered for YEARS with chronic yeast infections because of it.

Eliminate white flour & fermented foods from your diet. Here’s a list from wikipedia.

Wear natural fibers, loose-fitting clothes. Or heck, just go naked or without underwear. Air is like the best remedy for everything. Unless you’re on fire.