23 years

Today is my 46th birthday. And yesterday was our 23rd wedding anniversary. That means I have been married to Michelle for more than half my life.

I remember, 23 years ago, one day shy of my 23rd birthday, standing there in Ragle Ranch Park in Sebastopol, CA, waiting to be married to the woman I love. I remember all our friends around us, holding swords, saying words over us, playing Greensleeves, or just watching us and cheering us on as we pledged our lives to each other. I remember grinning like a fool, and watching her cry her eyes out. I remember taking endless pictures, and then walking back to join all the guests, and saying “Thanks for coming, did you get some food?”

I would like everyone to know that I wouldn’t change a minute of it, because every minute has led us here, which is exactly where I want to be, more than anything else.

I would like everyone to know that in 46 years, when I am nearly 92, I hope we will still be side-by-side as we celebrate our 69th anniversary together.


We have decided to cut out added sugars and sweeteners during the month of January.  Anyone else interested in joining the challenge?  Reply to the post, or contact me privately if you prefer.

I’m borrowing a page from Whole30 (It Starts With Food) and  we probably won’t follow ALL of Whole30 but for now we will cut out sugar and see where that gets us.  Check the following link for more info.


My Yahoo account was compromised

About a dozen of my friends and contacts got spam labeled “From Greg Connor” and I believe the contact addresses came from my Yahoo.com mail account.

Even though the spam was not sent out through Yahoo.com mail servers, the contacts were unique to my Yahoo address book.  (I don’t use Yahoo mail but I had imported the contacts over a year ago in an attempt to sync them to my phone or something).

So, lessons learned:

  1. Change your password often and use a different one for each site, especially for your email account.  I highly recommend LastPass to generate unique passwords and type them in for you.
  2. Use two-factor auth if available, either with an authenticator app on your phone, or mobile-phone login verification. (If you prefer not to give your real phone number, you can sign up for Google Voice and get a phone number that goes to voicemail until you decide to turn it on)
  3. If  the site doesn’t offer Google Authenticator as an option, make sure your Security Questions are up to date and turn on login verification using the security questions. (Hint: security questions don’t have to have real answers as long as you can remember or record them. For example: Town where I grew up: Smallville – Childhood best friend: Lex)
  4. Don’t leave other people’s private info lying around if you don’t really need them. (I failed this one.)  Unused mail accounts with contacts, or social network sites that ask you to import your contacts, can keep your friends’ contact details around and leak them if your account is compromised.

Caves of Madness: Chapter 1, scene 1


Welcome to Springvale! Usually, life in our small cozy valley is quiet and peaceful. So quiet that many of us have left the valley to seek our adventure elsewhere.

But recently, something has disturbed our quiet town and threatens our neighbors and loved ones! Some folks have come back home to defend our families and neighbors from the new threat.

Prologue: Mad Caves

Visitors to Springvale may hear about the Mad Caves, and how they are filled with both treasure and danger. The locals love to tell stories about the Mad Caves, but none of the locals actually believe the stories. Really, it’s just an old copper mine, abandoned by the Dwarves in our grandparents’ time. Isn’t it?

The place where the Mad Caves meet the sky resembles a fanged maw, carved that way by the Dwarves of old who tunneled the caves. Outside the caves, a sunny sky offers warmth and peace, but inside the cave mouth there is just perilous darkness.

scene establishment

Image by: Sheila Thomson

Scene 1: Adventure Comes Calling

Dragon Rampant Inn, midday

The midday sun casts diamond shadows through the leaded windows of the Dragon Rampant tavern. The innkeeper, Burrick, tends the fire beneath a cauldron of garlic stew. A bard sits in the center of the room, plucking out a favorite folk-tune on a mandolin, not really performing since the place is still pretty empty.

The singer loses his place when the door to the tavern slams open and a man in a ragged cloak, muddy outfit, and one good boot storms and stumbles inside.

“Someone help us! Someone! Me mate, Wat! The beast in the Mad Caves is going to eat him up! We have to … hurry and … ugh!” The crazed fellow puts a hand to his head and his palm comes away bloody. “Someone … save Wat …”

The poor fellow collapses. As folk in the tavern rush to his side, he says, “We thought we could find treasures. We thought we could be heroic … like … in the tales, but … we …”

His eyes fall shut.

Ser Alwynn Registar II

Home is never completely dull. Burrick’s garlic stew never changes, either. Not in twelve years; always too much garlic, not a lot of chicken. Some potatoes on a good harvest, some carrots and wilted celery to fill in the gaps.

The musician is borderline good, for someone who hasn’t had classical training, but they’re no Tachnaliov, that’s for sure. But it’s a warm afteroon, and other than having a mild case of garlic breath, Ser Alwynn is being unobtrusive, eschewing the heavy armor of her calling in favor of a crisply pressed muslin shirt and heavy leather vest; her short horse blade hangs from the back of her chair.

She’s daydreaming of a better day, a better musician, and garlic stew that has more chicken and less garlic when the raving fellow comes barging in. That gets her attention, but the thing that draws her eye is the fact that the fellow has only one boot. That couldn’t have been fun to run on.

Nevertheless, Ser Alwynn is one of the first to the hapless man’s side. “Give him room!” she snaps, “Burrick! Hot water and some clean sheets if you have ‘em. I’ll cover the cost of the latter, but we need to find out how badly he’s wounded!”

  • Step 1 of treating the injured: ascertain the nature of the injury.
  • Step 2: if still alive, stop the bleeding first, then find the biggest injury and address it first.
  • Step 3: Find a priest if one is available.
  • Step 4: Find a physician if a priest is not available. However, Doc Levine retired a number of years ago, and didn’t have an apprentice. At best there might be a midwife about, unless that’s changed in her time away from Springvale.
  • Step 5: If neither a physician nor a priest is available, pray for aid.

Ser Alwynn hates resorting to Step 5.


Burrick looks annoyed, but doesn’t argue with Alwynn. He motions for his daughter (currently tending the stew) toward the hot water, then leaves the room, probably in search of clean linens.

It turns out that the hapless adventurer is not injured that badly, at least not physically. His head is still bleeding, but not a huge amount. He is conscious, though he is babbling incoherently and not able to form actual sentences.

Burrick returns with some mostly-clean linens and towels and hands them to Alwynn. The injured man seems to recognize him; his eyes widen and he says “Burrick! You were right!” Then he goes back to babbling about Wat and how we have to hurry.


A small party enters, seemingly not connected to the madman, especially given their immediate reactions to him. Someone who is apparently a healer of some stripe heads over and does what she can, with no signs of any particular recognition toward him. By the time the Elf enters, the madman is so surrounded that it’s likely she doesn’t see him, and indeed she is looking at the members of the newest group.

She is tall, with black hair and green eyes, wearing sensible, if exotic, clothing in shades of the forest. As with Elves in general she has a somewhat alien beauty. If her presence draws attention from the madman she won’t seem to notice, nor will she be unduly concerned if the attention stays on him.

Gravitating toward the newly-arrived party, she finally sees the madman, and gives him a long looking over, though with no offers of help or especial concern. She does notice the innkeeper, however, and when the other members of her party seem to be concerned with the madman, she approaches Burrick.

“Good afternoon, sir,” she begins, with a moderately accented tone and no apparent irony at his title. “My companions are native to this town and have a place to stay, but I am not.” This she says with a faint overtone, possibly one of humor. She continues, “May I trouble you for the price of food for all of us and a room for myself for some number of nights, as few as one or as many as necessary?”

Her companions, still half-distracted with the madman, smile at her formal tone and look over hopefully at the stew when she mentions picking up the tab for at least that part of a meal.

Ganador Blackfire

Gandador Blackfire is gobbling down garlic stew. It has too much garlic. Too much fire. It’d be good if he wanted to hurl fireballs at some monsters but it upsets his water magic. He gives a loud burp as the mad stranger enters. As people rush to the stranger’s side, he leisurely waddles over. He belches again and uses the garlic energy to try and get the stranger to focus.


Burrick takes one look at Mirheniel and recognizes an opportunity. Before today he had seen maybe one or two High Elves in his lifetime. Based on her appearance, he knows right away that she won’t bother to carry coppers and will probably pay for everything in silver. Plus, just having her around will give the poor roadside inn an instant upgrade.

He immediately stops what he is doing and shifts from Your-Buddy-Burrick to Squire-and-Footman-Burrick. “You are certainly most welcome. Let me show you to a room. Risa here will take your pack and bring fresh linens. Our stew is… a local favorite… but may be too spicy for your preference. Perhaps you would prefer the duck with spring onions?”

He ushers Mirheniel to the stairs, and gestures for his daughter to take the guest’s pack and follow quickly.

Meanwhile, the adventurer continues babbling incoherently, right up to the moment when the wizard comes up to him. Gandador Blackfire snaps his fingers once, and the guy immediately shuts up and turns to focus on the wizard.

After a moment he says, quite clearly, “Is that garlic? It’s quite hot in here, isn’t it?”

Now he seems awake and aware, and just a little embarrassed at the scene he just created. “Sorry,” he says, “it’s just that Wat is my friend. It was stupid to go there, but I can’t leave him.” He seems almost ready to talk.

Ser Alwynn Registar II

Burrick is a man trying to make an honest living; Ser Alwynn can’t fault him for that. But his way of telling tall tales of treasure and adventure to the locals is likely to get someone killed; at first glance, the crazed fellow has blood everywhere, but some quick and efficient cleaning of the excess reveals but a light gash on the forehead. Might leave a scar.

At least Burrick has the sense to drop off the linens before he gets distracted by another customer; she can see why, because Elves are rare in these parts, and an entourage that size (locals: hangers on?) surely will help get Burrick through the season better than making money off of watered beer and tips.

Ser Alwynn has the grace to not get annoyed when the Elf pretty much sweeps off with the tavernkeeper -and- his daughter; she’s got what she needs for the moment.

The paladin begins prodding him lightly for other injuries when a gust of garlic breath worthy of the ‘dragon’ of the eatery on King’s Way comes torrenting over her shoulder.

Her senses tell her that there’s also a magic component involved, but it could also be the obvious trappings of a wizard, and a well-fed one at that, standing behind said shoulder. The snap of the fingers is more effective than any healing she could have mustered on short notice; the man sits up and speaks coherently.

Huh. she thinks. That’s impressive. I would have resorted to something more like wasabi, but I doubt Burrick has any here.

“Easy now.” she says, in her best calming voice. The kind she uses on wild horses. “It’s a little warm, yes. And you and Wat aren’t from around here, or you’d know that the “Mad Caves” that Burrick has been filling your head with is naught more than an old copper mine, played out ages ago. Supposedly it’s haunted by dwarves of old, but it was sealed up after the last mining accident. You look like you’ve gotten your head hit by falling rock; I’d believe that more than monsters being after you and your friend. “If you can stand, you’ll be leading us back there. Once we get you another boot, anyway.” she suggests, then raises an eyebrow at the wizard hovering over her suggestively. “This a friend of yours, or would you like to come along as well?”


Wat takes a breath and looks around at the friendly strangers tending to him. “Thanks to you, all of you, for the help.”

He then looks back at Alwynn. “No, it weren’t the mine, it were the catacombs. You can’t get in through the temple, but there’s a dry well you can climb down. That leads to some crypts. That’s where we found the monster.”

Burrick enters the room again, leading the elf back down the stairs. “He’s likely right… I did see them talking to Brother Conway, and then they all left together. Best to check with Conway… he is likely at the temple about now.”

Whole30 strong: June 1-30

I’m getting ready to do another Whole30 along with a friend.  It is not very different from my current eating plan, so it’s not a huge stretch for me.  It will be more difficult for her, so giving up my dairy and dark chocolate for a while is one way I can show support.

Anyone interested in joining us?  If you are satisfied with your current way of eating, more power to you.  Keep on doing what works.  But if you want to try something new, think about joining us for 30 days: June 1-30.

Don’t think of it as committing to a new lifestyle… think of it as an experiment, a way to truly know whether you have food sensitivity issues you didn’t know about.  Yes, the plan is strict, but after 30 days, you can add “potentially problematic” foods back into your life and just see how you feel.  Almost nobody will continue following Whole30 for the next year, but almost everyone will end up changing their food strategy pretty dramatically and feeling way better about their choices.Contact me if you are interested in joining us!

Whole30 and paleo, more info

Some great coverage yesterday on the “Whole30” plan and “It Starts With Food” book:

I have been on the “Paleo” plan for some years now and I’m still quite happy with it.  I am both happier and healthier.  I really do believe that it literally saved my life (since I was pre-diabetic and I’m not anymore).

Yes, it is a really restrictive plan, but that’s why it’s only for 30 days.  The point is not to banish potentially problematic foods forever–the point is to reset and re-evaluate and actually determine what makes us healthy and happy.  Almost nobody will stick with the restrictive plan, but most of the folks I have helped/guided through the Whole30 have found it to be life-changing.

I’ve said this before, and the offer still stands: Any of my friends who would like to try this for 30 days, I will totally do it with you.  I will even buy you a copy of “It Starts With Food.”

This is why diets don’t work

Here’s why I truly believe “diets don’t work”…

I happen to think motivation is overrated. If you’re in the first 4 weeks of a new plan, motivation is super important. But if you have been on the same plan for 6+ weeks and you are having to keep “psyching yourself up” to stick to the plan, it is not a good life-plan.

1. Is your plan too hard? Running out of motivation after 6 weeks probably means your plan is difficult to follow. Take the opportunity to examine why your plan is difficult to follow. If you’re thinking “How can I find more motivation?” you can spend some time thinking about what makes your plan difficult.

2. Do you really expect it to get easier? If it’s not gotten easier after 6 weeks, it’s not going to change much the rest of the year. So you can struggle the rest of the year, or you can try changing the plan. You can always come back to this plan if you like.

3. Your plan should be a source of strength, not a source of stress. If you have to constantly pay attention, that means stress.

4. Does your plan depend on perfect conditions? If the rest of your life is pretty normal now, and following the plan doesn’t come naturally, the plan will *really* come off the rails with serious life-stress situations. Think what would happen to your plan if you, or a loved one were to die, or become chronically ill or disabled.

5. Is it a 6-month plan or a 60-year plan? Sure, you could plan to eat this way until you’ve lost the weight you want to lose, and then adjust the plan after that for maintenance, but that’s a huge risk. If you could spend 6 months in a difficult plan and then not have to worry about anything for several years, that might be an acceptable trade-off. But most of us know by now that it won’t work that way. So, don’t spend more than 4 weeks, maybe 6, in a plan that you won’t want to stick with the rest of your life. The quicker you discover the RIGHT plan for you, the sooner you can begin just living your life and not having to worry about food. So don’t spend more than 4-6 weeks living in a stressful plan.

6. You Are Not Broken. Much of the self-help weight-loss literature, as well as programs like calorie-counting or points, are based on willpower, correcting “bad” behavior, and forming good habits. That’s great–for the first 3-4 weeks. But I truly believe that this story line is great for selling more self-help books and tools, and actually bad at really helping people. There’s this theory that people with disordered eating are just selfish, or lacking self-control, or something about them mentally or emotionally is broken and causing them to overeat. Look inward and you can be taken in by this, and you can start to blame yourself for your shameful eating. But, look around at others as well. We all know plenty of other overweight/obese people, and most of those are mentally competent, emotionally stable, and quite competent in other parts of their lives. So don’t give in to the idea that we’re fat or have disordered eating because we’re not trying hard enough. If you genuinely have a mental or emotional issue, get help. But failing to stick to a difficult plan is not a defect.

7. Your willpower worked fine for 4 weeks. The good news, the flip-side of “You Are Not Broken” is this: If you were able to stick to the plan for 4 weeks, your willpower is just fine. Your motivation is just fine. You CAN do what you set out to do. You’ve already proved it. You didn’t fail, it is the plan that failed you. Find another plan. Keep trying until you find one that you are HAPPY to stick to for the next 5 years. The RIGHT plan will be hard for a couple weeks, maybe three, and by 4 weeks you will be thinking “This is the new me! I’m never going back!”


Great article from Business Insider:  “The 11 Most Destructive Nutrition Lies Ever Told” http://www.businessinsider.com/the-11-most-destructive-nutrition-lies-ever-told-2013-11

Some of my favorites:  2. Saturated Fat is Bad For You;   3. Everybody Should be Eating Grains;  5. Low-Fat Foods Are Good For You;  6. You Should Eat Many Small Meals Throughout The Day;  7. Carbs Should Be Your Biggest Source of Calories.  All of these are persistent lies that have made it into the mainstream conventional wisdom, and this article debunks them, giving links to actual scientific studies.

To be clear, I don’t think a “very low-carb” diet is appropriate for everyone, but I DO believe strongly that low-fat diets are universally terrible.  I really think that low-fat diets are killing people, in the thousands each year.  Telling someone with metabolic issues to go on a low-fat diet is like handing a gas can to someone whose clothes are on fire.

Key skill for success: adapt and adjust

I’m a huge fan of the Paleo diet, but I’ve come to realize that it’s not for everyone. And whatever plan we start with, being able to adjust, adapt, and change is hugely important. Modifying a plan for our own needs is crucial for long-term success, and sticking to a single plan strictly is a recipe for failure.

So this morning I found this great guest post by Chris Kresser on Mark’s Daily Apple: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/why-personalizing-your-diet-lifestyle-key-success/ This means that two of the Paleo community’s important leaders have joined forces to share the message that Paleo is not the perfect plan for everyone, and that we should be able to adapt and adjust. So perhaps there is something to this.

We are omnivores. As Heinlein said, specialization is for insects.

Low-fat diets discredited

Low-fat diets are starting to be discredited all over the place. Here is a study that spent $700M over 8 years, trying to prove that low-fat diets with lots of added veggies and whole grains helped post-menopausal women avoid or recover heart disease and diabetes.


In fact it found the exact opposite.
“Women with diagnosed cardiovascular disease at the start of the trial who adopted the ‘healthy heart’ low-fat eating option had a risk of developing future cardiovascular complications that was 26% higher than that of the non-intervention group.”
“The leanest women at the start of the trial gained weight on the low-fat diet and those with the least insulin resistance at the start of the trial were at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM) if assigned to the low-fat diet.”
“The low-fat diet also worsened glucose control in women with diagnosed diabetes”

More links along the same lines

The episode of Dr. Oz’s TV show where he denounces low-fat dietary advice

The acclaimed article in BMJ on saturated fat not being the problem

The report from Credit Suisse on the dangers of sugar

The recent episode of the Australian science television show on how saturated fat is not the cause of heart disease.