Thursday, 21 November 2013

And now for something completely different

A little bit of a rant (including a teensy bit of swearing) about politics coming up, if you don't want to read, turn away now!

This is Russell Brand. He is a comedian. Apparently. Some people find him funny, I can't say I ever have done. I tend to think he is a pompous twat.

Last month he did an interview with Jeremy Paxman. For those of you who don't know, Paxman is the man who puts politicians in their place. He could make even the most seasoned politician squirm. During this interview, Brand started going on about how people shouldn't vote, because it was a waste of time, and that young people should start a revolution by not voting.

Today, fading musician Morrissey (I don't care what anyone says, he is waaaay past his prime) joined in and supported Brand's statements.

This is Morrissey. He's pretty miserable. I also think he is a pompous twat. 

Last week, a leading think tank responded to the debate with a report that states that it is better to vote, because those that don't get ignored by politicians. In a lesson in not reading the bottom of the internet, many people seem to believe that the idea that politicians pay more attention to those that vote for them is complete BS. Well it isn't.

I spent 7 years as a local politician. I spent many more springs than that trudging up and down the streets of my city, canvassing opinions, listening to voters problems.While I tried to give as much attention to every demographic of my residents, in reality there were limited resources and limited time, and that meant that I had to devote more attention to the people that actually voted in the election. Our policies as a party tried to encompass everyone, particularly the hard to reach, but it is all too easy to concentrate on your largest electoral demographic over everyone else. Besides, they are the ones that provide the feedback you ask for, the ones that have the loudest voices when it comes to making their voices heard. Only through showing some kind of engagement with the process can a demographic be seen and heard. Sitting back and saying or doing nothing is not going to achieve good outcomes for that group.

But the thing that really gets me the most is the sheer waste that the attitude of Brand et al signifies. I can't help but think that in the UK we are pretty fortunate in the democracy stakes. Ok, it isn't the best system in the world, but it is a long way off from being the worst. To put it in context, the UK is ranked 16th most democratic out of 167 countries by the Economist Intelligence Unit's Democracy Index 2012. North Korea is 167. That means that there are 151 countries in the world with less democratic freedoms than the UK. There are numerous countries where voting is a formality to elect the dictator that runs the country, where opposition parties are banned, where even if opposition parties do exist, voters are tortured into voting in a particular way.

In comparison the UK seems like paradise! We even have limited terms for elections now! The constitution of the United Kingdom is such that elections are guaranteed, that just about everyone over the age of 18 can vote or stand in elections!

So my question is, if Russell Brand is so dissatisfied with the political parties in the UK, why the hell does he not use his power and influence to create one himself? That's the wonderful thing about the UK electoral system, anyone can do that! I've seen ballot papers with 30 names on because anyone can form a party and run for election. Sure there is a deposit to pay to run as a candidate, but it is a not too unreasonable £500. I'm sure Brand could find that lying around somewhere. And I'm sure his party wouldn't lose too many deposits - you need 5% of the vote to get it back, which works out to roughly 4000 votes per constituency. I reckon the first time his party ran the novelty factor would work in their favour. I'm sure he'd be able to think of a witty name from his repertoire of dandy language. If you're reading this Russell, just don't let Morrissey be in charge. Britain is already miserable enough without his lack of enthusiasm. You'd be wise not to make him head of campaigns either. Maybe put him as spokesperson for the DWP or something.

But of course one of the problems in the system is the way votes are calculated. But I'd have to ask Russell Brand whether he voted in the referendum to change to the AV system (I suspect the answer would be no). Surely a man so desperate for change would at least vote for some change to a flawed system?

At the end of the day, I suspect that Brand's inane rantings about the state of politics in this country will have left no more an impression on the voters of today than a finger on jelly. Time will tell, and with just over 18 months until the next general election there is still time for impressionable minds to be won, and reason to be had. I'd like to think that the debate that has been generated by these celebrities could be worthwhile and produce some compelling reasons why voting is important. My experience of knocking on doors of is that apathy is all too present, particularly in the disenfranchised.

I don't have the answers. I was the candidate who had a mental note of the various routes to the polling stations and where prospective voters (usually students) could go for a pint to reward themselves after doing their duty, which seemed to serve me well in the pursuit of elections. Maybe that is the thing that most candidates lack: a sense of being a real person. Maybe just being trustworthy is enough. Who knows (actually there is probably a study or two out there).

Just ignore Brand. Go and vote. You have the power to make change. And with great power, comes great responsibility.

Five Reasons to Vote

1. It is your duty as a responsible citizen to take your ballot paper and mark it. Doesn't have to be for a candidate, spoilt ballots are counted. Just don't draw a big cross through all the boxes resulting in the centre of the cross being in one of the boxes. That will get counted for that candidate (accidental BNP vote?).

2. The government decides things like the amount of tax you pay on fuel, cigarettes, alcohol etc.

3. The government decides things like how much housing benefit is, how much JSA is etc, and who should be able to claim those benefits and for how long.

4. The government allocates budgets to local authorities, who have to make up the shortfall with council tax. Which you pay.

5.  This video explains what happens if you don't do politics:

Monday, 18 November 2013

I cracked and fell off the detox wagon

Last night. I went to see Volbeat last night, and in the midst of everything going on, I suddenly didn't have time to cook the chicken I was going to cook... we had a late brunch and were both pretty full from that, so we didn't really feel like it anyway.

So in the face of nothing quick to eat, and nothing much on offer in the realm of takeaway land, I decided a pizza was the only way forward. And I really wanted a pizza! I had a small glass of wine with the pizza, and then a large beer at the gig.

Then today I had a cherry vanilla slice thingy and it was lovely.
Part of my treatment of my skin issues is to be less stressed. And when you are sitting on the verge of tears because there is literally nothing in the flat that you are supposed to eat, that is not less stressed.

My dad commented on my FB yesterday telling me to relax and enjoy the gig, so I did.

My face hasn't erupted yet. I'm still taking all the probiotics and resolutely avoiding rice, potatoes and dairy. We shall see how it goes, but I reckon the odd treat here and there isn't going to hurt me in the long run.

 Let's see how things go eh?

Saturday, 16 November 2013

balanceMe haul

I was really pleased to walk into my local Mueller store at Landstrasse and find the balanceMe range for sale in their natural skincare section. I'd been thinking about ordering some from but wasn't sure.

But then I was browsing on Love Lula for a new moisturiser, and after entering hydrating, chanced upon the balanceMe Balancing Day Cream, which is designed for combination to oily skin.

Cue me deciding to splash out on a range of products.

I bought the Balancing Day Cream, for my very fussy skin, the Congested Skin Serum, to help keep those spots at bay/deal with the ones I already have, and the Radiance Skin Oil, because it comes so highly recommended. I later went back and bought the Radiance Face Mask as well.

I've been using them for nearly a month now and boy am I impressed!

balanceMe Balancing Day Cream

I have stupidly fussy skin. Despite me being an obsessive water drinker and supplement taker, it is pretty dehydrated, but doesn't play nice with hyaluronic acid. The much coveted Hydraluron broke me out, and the alternatives I can get here don't sit well either. My skin can behave like it is dry, but if I use too heavy a moisturiser, I end up with my make up all over the place. I thought I'd give this Balancing Day Cream a go, because the ingredients sounded exactly what my skin needed. A lot of moisturisers I find here, even for combination skins, contain shea butter, which is something my skin hates. But this has none, but has some lovely oils that nourish my skin enough without leaving it greasy. I liked the sound of hydrating as well!

So far so good. I don't need a great deal to leave my skin feeling perfect, and ready for make up. This is a brilliant under make up moisturiser as it does sink in well and helps control the oil throughout the day. I use MAC's Studio Fix Fluid and I find with this moisturiser it lasts a good 10 hours looking perfect, which is excellent for a foundation. Best of all, no break outs. This truly is my holy grail moisturiser!

balanceMe Congested Skin Serum

I bought this a little on a whim, but I have been looking for a good spot treatment for a while. The ingredients in this sounded good, but without being too harsh. I use this all over my spotty areas before I moisturise morning and night, and it has made a difference to the healing time of my skin. It is a light gel like serum that sinks immediately into the skin. It also smells like lemon

I've mentioned in other posts that my acne is definitely caused by hormones and what I put on my skin has little impact aside from a couple of things my fussy skin definitely can't tolerate, but this serum really helps pull spots out from the layers of my skin and forces them to heal faster. It is a light serum that absorbs fast, and smells gorgeous!

balanceMe Radiance Skin Oil

I've been using oil as a night moisturiser for a while, but the lure of this got me. I almost didn't buy it, but I know Caroline Hirons swears by it for spots, even those deep cystic ones that never seem to go anywhere. The oil combination is fantastic, and includes grapeseed, sweet almond and rosehip, but in quantities that are good for skin, and are perfect, even for combination skin like mine. You really don't need much of this either, so although the price for the bottle might be a little tear inducing, it will last a long time. Just 2-4 drops from the pipette in the lid is plenty

Using this has also helped with the healing time of my skin - the scars from my acne are fading nicely, and my skin feels good every morning when I wake up. The Roman Chammomile oil definitely helps calm my skin as well. All in all, this is an excellent product, and well worth the price tag.

balanceMe Radiance Face Mask

I went back and bought this after deciding my skin needed a little extra. I wasn't 100% sure about it, as it contains some fruit acids and my skin is not particularly tolerant of acid exfoliation. But it gets good reviews and I liked the sound of something helping achieve radiance. As I use clay every morning to wash with I never feel like I need a mask that is going to really deep cleanse, but I do like something that will inject a little extra boost into my skin.

This comes in a tube, which makes it easy to dispense. After confusing myself with application (I used a brush then read the instructions which say to massage into the skin), I left it on for 5 minutes while I pottered around doing other things. You have to massage it in so that the crushed walnut shells work their magic along with the fruit acids. It doesn't dry out, there was only tiny bit of tingling, and the smell was nice. Five minutes isn't a long time anyway! I removed the mask as per the instructions, with a warm flannel, and then splashed my face with fresh water. I noticed an instant improvement in the texture of my skin and the visibility of the scars on my face. Everything felt and looked smoother and well, more radiant!

I will probably only use this once a week, because I use a flannel to wash with so my skin gets a mild exfoliation every day. As my skin is particularly sensitive to exfoliation I have to be careful not to overdo it, but I reckon that someone with normal skin could do this up to twice a week.

My overall impression of balanceMe products is that they are totally Ronseal - do what they say on the tin. Everything has lived up to the claim on the packaging so far, and I am so glad they started selling the range in a store here! Not that if they don't continue (the last new brand to go into Mueller didn't last long) I would stop using the products - there is always the fabulous to buy from!

That little lot might have set me back a pretty penny or two, but it has been totally worth it!

Share your thoughts on balanceMe! 

Friday, 15 November 2013

Leaky Gut or an insulin related problem?

So it has been two weeks since I started my leaky gut fix diet. Now I know 2 weeks is not enough time to make a fully informed judgement, but this week I've had a bit of a tough week and one interesting observation has emerged.

I started all this because it became obvious that dairy was having an effect on my skin. I surmised at the time that this is likely to be because of the presence of IGF-1, which is designed to grow a cow (or a baby, it is present in all mammal milk). Given that I am no longer in need of help growing, it would be reasonable to assume that I have a natural sensitivity to IGF-1, which is leading to excessive spikes in insulin, causing the formation of cystic acne.

This may well be caused by leaky gut. Or I may just have a higher than average baseline insulin level - to find that out, I'm going to need to get my butt to the Doctor and get some blood tests done.

So I've been following the leaky gut protocol for 2 weeks now, which to recap, means no dairy, sugar, alcohol, gluten, corn, soy/legumes, or eggs. I've also been avoiding coffee, as apparently it can produce a similar response to gluten in allergenic people, so for the purpose of this detox it is best avoided. I've also been taking all the recommended supplements of a probiotic and L-glutamine on top of my regular supplement regime of high strength fish oil, silica/zinc/biotin, EPO and magnesium/calcium/D3.

It took a little over a week but hallelujah, on Monday this week I woke up and my skin was a million times better. No 'active' spots in the chin/jaw area! First time in as long time. Still plenty of scarring to work with, and a couple of PMS spots on my cheekbones that will disappear fairly quickly, but all the horrible sore spots on my jaw and neck were gone!

Until this morning. I have been wracking my brains to work out what I have done differently this week to last, and I finally figured it out. Rice and potatoes, or to be precise, high GI starches.

Tuesday night I went to the Paradise Lost/Lacuna Coil gig, and didn't have time to cook, so I had a Thai curry with rice. Then Wednesday I didn't have any lunch with me, and this diet can be tricky to cater for where I work, so when a colleague suggested ordering in from the sushi place, I went with Udon noodles (fat rice noodles). Thursday I had potatoes for lunch, quite a large portion.

So I am thinking there might be some insulin involvement in all this. It would make sense - although there isn't a long term history of diabetes going back generations in my family, there is some propensity to hormone related issues (thyroid and diabetes).

I'm going to stick with the leaky gut diet until the end of the month, further eliminating rice and white potatoes (thank goodness it is squash season here!) and then I will start to reintroduce the foods on the original list that I am unsure about (dairy and sugar are off the menu for sure, including all forms of pure sugar like dextrose because of the insulin response). So alcohol, eggs, corn (which is low GI), some glutens (like oats, whole grain pasta cooked al dente and occasional bread made with minimal white flour), and beans will come back in one at a time.

Life feels very complicated at the moment, what with the diet, and changing jobs, and on top of it all my blood pressure feels pretty low. I don't like going to the Dr, I guess sub consciously my years of medical treatment for chronic ENT problems as a child, to the point that I became antibiotic resistant and Drs pretty much said "we can't help, just ride it out", makes me somewhat suspicious of the medical profession. Luckily I'm generally very healthy, and and for some reason I have no qualms about gynaecologists so I am always up to date with my woman's health checks. I guess I just feel like I won't be taken seriously, because for some reason I don't feel like this should be something that requires medical intervention. I think my aunt would tell me that is a sign of how I feel about myself and my worth, but I think it's just because I feel like its a vanity issue... never mind the pain acne actually causes me!

Anyway, enough rambling from me. I will get myself to the Doctors when things calm down enough for me to make time for it (I had 3 medical appointments to sort, I managed my contact lens one, so 2 more to go) for some blood tests and what not, oil change etc.

If you have any experiences with leaky gut, insulin triggered acne, or anything else I've discussed here, feel free to leave a comment below!

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Lacuna Coil & Paradise Lost @ Arena Wien

So Tuesday night was the first of the series of gigs I'm going to over the winter. Paradise Lost are celebrating their 25th anniversary with the Tragic Illusion tour, which also features Katatonia and Lacuna Coil.

I've just looked back at my previous posts and realised I didn't write a post about seeing Killswitch Engage at Arena earlier in the year! How remiss of me! Which means I haven't told you about the venue. It's a former factory complex, with a few buildings. There is a stage outside, and there are a few club rooms around. The main concert space is pretty big, with high ceilings which gives some nice acoustics and means it doesn't get too hot.

I arrived just at the end of Katatonia's set, due to a change to the advertised starting time! But I was definitely there in time to get a good spot right at the front for Lacuna Coil!

This is the *counts* 6th time I've seen Lacuna Coil in what is fast becoming an annual event! I think is probably one of the better gigs of theirs I've seen, primarily because the sound seemed better than it has at previous gigs, with the two vocals in much better balance than the last couple of times.

They ran through a bunch of classic tracks, including Our Truth, Trip The Darkness, Swamped, Heaven's A Lie, Spellbound and Without Fear. It was a shorter set than they would normally play, but they brought all the energy to it.

At the end of the set they announced that the new album would be out next year, and they would hopefully be back when they tour with that.

After a quick change over of set and the time had come for the main attraction - Paradise Lost.

Admittedly I only really came to see Lacuna Coil, but I wanted to see Paradise Lost. I don't always enjoy gigs that I don't know the music that well, but this was different. Firstly, as the band are from Yorkshire it was an absolute pleasure to hear some regional British speech!

As the pioneers of the gothic metal genre (my favourite), they evolved their sound from a doom laden beginning through more melodic into a Depeche Mode-esque period, and more recently to a more traditional rock metal sound, all while retaining the core aspects of gothic metal.

They ran through a selection of tracks from their 13 (yes 13!) albums, and I have to say, having gone back and listened to their albums again, that they sound way better live than recorded, which is nice!

Lead singer Nick Holmes chatted with the crowd and kept up some friendly banter, and the energy of the crowd was really good. I'm not sure the band are that well known in the UK, but it was one of the liveliest gigs I've been to over here!

I had such a wicked time at the gig, much more than I thought I would if I'm honest!

Next up: Volbeat at Stadthalle on Sunday!

Friday, 1 November 2013

Nourishing myself from the inside

I don't like to moan. I generally consider myself pretty darn fortunate: I have a home, money to pay the bills, I have a job (for the moment), a partner, family, I'm somewhat healthy.

Its that last bit that gets to me. Health. On the face of it, I'm a pretty healthy person. Aside from my constant illnesses last winter (which I put down to not having built an immunity to Vienna winters), I'm generally a picture of health. Sort of.

Apart from my skin, which seems to suggest that something else is going on. I've been suffering from really bad acne on my jawline and lower face for around 6 months now, and I've come to the conclusion through some fairly thorough internet research that it is caused by what is termed a 'leaky gut'. Which basically means my intestines are not doing their job properly. I also suspect this isn't the first time I've suffered from this. However, this most recent episode is by far the worst. According to the stuff I have read, a leaky gut can be triggered by all manner of things, such as antibiotics, a bout of illness such as flu, or just something really stressful. I've pretty much encountered all of those things this year, and whilst I think my previous acne was definitely linked to my contraception (given that my skin got so much better post Mirena removal), I think it is likely that the slow reemergence and increasing severity of my acne can possibly be attributed to the bout of flu I had in January.

With a bit of luck, it is going to be relatively straightforward to fix. Avoiding trigger foods such as sugar, dairy and grains, eating gut friendly foods such as sauerkraut, miso and coconut, taking probiotic and l-glutamine supplements, and trying my hardest to not stress. Sounds simple right? I need to keep to a fairly limited and strict diet for a minimum of two weeks, and I will probably try to go for a month. I also need to avoid alcohol and coffee, no easy feat in Austria! But just for the month, and then at the end of it I shall hopefully have gorgeous glowing skin to go to the Vienna Rock Ball with at the end of the month.

Tomorrow I will go and stock up on the supplements and do some shopping to feed myself back to health. It seems it is an imprecise science, but good nutrition is important whatever the reason, so I figure it can't be doing any harm.


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