Category Archives: Mind

#2: Take 2 Classes: Bollywood

Bollywood Dance 

Three weeks ago I signed up for Bollywood Dance Class, and finally last week we had our first class!

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Bollywood is one of the largest film producers in India, and one of the largest centers of film production anywhere in the world. Bollywood is a play on words combining Bombay and Hollywood. Often mistakenly understood to encompass the whole of Indian cinema, Bollywood is only a part of India’s large and thriving film industry. Nevertheless, Bollywood is sure the most popular form of Indian cinema in the U.S. Most people have heard of or seen the over-the-top, emotion-conveying dances that characterize  Bollywood dance. Even “So You Think You Can Dance?” features Bollywood fusion dance every now and again.

So where does Bollywood Dance Come From?

Bollywood style dance is a fusion of many different influences, old and new. Dances vary greatly but are tied together through their representation of Indian culture. Bollywood dance includes elements from ancient Sanskrit dramas, regional Indian folk theatre,  Parsi theatre, Hollywood musicals, and western television like MTV.

I have always been drawn to the fast pace and expressiveness of Bollywood dance. So when I ran down the list of Minneapolis Community Education dance classes  and saw Bollywood there among the fray – I knew I had to take it! My teacher Mystic Siren, photographed below, was an excellent coach for beginners.

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Having only taken one dance class before ever, and finding myself way behind the class when it came to learning choreography, I was excited to take a class for beginners. Everyone was on the same level and grateful when the footwork started real slow. I was able the master the steps in half time before she picked up the pace. For the first class we just learned some basic steps and hand gestures, but I had a great time. If you want to get a glimpse of Bollywood Dance, check out this music video for the song Chammak Challo from the movie Ra One. I have’t seen the movie but I love the song – and you might find the singers voice familiar, because it’s Akon!

I can’t wait to keep learning, and luckily I have 8 more weeks to soak it all in! Wish me luck!

 

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#20 Read 20 New Books: The Warrior Heir

The Warrior Heir

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The Warrior Heir is the first book in the trilogy, The Heir Chronicles, a young adult fiction novel about a young boy who discovers his destiny as a warrior. One day when sixteen year old Jack Swift forgets to take the medication he’s been taking his entire life, he is filled with the sudden power to send his rival and bully, Garrett Lobeck, flying into the net at soccer tryouts. Soon his small-town Ohio life is turned upside down as he is thrown into a secret world where a powerful wizard ruling class dominates, enslaves, and hunts to near-extinction sorcerers, enchanters, soothsayers and most of all, warriors.

From the back of the book:

Before he knew about the Roses, 16-year-old Jack lived an unremarkable life in the small Ohio town of Trinity. Only the medicine he has to take daily and the thick scar above his heart set him apart from the other high-schoolers. Then one day Jack skips his medicine. Suddenly, he is stronger, fiercer, and more confident than ever before. And it feels great—until he loses control of his own strength and nearly kills another player during soccer team tryouts.

Soon, Jack learns the startling truth about himself: He is Weirlind; part of an underground society of magical people who live among us. At the head of this magical society sit the feuding houses of the Red Rose and the White Rose, whose power is determined by playing The Game—a magical tournament in which each house sponsors a warrior to fight to the death. The winning house rules the Weir.

As if his bizarre magical heritage isn’t enough, Jack finds out that he’s not just another member of Weirlind—he’s one of the last of the warriors—at a time when both houses are scouting for a player.

I am a sucker for teen fiction so I give this book 4 stars. It kept me engaged with its twists and turns and ruthless politics, and I found myself rooting for the main character’s independence. By the end I was already excited to read the next book. Coming soon, look for my review of:

The Wizard Heir

#17 Watch 17 new films: 13 Sins

13 Sins

The movie 13 Sins doesn’t have a single recognizable actor, 3 starts on Netflix, and a strange summary, but it sure is a movie that’ll keep you on the edge of your seat!

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I give this movie 4 stars

Elliot is a down-on-his-luck salesman and soon-to-be husband with a baby on the way. His bills are piling up and his elderly (racist) father is getting evicted with nowhere else to live except with him and his black fiancée. To top it all off he loses his crappy job and the health insurance that covers his disabled brother’s care in the first 5 minutes of the movie.

Then he receives a phone call from a mysterious stranger who tells him he’s been selected for a one-of-a-kind game show and promises him $1000 to swat a fly. After he complies and finds $1000 deposited into his bank account he’s very intrigued and confused. The next challenge, eating the fly, comes with $3622. As the money increases, the challenges only get worse. The only catch is that if you quit or fail, you lose all the money you’ve earned and you’re left with your own legal defense. Finish all 13 challenges and all your troubles go away, they say. So he keeps going. But when will he reach a point where he can go no further?

Find out for yourself! You’ll find the movie on Netflix instant! What are you waiting for already? Go find out what happens to soft-spoken Elliot in his adventures with “the game”.

#10 Accomplish 10 things you didn’t think you could do: Minneapolis Bike Tour!

#10 Minneapolis Bike Tour Long Route

Last weekend Remy and I biked 32 miles in the Minneapolis Bike Tour!

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We woke up at the ass-crack of dawn last Saturday to get to the starting like by 8:00 am. Upon pulling into Boom Island on our bikes we were immediately swallowed up by the masses of people completing registration and getting started. There was simultaneously complete chaos and complete organization, with people shouting things here and directing people there, everyone doing their own thing and the same thing.

We found our registration table and got our official “Minneapolis Bike tour” tags and t-shirts. After that it was off to the starting line (which was aaaalllllll the way across the river, so I’m calling our ride 32.5! 😉 heehee).
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With the wind in our hair we took off at a moderate pace, excited to be doing this for the first time! And everything went smooth for the first 2 miles. That’s when it happened. Our first major hill. We powered up the massive monstrosity out of the river- valley on our single speed (no gears) bikes without walking, but there was no celebration because we were too exhausted. Remy has been preparing for months with his daily biking to work, but I hadn’t done much to prepare. Now that choice was really catching up with me! I didn’t see how I was going to make it another 30 miles after that!

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I dragged myself to a rest another half mile after that, and I had to lie down. I even snapped at Remy for not waiting for me even though he was right there. But after a few minutes and a few hearty gulps of water (and Remy sneaking off to pee) I was thankfully ready to go again! I apologized to Remy and recommitted to our route. I could do this.

We made it to the first official rest stop in another mile and a half and stopped briefly for some air for Remy’s tire, and some orange slices. Took a quick walk down the dock and snapped a photo and we were off again!

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After that first setback it was smoother sailing the rest of the way. I found my groove and was able to just keep biking! There were a few more hills but none as tragic as the first. We even skipped one of the later rest stops later and just kept biking! One of the volunteers we met along the route told us that there were over 3200 bikers riding that day between the 16, 25, and 32 mile routes! That’s incredible to me!

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Remy was looking mighty fine on his fancy Surly single speed bike!
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For the first time ever in an athletic situation, Remy actually challenged me! I’ve gotten used to being the coach and source of encouragement in our relationship, so it was good to be the one who got pushed for once! Even though I’m sure Remy would have liked to go a little faster, we both had a wonderful time and he stuck to my pace. And we still finished in just about 3 hours!

It was such a wonderful thing to do together I think we’ll do it every year! Next year we were thinking of inviting friends and family to participate with us!

#15 Learn 15 New Things: Knitting!

Learn 15 New Things!

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Last weekend I met a fabulous new friend – Sam – who came over and taught me how to knit!

Sam is another awesome person I connected with through OkCupid. She’s a non-profit working, art making, Etsy store having – https://www.etsy.com/people/SamLenser, tea drinking, dancing, baking, fun loving, spirituality practicing lady. I had a great time getting to know her and getting to know knitting!

Sam explained the knots for getting started, then she showed me how to hold the needles and make the first line. I started making a scarf because they are simple, and they have the same number of knots each time. I didn’t have trouble at first, but the second line – where the actual knitting began – was tricky at first. She brought over her books to help me too, which was great!

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Eventually I got it, but I have a lot of practicing to do to make pretty, even patterns. My first project might be sloppy, but I’m having fun!

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I can’t wait to hang out again, but she’s moving next weekend and will be busy for a few weeks! Hopefully be the next time we hang out I’ll have some progress to show her!

#10 Accomplish 10 things you didn’t think you could do: Roller Derby Tryouts!

Every muscle in my body aches. I feel like an eighty year old man, clutching at arm rests to help myself sit down. The reason: Windy City Roller Derby League Tryouts.

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I’ve always admired roller derby divas but for some reason I’ve never had the courage to try out before now. So why know? Its the middle of winter, I haven’t worked out in ages, and I only found out about the tryouts last weekend, so that left me only a week to prepare… But something inside of me told me now was the time to give it a shot, while I have the excuse of this project to drive me to try things I didn’t think I could do. Trying out for roller derby definitely counts as something I didn’t think I could do.

Part of the difficulty of getting into roller derby is that you need to buy your own equipment to really practice. But here in Chicago, they have a great program for recruiting and training new divas. They have Open Skate Nights and they loan out skates and pads to those who need it. The only thing you need is a Mouthguard, and don’t show up without it or they won’t let you on skates!

So I went to open skate last Wednesday, and I learned a bunch of great tips and things to practice and prepare for from the captains. Roller Derby is very much run by the idea of “by the people for the people.” The league all-stars and captains make decisions collectively, and practice and training is also widely self-administered. The Windy City Rollers is a women’s flat track roller derby league consisting of 4 home teams and 3 traveling teams. I learned I’d be trying out of the league pool team. If I happened to make it through tryouts, I’d get to attend league practices and improve with the hopes of getting drafted by one if the 4 teams.

I learned I needed to practice my stops before Saturday, so I went to a roller rink called MLK down on the south side, for one more chance to practice. I worked on getting my speed up, t-stops, wedge-stops, and turn-stops, and by the end I was feeling pretty good about Saturday. I didn’t necessarily think I’d make it, but it was a relief to feel like I wouldn’t embarrass myself too much.

I arrived Saturday morning bright and early and quickly learned that skating would not be my only hurdle that day. First, we spent 30 minutes “warming up” with sprints and ladders and core exercises and thigh-killing wall-sits. I tried to pace myself but by the time we even put on our skates my legs were jelly. I struggled to stand on my skates without awkwardly flailing around but I gave myself a stern mental talking-to and stayed upright. I refused to make it obvious that I was such a newb, and I did my best through the skating drills. I still think I looked like this bitch:
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My performance during stops was dreadful because I couldn’t force my legs to push into the floor hard enough to stop quickly and maintains balance. My jelly-legs caused me to fall at least 5 times, but I kept getting back up. I redeemed myself by ski-hopping over the track line 59 times in 30 seconds. Then, during 1v1 races I fell, causing the girl I was racing to trip over me and go down as well. Being the first one up after our topple, I got and maintained the lead for the rest of the race. I couldn’t believe I won! It felt good.
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After all the skating exercises, the captains interviewed us individually, and I admitted that this was only my 3rd or 4th time on skates. They seemed impressed with what I was able to master in the short time I had. They asked about my availability and why I wanted to join their league, and I said that it seemed like the right time now that my schedule is more open. I left with a good feeling – even if I wasn’t quite skilled enough to make the cut this time, I met some great people and learned some valuable tips for improving my game. The ladies running tryouts were extremely demanding yet encouraging, and all my other tryoutees pushed themselves to the brink to show they wanted it, and for that they have all earned my respect as talented athletes.

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Part 2: The Pain Begins

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Today I just got the word: I’ll be seeing you around the track!

I made it into the Windy City Rollers League draft pool! For the next 2 months I’ll get to learn from the best and try to beef up my game so I can get drafted by one of the teams. I’ll keep you guys updated on my progress and various inevitable bruises, and you’ll be the first to know if I make the draft!

I could end up in one of four teams. Which one do you think I’m meant for?

Double Crossers
Hell’s Belles
Manic Attackers
The Fury

#15 Learn 15 New Things: Women’s Roller Derby!

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There’s no arguing that Women’s Roller Derby is one of the toughest, most fast-paced contact sports around.
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I’ve seen the Minnesota Roller Girls a few times and they always keep me on the edge of my seat. The skaters are tough as nails and out to kill. Today I saw a Facebook post by my old favorite team and I felt inspired to learn more about the sport. As much as I’ve enjoyed watching derby and admiring those who play it, I admit I understand little about the rules of the game.

Anatomy and Rules of The Bout:

Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby is played by two teams of 5 skaters, flying at lightning speed in a pack around a track. The players fight to earn points and knock other players out of the ring.
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The matches are called bouts and they consist of two 30 minute periods, which are broken up into numerous jams. Each team consists of 3 blockers, 1 jammer, and 1 pivot. The jammer starts in back and score points by lapping members of the opposing team. The teams play both offense and defense at once; they help their own jammer while hindering the other team’s jammer.
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Each jam can last up to 2 minutes, and each team scores points according to how many scoring passes their jammer made (every pass a jammer makes through the pack after the first one). The blockers use body contact, positioning, and other tactics to assist their jammer and hinder the other. The pivot is a blocker that can becomes a jammer if necessary.

Chicago

There are a few teams in every major city across the US these days, and US roller derby leagues represent about half of the 1250 leagues registered worldwide. Chicago has at least two leagues that I know about and each league is made up of at least 4 or 5 teams. The Windy City Rollers were founded in 2004 and the Outfit (an all-traveling league) in 2007. I can’t wait to get out and watch these ladies tear up the track!
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The History

According to Wikipedia, roller derby has evolved greatly over the years.

While the sport has its origins in the banked-track roller skating marathons of the 1930s, Leo Seltzer and Damon Runyon are credited with the basic evolution of the sport to its initial competitive form. Professional roller derby quickly became popular; in 1940 more than 5 million spectators watched in about 50 US cities. In the ensuing decades, however, it predominantly became a form of sports entertainment where the theatrical elements overshadowed the athleticism. This gratuitous showmanship largely ended with the sport’s contemporary grassroots revival in the first decade of the 21st century. Although some sports entertainment qualities such as player pseudonyms and colorful uniforms were retained, scripted bouts with predetermined winners were abandoned.
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Junior Roller Derby!

Roller Derby has also been taken over by young’uns! In Chicago, as well as Austin, TX, and a number of other major US cities, there are now roller derby leagues for kids age 7-17! In Chicago the Outfit is a parent team of the Chicago Riots, just that type of league! Watching youth derby – even videos online – really does a number on your emotions; you’re drawn in because those kids are absolutely adorable, but then you keep watching because they’re some badass little brats who know how to throw down. If I were a kid I would love the idea of slamming other kids around on roller skates! Here’s to creating a whole new generation of tough chicks!
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#15 Learn 15 New Things: Phytochemicals!

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The latest thing I have been driven to learn more about are phytochemicals.

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What are phytochemicals?

Phytochemicals are non-nutritive plant chemicals that have protective or disease preventive properties. They are nonessential nutrients, meaning that they are not required by the human body for sustaining life. It is well-known that plant produce these chemicals to protect themselves but recent research demonstrate that they can also protect humans against diseases. There are more than thousand known phytochemicals. Some of the well-known phytochemicals are lycopene in tomatoes, isoflavones in soy and flavanoids in fruits.

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According to the Stanford Medicine Cancer Institute, a surge in recent research on phytochemicals is showing a link between these plant-compounds and anti-cancerous qualities:

The scientific community is continually studying the role of diet in the development of cancer. Many results are preliminary and more is being learned every day. Research is discovering that intake of fruits, vegetables, and cereal grains may interfere with the process of developing cancer of the oral cavity, larynx, esophagus, stomach, colon, lung, prostate, and rectum. In addition to reducing the risk of developing cancer, the risk of developing heart disease, hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and other chronic diseases might also be prevented by eating more fruits and vegetables. There is also evidence that total fat intake of greater than 30 percent of total calories can increase the risk of developing some cancers. This is especially true when total fat intake includes saturated fat and possibly polyunsaturated fat.

The most phytochemicals most people are familiar with are antioxidants.

Antioxidant – Most phytochemicals have antioxidant activity and protect our cells against oxidative damage and reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer. Phytochemicals with antioxidant activity: allyl sulfides (onions, leeks, garlic), carotenoids (fruits, carrots), flavonoids (fruits, vegetables), polyphenols (tea, grapes).

According to http://www.phytochemicals.info, phytochemicals can also help with:

Hormonal action – Isoflavones, found in soy, imitate human estrogens and help to reduce menopausal symptoms and osteoporosis.

Stimulation of enzymes – Indoles, which are found in cabbages, stimulate enzymes that make the estrogen less effective and could reduce the risk for breast cancer. Other phytochemicals, which interfere with enzymes, are protease inhibitors (soy and beans), terpenes (citrus fruits and cherries).

Interference with DNA replication – Saponins found in beans interfere with the replication of cell DNA, thereby preventing the multiplication of cancer cells. Capsaicin, found in hot peppers, protects DNA from carcinogens.

Anti-bacterial effects – The phytochemical allicin from garlic has anti-bacterial properties.

Physical action – Some phytochemicals bind physically to cell walls thereby preventing the adhesion of pathogens to human cell walls. Proanthocyanidins are responsible for the anti-adhesion properties of cranberry. Consumption of cranberries will reduce the risk of urinary tract infections and will improve dental health.

Again referring to Stanford Medicine, “Phytochemicals are chemicals found in plants that protect plants against bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Eating large amounts of brightly colored fruits and vegetables (yellow, orange, red, green, white, blue, purple), whole grains/cereals, and beans containing phytochemicals may decrease the risk of developing certain cancers as well as diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. The action of phytochemicals varies by color and type of the food.”

So basically, if you strive for diversity of color and texture among your fruits and vegetables, and you’ll get a wide variety of phytochemicals!

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I am reminded of wonderful poster Remy ordered for us at Yoga Lifestyle on vegetarian nutrition, it’s a beautifully visual representation of the nutrients that come from plants!

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Here are some more!

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#20 Read 20 new books

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The first book I’m reading toward my goal of 20 books is…

Vegan’s Daily Companion!

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So far I’m truly enjoying it. It’s a pleasure to read and it’s also helping remind me of one of my other goals: gratitude.

To be honest these days I rarely even think about being vegan. I’ve done it for so long and it’s become so natural that sometimes days go by without me noticing. And from that forgetting comes taking that part of me for granted. I haven’t thought about the positives or negatives of being vegan in a long time. And because of this I haven’t felt as excited about being vegan lately. This book has been getting me excited about being vegan again.

It’s not full of do-gooder save-the-world vegan propaganda, although there’s no denying it’s propaganda of a sort. It’s written like a mantra, reminding the reader of ways to live as a joyful vegan. Its like a Chicken Soup for the Vegan Soul!

So far I’ve learned – or been reminded – through reading and reflecting that my ultimate goal as a vegan is one means to and end: unfettered compassion. I personally cannot allow my personal convenience to outweigh animal violence, and being vegan is one easy way to bring compassion into my life. Not to mention it encourages me to get creative with ingredients and cooking techniques, and I would say that I eat more diverse foods now than before I became vegan.

Ahimsa – the idea of causing no harm, is a phrase I am drawn to while reading this book. I’d like to meditate on this and learn more about ahimsa and nonviolence this year.

The Companion is organized like a day minder, with a passage for each day of the week. Monday is dedicated to “the love of food” and Friday is “stories of hope, rescue, and transformation.” Saturday and Sunday are for “healthful recipes”!

Promise to review more fully when finished!

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