Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category (feed)

JBQ in the shower

In early evening there’s this amazing golden light that would enter the bathroom from the small window in my mom’s home in Greece. JBQ’s shadow looked beautiful, I had to snap it away to capture the moment. He had just come back from swimming in the sea.

6 weeks with SCD/Paleo

It’s been 6 weeks already. I’m in the middle of my 3-month milestone, a usual milestone for people with gut issues on a healing diet. Several foods will be added in my diet in small quantities after these 3 months, namely, tubers: parsnip (παστινακι), swede/rutabaga (γουλιά ή μεγα-γογγυλι), turnip (ρεβα), and sweet potatoes (γλυκοπατατα). Currently, the only starchy root vegetables that I eat are carrots, and more rarely beetroots (παντζάρια), and various kinds of radishes (ραπανακια). Beets are sweet & starchy like carrots & radishes are, but they contain “simple sugars”, so they get easily digested in the stomach, before they arrive in the gut and feed overgrown bacteria/yeast.

Regarding the rest of the stuff I eat, ordered by daily quantity: allowed veggies, meat/fish, fruits, eggs, nuts, raw & unfiltered honey, herbal tea (chamomile, Greek Mountain Tea, Kombuscha decaf), and small quantities of salt (with iodine). I cook with coconut oil, olive oil, duck fat, or butter. I also eat offal, game, and I make bone broths (very important parts of the Paleo diet). I avoid all other sugars (including artificial sugars), legumes/soy, white potatoes, and all grains (especially wheat). That’s the Paleo part of the diet.

All disease begins in the gut.” – Hippocrates, father of modern medicine

Because of my gut issues, I follow the SCD‘s diet advice (a diet similar to Paleo, but lower carb, that tries to restore bacterial balance), so I also eat a home-made lactose-free probiotic goat yoghurt (goat casein is much more tolerable than cow’s, since it’s closer to human’s). Unfortunately, there is no such product in the market so I have to make it myself. Rarely, I also eat small quantities of lactose-free goat cheese. I try to avoid cow and lactose-ridden dairy in general, and milk (although I might try raw goat milk in the future). I supplement with various vitamins, mostly D (since I rarely go out), and probiotics.

Why the proper diet can fix so many ailments? Explained.

In these six weeks, I’ve become a different person. A host of medical issues that I had, or I didn’t even know I had, are either gone, or on their way to eradication. For the first time ever, I feel truly happy and thankful for the life I have. Sure, it took a few weeks for my body to switch from burning carbs to burning fat, but I made it in one piece (I went through the “carb flu” or “die off” phase, and had dizzy jolts). All good now. In detail:

– IBS-D & SIBO: from 4-5 liquid bowel movements a day on average, ruining my non-life, down to 1 a week. Work in progress, as I’m still rather irregular. It can take a few years to fully heal a leaky, bacteria-ridden gut. (Update: I’m more regular now, after taking 2 multi-probiotic pills per day, rather than 1 pill every few days as I used to).
– Pre-diabetic hypoglycemia (was on my way to Type 2 diabetes): GONE.
– Candida in my ears (earwax smelling like cheese): GONE.
– Sleep apnea: GONE (according to my husband who previously had to endure my snoring). I now feel rested and I wake up fully energetic. I spring out of the bed. In the past, I was waking up tired and like a zombie (even as a kid).
– Eczema in my forehead is in remission, very little of it remains. Work in progress.
– Dandruff / itchy-scalp: GONE.
– Constant urge for scratching everywhere in my body: GONE.
– My upper-left-central tooth was super-sensitive. After several beef bone broths, vitamins D3 + K2 and some calcium, the sensitivity now has gone down to half, and it’s getting better day by day.
– Teeth plaque seems to not be accumulating anymore. I just need to clean up the one I already have and I should be plaque-free from that point on. I rarely floss.
– Depression and thoughts of suicide: GONE.
– ADD (couldn’t focus on anything, couldn’t really read books since I was 12): GONE.
– Anxiety/stress: GONE.
– Pee urgency (I had recurring bacterial infections): GONE.
– Muscle atony and less strength on my right arm/hand (hypothyroidism?): much better after the 5th week on the diet.
– Asthma/allergy-like inability to breath deeply after eating some foods: GONE.
– Acanthosis nigricans (discolored axilla): GONE.
– Sugar addiction: GONE.
– Period pain: Much less than before. Although this will require 5+ months to get fixed properly. I expect pain-free, lite periods that don’t last more than 3-4 days (they now last 7 days, and they’re heavy).
– I used to have acne spots a few days before my period: GONE.
– Irregular period (especially in the last 2 years): GONE (the last two times, while on the diet, it arrived exactly on the 28th day)
– Popping sound on the inside of my ear drums: GONE.
– I can now sweat properly, an ability that I almost lost about 20 years ago.
– Taste buds regrown (sugar kills taste buds). Now I can eat 99% cocoa dark chocolate like a boss. Before, I could only eat super-sweet milk chocolates.
– My skin is visibly better, according to people who saw me months ago the previous time.
– My ability to smell is now stronger, although this is still work in progress. I hear it takes 3 months to come back fully.
– Chronic anger towards… everyone everywhere and fast-lighting anger: GONE.
– Fibromyalgia-like pain on my neck/shoulder: better, but it’s still work in progress.
– Black circles under my eyes: GONE.
– Stomach bloating: GONE.
– Excessive gas: GONE.
– Occasional heart-muscle pain: GONE

Why the proper diet can fix psychological problems? Explained.

And of course, I lost 10 lbs too so far. I had a plateau for over 2 weeks, but that went away after I cut down the number of fruits and nuts I was eating daily (I was over-doing it, in order to feed my sugar addiction). I now eat 1-2 servings of fruits daily, and nuts only once every 2-3 days (except peanuts/cashews which aren’t nuts). I need to lose another 45-50 lbs, since I’m still obese. A much healthier obese person though. Things that still need fixing and I had no visible change yet: my female-pattern alopecia. I will know if I will get new hair in a year or two (it takes 3 years for some roots/hairs to renew, as they’re on a cycle).

As you can see, I have/had a number of ailments. Not enough to finish me off, but enough to make my life miserable. I bet most people have similar problems, but they think that these are “normal”. They’re not! We’re meant to be healthy until the day our body simply gives up from natural old age.

One thing that SCD/Paleo can’t fix though is… my laziness. I feel more alive now than ever before, but I’m still not thrilled about exercise. I just need to open that front door, step outside, and walk, walk, walk.

Listen to your gut

Yo! What’s up everyone? Back from 50 days in Europe! I had a blast, and… after years of pain, I got my health back! Tadaaaaa!

If you’re a long-time reader of my blog, you have probably read about how my health has sucked in the last 10 years. In the last 4 years especially, I’ve been sick, almost every day. I never talked about it in much detail, since my “incurable syndrome” was a rather embarrassing matter.

But I think the time has come to tell my story, since I’m now feeling healthy for the first time in a long time. I’m still in the very beginning of my journey, but I’m feeling right. I am convinced that this approach is already working, and that it will continue working for me for the years to come. That’s why I am sharing the information with all of you out there, so that people can learn from my experience.

As I remember, it all started a few weeks after coming back from my wedding in France in 2001, I was feeling sick. I had diarrhea twice a day. I thought it would clear up. It never did. It soon became a nightmare. My bowel movements became even more frequent and watery. I felt pain, I was bloated, and I could not leave the house. Any kind of travel, no matter how long or short, would stress me like hell, with a single thought on my mind: “where are the bathrooms?” I came close to having bowel accidents twice, both times in France, once while visiting the Palace of Versailles (it had a 50 meter queue!), and once at Gare d’Austerlitz. Therefore, I think France ought to build more public restrooms…

When I came back to the US after that first vacation in 2003, I decided to see a doctor. He ordered various tests and a colonoscopy (which thankfully was under anesthesia, a detail that doctors skip in Greece in order to save money). The tests found that I had no diabetes, I had no cancer, I had no food allergies, and I was not gluten-intolerant. The doctor even said that I had a beautiful colon (I will never forget that, haha!). One of the tests found that I had an overgrowth and/or infection with Clostridium Difficile (a super-bug, yay!). I got the antibiotic Flagyl for 10 days, and I felt better for about a month. Then, the same thing started again. I was put on Flagyl again, and this time around I saw no remission at all, not even for one day. Obviously, the bacteria had evolved as a consequence of the first treatment and they adapted to Flagyl.

The doctor ordered a SIBO breath test (“Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth”), so I was sent to one of the best hospitals in the world, the Stanford Medical Center. They found bacteria overgrowth (what else is new, right?). So I was put on Vancomycin. Which worked. For 10 days. As long as I was on this super-strong antibiotic. On the 11th day, the bacteria started their little orgy again. Somewhat later, I was put on Rifaximin, another strong antibiotic, which did absolutely nothing for me.

I was running out of options, and my diarrhea, bloating, pain were running rampant. I once had to go to the bathroom 13 times in a single day. I felt some brain fogginess, fatigue, hair loss, eczema, dandruff, heart arrhythmia. I was diagnosed with elevated DHEAS hormone levels. I started to feel early signs of diabetes, getting easily tired, but feeling better within 2 minutes of eating something with sugar in it. Since I avoided leaving home as much as possible, my weight kept going up, from 127 lbs (58 kg) when the first symptoms appeared all the way to 165 lbs (75 kg). This sickness made me go from barely overweight to seriously obese. In this last year I’ve even see a bit of black blood in the stool (which would indicate my baby first steps towards Crohn’s, or ulcerative colitis).

Somewhere along the way, after none of the anti-biotic treatments seemed to be working, my doctor decided to classify my symptoms as IBS-D (“Irritable Bowel Syndrome, predominantly diarrhea”), an umbrella name for such symptoms with no identifiable cause and no effective treatment. I’ve read somewhere online once that as many as 15-20% of Americans and British have some form of IBS. He hypothesized that it might be stress-related along with recurring bacterial infections. He also gave me some stress-relief drugs and gut-flora drinks that did nothing for me. During my last vacation in Greece, my mother insisted that I should see a doctor there, whose best guess was also that my symptoms were stress-related. He gave me another drug to try, which did nothing either. As for over-the-counter probiotics (iFlora, Florastor) they didn’t do anything either!

I fell into a depressive state. I could not leave the house any more. I always felt sick, and I my gut was crying for attention all day long (and a few times at night). Over the last 2 years I’ve been pretty convinced that I would die by the age of 50. Even though I’m an atheist, in despair I was praying that some deity would just kill me in one swift move, so that I would be done with my pain. I was tired of it all. I felt that I had lived enough, that I had seen a lot of cool things in my life (more than the average person has), and that I was indeed ready for a quick, painless ending. I’m not afraid of death. I felt my husband was being held back from having the life he wanted to have (he likes to travel a lot). If I died, I would free both him and myself from the situation. Up to a week ago, while still on our vacations in Europe, I just wanted for everything to end (even though those vacations were otherwise great).

One of worst things the USA ever created is this food pyramid

And then, things took their course, and the truth revealed itself to me step by step.

Since I don’t speak French, I can’t socialize a lot while in France, so during the week of vacations that I spent there I started reading my mother in law’s cooking encyclopedia (published in 1976). The cooking style was traditional, and not about the “nouvelle cuisine” movement that started in France in the ’60s. There were plenty of pictures in the encyclopedia, but the amount of meat and starch in them made me want to throw up!

So I started discussing with my husband that the modern cuisine is much more elegant. Smaller portions, more green vegetables, nicer presentation, dishes that feel “fresh” rather than “loaded”. So I decided to buy a few cookbooks of my own in order to pass the time (I can understand and read a bit of French, especially when it comes to cooking, even if I can’t speak it or write it). I opted for books with recipes that my body seemed to crave for: salads, light dishes, low cholesterol recipes. That was on Wednesday, two weeks ago.

Because we’d be traveling quite continuously from Saturday through Monday, starting on Friday I decided to not eat much, in order to try to keep my symptoms under control. In addition to trying to eat less for a few days, being enthusiastic about how fresh the recipes in my new books looked, I decided to cut out all the starches too. That Friday, we visited one of my husband’s relatives who battled Crohn’s years before. She mentioned that she felt better using only diet. Her health had been compromised seriously, and her doctors wanted her to have surgery but she refused. Years later, she seems to live fine without major problems.

Crohn’s disease and SCD

Later that night, I started searching online on my condition and various diets that I might have to follow in order to see relief (if they were such diets at all in the first place). The first clue I got was via some rave reviews on Amazon about the No-Starch diet book for IBS. I was ready to start this diet, but someone, in the reviews section I think, led me to another book: “Breaking the Vicious Cycle: Intestinal Health Through Diet” by Elaine Gloria Gottschall. I was astounded by the positive ratings and comments, which were even more positive than the no-starch diet book. This book has a better Amazon rating than Asimov’s “Foundation”!!! People were commenting that the diet cured them of their gut issues. Could it be that simple?

I had nothing to lose and I started researching online on the SCD diet (“Specific Carbohydrate Diet”) that the book advocated (I ordered the book but it hasn’t arrived yet). The premise is that when eating complex sugars and starches, most people to some degree develop damaging bacteria and yeast. Some become intolerant as kids, some later in their lives. When eating such foods, they go down the digestive track undigested, where yeast and bacteria feast on. Hence, my SIBO was born: the micro-organisms overgrew, colonized the small intestine, the gut realized that something was wrong, and tried to “remove” all the bad things by creating a “cleansing diarrhea”. This is a usually-inflammatory, auto-immune disease, and I was told over and again that eliminating the symptoms would range from ‘very hard’ to ‘impossible’! The book’s idea is to cut down the food that these bacteria eat, and that will eventually kill most of them and bring the gut back to balance.

Celiac disease and SCD

In the last 10 days I started following a loose version of the diet (all the necessary information is on the book’s web site for free), and went from 4 loose stools a day, to 3, to finally one… healthy, well-formed stool, one such that I haven’t seen it as such for many years. My bloating was gone within 1 day. My cramping and gas were gone too in 3 days. My energy was back, despite having to battle jet-lag! I am not foggy and tired any more. Within only a few days on the diet, my eczema (another auto-immune symptom) on my ears and nose has almost disappeared. My period is currently lite, and painless. I am feeling good for the first time in a long time!

Reading online other people’s stories and own accounts, the diet seem to have made asymptomatic a lot of people with Chron’s, Ulcerative Colitis, Acid Reflux, IBS, Celiac disease (for those that a CFGF gluten-free diet is not enough) and other gastro-enterological problems. And it doesn’t stop there. If we are to believe people online (e.g. read their testimonials on blogs, youtube and amazon comments of the book), the diet reportedly also has a positive impact: hypertension, high blood sugar, amenorrhea, PMS, ADD/ADHD, diabetes Type II, acne, fibromyalgia, depression, migraines, lupus, multiple sclerosis, hay fever & some allergies, asthma, some types of arthritis, fistulas, and get this: it’s said to bring quite some life back to kids with autism! Sure, it could all be a big joke, a fad, or it could only work for a few cases. But having seeing the diet deliver to myself in a few days, I’m more open to believe these miraculous claims than not. Besides, these possible cures make sense to me anyway, since a lot of these diseases have their roots on auto-immunity & inflammation, which is what diets have an effect on (for better of worse). A French published doctor explains it all here, and his similar diet had similar miraculous effects too to his study subjects. His results are here, in French (three PDFs).

While I always knew that “healthier eating is more healthy” (duh), there was always some debate among specialists as to what’s actually healthy. But after I tried SCD I never knew it could be so immediate. That is what actually took me by surprise in the whole story.

This blog post is not an ad btw, I don’t sell anything, neither I endorse other people’s products (the author of the book is dead btw, and the diet is based on studies first made in 1926). This is just my true story, from the bottom of my heart.

So, my original plan was to follow the SCD diet for 2-3 years, hopefully get “cured” as other people claimed to have, and then get back to the Standard American Diet (SAD, indeed). But as I was keep researching online, I realized that this was not an option. Yes, after you get “cured”, you will get 1 month, 3 months, or maybe 6 months of symptom-free “normal” diet, but then the problems will start again. My body has shown me that I’m simply predisposed for it. I obviously can’t digest most starches, complex sugars, and milk properly anymore. Eating the sugar/starchy-full MacDonalds burger would send me in the toilet after a few bites (in 2-3 minutes)! Eating the rice-loaded sushi (my favorite food), would send me to the toilet within 10 minutes. Eating milk bloats me immediately too. But I have no problems with nuts, honey, fruits, vegetables, fatty meat/fish, or eggs. Which are the natural things that people ate before the Agricultural Revolution 10000 years ago. Most of us evolved to only eat these things — not dairy, not grains, and not some of the toxic tubers or legumes. The rule of thumb is that if something is edible raw, then we probably evolved eating it, making it a “safe” food. If not, or it requires lots of processing before it’s eaten, then it’s probably a bad food for most of us. The idea is rather simple, really.


So I was in search of a diet for life, after the SCD-bacteria-overgrowth-specific diet would work its magic as a starter for my condition. So I found the (similar to SCD) Paleo diet and the South Beach Phase II Diet. I decided on the Paleo diet, as it’s ~95% the same as the SCD diet, and with the same reported health benefits (read for health testimonials)! Of course I read the news, so I knew about these two diets for a long time. I just wasn’t interested in Paleo because I never believed its benefits. I didn’t really want to leave rice behind, and honestly, I still had a bit of problem with the diet’s position on green beans (pods), and olive oil (hey, I’m Greek!). But it otherwise made the most sense for the long run. It’s logical, and scientifically it makes sense for nearly everyone (not just patients), people who follow it swear by it, and weight loss is inevitable. I’m not even trying to lose weight right now, I just want to feel healthy. Losing weight is a very welcome side-effect of these diets. On these diets, underweight people (e.g. Crohn’s patients) put on weight, and overweight people lose weight! These are NOT weight-loss diets, they are simply diets that make you look normal! They are life-changing diets-for-life!

Ulcerative Colitis and SCD

You are probably thinking now that the carb cravings will be so immense that I won’t be able to sustain these diets for a long time. Well, I have no cravings at all right now, 10 days into the diet, because fruits and fruit juices are allowed on both diets. I eat my fruits, veggies, meat, fish, eggs, a few nuts, and I’ve found this yogurt, which might work for my case (I will know soon if my gut agrees with it). Paleo does not allow dairy, but SCD requires such a yogurt in order to “reboot” the gut flora after the die-off. I’m so motivated right now that even starchy/sugary food from the best chef in the world would not sway me away from the diet. I want to get better. I want to live normally again, and make up for ten years lost to being miserable.

For the first time in my life, my condition feels manageable. I’m still only at the beginning of all this, and not quite 100% healthy yet, but so far I’m getting the most encouraging results I’ve had in 10 years. My doctor had cursorily mentioned diet changes and gave me a generic copy of text to read that “maybe could help”. Make no mistake, I think my doctor is actually a very good one. He did everything that was standard for my condition, and he even had an open mind suggesting that SIBO has something to do with the food we eat. Unfortunately, most traditional gastro-enterologists would say that “food has nothing to do with most these gut diseases and syndromes”. And yet, myself and so many others are living proof that food was the primary component of our illness. After I get even better, I will schedule an appointment with him in order to explain what worked for me. I wish I had a way to help more people with similar conditions. This blog post is the first step. It breaks my heart reading people’s stories on various disease-dedicated forums, but since no one is signing in with their real name (embarrassed for their leaky-gut condition, as I was), I can’t find them, email them, and tell them about my break-through. At best, most people just try the CFGF glutten-free diet, which doesn’t go far enough to prevent the bacterial overgrowth, in my opinion.

Paleo/Primal: The real food pyramid for humans

Of course, these diets will not work for everyone with gut problems, but I can imagine how they can make life better for many people. For people with actual traumas, parasites or mutated bacteria (that feed on everything, and not just carbs) or for people with expansive food allergies (e.g. nuts, raw food, eggs etc.), these diets won’t help. At least for people with massive intolerance towards some food stuff, they can start on these diets, and then remove categories of foods one by one to see which one makes them sick.

Speaking for me, even in this early stage, my gut tells me that I’m on the right track and on the road for healing. I will definitely keep you all updated, if you don’t mind reading about bowel movements and other yucky stuff!

Oh, and now I can go out and shoot more videos. The last one I shot was last year. I simply could not leave the house anymore.

That’s all over now. I can now live again.

UPDATE: The exact diet I follow, 6 weeks on the diet, 4 months, and a year after.

Images of Years Past

Found some old pictures of mine at my mom’s collection, and I snapped them away with my digicam (some artifacts on the pics, sorry).

This was shot between 1975 and 1976 in Skiadas, when I was 2-3 years old. I do remember that day. We had recently returned from Athens, and a freelance photographer came to our mountainous village. My dad had recently also bought this motorcycle (Honda CB50, he had it running until the mid ’90s), so he took me with him in our village center (where our main church, school, and village office used to be — now it’s all deserted). I remember my mom objecting taking the picture, citing lack of family funds. My dad did so anyway.

The second picture was shot around 1990 or 1991, in our current town, Louros, celebrating (I think) my cousin getting engaged. Here, I line-dance with my uncle. Funny I used to dye my hair back then.

Seeing that picture I realized that I wasn’t too bad looking when I was young. I still have that out-of-an-alignment tooth, but other than that I wasn’t too bad. In my teenage and young years while in Greece, only one guy ever showed interest in me (that I happened to not be interested in him myself). I always felt a fish out of the water (and still am here), I had different interests than every other girl around me (thank Star Trek for that). This gave me a reputation of a low key, out-there person and classmates would only occasionally befriend me for advice, but not for deep friendship. They respected my opinion and seek it when in doubt, but that’s about it. I only felt in my element when I left for UK, and later for the US.

A synesthete’s review of KID A

According to many music magazines, Radiohead’s “KID A” is the best album of the last decade. There are countless reviews and articles about it, but I don’t think there’s one from a synesthete‘s point of view. So I decided to write one myself, to describe how KID A looks and feels to me. KID-A is a very visual album, possibly one of the most visual albums ever. In fact, I consider “bad music” anything that doesn’t make me see colors, images, stories, or draw forgotten memories.

Of course, each synesthete is experiencing the same pieces of art differently, but if you’d like to experience the same feelings and visuals as I do in my (drug-free) soft-trip, first read the paragraph for a track below, and then listen to that track on good headphones, without any other distraction. Close your eyes, and let the music tell the story. Do not pay attention to the lyrics either.

1. Everything in its right place

I’m on a natural, dark tunnel, and I’m floating. I’m trying to move, but it’s not easy, it’s as difficult as when trying to swim, requires effort. There is a bit of light at the end, and I’m trying to reach it. The closer I get, and the more effort I put, the more the tunnel is flexing in and out, like it’s breathing. I never reach the light.

2. Kid A

I’m in a forest, and it’s raining. Drops for now, rain later. Everything is so big: the leaves, the flowers are all huge… I’m a beetle. In the middle of the small meadow there’s an anomaly. Looks like a time/space continuum disruption. It’s like a portal of a sort, and it’s vibrating. It draws me nearer, flying from leaf to leaf. I notice that ants, and ladybugs around me are equally attracted to it. A baby deer draws close too. A bit too close. Suddenly the disturbance is pulling the deer into it, but in a weird fashion: it’s like it’s pulling its flesh, with the bones stay in place. Eventually, the deer is gone. I’m now too close to it too. I have to go in, can’t resist. I’m in. It’s a white space with floating red marbles, moving around… I think it’s weird, but it’s fun. Is there more to this amazing place? Suddenly I’m pulled down, and it’s quickly getting darker and uglier. I’m in a stomach.

3. The National Anthem

I’m in a club, and it’s filled with both people and weird creatures. We are all dancing in slow motion. The band is made of alien-like creatures, but the singer is human. From the singer’s mouth and movements, some rainbow-like streaks are unleashed and everyone on the dance-floor is trying to catch them. During the last part of the song with the trumpet solos, everyone gets into frenzied trance.

4. How to Disappear Completely

I’m in a white spaceship, and I’m all alone. I move through the white corridors, and empty white rooms with a view, but there’s nothing for me there, inside or out of it. There’s emptiness both inside the spaceship and outside of it. It feels like I’m alone in the whole universe. I try to flex, and the spaceship flexes back. It’s my prison, and my life line. I travel from nebulae, to planets, to dark void, but nothing moves me. I’m sad and lonely. It’s time. I drive the spaceship into a sun, and I welcome it with open arms.

5. Treefingers

It’s a starry night, and I’m in a place surrounded by trees. There is no opening to escape. My only light is some golden dust moving around and playing with me. My only way out of it is to look up, at the stars. I decide to give up, and take a rest, by lying on the grass. Suddenly the grass moves, and moves my body forward. It releases my body to some flowers that continue to move me around, then the trees themselves use their branches and move me from tree to tree. Eventually I’m high enough. I still can’t break free from the tree prison, but I’m closer to the stars.

6. Optimistic

I’m in a huge gray factory, with a stale atmosphere and smoke that’s hard to breath. I’m floating towards gray machinery, all sorts of machinery that move with the beat. Sometimes the machinery re-shapes itself and changes to look like a singing mouth. As I further float to more machinery, there’s a place made with fire that it creates even more machinery. The machinery is endless, like the world is made of it. I go back out, and get a larger view of the factory, but there’s no ending in sight. Zooming in and out of the machines only reveals smaller or bigger machines, made from other machines.

7. In Limbo

It’s a beautiful sunny day, near the beach. I’m a turtle, currently hiding behind some vegetation. I need to move, reach the sea, that’s my goal. But I seem to have to go through sunbathers. I start my voyage, and I go pass a beautiful woman who keeps adding sun protection. By the time I get passed her, in my turtle speed, she already bathed herself 3 times in that oil. An old man is enjoying the sun by sleeping, while his old wife next to him is looking and criticizing the rest of the people on the beach. A bit further a fat woman is eating a peach. I’m closer to the sea, but there’s trouble ahead. Two kids approach me and turn me upside down with a stick. I panic and hide myself in my shell. When I decide to stick my head out again, they’ve already gone. I’m closer to the sea now. Before I enter the water I stop to admire windsurfing, but the image is soon polluted by people spitting out sea water while swimming. There’s no time to waste, I get into the water. Oh, look, so many legs!

8. Idioteque

I fly over a city of the future. It’s night, but there are so many lights, so colorful. But upon zooming down to the streets there seems to be a constant parade of soldiers. The soldiers are endless. When watching the city from above it feels like an ordinary city, with normal traffic. But when you go closer to it, it’s filled with soldiers parading, there are no people on the sidewalks, or cars. There is only one spectator: a little girl, no more than 5 or 6 years old. She has a dirty face, her clothes are dirty and full of holes. She’s sitting by the sidewalk, hugging her knees, watching the parade. Her eyes show nothing but fear. Every time she tries to look away, a soldier closer to her immediately turns his head and gives her a wild stare. She can’t escape. She’s forever bound.

9. Morning Bell

I’m in a white-gray place, that’s full of nothingness. It’s just white-gray. I’m floating horizontally, and I’m looking up, the endless white. But there’s a portal-like opening above me now, with a dream-like view of what seems to be the real world. I try to get to it, but my movement is very slow, like the gravity on this place is optimized for stillness. As I get closer to the portal though, two more appear on my left and right, and all three are now pulling me slowly, in different directions. It starts to become painful. But then, the three depictions of the real world change to dark, scary views. They’re still pulling me in.

10. Motion Picture Soundtrack

In a 1940s-like room. Everything is in black and white. A beautiful woman, wearing clothes and hair of the era, lies in bed, dead. She committed suicide. I look around in the room, I touch her things, but eventually I go back to her, and I touch her hair. I loved this woman. Suddenly, golden light surrounds her body, the only colorful element in the scene, and soon enough it flies out of the window, and up to the sky. Something does stay behind though, and that’s a dark shadow. It soon comes towards me. I can’t run away from it, it devours me. Before I fall down I get a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I am that woman.

11. Untitled

I’m the golden light: I leave the Earth, the solar system, the galaxy, the known universe. I fade away. Into a dark tunnel.

The Greek rural migration

My favorite progressive newspaper, The Guardian, has an article about Greeks migrating back to rural places. And I’m saying “back”, because before the 1960s, Athens was a pretty small city, not the ~5 million headcount behemoth it is today (that’s almost half of the whole Greek population). Suddenly, it had a population explosion after the vast majority of people from mountainous villages left their livestock, fields, and homes for Athens or abroad (mostly Germany), in hopes of a better [easier] life.

A few months ago I read another article by a Greek politician urging people to go back to their villages. Many took that remark pretty bad, but I must have been among the few who thought that this is the only good workable idea for both citizens, and the country. See, most of these Athenian people already are property owners elsewhere. There are very few “true” Athenians that have been there for many generations. The rest usually still have a property stake back at their old village. It’s just that no one wants to go back there.

Skiadas, my village. My father’s old house is visible in the pic.

My own village used to have over 400 inhabitants when my dad was a kid in the early ’60s. An extremely lively place. Today, there are no more than 40 or 50 people living there, mostly old people and returning retirees. My own generation in the ’80s was the last to see the school operating in the village. If all their descendants, that still have a stake or property at the village, were to come back from Athens or abroad, we’re looking for at least 1000 people! Thank God for the Summer or Easter, where the village comes alive again when these compatriots arrive for vacations. The community is still strong among all these people, since everyone knows everybody else, even if they don’t all live at the same place anymore. See, we don’t forget who we are: we’re Souliotes.

I spent my early years in Athens (I was born there), and then we moved to the city of Preveza. When my family got into debt in the early ’80s (long story), my father took us all and went back to Skiadas, his village (where he already had built a house all by himself in the ’70s). In the beginning, adjusting to the mountain life was difficult. Every other kid there was like a mountain goat, running faster than me and without fear in the dangerous terrain. Sometimes without shoes. The school sucked too. We were 25 kids in all 6 primary school grades, in a single room, with a single teacher. The teacher had no time to spend more than 15-20 minutes per day on each grade. And it was cold (no heating to speak about, in a place that ices/snows in the winter).

But I managed my way through all this. My family did too. We picked ourselves up financially, and 3 years later we left the village for the nearby town of Louros, that had a high school and more work for my father (he used to be a house builder). The point is, my family is living proof that taking a step back can help you stand on your feet again and then leap forward. If only more people saw it this way (at least anyone who doesn’t have children that need to go to school, since most schools are closed there now). Instead, the whole department of Epirus is full of abandoned villages. The land is not seeing any new crops, there are fewer sheep & goat flocks than what they used to be, and the houses are falling apart.

And their owners? The owners are still drunk with the city life. The easy life. But what’s the price to pay for this easier life? Themselves into debt or misery, the country into debt, and a Mega City becoming more dirty and more dangerous with every passing night.

Seeing in color

Being born left-handed (but forced to write with my right hand by my teacher), a lot of the right side of my brain is active. Lots of daydreaming & imagination that is. I’m a very visual person, possibly the reason why I got into user interface design when I was in the UK, or filmmaking later.

One thing you probably don’t know about me is that I have a bit of synesthesia. When I’m dealing with numbers, I have to visualize them in order to understand them, and I see them with colors. This is how I see them:

0, 1 (white), 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

Notice how 3, 5, 7, and 9 are similar in color, all based on red. Constructions of these numbers retain their color. For example, 38 is both red and black in my mind. Sometimes one color overpowers the other, if one of two numbers is bigger. For example, I see the 38 number as a rectangle, and the blackness of the 8 might take about 75% of the rectangle’s surface, leaving only 25% for the 3’s red.

It’s similar as to how I also perceive music. I can get high with music without the need to take any drugs. When I hear relatively abstract music (e.g. chillwave), I can see images (that look like this), colors, even LSD-like patterns — I can dance among them in my mind. But the music has got to be right. I don’t get any of that when I listen to pop or rock, for example. It has got to be that kind of hipster music that most people find it inaccessible without having smoked something first. The advantage for me is that I don’t have to smoke or take anything. I just have to relax, and get adrift.

Some consider synesthesia a “condition”, but for me it’s a blessing.

The Recurring Dream

In all my years, I’ve had a single recurring dream. I have this same dream a few times a year.

I’m older. I’m in my father’s home in the mountainous, and difficult to reach, village. My father is living with me, but not my mother, my brother, or my husband. I’m working in my father’s vegetable garden — which feels like it’s our sole source of food.

Then, a flying object flies past the village. Sometimes I see this as an alien UFO, sometimes as an enemy combatant fighter jet. And I have the same thought each time: “They’re here, they reached this place too“.

Village under the mountain
Village under the mountain” by Quinn Dombrowski. Licensed under the CC-BY-SA 2.0.

From this point, the dreams drift to different storylines, sometimes with terrestrial enemies, and sometimes with extra-terrestrial ones. But that first part of the dream is always the same. It’s always the starting point. The general feeling I get from these dreams is that the world is in chaos, there is war, and my father’s village is the only place to hide, and live a hard, but peaceful life. Until they arrive there too…

A psychologist would say that the dream simply represents my fears about the modern world, and where I’d naturally go hide from it, or something to that effect. But it just feels so much more than that. It feels like a future to me, not just a scenario of my subconscious to just get me prepared in the case of an actual war. Paranoia or not, I’d like to think that there’s a place for me to hide. Makes me feel safer.

Generational ships, fembots, and life after death

I had a very weird dream this morning. More intense and cooler than usual.

So, Earth was dying, and a few select people were put on an auto-pilot spaceship, on a way to another habitable planet. The ship’s interior was emulating Earth’s natural look (mountains, rivers, etc), and there was a bright sun too. Kind of like a mini Dyson Sphere.

A few hundreds of years later, there were a few thousands of us. Resources were scarce, so we were teamed-up in small groups, to protect them. Violence would erupt if someone from another group would try to steal our stuff.

On top of all that, some technology from the “old world” would survive. There was this guy, who had acquired 4-5 fembots, and he was addicted to them. Basically, having sex with them would trigger a feeling similar to recreational drugs + orgasm (fembots could release some chemicals that would enter the bloodstream fast), and that made them irresistible and addictive. The ultimate “high,” I suppose.

Anyways, at the end, I dreamed of this huge tsunami-like “solid water” that the rivers suddenly changed into. The people taken away from it were screaming. My mom said, “put something on your head, we’ll be dragged out, in the sun, for a while”. I couldn’t find a hat, so I just put on my head… some underpants. Soon later, the “solid water” had moved up to our apartment, and it took us away too. Some quick thinking on my part was “if I could take one thing with me, what should it be?”. So I grabbed a knife (if anything, “Survivorman” on TV has shown that all you need is a knife. The rest is just skill and knowledge).

Soon enough we were dragged away by the solid water. I asked my mom, who was dragged away along my aunt, if she knew what was happening, and she replied “yes”. Apparently, the knowledge that we lived on a ship, has survived among a few of us (not everyone knew it/believed it). I started crying in my sleep, thinking “we’ve arrived, we’ve arrived!”. To top my melodramatic dream, there was actually a music score accompanying the whole thing! I guess the filmmaking “audio is as important” moniker, has been engraved deep in my subconscious, enough to make me have a soundtrack in my dreams!

Anyways, amidst all the excitement of “arriving”, I woke up.

This dream today reminded me the 4-5 “past life” regression sessions I had in the late ’90s (I wrote about these here before). While all of these regressions featured different “life stories” in different times/places (and in one occasion a different planet), the ending was always the same. Supposedly, after we die, when we’re ready to leave, we go through a vortex that hangs above our dead heads, and we go through it. Soon, we see the Earth becoming smaller and smaller. Eventually, we reach a waiting place, that some weird lifeforms are running it. Religious people would call these “angels”, I suppose, but I’m not religious.

When your turn has come, you appear before a judging panel, and you answer for yourself “how well you did in your life”. After you gave your opinion to them, you become your own judge, as you re-play your whole life in front of you. Then, you break down and cry, for all the bad things you did while alive. Supposedly, each individual also has 1-2 very specific goals in their life. These goals must be achieved. Being “good” is only half of the story.

So you choose your next life, based on what you must learn, or repeat your goals if you didn’t achieve them in the previous life. You can choose the sex, place, major events that must happen to you (good or bad), so you can learn via them. And this repeats many times, until you “graduate” (I guess some religious people would call this “nirvana,” but I’m not religious). In each life, you only take with you the “juice” of your previous experiences, not the memories. And you’re usually spending your life with the same key people over and over. For example, your father in one life, can be your wife in another. Role-switching is common.

I don’t believe in any of that of course (neither I believed in it back then), although it was fun to be part of such an “experiment.” I mean, why not, since there was no harm done. It’s interesting to think though that if there’s a shred of truth in it, then it would make sense as to what a Type III Civilization would do to educate their children. Think about it.

Instead of educating them via traditional methods, or via pre-conditioning their brains, they educate them via real life lessons. Each consciousness (aka “soul” for the religious, but I’m not religious) is transferred into the body of a primitive species, and let them live whole lives as such. In their terms of time, this whole life experience might only take a few minutes. So they might be able to “graduate” from this life school, within a few days or weeks of enrolling, but having acquired hundreds of life experiences as different species, learning all that you must learn to be a trustworthy member of a Type-III Civilization, in regards to your peers, and the other not-so-fortunate species in the universe.

It’s like virtual reality, but designed to teach youngsters how to become adult beings, fast. Some religious people would call this a process of “becoming God”, but I’m not religious. I would see it more like a school, where you can’t cheat your way around.

I mean, the last thing we want in our galaxy is a little brat, with super-advanced technology, blowing up whole planets just for fun. Right? Right??

Writing music: my new hobby

Videography will remain my hobby, but I’m now ready to take on a new hobby too: learning to play, and (most importantly for me) compose music. So yesterday, I bought the Casio CTK-3000 keyboard (got a bundle at Amazon).

The problem is that I’m 37 years old. I can’t learn brand new things easily anymore. In fact, I never could. Truly and deeply learning was always a struggle for me, because of focusing/learning problems (ADHD). So naturally, I feel that I have a mountain in front of me learning play music.

Thankfully, just earlier today, I found this free application: Synthesia. It’s a game like Guitar Hero, but it’s for the PC/Mac, for the piano, and it supports MIDI controllers. There’s no easier way to learn to play by ear! There are thousands of .mid files around, for free, so this can make learning very easy.

In the past year I noticed how good my husband became by playing these GuitarHero-type games on his PS3 and XBoX360. His instrument of choice is drums, and within a year, by playing only 4-5 hours a month, he’s already pretty fast with it. This doesn’t mean that he knows how to play real drums, but it is obvious to me that this kind of visual “game-like” training works, and it will surely work for my purpose too.

My ultimate goal is to compose my own music. I’m not interested in playing/performing music, I just want to write original music, and share it with everyone. But in order to write music, you must know how to play it too (when composing it). I’m not going to use loops and ready-made melodies, you see. To help me with composition, I’m eying Ableton Live for the PC, an $800 piece of software. I will cross that bridge when I get there, when I feel I’m ready for something like it. I tried the free Rosegarden and Ardour on my Linux laptop, but they were pretty chaotic — and buggy.

I have very specific ideas of what kind of music I want to write. I want to write chillwave, but not the kind that exists today (which echoes ’80s new wave music). I want to write chillwave that echoes jazz. Basically, that would be reverbed electronic music, that has jazz overtones, instead of the nostalgic summer melodies chillwave has today.

I know little about jazz, and I only started to listen to it recently. I’m planning of buying 4-5 more jazz albums (the classics), and stop there. I don’t want to know a lot about jazz, because I don’t want to get influenced by it. Instead, I want to give the impression of jazz to my music (chillwave is modern impressionism, for those who don’t know). I want to convey how jazz sounds to the NON initiated! But through the distorted glass that is chillwave.

Difficult to explain. All I can say though is that it won’t be real jazz. There won’t be improvisation, or solo exchanges between a number of musicians on stage — as Jazz requires. What it will be, for sure, is chillwave: [jazzy] bedroom pop. Hopefully, it will overall sound fresh.

For now, I also bought this book: “Music Theory for Computer Musicians”. At some point in the future, this would be needed knowledge to go further in my quest. Playing by ear, and mastering a piece of software, only gets you so far.