Georgia and Armenia

Georgia and Armenia are so forgotten really, probably as a result of being  part of the Russian Empire and USSR which was so isolated. Certainly I “discovered” or “remembered” them because I’ve spent so much time in Russia. They are in essence as European as Greece, but they are 1000 miles east of Istanbul. Amazing. Georgia was a fascinating place to visit. They seem to have renovated the entire country “yesterday” with many things still being renovated. But the facilities are still very simple and there are no crowds, except for perhaps one UNESCO sign you almost have the feeling you are still “discovering” someplace much as it must have been 100 years ago before mass tourism.

Georgia is so many things at once – a combination of:

  • charming architecture (half freshly renovated, half collapsing),
  • decrepit (even by Russian standards) Soviet tower blocks,
  • a sort of Mediterranean people, yet definitely different, incredible variety in faces and physical features, from the softest Western European to the most swarthy Arabic looking people
  • strong Orthodox religion with all these churches from the 11th c. – Georgia’s glory days,
  • better-than-Mediterranean food – lots of grilled food, “raviolis”, walnut and pomegranate sauces, some of the best bread in the world
  • an impenetrable language with its own ancient alphabet
  • Russian signs are hardly to be seen (formerly nearly everything was bilingual) but people 30 and older understand Russian
  • Efforts everywhere to promote English
  • Nation-building by Saakashvili – e.g. every town has its new police station (representing the visible break from the corrupt police of the past) and its new city hall – in the larger towns these are ALL round-ish geometric shapes (spheres, orbs, ovals, tubes!) with glass set into white metal.
  • Soft multi-colored lights adorning buildings, paths, etc. – a bit tacky and Christmas-y but actually an economical way to make the cities and towns less dreary.

Add to this Batumi which has some Las Vegas/Dubai style towers and faux renovations (e.g. an Italian “piazza” which is somewhere between a reconstruction of an actual piazza and the Las Vegas version…). There is a tower dedicated to the Georgian alphabet(!), brand-new dancing fountains, a Leaning Tower of Pisa, Acropolis, and upside-down White House, etc. etc.

And that’s not even starting on the politics. Fascinates me that Saakashvili took this place from total collapse to a functioning country, top 15 places in the world easiest to do business, little crime or petty corruption. And then he blew it all by trying to get South Ossetia “back” and poking the Russian bear. Really stupid. He thought the West and NATO would defend Georgia against Russia! Really really stupid. And Georgia paid.

Click here or on the picture for Georgia photo album or click here for YouTube movie of pictures set to Georgian music

Georgia composite

Deltalina proves it: English is the freest language

Here in the U.S. we are taught repeatedly that we live in a “free country”. That phrase has been twisted and misused so much by backward folks in my country who hate progress, or freedom for folks who are not like them. But take away that noise and yes – what a free country this is and how lucky am I to have been born here.

Other English-speaking countries are almost all free as well – the UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, even India somehow manages to stay free despite the need to organize 1+ billion people, mostly poor. When I was about 8, our history teacher told us “children, the United States is the only free country on Earth”. Having just visited British Columbia, I held up my hand: “but teacher, what about Canada”? “Oh yes, Brian, Canada is a free country too.” Whew.

And we’ve been free for a long time. Democracy in the US and British Empire while the French had Napoleon, the Germans had Hitler, let alone the Russians, Chinese, Arabs, Africans, and all the South American dictatorships…

So somehow in my subconscious, English was a free language.

Living in the Netherlands also gave me the feeling that English was more of a “free” language than others. Let me explain. Dutch is a language which very few people from other (developed) countries have a reason to learn. So I spoke Dutch, and I would make mistakes and sometimes get laughed at. Or sometimes people just wouldn’t know what to make of it. Or – before I was really fluent in Dutch – my efforts would be dismissed without discussion and the answer would come in English. This reaction had very little to do with malice — it simply was highly unusual for a foreigner to speak the language, except for immigrants from Turkey, Morocco, and so forth. Nevertheless, I felt frustrated. I remembered how in the United States, everyone just spoke English. (Spanish is a huge exception, but for the rest: People Just Communicate In English) Often people would speak with a heavy accent and quite incorrectly, and we *might* sometimes be curious about where they came from, but on an everyday basis, it wasn’t something we give a second thought to. First and foremost, English was just a means of communication. When I lived in the Netherlands trying to fit in as far as language, I was frustrated that I didn’t enjoy what I perceived as the freedom with the language that immigrants and visitors to the United States have. (Again NO criticism of the Dutch meant here – it’s just how the language situation was – and I felt *extremely* welcome there).

Plus, English stood on a pedestal there. It was the indisputable language of communication with the world, and sometimes even within the Netherlands (e.g. Emails between Dutch people at the HQ of the Dutch bank I worked for: English please! I might have to forward your message to Kazakhstan!) English represented openness to the world. Writing a Dutch email was sometimes chastized!

English was, and is increasingly, the language that the world communicated to each other in, regardless of their native language. If a young person from Germany talks to a young person from Holland on holiday in Greece, chances are it will be English. English belongs to everybody. And most of us don’t get upset at accents or bad grammar – it’s the free language of communication.

So there you go – English seems like a free language to me.

Now for Wikipedia.

Moving to Atlanta 3 years ago and knowing almost nothing about it except negative stereotypes about Southern backwardness and poverty, blistering summers and Atlanta traffic, I was surprised to fall in love with the inner, older neighborhoods of Atlanta such as the one where we live in our 1913 bungalow. Trees everywhere including old oaks; 100-year old architecture; neighborhoods each with a name and official border, an own story, an own “feel” and identifiable cores of restaurants and shops you can walk to. Real “places” — which my native Los Angeles lacked, with its sprawl and size. And then the friendliness and hospitality of the people.

I digress. I started to research the history of our house and neighborhood. Along the way, I read about many places in what was then the heart of Atlanta – Downtown. Downtown today is, sadly, a place with some old buildings, but dominated by 1970s architecture. It serves convention visitors with high-rise hotels and national chain steakhouses; houses government offices and Georgia State University, and is dotted with empty lots and parking garages. When I saw pictures of bustling crowds, in front of huge department stores and endless smaller stores, I couldn’t even imagine where that was… yet it was in that slightly unpleasant place, Five Points, that I had been. It felt like this bustling city of beautiful 100-year-old steel and brick buildings existed as a ghost — a Photoshop layer that hadn’t been saved — somehow still existing on this place which looked and felt completely different today.

So I researched more. More on all the major buildings (demolished and standing). More on the surreal everyday existence of a city racially segregated by law. Or on the African-American heroes before Civil Rights, who prospered despite segregation and hate. Or the 1906 Race Riot. Or the Great Fire. More on the streetcar network that once existed.

I knew how easy it was to “throw” my research into a new Wikipedia article so that others could benefit from it. I noticed that even minor articles had hundreds or thousands of viewers per month. I also noticed that if I looked up pretty much any topic, the first Google result was a Wikipedia entry. So I realized – this is how people will truly benefit. Much more than if I wrote a book about a topic. If I simply created a Wikipedia entry, that put that topic on the map. And people would learn about it.

So I become addicted to Wikipedia article creation.

One day, for fun, I wanted to add “Deltalina”. That is the nickname of a real Delta flight attendant who appeared in some funny Delta safety videos. She got quite a bit of press coverage and was a minor celebrity, certainly here in Delta’s hometown of Atlanta.

So I added her to Wikipedia. I added several reliable sources such as major newspapers, CNN, etc. And I added photos of her I took during Atlanta’s Pride festival when she appeared on a float. Mission accomplished. Deltalina was documented. Probably for all posterity.

But one day — just for fun — I decided to add articles in the other languages I know fluently or fairly well. So I added Deltalina in Dutch, Spanish, French, and got some translation help and added her in Russian. The reactions were unexpected but made me wonder if they reflect the societies which speak those languages.

The Spanish and French versions were immediately deleted. Without discussion. This was a shocker because on English Wikipedia, articles are virtually always tagged as “suggested for deletion” for a couple weeks, people can chime in, and a consensus is reached. Nope, not in Spanish or French. Administrator thinks it’s not encyclopedic or relevant. Immediate deletion on the whim of the Administrator. End of discussion.

My appeals to the French administrator were simply ignored.

French: Dictatorial and rude. Fits the stereotype.

My appeals to the Spanish administrator, heard, but denied.

Spanish: Dictatorial, yet chatty. Fits the stereotype!

The Russian version was the biggest surprise of all. A lively discussion and a conclusion that yes, this lady was a minor celebrity. So let’s keep her. Hard to fit *that* into any stereotype!

Discussion on Russian Wikipedia – keep Deltalina or delete her?

The Dutch version? Of course, a discussion, and a compromise. Put her in a section of the Delta Air Lines article.

Dutch: Long discussions and a compromise everyone is more or less happy with. Fits the stereotype!

And English?

In English Wikipedia there was *never* a discussion. As long as it’s legitimate with a couple of legitimate sources, any topic can go into English Wikipedia.

And that’s what I think is an interesting reflection of the English language – free and open, and open to everyone in the world.

And the *culture* of the English language is free and open. Not just the people of the English-speaking countries are free. But the language itself is free and open.

What do *you* think?

Ukraine trip

“Interesting” is such a blasé and overused word, but “interesting” is in fact how I would describe our trip to Ukraine, in addition to “beautiful” and in some cases “slightly difficult in a post-Soviet way”. Several European friends saw my photos and said they never realized how much there was to see in this country which is so close to them, yet still very seldom visited. Ukraine is not easily described. It is roughly the size of France or Texas and feels very much like separate countries:

  • (Far) Western Ukraine was part of Austria-Hungary until World War I, then part of Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Romania until World War II. It was the heartland of Jewish Europe before the Holocaust and then emigration to Israel and the U.S. The city of Lviv was a capital of Polish culture comparable to Krakow. Czernowitz was  a Jewish cultural capital.
  • Kiev – the Orthodox Vatican *and* a mini-Moscow.
  • Odessa – formerly Russia’s Jewish and humor capital;  ethnic melting pot of Mediterranean peoples and Russians; half Russian, half Mediterranean in feeling
  • Crimea – originally populated by Turkic people (Tatars) who were expelled in the 1940s and replaced mostly by Russians
  • Eastern Ukraine – which we didn’t visit – the industrial, Russian-speaking, and highest-income part of the country.

Czernowitz (Chernivtsi)

Czernowitz (pop. 240,000) was the capital of the Austro-Hungarian province of Bukovina. If “Bukovinian” had been an ethnic group, Bukovina probably would be its own small European country of 1 million people today. But Bukovina was split between Romania and Ukraine, so Czernowitz has a ghostly feel of someplace that used to be somewhat important and is now forgotten – even by Ukrainian standards. It is the only city we visited without, for example, any Western rent-a-car agency. The airport has only 3x weekly flights to Kiev and to Timisoara, Romania, on the aspiring regional carrier Carpatair. Before World War I Czernowitz was ethnically Jewish, Romanian, Ukrainian, and German. Everyone spoke German plus their own language – which fascinates me – I mean we were as far east as Bucharest, and they spoke German here 100 years ago! I had a map from the Baedeker travel guide of 1900 or 1910 with all the German street names and landmarks and was fascinated to follow them.

Here were the forgotten synagogues, one now a cinema, the other empty. There was the Jewish hospital (empty). Here was the Rathaus on the Ringplatz, still a city hall but now the square was the “Centralna Plosha”.  The Volksgarten was still there, now the “Taras Shevchenko Central Park of Culture and Rest”. Siebenbürger Strasse (Transylvania Street!) was now Holovna vultisa, “Main Street”, and Austria-Platz and now Franz-Josef-Platz were now Cathedral Square, with its prominent Soviet war memorial. And there was the University, once the palace of the “Metropolitan” (like an archbishop) of the Orthodox Church – eclectic architecture if I ever saw some. Here were the old villas of the upper middle class in what was Gartenstrasse, now named Frunze street after a Soviet general. Czernowitz was a major center of Jewish culture and of the Yiddish language. (More about Jewish Czernowitz)

It was also the home of Sidi Tal, the designated “only major star” of the otherwise suppressed Yiddish-language theatre and song in the Soviet Union. Sidi Tal mentored Sofia Rotaru, one of the Soviet “pop divas” and still a major star today. Videos:

Click for pictures of Czernowitz (Chernivtsi)

Or watch as a video and enjoy the Barry Sisters’ “L’Chaim”

Kamyanets Podilsky

We took a daytrip to visit this castle 2 hours east of Czernowitz. This had been Russian territory (Bessarabia) even before WWI and WWII. On the way we stopped at Hotyn castle, which had been Polish before WWII! There were many Polish tourists here on bus tours. Our driver refused my tips.

Ivano-Frankivsk (Stanislau)

This was also a heavily Jewish city in Austrian Galicia, which passed to Poland after WWI.  It used to be called Stanisławów in Polish. Also interesting for its remnants of Austria-Hungary, but not as interesting as Czernowitz.

Drive through “Romanian” Ukraine and “gypsy king” mansions

The folks along the southern border of Ukraine with Romania are heavily Romanian-speaking, though you’ll find almost no sign in the language. In a seemingly random town we found the most bizarre collection of recently built mansions – think McMansion in the American suburbs but even bigger. Later we found out there was a border crossing to Romania in the town, so we can only assume this is money from gypsy kings (thus the large families) which needed to be invested outside of Romania for tax evasion reasons. We continued through the beautiful Carpathian mountains, well, more like hills, to the province of Carpatho-Ruthenia. It had been under Hungary in the Austro-Hungarian empire, and after WW I, it passed to Czechoslovakia.


Uzhgorod would probably qualify with Ivano-Frankivsk as “not really *that* interesting” except that it was the capital of the only province of Ukraine which had actually been part of Hungary. So we enjoyed one day exploring the architecture of this old small city. We also passed through Mukachevo, nearly as big, with its remarkable castle and city hall, on the way to Lviv.

Click for pictures of the Carpathians, including Ivano-Frankivsk, the Romanian border, Uzhgorod and Mukachevo


Lviv is really a destination in itself, a mini-Prague or perhaps Krakow (which I haven’t been to). Full of remarkable churches, utterly walkable. It is famous for its coffee houses and strudel, but we were impressed to what degree – this was the best coffee and strudel we’ve had anywhere – though I haven’t been to Vienna since I was 19 and don’t remember much. What a pleasant, relaxed place to hang out. Also many theme restaurants: literature, a Masonic lodge, Jewish Lviv, etc. Synagogue hunting wasn’t so successful here — the Nazis blew them up. Lviv is clearly the capital of “Ukrainian speaking Ukraine” and feels like the capital of a medium-sized European country (which it may well be, one day, if Ukraine splits up).

Click for pictures of Lviv


Kiev has two faces – (1) where the Russian/Ukrainian Orthodox religion began, full of churches and monasteries (2) mini-Moscow: Stalinist subway and wedding-cake architecture, relatively expensive, polluted, wealth (though nothing like Moscow), poverty, aspirations. It writes in Ukrainian but speaks Russian.

Click for pictures of Kiev


Odessa is in southwest Ukraine developed as the Russian Empire’s Black Sea port, mostly in the late 1800s. Many to most people here have darker hair and eyes, and indeed we read that this was not only the Russian Empire’s most Jewish city, but also a melting pot of Turks, Italians, Greeks, Arabs, etc. It feels like a cross between Russia and the Mediterranean with many outdoor restaurants and cafes. This may be the first place in Russia & Ukraine where people smiled on the streets. They were very relaxed. Odessa apparently deteriorated until well after the collapse of the USSR, but now most of its landmark buildings have been renovated. Together with Lviv it’s the place I would most recommend to my friends.

Click for Odessa pictures

Or watch as a video and enjoy the traditional Odessa Jewish song “Sem’ Sorok” by the Leir Sisters (Сёстры Лайр)

About 2 hours north of Odessa is Transnistria. When the USSR collapsed, the Moldavian SSR became an independent country. Moldavians are Romanians by a different name. The Russian speaking eastern sliver of Moldova – Transnistria – declared its own independence and fought a war with Moldova. It still controls this territory. We visited for the novelty. In fact the capital Tiraspol is similar to any smaller Russian city of its size (160,000). The streets are still named after Lenin, there are some renovated buildings and shops but mostly not, and the main attractions are war memorials, parks and statues. Only here there is a “national bank” printing Transnistrian rubles, and its own flag, stamps, etc.

Click for pictures of Transnistria


Before Catherine the Great acquired Crimea for the Russian Empire in the late 1700s, the Crimean Tatars ruled this peninsula. Their language is very close to Turkish. Russians poured in after 1800, and Stalin expelled the Tatars in the 1940s, making Crimea mostly Russian. This place looks like the American Southwest, along a beautiful Mediterranean coastline. We visited Sevastopol, still the home of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, with a compact core of Russian Imperial and grand Stalinist buildings. Yalta, a very nicely renovated, even upscale seaside resort. And we visited the palace of the Crimean Khans in the town of Bakhchysarai. Many Tatars have come back to Crimea since the 1990s and have set up B&Bs and restaurants in the town. A trail leads to a cave city on the top of a mountain, inhabited for over 1000 years, Juft Qale (Chufut-Kale).

Click for pictures of Crimea

Language – different everywhere

The Ukrainian language is not spoken across the Ukraine, far from it. Ukrainian is very close to Russian, something like Spanish and Portuguese. It has been a standardized written language only since the mid-1800’s. It is based on dialects of western and central Ukraine, which was part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth before the 1800s. Central Ukraine incl. Kiev passed into Russian hands and Russian became the language of the cities. Western Ukraine incl. Lviv became Austrian, and German and/or Polish became the languages of the cities, while the countryside spoke dialects that resemble Ukrainian.

Other parts of Ukraine (eastern/southern) were populated by people who came from all over the Russian Empire and therefore these parts were always mostly Russian-speaking. This includes Odessa, the Crimea, and the southern third of the country,  and the eastern third including the cities of Kharkov, Dnepropetrovsk, and Donetsk.

Even in Kiev where 75% of people say they “feel Ukrainian” as a nationality, the language of the Empire dominated over any adoption of the Ukrainian language — 75% of people say they normally speak Russian for everyday use. Overlay onto this complex situation the imposition of Ukrainian as “the” national language across the whole country. So even in places where you never *hear* Ukrainian and you are in a completely Russian-speaking environment, you get Ukrainian on your government signs, road signs, on some national advertising campaigns, or for example, on the McDonald’s menu.

So what you get is shades of grey,  and different percentages of spoken vs. written Russian vs. Ukrainian, in each place in the country. There were also differences between “formal signs” (e.g. “ODESSA CHILDREN’S SHOE STORE”) and informal ones (lettering in a shop window, handwritten notes, chalkboards, etc.)

The formal sign on top (Tire Services) is in Ukrainian. The supplemental information stuck to the window below (opening hours etc.) is in Russian.

Lviv: thou shalt not speak Russian

Lviv is entirely Ukrainian and you never hear Russian and never see it. Even the welcome signs in ten languages at the airport explicitly exclude Russian! However, I spoke only Russian to service personnel there and never had a hint of their not liking it, even though one hears that Lviv is very anti-Russian. Of course, many Ukrainians cannot speak Ukrainian either – so they would be in the same situation as I was. The answers from the waiters and shop assistants there were always in Ukrainian, so I would only catch words, which was usually enough. Not unlike the situation when Spanish-speaking people go to Brazil, speak Spanish, and are answered in Portuguese.

A bit more Russian…

You heard a bit more Russian on the street in Chernivtsi and Uzhgorod – and perhaps 20% of informal signs would be in Russian.

Kiev: Russian is heard, Ukrainian is seen…

Kiev was similar visually – only maybe 20% of informal signs were in Russian, but almost everyone was speaking Russian.

Odessa: mostly Russian, but…

In Odessa, all informal signs were in Russian, but a surprising number of more formal private signs were in Ukrainian even though Odessa is known as Russian-speaking.

Crimea: just plain Russian

Finally the Crimea, which is officially Russian-speaking, virtually everything was in Russian, except for government signs and national chains. I understand this is also case in eastern Ukraine and its industrial powerhouse cities of Donetsk, Dnepropetrovsk and Kharkiv.

Lemberg – L’viv

Brian, where do you find this stuff?

One question I often get is "Brian, how do you find this stuff"?

So – Chinese ladies in Texas line-dancing to the South African Dutch country-music version of the theme song — complete with yodeling — of a Japanese cartoon about a Swiss-German girl. How do I find it?

It all started with our vacation in Southern Africa. 

Background information: Down there in Namibia the main spoken language is Afrikaans, which is the language that Dutch turned into after 300 years in Southern Africa. It is (in written form) 80-90% comprehensible to me and I enjoy reading it and hearing it on the radio there. The accent is really beautiful actually – sometimes even sexy! Unfortunately it's suppressed in favor of English these days — even though most Afrikaans-speakers are people of color, Afrikaans was promoted under apartheid.

I was looking for music to accompany a video I was going to make of our trip (but never did). One song I thought of was "Pata Pata" by Miriam Makeba, perhaps the most famous South African song of all.

While searching for Pata Pata I saw there was an Afrikaans version called "Baie Baie". I listened, and, meh. Not so great. But then I saw a link to a video which was Baie Baie line dance. Well, it was a completely different Afrikaans song (here is the original video).

Line danced by some Chinese ladies in Texas.

Which, in itself took me some time to process. Chinese ladies. They are in America. Line dancing. OK cool!

Huh? Well it appears these Chinese ladies danced to a whole lot of music from around the world. And some lady in Holland was choreographing a lot of Afrikaans music, a lot of which has a country beat.

I guess when you put white people on a new continent and they raise cattle, they start singing country. Thus also in South Africa.

There was more Afrikaans music these Chinese-Texan ladies were line-dancing. One was "Sweet Heidi". And I recognized the melody. It was the theme song from Heidi, a Japanese anime series wildly popular around the world except for the U.S. I had seen the series in the Netherlands. And it also existed dubbed into Afrikaans:

And this Afrikaans singer had turned the theme song into a country-style love ditty about his sweet Heidi, with a music video mostly shot in his car.

So there you go… Chinese ladies in Texas line-dancing to the South African Dutch country-music version of the theme song  — complete with yodeling — of a Japanese cartoon about a Swiss-German girl. Oh, and you can learn the line dance in Chinese or English. Watch and become strangely addicted.


My high protein, no-fast-carb diet

The principles of my diet center around one rule: avoid fast carbs.
In addition, for general health reasons, I try to avoid too much fat, empty calories, and of course I exercise. (elliptical machine is my favorite for cardio but my goal this Summer is to get a good weight routine).

Fast carbs spike your insulin which causes your body to store fat. If you avoid insulin spikes, your body will burn fat. Fast carbs are things like:

  • Sugar
  • Bread
  • Rice
  • Potatoes
  • Pasta
  • Anything breaded
  • Chips, pita chips, crackers, muffins, waffles, cookies etc
  • Juices (they are very high in natural sugars)

How “fast” a portion of food is is measured by something called the glycemic index, which is a number on a scale from 0 to 100.

  • Table sugar 65
  • White bread 70 (worse than sugar!)
  • Potatoes 73
  • Pineapple 66
  • Sweet potatoes 54

so those are bad…

Safe in reasonable portions

The following lower-GI carbs are all acceptable in reasonable portions

  • Black beans 20
  • Berries, dried apricots 30 to 40
  • Lentils 29
  • Grapefruit 25
  • Tomatoes, peppers, spinach, lettuce – all 15

Soups tend to vary a lot.

Wine is a rather high index (50) but low actual # of carbs so the total glycemic load is low for one glass.

Unlimited (but be careful about fat and calories)

The following foods are basically unlimited BUT I don’t overdo it, you shouldn’t fill up with fat (I try to stay under the USRDA of 65g fat and 20g saturated fat). These have low GI and altogether low carb counts:

  • Meat (just the steak, pork, chicken, or turkey)
  • Cheese
  • Hard liquor without mixers (no fat but lots of calories)

The curse of bread

It takes some getting used to in our society to avoid fast carbs, but particularly BREAD. Everything but everything seems to be either a sandwich or (Asian and Cuban food) comes with rice.

My arsenal of weapons

You will need to eat a LOT more protein to stay full since you are no longer ingesting the calories of your carbs. For heart and health reasons, , and you shouldn’t overdo the slow carbs (my total carbs are in the 50-80g range).
You don’t want to make up the calories with fat, as a mentioned.
You will therefore NEED protein shakes – I drink about 2 shakes a day which give you 30g protein. Tasty ones at Trader Joe’s set me back $2.29, at Costco acceptable ones are only about $1.20, and on the go at convenience stores they are expensive ($3+).

My other high protein low fat standbys:

  • Greek yoghurt (0% fat, no added sugar) – buy agave syrup (which is low GI, sweet and caramel-y) at Trader Joe’s and mix in for flavor
  • Egg whites (buy liquid egg whites and add them to your 2 scrambled eggs)
  • Protein bars – DETOUR from Costco (be careful, most others are high in fat and fast carbs)
  • Spinach – oh so good sautéed with garlic

Finally I couldn’t survive without Lose It! app on my iPhone which tracks all my nutrients easily – I can even scan barcodes of packaged foods. An app called Low GI lets me easily see if a food is high or low GI, in cases where I am not sure.

The Bulgarian waitress’s opinion

I couldn't help but ask her where she was from…
(waitress) – Eastern Europe
(me) – Ah, which country?
– Bulgaria
– Ah

She comes back later with the bill. I'm reading my iPhone.
(she) – So did you look up where is Bulgaria?
(me) – My dear, actually I know where it is. I've been to Greece and Romania and even Serbia, but not your country
– Really? Greece is beautiful. And in Bulgaria we have the mountains, the ocean, but you know… It's Europe! (pulls an exaggerated disapproving face)
– What do you mean?
– You know… RUDE people!