The song Rinascerò, Rinasceraiis originated from one of Italy’s most famous composers of the seventies, Roby Facchinetti. The royalties have now been reassigned to the Bergamo hospital, one of the hospitals in Italy that is at the center of the Corona crisis. Every purchase of the song is a donation. In the Bergamo hospital, 800 people died yesterday (March 28) alone – please forget the argument that this pandemic is „just like the standard flu“. Many thanks to all healthcare workers worldwide who are battling this disease for us, at the frontline. Share this post. The song can be heard here on YouTube, but the donation only works if you purchase the song (first link above).
I have tried to lose weight on and off, but not very successfully. In reality, my weight kept on inching up, as the children were born and grew up. At one point I had arrived at 97 kg (~214 pounds, 15.3 stone), and at 189cm (~6’ 2”) my body-mass-index was well above the “normal” BMI range for a man of my age. Since then I have lost 15kg in as many weeks – that is 1000g per week. For those of you interested in knowing how I achieved this, here the method that I have used. I have summarized this method in 20 easy steps.
I call this the Willpower Celeterra Watersoup Diet – although it isn’t really a diet (explained below) and the enigmatic Watersoup played only a small role in this method. But I did carry out this diet while writing my second novel CELETERRA and yes… you will need willpower.
1. Decide that you really want to lose weight. Sounds simple? Think: you must really, REALLY, want to lose weight. Accept the way that you are – that’s fine (and even essential for a happy life). And accept that you ARE ALWAYS changing – and CAN ALWAYS change.
2. Fix the date when to start. How about starting right away?
3. Choose a realistic target. I chose to lose 10kg at a rate of 500g per week. It turned out that I lost more weight and at a higher rate why not.
4. Determine how best to lose weight, do some homework. The tricks below come from many diverse website sources, I didn’t re-invent the wheel here. There are many informative and motivational websites with a lot of good tips, a ten minute web-search will direct you to a dozen useful ones. Do not rely on one site, but compare methods. It pays off to inform yourself.
5. Weigh yourself each day, directly after you have gotten out of bed and gone to the toilet. Enter your weight into a graph. I used the Withings iPhone app to track my weight, but any app or piece of paper will do. Spend a few minutes each day to study that graph and to decide on your next steps. What went well? Why did your weight increase / decrease? What did you eat, how does that explain the curve? This will help you to understand the dynamics of weight loss, your body, your eating habits, your exercise, and ways to improve.
6. Reward yourself for milestones achieved. Obviously, food is not a good reward. A book? A new headset? Something that you always wanted to have?
7. What to do if you are not losing weight consistently? Obviously, your body doesn’t want to lose that precious fat. On top of that, your body will become more efficient at making the most out of the food that it gets. You will thus have to further decrease the calorie intake, or increase the burn-rate. It is mind-over-matter: is your brain winning the game – or will you let your body’s craving and compulsions win? There, that’s WILLPOWER for you!
8. Fluctuations in weight (see my curve below) are normal. However, once you have gone down one kilo or one pound, the chance that you move up to your previous weight is greatly reduced. Bye bye 90kg. Bye bye 88 kg: we will never meet again, sucker.
9. You are not dieting. You are changing your eating habits. For the rest of your life. And how? read on.
10. Eat breakfast like a king; lunch like a prince; and dinner like a beggar. And don’t eat anything between meals:
11. Eat big breakfasts, they can suppress hunger until 4 p.m. For example: 300ml fat-free yoghurt, 0-2 table spoons of shredded wheat, 200-300g of fruit (melon, orange, apple, banana…). Slice of bread.
12. Lunch: a big salad, no dressing, one spoon of olive oil, a dollop of fat-free yoghurt or mustard. Occasionally some noodles or a potato of some fat-free meat (I’m a vegetarian myself – which by the way does not have any effect on your weight or weight loss).
13. In between meals: coffee and tea are ok, but no drinks with sugar or milk. No snacks, no fruit. The sugar level in your blood has to go down to zero between meals. This positively impacts insulin levels and protects against diabetes.
14. Drink lots of water. Start with a big glass in the morning, continue drinking the entire day.
15. Dinner: the “watersoup-diet” kicks in: that’s irony, folks. Try Japanese miso soup, a 1 liter bowl – which is almost free of carbohydrates or fat, so the only saturating effect is the liquid.
16. Admittedly, the evenings are the most challenging, but here are a few tricks:
- Continue drinking lots of water.
- Eat 250g of fat- and sugar-free cottage cheese (makes you feel full) with a teaspoon of cinnamon (great to support a weight-loss program – read about it on the internet) and optionally some lemon juice (vitamins + saturating effect).
- Keep busy; you feel more hungry sitting on the sofa. Move about, do some housekeeping.
- Go for a walk. This will make you feel tired, so you will sleep better.
- In emergencies, eat some salad, carrots, tomatoes or fruit.
- Obviously, if you are actually losing weight at the rate that you decide, you can also eat more than the above. You don’t have to starve to death. Nevertheless, a few evenings a week, your food intake must be very low, otherwise there won’t be any effect, which is not motivating.
17. Exercise. Walk 10000 steps a day. I have used the Withings Pulse Ox to track my steps and running. Go cycling, swimming, jogging, Nordic walking. Get your heart-rate up to 100 bpm for at least 30-40 minutes, three times a week. Start slow – you will automatically improve over time.
18. Some people say that you should never feel hungry during weight-loss, but if you want to see some result within a reasonable time, you will have to experience hunger. Hunger is not bad by definition: if you have hunger, you are actually burning body fat. I felt quite hungry at times during the first three weeks. But then the stomach starts to shrink! Over time you will automatically need less food (what did I say under point #1? You are always changing).
19. Next to eating less fat, you must also cut the amount of carbohydrates. Try to avoid sugar and alcohol, in whatever form. The liver converts surplus carbs, sugar and alcohol into fat very efficiently. Read the labels on the food that you buy, compare products to see how much energy they provide.
20. Build muscle. Even in rest, muscle burns calories! Muscular people can eat more without gaining weight.
Losing weight – it takes willpower and a change in lifestyle. Don’t listen too much to other people, as advice comes cheap! You will have to invest some fun time in getting a grip on your body, and the dieting information out there in the big world.
Motivators. What did I gain during and after my weight loss period, and what could YOU gain?
1. Agility. Effectively I now carry 10kg less weight: that’s ten bottles of water! As my weight decreased, my exercise capabilities increased.
2. Blood values improved: cholesterol, liver gamma-GTP, blood sugar
3. My blood pressure went down
4. Low heart rate (in rest: 50 bpm)
5. Back-pain disappeared
6. I’ve stopped snoring !!!
7. I sweat less
8. Never out of breath
9. Eating is joy, not frustration. No “nasty pangs of guilt”
10. Compliments from colleagues and friends: YEAH!!!! People admire you if you suddenly are slim.
12. I feel better, physically and psychologically
Needless to say, these benefits will help you to better survive the apocalypse, should the day occur!
Read more here about ‘going vegan’.
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We had entered Arizona. An empty landscape covered by a high, cloudless sky, no movement visible, no birds or other animals. Derelict cars stood parked on the road, but in lower numbers than back east. My thoughts wandered off. I recalled how I had once traveled through this dessert before the epidemic.
I had attended a Keystone Conference on molecular biology in Taos, New Mexico. My plane had landed in San Francisco, where I had visited my friend Kenn Z. for a very rainy week. I had stayed in his apartment in Castro, most of his neighbors gays and lesbians. At night we could hear them having sex, and Kenn, embarrassed, kept on turning up the volume of his Rolling Stones records. One night we had watched the movie “A Kiss Before Dying”, and we smoked so much pot that the simple storyline turned into a weird and complex tale, causing endless interpretations. At the end of the week, Karel, a colleague from Czechoslovakia, picked me up and together we drove through Southern California, Arizona and New Mexico to Taos. It was early spring, and the weather had been cold and marvelous. We visited the Organ Pipe Cactus- and Saguaro-National Monuments, as well as a place where nuclear ballistic rockets had been based—which had tremendously intrigued Karel, who had been raised behind the Iron Curtain.
Memories flooded by, as I passed through the desert. It was a long and hot day, the air vibrating over the tarmac. My eyes kept falling shut. I was considering having another break, to stretch my legs and get my blood going again, when suddenly a load roar broke the silence. I ducked my head, expecting a blow. The dogs jumped up and barked loudly. Initially, I thought a plane had passed by. Then, as the sky remained empty, that my engine had exploded. I cursed in anticipation. However, the sound increased and changed into a high-pitched growl, as if a rocket was overtaking me.
The sound came from two motorbikes that passed by on my left side. They were squat and heavy, with roaring engines. The drivers were dressed almost identically, in black jeans, boots and heavy leather jackets with insignia on the backs. Due to their black helmets, I couldn’t see their faces.
I cursed again, looking in the mirrors and the surrounding landscape for an escape route. They swung their machines in front of my truck and one raised his hand, a signal for me to stop. They slowed down and I was forced to hit the brakes. Slowly we came to a halt. They looked at me through their mirrors and then they both climbed of their bikes. They stood in front of the truck, staring at me. I stared back at them.
After some hesitation, I switched off the engine, opened the door and got out. They didn’t carry any visible weapons and I decided to leave my own guns in the cab. This wasn’t a time for a shoot-out on a highway, which in any case I was bound to lose. Still, I left the door open. I cleared my throat. “How are you?” The question sounded inane, but I had to start the conversation somehow. The one on the left took off his helmet and walked up to me. “Fine. Thanks.”
He didn’t look fine, though. He was a young man, perhaps 25, tall and thin. His blond hair was long and straggly. He looked pale and distraught. The other man also took off his helmet. He had dirty black hair and a full beard. He too looked anxious and sweaty. The cooling engines pinged in the afternoon air, all sound slowly dying down. Before we could deepen our conversation, more vehicles came up from behind. I cursed softly and considered getting my guns. Looking back down the road, three more motorcycles appeared, followed by a pick-up. They moved up quickly and stopped next to the truck. The cyclists dismounted, and the door of the door of the truck opened.
Six men stood on the road and stared at me. One of them, an unusually big man, stepped forward. “Are you a doctor?”
The question got me by surprise. “Uh… no, I’m not.”
“Have any medical experience?”
“Well—no, very little.”
He fell silent and stared at me. Then he looked up and down the road, as if he was waiting for someone to arrive, or something to happen. After a few seconds, it seemed as if he made up his mind. “Get into the pick-up.”
It was an order, not a question. I considered getting back into my truck, start the engine and drive off. Why should I be ordered about? Nevertheless, his first question intrigued me. Highwaymen hardly ever ask you for your profession. “What do you guys want from me?”
The big man grimaced at me, as if I had hurt him. He had a flat, almost expressionless face, fat, sweaty and hairless. “There’s no time. We’re losing time. Come with us.”
I stared into his eyes. Fear moved in them, like a shark moving in the deep blue sea. I walked to the pickup, the big man following. He climbed behind the wheel, and I into the passenger seat, my two dogs at my feet. The other men got on their motorbikes.
The vehicles turned, leaving my truck parked on the side of the highway, and we thundered back, perhaps five or ten miles. We came to an intersection of sorts, a dusty trail leading north into the desert. We turned onto it and bounced along for several miles. I tried to start a conversation with the big man, but he signaled me to be quiet. Sweat covered his face, neck and arms.
We arrived at hills and the road dipped into a slight valley—out of sight and a good hiding place. Shortly, the valley turned into a gulch, only a few feet deep. We came to a flat area. Several motorbikes stood parked in a disorderly fashion. The big man stopped the car and we got out. The bikers also dismounted. The big man, obviously in a hurry, pushed me in the direction of a large square tent, the cloth dirty and soiled. They hustled me inside. I wasn’t prepared for what met me.
The tent was almost free of furniture, about ten by ten feet and eight feet high. Inside it was tremendously hot. Dark liquid had spilled on the desert sand and the imprints of many shoes were visible. People had been at work here.
There were two men in the tent. One of them was standing, a short black beard and seemingly intelligent eyes behind simple wire-framed spectacles. He was much shorter and younger than I was. His face was sweaty and his mouth stood ajar. At regular intervals, his tongue would sneak out and he would wet his chapped lips.
The other man was lying on his back on a simple wooden table, the only piece of furniture. He was asleep or unconscious. His face was red and surrounded by straggly hair: a full beard and long locks on his forehead. A white sheet, smeared with blood and dirt covered his body. The big man pushed by me from behind. He moved to the other side of the table and looked in my eyes. I stared back at him. He pulled away the sheet.
I cursed as I turned away. Some of the other men winced as well and two actually turned and walked out again. One of them started to throw up somewhere outside. I stared back at the big man. “What the fuck is this?”
The big man threw the sheet back. “An accident. He had an accident.”
I moved forward and lifted the sheet up again. I stared at the left leg of the man. Somebody had cut away his trousers, way up above the knee. They hadn’t removed his shoes and socks though.
Obviously, his lower leg had broken. More than that; it looked as if it had been smashed by a heavy object, a sledge-hammer or something. I could see pieces of bone sticking out of the red flesh. I recalled my days as an anatomy teacher and recognized the Os tibia and the Os fibula, and both were goners. The leg was at a weird angle because of it. The bleeding had stopped, but there was enough raw meat and bodily fluid to turn my stomach.
The big man cleared his throat. “Tom hit a rock in the desert and his motorbike landed on top of his leg. Question: can you fix it? None of us have any medical experience.”
I almost broke out laughing. I swallowed hard, trying to get some liquid in my mouth. “Fix it? This is a complex fracture. I can see three or four bone fragments sticking out. This can’t be set. When did it happen?”
“Two hours ago.”
“He’s been unconscious since then? How’s his blood pressure and heartbeat?”
“We didn’t check.”
“What have you been doing then?”
The big man looked at the ground, as if ashamed. “We went looking for help.”
I turned and left the tent and walked a few feet into the desert. Some of the men followed me. I turned to them. “Better if we talk here. Sometimes patients seem to sleep, but they hear every word you say.”
Some hope lighted up in the big man’s eyes. “You’re a doctor after all?”
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It was a cold Saturday afternoon, but we (the organizers: Clemens, Markus and Charlotte) were very happy about the big turn-out, the interest in our work and the opportunity to interact with our fans, readers and buyers.
Book reading by Charlotte Otter
The book signing corner. In the background “Raven II” (2007, sold)
Already in 2011, I published my first pandemic adventure novel TWO JOURNEYS (soon followed by its sequel FIELDS OF FIRE). Both books deal with the dramatic effects of a Corona virus epidemic. The inspiration for these books came from the SARS epidemic that occurred a few years earlier, in 2003.
Both novels continue to gain a lot of attention. This pleases me; first of all as an author and artist, but also as a scientist that has been active in biomedical research and healthcare for many years, also in virology. My books are pure fantasy and adventure, yet they have a scientific basis and… contain a few warnings that are worth highlighting in this post.
Without doubt, the 2020 Corona pandemic has a big impact on society. I blogged some words of advice already. Part of that impact we cannot even start to fathom today. The pandemic will cost all of us a lot of money, that’s for certain. It may lead to political instability and a shift in the global powerplay; examples include the apparent Russian disinformation campaign or Chinese attempts to lay the blame elsewhere. However, most of all, the Corona virus has the potential to create a lot of sorrow and pain.
Surprisingly, crises like these also highlight the strength and good in us humans (listen to these Italians singing; perhaps not completely on tune :-)).
Alan, the hero of TWO JOURNEYS, soon notices that in pandemic times, several forces start to kick in:
- Facts and truth start to suffer. Today, it seems that a majority of people have difficulty to understand exponential growth-curves, or aren’t interested to build up that knowledge, or even to listen to experts that can interpret exponential growth. Yet, suddenly everybody is an amateur virologist, and every bit if information is (mis-)used for own purposes. This forces some of these individuals to make a 180 degree turn in opinion within mere days – damage done.
- People start blaming experts, either for not warning early enough, or for being too pessimistic: “they were wrong about the SARS epidemic as well, weren’t they?” This reveals a deep misunderstanding of how science works; which is a serious education issue. If you have no clue how science works, get involved and read up on it… but NOT in the National Enquirer, the Sun or on Facebook or other social media. Don’t develop opinions about things that you do not understand; certainly don’t start spreading those opinions. Read this interview with the prominent virologist David Ho to understand the Corona pandemic mechanisms and the right measures. The pertinent information is out there: for instance at the CDC, at your local government website, but also from multiple doctors reporting directly from Italy‘s Bergamo.
- Downplaying the crisis or (even worse) creating panic about it. Putting on your blinders for the issue as it develops never helps, especially since you as a layperson do not have all the relevant data at your disposal. At the same time, IF all the advice from the authorities is followed by ALL of us, any emergency can ultimately be contained. And once that tipping point is achieved, not only will the exponential growth curve of a viral infection be broken, but also the growth-curve of all the associated concerns – health, financial, societal. Stay realistic, don’t panic, and always realize that a pandemic is a moving target, where even the best experts and politicians will need to constantly adjust their policies and advice (if you think you can do a better job, I urge you to apply for a job at your local health authority – don’t waste time writing about it on social media ;-).
- People start to use the pandemic for their own populist agendas. In TWO JOURNEYS this is embodied in the character of the wannabee dictator Somerset, who believes that with a decimated population world-power is within his grasp. Populists play with their citizens’ lives, as they only have their own objectives in mind: to get re-elected, for financial gain, to strengthen their power, or whatever sick idea they follow. Populists, in contrast to sincere politicians, experts or the members of the healthcare staff in the ICU of your local hospital, do not regard helping you as primary objective. They simply can’t, it simply isn’t in their DNA. Populists have a goal, and will filter and (mis)use data that seems to substantiate that goal. Science and common sense do the opposite: collect data first, then define a theory and finally a goal. Needless to say, populists will impact their own citizens’ lives dramatically – and your life too. A pandemic (the word implies the ‘global’ impact of an epidemic) will not stop at a national border… or your doorstep for that matter.
These observations could be the ingredients of a highly depressive story line. But every cloud has its silver lining. TWO JOURNEYS is very much a story of hope. It highlights the goodness of people, and their ability to persevere in the hardest of times, together. We can see the same happening in today’s situation: our strength is our willingness to help one another; to be sensible, to focus on facts, in a disturbing, shifting situation. And not to panic. Forget about hoarding toilet paper.
Stay healthy and let’s come out of this stronger, together.
“I found my truck behind the house. The man had tied Bo and King to the bumper. I quickly undid the knots, ignoring how they tried to lick my hands and face. I looked into the truck. The keys were in the ignition. I needed a weapon to be able to defend myself. I searched the truck, but a lot of the equipment, including all the weapons, had been removed. I scratched my beard and looked at the building.
Just then a voice sounded. A man was calling from within the house. It startled me and I jumped behind the truck, afraid that the next sound would be the crack of a gun. I peeked over the hood of the car. The voice called again, but I didn’t understand the words. There was a small window just above the ground, and I thought I saw some movement behind it, a flickering of a waving hand or a piece of cloth. I hesitated: should I drive off right away, or should I try to get my guns back and find out who this man was?
I came to a conclusion. I rapidly ran over to the house and climbed the steps that lead to the back door. I opened it as silently as possible, and the dogs and I slipped in.
Several of my guns lay on the kitchen table. I picked them up and inspected them. They were fully loaded and in working order. I slung the rifle over my back. With a pistol in each hand, I quickly searched the ground floor. The house was filthy and worn down, waste lying about; empty cans and bottles, dirty plates with leftovers. It smelled of sweat and dirt.
I decided against inspecting the floors upstairs. Instead, I went to the door to basement. It was locked. I kicked it open with my boot, almost removing it from its frame. A wooden staircase led down into the darkness. The house had electricity – as I flicked the switch several light bulbs sprang to life. I could now hear loud shouts, both male and female. They used a language that I couldn’t recognize, but their voices carried panic and anxiety. Forgetting my own fear, I hurried down the stairs.
The basement consisted of a central room; its walls contained four doors, made out of heavy metal, each with a small central window. Big bolts kept them shut.
“Stand back!” I shouted. I went to the first door and pulled the bolt back. I pulled the door open. The room contained a mattress, a blanket and a bucket, but little else. Inside stood a single, small man, skinny from starvation. His clothing, torn and frayed, hung loosely from his body. He had a haunted, scared look on his face, his hair and beard long and unkempt. He couldn’t have been older than twenty five and was of Indian or Pakistani origin. I extended my right hand and he took it, hesitantly at first, but then he put it up to his lips and kissed it, all the while murmuring some surreptitious prayer. I pulled my hand loose, hurriedly walked out of the room and to the next door. I withdrew the bolts.
The man had followed me and wormed past me into the room. A small, dark-skinned woman stood in the middle of it, her head bowed down. She was as skinny as the man, her body frail and barely covered by shreds of clothing.
The man jumped at her, then halted in his tracks and stared down at her body.”
Get this novel here: http://www.amazon.com/Clemens-P.-Suter/e/B005C1GXTE