Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Just back from Russia: How to survive jet-lag

After spending 16 hours in the air between Russia and SFO -- and five additional hours sitting around in a French airport -- I was really, really glad to get home to Berkeley. And my granddaughter Mena still remembered me. And the roof of my apartment had only leaked a little bit. And only a few of my houseplants had died. Good to be home! I was, however, completely overcome by jet-lag. Is jet-lag a pre-existing condition?

When I got back from Russia, the first thing that I noticed here -- aside from a big stack of unopened mail -- was that, in my absence, America had become completely obsessed with the Great Swine Flu Scare. Nobody had even mentioned the H1N1 virus when I was over in Russia, but in America the media everywhere I turned was blasting stories about "1,000 people dying" and the big "National Emergency Declaration". I also noticed that the debate over single-payer healthcare was still going strong. And you know which side I'm gonna be on regarding that one. If a huge pandemic ever does hit the U.S., I surely will not want to have to deal with any for-profit health insurance companies before I can get treated. "I'm sorry, Jane, but swine flu is a pre-existing condition."

But I digress.

Forget about getting taken to the cleaners by for-profit health insurance companies and having weird substances shoved up you nose by Big Pharma. Let's talk about what really interests me most right now -- jet-lag. How does one get over jet-lag? If there is a vaccine for jet-lag, sign me up!

But until a vaccine for jet-lag is finally discovered, here's a list of the things that I myself have discovered to actually help. First of all, there is yoga. I HATE yoga. But it works. If you tie yourself up like a pretzel, you won't even be thinking about jet-lag. I guarantee it.

Next, do try acupuncture. It works too. If someone is sticking a bunch of needles into your ears, you are not gonna be worrying about jet-lag. Jet-lag will be the least of your worries. Trust me on that one. But acupuncture does help. At the AIMC clinic on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley, You can have student interns acupuncture your ears for only five dollars per session. A miracle cure!

And then there's Jin Shin Jyutsu. Jin Shin Jyutsu is amazing. It helps us to immediately get into physical, mental and emotional balance -- and it's easy to do. JSJ basically consists of holding onto your fingers and toes (and, no, you don't have to recite "This little piggy went to market" while doing it). First you grab your left little toe with your right hand and hold onto it for three minutes -- grab onto all three joints of your toe bone, descending down to the pad at the top of your foot. Then you hold the next toe for three minutes, and then the next one -- do all five. Then switch to the other arm and foot. And do it while watching all the episodes of "Survivor" that you missed while you were gone. JSJ is amazing stuff. And it works.

I just made three demonstration videos about Jin Shin Jyutsu. The first one shows my daughter Ashley and I demonstrating some basic finger holds (ignore the eight more complex holds on this video. I got some of them wrong): The second video shows me and toddler Mena demonstrating eight more complicated finger holds: And the last video shows me using the proper techniques for clutching one's fingers and toes. I got skills!

Still suffering from jet-lag even after all that? Then go for a walk. I HATE to walk. My knees hurt. But you can at least hobble around the block once or twice. Fresh air is nice. Fresh air also works.

And speaking of fresh air, I've noticed that the air over America is not as clean and clear as the air over Russia. That's probably because Russia has more trees. Imagine an area the size of, well, the continental United States -- only all covered with trees. And all those trees will be breathing out clean oxygen. No wonder Russia's air is better. Their secret weapon is trees.

Breathing is a good way to get over jet-lag. You gotta remember to breathe. Also eating healthy stuff helps a lot. I HATE to eat healthy. But it does help. And they say that sex gets you over jet-lag sooner too. But I haven't yet tested that theory because apparently MediCare doesn't cover sex even though, for me, sex is not a pre-existing condition.

PS: It was really good to see my family again -- Joe and Ashley and Mena. I missed them. They missed me. Having a wonderful family to return to is the best cure for jet-lag of all!

PPS: When I got home, Kristin Bender of the Oakland Tribune wrote an article on my recent court settlement with the Department of Defense. Here's the article:

Berkeley Blogger settles lawsuit against the Department of Defense, By Kristin Bender, Oakland Tribune

Berkeley blogger Jane Stillwater has settled a lawsuit against the federal government for $1,362, the cost of an airplane ticket to Kuwait and the price of 15 mocha lattes at the airport Starbucks, where she spent two sleepless days because her previously approved embed with the Army suddenly was canceled.

"They claim they bought me off, but still it's kind of a win for me," Stillwater said. "I thought they'd fight this to the absolute bitter end."

The government clearly doesn't see it her way. "This stipulation for compromise settlement shall not constitute an admission of liability or fault on the part of the United States, its agencies, agents, servants, or employees, and is entered into by the parties for the purpose of compromising disputed claims and avoiding the expenses and risks of litigation," according to a statement in the settlement agreement between Stillwater and the Department of Defense.

Stillwater, 67, had embedded with the U.S. military in Iraq twice before to blog about the war and troop life. In January 2008, according to a copy of an e-mail from media embed coordinator Spc. James Deady, she was granted an embed from Feb. 14 to March 3 of that year. She bought a plane ticket but then got word the embed was called off. The government has said that "changes on the battlefield" and "limited resources to support embeds" were the reasons for the cancellation, according to copies of e-mails to Stillwater from military officials.

She flew to Kuwait anyway [they had told me that there was still a chance for the embed to happen] and spent time in the Starbucks drinking mocha lattes before the U.S. Embassy booked her a flight back home. Stillwater has blogged since 2000 and was granted the embed by securing media credentials through a Texas newspaper, The Lone Star Iconoclast.

"I want to see what's out there in the world, and if what (the government) is telling us is true," said Stillwater, who has reported on subjects from troops' living conditions to the variety of MREs, or meals ready to eat. She has also blogged from Russia, Iran, North Korea, and African nations and is headed to Antarctica in December in order to have visited every continent.

Her daughter Ashley Stillwater, 22, worries about her mother.
"I'm constantly e-mailing her, asking, 'Are you still alive?,' 'Are you lost?' 'Are you OK?'" she said. But for all her worry, Stillwater's daughter said she is happy her mother recouped her money, because they used it to pay for dinner at Chez Panisse.

According to the suit, it's clear the government wanted to end the fight over the money. "Plaintiff hereby releases and forever discharges the United States and any and all of its past and present officials, employees, agencies, agents, attorneys, their successors and assigns, from any and all obligations, damages, liabilities, actions, causes of action, claims and demands of any kind and nature whatsoever ... '' according to part of the settlement agreement. That's fine with Stillwater, who is giddy about her win.

"I took on the Department of Defense, and I won," she said. "But I'm not going to brag about it."