Some thoughts on “Your Song”

I’m not a music maven, so I hope you don’t mind, that I’ve put down in words, some thoughts about “Your Song.”

I’m surprised I was not really familiar with the song, which is quite famous. It was a hit in 1970 – almost 50 years ago, now that we are just over a month away from the 2020s.

I think heard it within the past year for the first time. I didn’t even first hear Elton John’s original. Instead I heard this salute version by Lady Gaga. It’s really well staged, with Lady Gaga in full flamboyant imitation of Elton John, with beautiful orchestral and choral backups, and dramatic video effects atop the stage.

It struck me as a beautiful salute. But even after watching it a few times I somehow didn’t bother to listen to the actual Elton John version. When I did, my first impression was that it was somewhat subdued compared to the more recent Lady Gaga cover. And of course Lady Gaga has an amazing voice. But the Elton John version has grown on me, for its simplicity and the way it tells a story.

Both versions, by the way, are included in ordinary Amazon Prime Music. So if you have an Amazon Prime membership you can download it and play it at no extra cost on all your devices. I added both versions to my “Favorites” list.

One thing that struck me about the song was the syntactic construction of the lyrics. Especially when I was trying to explain it to my Sunday volunteer English class. It may be quite simple, and grammatically it’s not necessarily straightforward, but now that’s it’s done it’s interesting to take apart and think about. Take this verse for instance:

So excuse me forgetting
But these things I do
You see I’ve forgotten
If they’re green or they’re blue
Anyway, the thing is, what I really mean
Yours are the sweetest eyes I’ve ever seen

At first glance it seems somewhat stilted and indirect. And it’s certainly not straightforward grammar. Artistic license is taken. When you hear it, you feel it’s actually a humble person explaining, in a somewhat awkward way, talking to someone they really like, and letting them know how wonderful life is while they are in the world. You begin to feel it comes out shy and likeable.

One minor point I’ll add. I was also listening to “Fire and Rain” by James Taylor, also from 1970 (and also downloadable with regular Amazon Prime music). While it’s a very different song from “Your Song” this part struck me as having something in common.

Just yesterday morning they let me know you were gone
Suzanne the plans they made put an end to you
I walked out this morning and I wrote down this song
I just can’t remember who to send it to

Elton John’s song is a feeling of love for someone who fills his world. Taylor’s is a sadder song for someone who left the world. But in both cases they felt a need to put down in words, a song, for someone special.

Like I said, I’m not a song maven. This might be the first blog post I ever wrote about music. But the song has sort of become an ear worm lately, so I felt like mentioning it. It may be quite simple, but now that it’s done, I’ll post this.

Tokyo 2020 Olympics Training

Yesterday I attended my scheduled 2020 Olympics training session at the National Olympics Memorial Youth Center in the Sangubashi neighborhood, near Shinjuku.

I hadn’t been to that neighborhood before. It’s just two stops from Shinjuku (3 minutes) but a world of difference. It’s much quieter, with some nice hills and interesting shops and restaurants.

The Olympics Center itself is huge – but aging. It was built after the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

The session lasted 3 hours. It was a bit exhausting, but interesting. There was lots and lots and lots of talk about diversity and disabilities. People could take out their smartphones and tablets, and using a QR code connect to a real-time Q&A system. They would periodically ask us to guess answers to questions, or ask our opinions about something, and the results would show up in histograms on the big front screen in real time. I wonder if there are systems like that in classrooms in the U.S. It’s certainly better than a show of hands count (there were 300 people in my session).

Here are some photos from the day. I don’t think I’ll hear back from them until March now about actual assignments, getting my accreditation card, and all the other stuff like my uniform and carrying bag.

It’s interesting being a part of it.

I’m a member of what is called the “Field Cast” – people who will go out in the field and help at events, help with athletes, and things like that. People who act as guides around the city and at stations are part of the “City Cast.”

I dreaded it when they asked me if I had a Japanese driver’s license, because I said yes, but I have a really bad sense of direction. They said, “That’s no problem – the cars all have navigation systems.” I really don’t want to get involved with driving around Tokyo in the middle of the Olympics though! I think something dealing with language help, media, or tech stuff might be better for me.

I also noticed on the events map that a large number of events are actually going to be practically within walking distance of my house! So it’s going to be a madhouse regardless.

Anyway, it should be something interesting to look back on later!

Click on individual photos to see them in full size.

In an unrelated side-note, I keep wondering these days where to post things. I love my blog and have been using it for years. My friends and other people can search, and the content is mine, and it doesn’t fall into the FaceBook abyss. But not everybody is subscribed to it.

It’s somewhat easier to post to FaceBook, but everything there is fleeting. And I have some friends who aren’t subscribed to FaceBook either. I noticed that some non-FaceBook friends use Instagram, so recently I’ve started posting photos to that site, though I’m not crazy about the system. It does automatically post the same photos to FaceBook, so that way I can easily reach two sets of friends: FaceBook and Instagram users. Instagram is weird in the way it formats photos though, especially if you take some in portrait mode and some in landscape.

Some friends don’t use either social network, and only read my blog. While some read more than one so they get duplicate photos.

I guess I’ll just continue the way I am now – maybe use my blog more and just add links to FaceBook, to keep things going. But I used to post more Monta photos to my blog, and tend to post them to Instagram now.

I do promise to keep my political posts for the upcoming election separate though. I started a separate blog just for that: Feel free to subscribe there as well.

Intermittent fasting – unnecessary and can be dangerous

There is a fad of late called intermittent fasting, or IF for short. Adherents promote various versions. For example, eat only every other day, limit eating time to just a 6 or 8 hour window a day, go on a water fast for multiple days, etc. Some even go on prolonged water fasts for multiple days at a time – or even weeks!

These people claim various benefits, including faster weight loss, changing the body’s metabolism, better long term weight loss, curing disease, and whatnot.

Dr. Michael Greger, the author of “How to Not Die” and the upcoming “How to Not Diet” has researched fasting intensively for his new book, and has been releasing videos at his site lately ahead of the release.

His very reasonable conclusion, I’m happy and relieved to say, is that not only can IF be dangerous if not done under strict medical supervision, but there are no benefits at all for weight loss, as compared to just ordinary reasonable calorie restriction.

Here are some of his recent videos. Note: I can’t stand listening to his voice, so I watch these on mute. They are all closed captioned.

This video shows that eating every other day can actually increase your cholesterol:

IF can actually slow body fat loss (like keto):

It doesn’t make any difference at all whether you do intermittent fasting or continuous calorie restriction. In other words, a regular calorie restricted diet has the same effect.

There is no advantage to intermittent fasting for weight loss. It might be dangerous. It’s completely unnecessary. Plus, to me, the whole idea seems contrived and unpleasant. I like eating. I eat healthily now. I’m down 101 lb and just have 16.5 lb to go to achieve a normal BMI. I did this without any fasting at all. I don’t ever feel deprived. I eat lots of healthy foods (whole food plant based) on a normal, daily schedule.

My personal feeling is that IF is just one of those fads. If you’re interested in it check the actual research out before trying it.

Major Milestone – down over 100 lb!

Today is MyFitnessPal streak day 2,726 (I’ve had ups and downs) and I’m happy to report that as of this morning I have lost a total of 100.5 lb (45.6 kg). 

I follow WFPB (Whole Food Plant Based) eating. This means being mostly vegan, eating mostly whole foods, avoiding as much added sugar as is practical, and also avoiding oils. It’s all “mostly” rather than 100% inviolable rules. It’s a basic guideline I stick to as much as possible. 

For example, I will eat white rice if brown rice isn’t available. I’ll have miso soup in a restaurant even though I know it contains bonito extract. I might very occasionally even have some fish in a sushi restaurant (though I mostly stick with the vegan options). I think this is all in the spirit of WFPB eating. If I’m on a 14 hour air flight I’ll order the vegan meal even though I know there is probably some oil in it. That’s probably the only time I have any oils.

I’m also down over 62 lb since recommitting to WFPB in September last year after reading Dr. Michael Greger’s, “How Not to Die.” His book was a trigger to get me back on the right path again. Chef AJ, Potato Strong, and Plant Based Gabriel have all also been inspirations and supportive during this process.

During this time, all my blood values have returned to normal. In particular, my dangerously high HbA1c came down over time and has been in the normal range for months now, and my cholesterol values are all super great, and the doctors are very pleased.

As mentioned in a previous post, I have tweaked Dr. Greger’s advice to suit me (everybody is different), in order to (1) keep on track with my weight loss and (2) have really great digestion.

Some of my tweaks include:

  • More careful “sequencing” to eat more food from the low calorie-density side of the chart. This just means starting meals with lower calorie-density foods like large salads and non-starchy vegetables before moving onto more satisfying starches, like potatoes.
  • Avoiding some foods from the low side of the calorie-density chart which I personally still feel are too high in calories, like bananas. Blueberries and watermelon have much lower calorie densities, while bananas have a higher calorie density than potatoes!
  • Having potatoes rather than rice when possible, because of lower calorie density, and they are more filling to me. They are really great when topped with nutritional yeast and moistened with a bit of soy milk. Air fried they are also great.
  • Not having too many potatoes. About 10-12 ounces seems good for a main portion, rather than a couple of pounds, like some people do.
  • Avoiding nuts. Sorry Dr. Greger, they do count. They are extremely high calorie. I do add flax seeds to my salads though. They contain healthy fats and have a slightly nutty flavor and make the salads more satisfying.
  • Logging food and exercise calories, and my daily weight, in MyFitnessPal (calories count whether you count them or not). MyFitnessPal has been my weight “sanity check” for 2726 days now, which has prevented me from having a full rebound even when I fell off the wagon a couple of times in the past.
  • And I don’t eat a lot of legumes because no matter what I try they cause unpleasant digestive side-effects. However, instead, I have lots of firm tofu! That doesn’t seem to bother me, and provides lots of protein, and also healthy fats, and is definitely on the lower side of the calorie density chart.
  • For exercise, I basically walk as much as possible. I track that using MapMyRun, which syncs to MyFitnessPal. It’s good for health, and it gives me an extra calorie buffer each day. I’m trying to work up into resistance training also so I can build some upper torso strength and muscles, but haven’t really gotten into it yet.
  • I do not do intermittent fasting. I do not think it is necessary, and it just doesn’t appeal to me.

Eating this way seems long-term sustainable to me. There is no sense of deprivation, which is important. It may seem like I’ve been doing this a long time, but consider this:  time passes whether you are dieting or not, so you might as well take up healthy habits along the way.

This morning I’m down to 83.4 kg. According to BMI charts, that’s just 8 kg from a normal weight! (And yet, here in Japan, I still find it hard to get clothes that fit me in a regular shop!)

My short term goal is to get into the 70s by the end of the year. At this rate I might or might not make it – it’s a slow pace. But I am slowly and consistently losing weight, so I’m not too worried about that.

And onward!