Fascinating courtly intrigue and bloody power games set on a generation ship full of secrets―Medusa Uploaded is an imaginative, intense mystery about family dramas and ancient technologies whose influence reverberates across the stars. Disturbing, exciting, and frankly kind of mind-blowing.” ―Annalee Newitz, author of Autonomous

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

What Sam the Bad Cat Taught Me About Hunger

One day as I was carrying a load of laundry into the garage, I was arrested by the sound of avid munching. There is no other way to describe it. Not the placid chewing of the herbivore, or even the fierce gobbling of the carnivore, this feverish crunch-crunch is made by a particular creature – the nyom-nivore. In this case, Sam the Bad Cat. He had discovered our store of dry cat food and had broken into it.

As you can see, Sam the Bad Cat was well named. Even when he spotted me, he didn't pause in his pursuit of satisfaction. As I watched him relentlessly reduce our stock of feline nutrition, I realized he reminded me of someone – myself. Not that I'm into cat food. But I'm also capable of diving into a meal with irrational exuberance. Yet Sam was a cat with diabetes. I've been overweight many times in my life, but I've never been diabetic. What was it we really had in common?

You might say, Well duh! How about hunger? You know, like – itself?

But I've had far too much experience with hunger to dismiss it that quickly. Hunger can be much more complicated than it seems. In fact, after years of over-eating, fasting, dieting, and struggling with hunger itself, I've identified four different types of hunger, each with its own special challenges. The first and most common type is the least complicated.

Empty Hunger
This really is the most straight-forward (and dangerous) hunger, provoked by an empty stomach and the need for calories to stoke the furnace. I have known people who only feel this sort of hunger a few times a day, and who satisfy it easily with small, simple meals. When they aren't feeling it, they don't even think about food, and they honestly can't understand why anyone else would. They think it's all just a matter of common sense. How hard can it be?

Yeah – those people are really annoying. And they never seem to feel the second kind of hunger, the one that demands comfort.

Comfort-Me Hunger
This is the hunger that tends to erode my self-control. It's triggered by stress, exhaustion, frustration, and a serious passion for cake. Empty Hunger may be a factor in triggering Comfort-Me Hunger. But while Empty Hunger can be satisfied by eating nutritious food, if I don't find just the right thing to satisfy Comfort-Me Hunger, it's just going to get madder and madder, like a peevish zombie who's been offered a plate of toenails instead of the yummy cranial stuff. That madness can lead to the third kind of hunger I've felt.

Junkie Hunger
This really is the food version of a heroin habit. It shares enough symptoms with drug and alcohol addictions that I can often recognize myself in testimonials I've heard from people in recovery, like hiding my food purchases from family members, lying about what I'm eating and how much, and lost weekends where gallons of ice cream mysteriously evaporate. But the most disturbing thing about Junkie Hunger is that it can't be satisfied. It's the rush from eating that I crave, and often the only thing that will stop it is feeling uncomfortably full. Comfort-Me Hunger can pack the pounds on gradually, but too many episodes of Junkie Hunger have sometimes caused my weight to balloon in a fraction of the time it takes to lose the same number of pounds.

So when I saw poor old Sammy munching away at the kitty crunchies, I thought I was seeing something akin to Junkie Hunger. But I was wrong. His appetite was caused by something just as voracious, but essentially different.

Overfed Hunger
When you have diabetes, your body has trouble absorbing nutrients from the food you eat. That triggers Empty Hunger, because your body really craves those nutrients. It was awful to see poor Sammy eating bowl after bowl of cat food, yet slowly starving to death. Regular insulin shots and a high-protein diet helped him with that imbalance.

But I don't have diabetes; my blood sugar has always been within the normal range. Yet I've experienced Overfed Hunger too, a craving for nourishment that over-eating can't satisfy. That's how it differs from Junkie Hunger, which is more like a craving for sensation. It feels as if my body is so overwhelmed by the extra calories, it becomes less efficient at processing them. Sure, I put on some fat, but not as much as you would expect – and the Empty Hunger is still nagging at me, claiming that it never got fed. The more I eat, the louder it complains, and that's what made me realize the only way to curb both Overfed Hunger and Junkie Hunger – is to starve them.

Yowza! Did I Just Use the S-Word?
Starve is never a word that should be used lightly. It evokes thoughts of malnutrition, anorexia, hypoglycemia, and of countless weight-loss diets sabotaged by the stress of too much Empty Hunger. So I'd like to make it clear that I'm not talking about actual starvation. What I mean is that I control Junkie Hunger and Overfed Hunger by satisfying Empty Hunger and even indulging Comfort-Me Hunger from time to time. But I count my calories, don't exceed sensible limits (usually), and keep sugar and fat consumption levels within reasonable boundaries. My body seems to have an easier time absorbing nutrition when it's not struggling to process too many calories. I've lost weight, but don't feel like I'm starving.

I'm no saint. But I've been more successful at controlling my eating habits than I used to be. Bouts of Junkie Hunger are fairly rare these days, and I haven't felt Overfed Hunger in two years. And I'm pretty sure that recognizing these different types of hunger is what got me on the right path. For that, I thank Sam the Bad Cat and his munch-mania. If I hadn't witnessed what was going on with him, I might not have seen the bigger picture.

Sam the Bad Cat passed away a few years ago, at the age of 16 – old for a cat, and very old for a cat with diabetes. His illness had enough in common with human Type II diabetes to be a real object lesson. And it's not lost on me that many people in this world really are starving. I would never compare my problem to their suffering. Yet the hunger I've felt has sometimes been very stressful and challenging. And trying to understand the underlying cause of that hunger has helped me to get a handle on it.

I stole the illustrations for this post from my husband, artist/writer Ernest Hogan, but that's not the worst thing I've ever done to him. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Michael Levy in the Daily Mail!

Michael Levy has been interviewed on The Daily Mail!  Follow the link below . . .

My arrangement for lyre of the oldest written melody so far discovered - featured in the Daily Mail!

In my daily struggle in my status as an independent musician in the soulless 21st century CE (when I am frustratingly in possession of musical skills which certainly would have made me a legendary living as the 'Bruno Mars of the Bronze Age' in the 21st century BCE!), after another morning spent doing yet another tedious, tiring and totally unrewarding part-time job to make ends meet, I was delighted to be contacted by a journalist from the Daily Mail Online, who wanted to feature one of the viral YouTube renditions of my arrangement for solo lyre of Hurrian Hymn Text H6 in a news story on the world's oldest song!

At approximately 3,400 years old, the Hurrian Hymn Text H6, is literally the oldest surviving substantial fragment of an actual written melody so far discovered, which can actually be interpreted and performed, some 3,400 years later:

Who knows, maybe one day, some ever elusive, enlightened record company out there might now take my musical mission seriously...may almighty Apollo's will be done!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

I just lost Fifty Pounds! (For the Seventh Time . . .)


There are times in your life when you really have to be grateful for thrift stores – like when you have to replace an entire wardrobe. When you gain weight, you grudgingly buy the larger sizes, worrying that having them will give you permission to put on more weight. And when you've lost weight several times, you wonder if you should keep your larger sizes in storage, in case you need them again. 
But it's always fun to buy the skinny clothes. I know this, because I've done it seven times.

On previous occasions, everything from dysmorphia to vanity spurred me to lose weight. But my reasons were a lot more straight-forward this time. This time it was pain. My knees and hips ached so much, I couldn't sleep through the night. I took lots of pain killers, hoping the discomfort would pass. But it just got worse. 
I'm a hiker, so I remembered what had caused me to feel that kind of pain in the past. Walking with just a couple of bottles of water and a few fig newtons is a lot easier than carrying an overnight pack. I had gotten to the point with my weight where I was carrying around the equivalent of a 50-pound load. Of course my knees hurt. If I wanted to feel better, I was going to have to put that pack down.

Good intentions are great, but hopelessness has stalled me many times. I have to change my habits if I want to succeed, and that's annoying. Plus there's cake, which will probably be the death of me some day, even if I stay relatively skinny. But pain is an excellent motivator, even better than vanity. So I lost fifty pounds in about 11 months. 
Yeah – I've read the news reports. All those people on The Biggest Loser gained all their weight back. And I know how they feel, because every previous time I have gained back the weight I lost.

Yet I still hope that this time around I'll be able to figure out how to keep from putting those extra pounds back on. Am I kidding myself? Maybe. 
But failing so many times can teach you something. Even other people's failures can be instructive.

Take my buddy (who shall remain nameless so he'll still be my buddy). Recently his doctor told him that his blood-sugar levels had reached official diabetic status, and it was time to talk about insulin medication. He rebelled against the idea, saying that he believed he could get his blood-sugar levels back down to the proper levels by changing his diet.

“Give me a month!” he begged.

“I'll give you three months,” she said, and handed him some testing strips he could use to check his blood-sugar levels every day. 
My buddy is a lot younger than me, so this whole diet thing is new to him. If a doctor had told me that I was technically diabetic, I would have bought a cookbook from the American Diabetes Association and started following it. Instead, my buddy decided he would eat nothing but raw vegetables, all day every day, world without end. That first week, he was starved, crazed, and in a really bad mood.

Pretty quickly, he began to cheat, big time. One day he gobbled down three Indian tacos in one sitting (beans, mutton, and chilies on fried bread – those suckers are huge). A couple of days later it was three hotdogs, two bags of potato chips, and a big can of the sugary soda he swore he would never touch again.

They say that the diet you design for yourself is the best diet. Unfortunately, for most of us that turns out to be the Delusional Idiot Diet until we finally learn from our mistakes. I've tried exactly the same thing my buddy did, throwing myself into a strict eating program with all the fervor of a religious zealot. But Alas! Starvation can turn the best of us into sinners. So big-time failure resulted. Would he listen to me when I tried to tell him that? Nope. Plus now he thinks I'm a know-it-all jerk.

He's at least half right about that; I do know some things. I know you can think you've got a handle on your weight-loss plan, and then something comes along and throws you for a loop. That protein shake you rely on to keep away the stress-hunger won't be available anymore, or they'll double the price. Your situation at work or home will blow up and leave you struggling just to get through the day without tearing out your hair. You'll throw yourself into an exercise regime that you really like, then hurt yourself and end up flat on your back. All of these things have happened to me. 
But when you go through that stuff, and you watch other people struggling too, a bigger picture can emerge. You begin to see what works and what doesn't. And it gets harder to kid yourself about the consequences of doing nothing. Every day I see people laboring just to get out of their cars and up to the front door of grocery stores, because they're so heavy they can barely move. They're in pain – it's etched into their faces. But when they exit the store, it's with a cartload of all the stuff that's making them miserable.
That's what I have to look forward to if I give up.

So I count calories, because if I don't, I'll end up eating too much (I have the same problem with money). I measure my waist and step on a scale once a week, so I know my real status. I sketch out what I'm going to eat the day before, so I don't end up improvising (I'm not good at that). I exercise to keep toned and fit, but don't rely on it for weight loss, in case I end up injuring myself. Protein is an important part of my diet, and I try to keep the fat and sugar at sane levels. My calorie intake is lower than it used to be, but not so low that I can't sustain it. 
A cynic might ask if it's worth it to go through so much pain and suffering if I just end up right back where I started. But actually – the suffering is no big surprise. I've been through it all before – I don't have any illusions about it. So far I've managed to keep the weight off for a year. It feels good to be rid of the knee pain, to enjoy food again instead of feeling uncomfortably full, to eat without getting indigestion. And it really feels good to walk into those thrift stores and try on anything I want. In fact, it feels so good, that may be the thing that helps me keep the weight off this time. 
And if not? Well, you know what they say. Eighth time's a charm . . .

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

In an Ancient Roman Garden (But Without the Cactus . . . )


Michael Levy has a new single to buy! Follow the link to get your copy . . .

In an Ancient Roman Garden

I am pleased to announce the release of my new ancient Roman-themed single, "In an Ancient Roman Garden"!

In this project, it was my aim to attempt to recreate an evocation of the lost serenity of Classical antiquity...

This single features a completely spontaneous improvisations for chelys (tortoise shell form) lyre, recorded, live in my own garden at the height of Summer, with nothing but the soothing, timeless background sounds of flowing water and birdsong.

The single is available now, from all major digital music stores and streaming sites, including iTunes, Apple Music, Amazon, Google Play, Spotify, CD Baby & Bandcamp:


As usual, as an independent artist, without the benefit of a record company to promote me, each and every new album review or blog post about my musical mission to reintroduce the beautiful lyres of antiquity back into the bland modern world, is to me, literally a 'libation to Apollo' - many thanks, everyone, for your continued support!