Archives for December 2011

Friday Musings (And UFC 141 Coverage)

It’s been an eventful last week of the year. Before I get started with the Friday musings, I wanted to make all my UFC 141 coverage available in one place, so MMA enthusiasts can read everything before the fights tonight instead of seeing the links on Wednesday, when it’s too late.

Anyway, onto my musings for the week…

The good:

  • My gym is awesome. ‘Nuff said.
  • Saving a raccoon, which may or may not make up for my 2009 hit-and-run crime against a turtle.
  • The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Best movie I’ve seen in a long time.
  • Planning on attending the ASJA and FLX conferences this year, if I find hotel roommates. This is exciting. New York and DC, baby!
  • The amusement involved in trying to determine if you can judge people’s wealth by the amount of gis they own–like cattle. Yes, I have a strange sense of humor.

The hard:

  • A couple good reasons to read contracts closely: magazines republishing editorial work as an advertisement (making you look like a corporate shill) and dead-beat editors claiming there was never a real agreement. I think I’ve seen it all.

Quotes of the Week:

  • ‎”The ground’s generosity takes in our compost and grows beauty. Try to be more like the ground.” -Rumi
  • “Impeccability begins with a single act that has to be deliberate, precise and sustained. If that act is repeated long enough, one acquires a sense of unbending intent which can be applied to anything else. If that is accomplished the road is clear. One thing will lead to another until the warrior realizes his full potential.” -Carlos Castenada

Have a great New Year, and we’ll see you on the flip side!

2011 Survey Results

I promised I’d release the results of my 2nd annual reader survey, and give a bit of an overview of where the blog will be heading in 2012.

Survey responses were collected between November 13th and 22nd.

Topics of Interest

The most often selected blog topics survey respondents were interested in were health and fitness, along with the weekly “Variety Hour” and “Friday Musings” posts.

People also expressed strong interest in posts about Paleo food and nutrition, weightlifting and strength training, self-employment, humor, interviews with cool people, personal posts and posts about the writing process.

There was some interest in MMA, grappling/BJJ, recovery, psychology, politics/news, poetry and videos.

Several survey respondents specifically requested more personal posts.

People were interested in a variety of topics that were not covered, including motivation, kickboxing and variations on equipping a home gym (on a budget, in a limited space, after an injury, in a rental unit, etc.)
motivationI think you covered it. n/akickboxingStuff about equipping a home gym, maybe with variations like “On a budget” or “In limited space” or “After sustaining an injury” or “In a rental space,…
Lack of Interest
Some people said they were not interested in martial arts and men’s MMA, and still others were uninterested in all things fitness-related or Paleo-related.
Where This Is Going
Because survey respondents were only a small percentage of readers, I took these results into account along with other data, such as traffic volume and other indicators. My conclusions?  The vast majority of you guys are interested in most of the topics I cover (health, fitness, food, combat sports) and are especially pleased when there’s a personal angle to the posts. It is great to have authoritative information, but I think it’s really the human angle that many of you are looking for. So I will continue to include my own personal experiences in my posts.
It seems that other topics I write about are of interest to some but not all readers. I will continue to include posts about self-employment, writing, etc. but they will remain in the background.
I was pleased to learn that people enjoy the Variety Hour and Friday Musings posts, as I really love putting them together.
I am still working on determining a publishing schedule for 2012, and deciding whether to maintain the current schedule of five posts a week or lower the volume–so stay tuned.
A special thank you to all survey respondents!

Yael’s Variety Hour: Last Party of 2011!

The variety of links this week is the same as usual: some health and fitness posts, some thought-provoking pieces (on education and writing this time), food posts and combat sports posts. Enjoy!

Health and Fitness

  • The January 2012 issue of the Performance Menu is out! It’s got articles on pulling technique in Olympic weightlifting, incorporating animal moves into your workouts, and getting more cash flow in your gym. There’s also Paleo recipes, a comparison of the U.S. Men’s team’s 2007 and 2011 performances in the World Weightlifting Championships and a review of a day-long MovNat workshop, along with some Q+A on training post-ACL surgery and seeing significant gains in the lifts in your mid-30s. Yours for $5.
  • Body/Art. Really nice piece by Tav Byerhoff about art/fitness. Beautifully written…


  • The holidays are over, but if you ever want to buy a foodie a present, here’s 5 Great Kitchen Gadget Gifts which I wrote for City Pages’ Hot Dish blog.

MMA, BJJ, Wrasslin’

  • Jon Fitch is facing Johny Hendricks this Friday night. We’re totally trying to have a party, but I’m not sure anyone is coming. Anyway, here is part of my interview with Fitch: No Need to Dumb Down MMA on Sherdog. A longer profile should be up any day now.
  • InterMat Reads: Perfected by Girls is a really great audio interview with Alfred Martino, the author of Perfected by Girls, a book about a female amateur wrestler. I don’t normally read a lot of fiction, but this novel is definitely on my list.


  • Bootstrapping My Way Into the Ivory Tower. What if you want to be an academic, but you’re poor? What does this even look like? What are the challenges? This personal essay for the Chronicle of Higher Education makes some cogent points.

Best of 2011: Top 5 Articles

Yesterday, I posted the top ten blog posts from 2011, according to my hosting statistics. Today, I’d like to link to some posts I have available elsewhere. This list is far from comprehensive. Much of my writing is available in print publications and not online. Some of it is ghostwritten, and much of it is very time-specific (such as interviews with fighters about events which already took place.) Nonetheless, here’s five posts that I’m pretty proud of which I think you may enjoy, if you missed them the first time around.

  • Body-weight Training for Beginners. Writing a piece for Experience Life has always been a dream of mine–and working with fitness goddess Krista Scott-Dixon and editor extraordinaire Jen Sinkler (a fitness goddess in her own right) was one of the highlights of my year. The piece was very well-received, and I was thrilled to get e-mails from people who found it helpful.
  • Interview With an Urban Farmer. Spezzatino, a beautiful online food magazine (and all-volunteer effort) which raises money for the Healthy Food Bank, posted an interview I did with Will Allen of Growing Power fame. This makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.
  • A Few Words With Henry Rollins. Getting to meet my childhood punk rock icon (tied with Ian Mackaye and maybe Kathleen Hannah) at a book signing was pretty darn cool, as was getting to interview him via e-mail… even if his publicist does hate me. I was hoping his responses would fit his typically verbose persona, but had no such luck…but that means it’s free on the Performance Menu website, rather than only available to magazine subscribers. So enjoy.
  • From the Ground Up: How to Defend Yourself at  Your Most Vulnerable. I am just a baby in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and you’ll have to trust me that there is no false modesty behind those words. But I was thrilled when Angela Jorgensen asked me to write a feature for Chikara exploring which aspects of BJJ are relevant for a self-defense situation, and which aren’t. You could write a tome on this, but I feel like I touched upon some basics.
  • Leaked! Ultimate Women Challenge Disaster: Filming Plagued by Lack of Food, Funds & Training. I always feel sick to my stomach when I hear about fighters being screwed over by shady promoters, and the stories coming from Ultimate Women Challenge participants were more egregious than anything I’ve covered before or since. I was pleased to at least be able to play a small part in exposing the show producers for their role in this fiasco–despite their threats and bullying. MMA HQ published hundreds of posts in 2011, and this one had both the most page views and most unique visitors in the entire year.

We’ll have our regularly scheduled Variety Hour tomorrow, and Friday Musings to finish the week. On Thursday, I’ll wrap up the survey responses for y’all and give a little outline for what to expect next year.

Top Ten Posts of 2011

I checked Google Analytics to see what my most popular posts of ’11 were, and thought I’d put them all on one page for you.

The Paleo posts were by far the most popular this year, accounting for more than half of the top 10.

  • Paleo Flour and Other Sundry Substitutes. I was surprised at the popularity of this post, since it didn’t have a lot of recipes and only a few links…but it’s hard not to want to eat Paleo muffins, so I get it.
  • My Whole30 Recap. I think taking pictures of all my meals increased interests in these posts.

The next most popular type of posts was my BJJ posts, specifically BJJ DVD reviews. Interestingly enough, it was the two beginner DVDs I reviewed which were most popular.

Finally, my next three most popular posts were pretty random.

  • My Vibram Five Fingers. Another surprise, because this piece was written in 2010! I will admit I’ve since moved on to New Balance Minimus–perhaps a different post!
  • 7 Alternatives to Pandora. I don’t typically blog about music, but this one was a hit! Apparently other people were running out of free time on Pandora, too. I’m pretty sure the service is now unlimited…but not positive, since I’ve moved on to Spotify.


It looks like many of you guys reading this are interested in Paleo food, very beginner BJJ, free music and nice footwear…and perhaps even in SEO, though you don’t know what to ask.

That concludes the top ten posts of 2011! Tomorrow, I might dive into some survey results.

Friday Musings: Why I Love Caribou (and other random thoughts)

Welcome to the second-to-last set of Friday Musings for 2011! Here’s my revelations and thoughts, big and small, from the week.

  • It’s amazing how much you can learn when you stop thinking you know everything.
  • The barristas at Caribou Coffee are super nice, but I’m pretty sure they put caffeine in my Mind Condition Cooler when I requested decaf. Either that, or decaf keeps me up ’til 4AM. However, the nice man gave me a spoon to eat my whipped cream and mint chocolate on top of the drink…and when I asked him how he knew to do that, he said, “I was a kid once, too.” All is forgiven!
  • I found a way to get myself to not do any work or physical activity during my one rest day and day off per week. I just made a list of things to do, and filled it with action items such as “take a bath” and “foam roll” and “read a book” and “drink chai with a friend.” It worked!
  • Snark for the week: It’s called a deadline because you were supposed to turn it into me by then.
  • (I may or may not need anger management.)

And my favorite quotes for the week:

  • “Try and fail, but don’t fail to try.” -Cobrinha
  • “Never grow a wishbone, daughter, where your backbone out to be.” -Clementine Paddleford
  • “The soft overcomes the hard. The slow overcomes the fast. Let your workings remain a mystery. Just show people the results.” -Tao Te Ching

Great read for the week:

  • My Life as an Experiment: One Man’s Humble Quest to Improve Himself by Living as a Woman, Becoming George Washington, Telling No Lies, and other Radical Tests by A.J. Jacobs. This was a gift from my Secret Santa, and it was good!

Happy Hannukah!

I have an interesting relationship with Hannukah. It began in college. Mostly I’d ignore the holiday, until I realized I got depressed every year with Christmas festivities I could not partake in. (I do not begrudge anyone their Christmas celebrations, but they have never been my own.) Despite my agnosticism, I would find myself in a frantic search for Hannukah candles–not the white and blue ones sold at Target, but the beautiful multi-colored ones–every December.

Despite any religious beliefs, or lack thereof, there’s something about Hannukah that’s very easy to get behind. A day’s worth of oil lasting eight. We can all relate to this. Anyone who’s stretched out that last tank of gas far after the dummy lights in their car went off, or that last bit of paycheck at the end of the month can relate to this. The struggle is punctuated by every-day miracles. And whether you have a deep belief in religion or simply enjoy partaking in traditions, there’s a place for all manner of celebration.

Hannukah is only a minor holiday in the Jewish religion; fried foods such as potato latkes, dreidel, candle lighting and small amounts of gelt (coins or chocolate) are the only real traditions. Extravagant gift-giving isn’t really part of the deal. This year, the 2nd night of Hannukah fell on the Winter Solstice–a festival of lights during the dark of winter reminds us that the light will return.

I will be celebrating with potato latkes and dreidel, focusing on the positive, attending a Hannukah party that does not discriminate against people in inter-faith relationships. (I will be attending Todd’s family’s Christmas celebration this year as well.)

Happy holidays to you! Whatever it is you celebrate, may it be merry and full of cheer. I wish you all the joy and magic of the season.

For further reading:


Yael’s Variety Hour: Energy Vampires, Music, Food Gifts & More

Confession time: my browser is absolutely filled with pages I’ve opened and haven’t yet read. Therefore, this variety hour is incomplete. This also means next week’s will probably be stuffed full. Here are my picks for the week:

Energy Vampires

I was writing about how much fun it can be to block annoying people on facebook, and my friends showed me two posts they’d written about energy vampires. Thanks to Laura Faulkner Canale and David Blocklinger.


  • Teenage Fanclub – The Concept. Saw a movie that reminded me of this song from one of the first albums I ever bought. The only weird part was that the popular girl liked it.
  • Hanukkah Bop. Some punk rock for the holiday by my buddy Cedric, whose band I used to listen to in high school.



  • Queen of the Cage was my Sherdog profile on Cris Cyborg, who successfully defended her belt last Saturday.

Gifts for Foodies

Selections I put together for City Pages.


Happy Hannukah and Winter Solstice to those who celebrate, and I’ll catch you next week!

Looking Back at 2011

A year ago, I took a detailed look back at 2010.

The year had many high points. Lots of things were learned, such as Ayurveda and winter tree identification, and maple tapping. I got to attend a lot of events, including MacBeth and the sandhill crane migration, the State Fair and UFC 123. I visited cool places, such as a spa I wrote an article about, my parents in Costa Rica (monkeys!), my boyfriend’s parents at the lake on the 4th of July (fireworks from a boat!), Phoenix and Tucson, Madison and Chicago. I got to see a lot of cool people speak, including Will Allen and Mike Perry and even Chris Guillebeau, and I got to some good live shows, including Screeching Weasel and Jake Shimabukuro (night and day). I got to do some teaching. I spoke at an Ecofeminism class, taught a creative writing class in Chippewa Falls and a freelance writing class at the Loft. I was on Zak Woods’ radio show, which made me feel special, and had a guest post on Copyblogger. I got to interview some amazing people, including Forrest Griffin, Urijah Faber, Randy Couture and Susan Wooldridge. I started a flame war on a local website, which was way more fun than it should’ve been. I bought need things, such as a Mac, and got my website up and running.I got to move out of Eau Claire. (!!!!!)

There were main low points as well. They included a failed attempt to cook duck, accidentally running over a turtle, auditioning for what turned out to be a part-time minimum wage job, living in a crappy apartment with a non-functional dishwasher in Eau Claire, having nobody show up to herbal workshops I had tried to teach, having a party where nobody showed up, not having anywhere to train and upsetting some guy in the gym because apparently deadlifting makes too much noise. It always sucks when people talk smack about you loudly enough to hear them, even if they are losers and date girls who use lifting gloves to do hamstring curls.

Anyway, that was 2010. How did 2011 go?


2011 was my second year as a freelance writer, and career-wise it went very well. I feel honored to have gotten published in one of my favorite magazines of all time, Experience Life, where I got to work with two of my heroes–Jen Sinkler, editor extraordinaire, and the amazing Krista Scott-Dixon of fame. I got to write for other dream publications, namely Taste for Life and Black Belt. I also got to write about food for the City Pages and local foodie site Simple, Good and Tasty. It is always a pleasure to write and serve as the managing editor for the Performance Menu: Journal of Health and Athletic Excellence, which I feel has some of the best cutting-edge information on health and fitness, especially Olympic weightlifting. Interviewing sports psychologists such as Brady Greco and Kate Hays was a real treat, as was speaking with coach Marty Morgan. I even interviewed Henry Rollins for the website, though I’m pretty sure his publicist hates me.

I am a huge MMA fan, and got to interview some pretty amazing fighters (27, but I’m the only one counting) and write articles and columns for some of the best MMA sites online, including Sherdog, Intermat Fight, Fightergirls, Cage Queen, Chikara and MMA HQ. My MMA writing was not just limited to interviews and profiles. I also got to write about which fighters I felt the UFC should bring back, Ultimate Women Challenge screwing over fighters, an MFC fighter stiffed on medical bills, how Gina Carano’s medical issues are nobody else’s biz, and my thoughts on everything from the Bryants/Rampage/Hendricks/Rogan fiasco to my response to Miguel Torees’ rape jokes. I wrote about the spying charges leveled against Jon Jones. I introduced the new WMMA rankings. I helped hold fighters accountable for missing weight and refs accountable for bad stoppages. I wrote about the very sad deaths of Shawn Tompkins and Maryellen Cano. Despite the haters and trolls and many threats of lawsuits, I am proud of my voice in the MMA media landscape.

I was lucky enough to be invited onto a couple of podcasts, get interviewed for Platform magazine, and be featured in the spotlight of “Networking News,” Twin Cities Professional Editors Network’s newsletter. And my sugar scrub recipe which was originally published in Bust magazine was featured in their BUST DIY Guide to Life anthology.

My involvement with PEN, NWU, ASJA and SPJ meant I got to attend some great events on everything from food writing to the future of the magazine to a business journalism workshop. I also took online courses on ethics in journalism, profile writing and sports reporting. Developing my craft is very important to me.

I did some work only peripherally related to writing, which was a blast this year. I got to proofread some graduate level papers and several book manuscripts. I put together a freebie on SEO for brick and mortar businesses and did some SEO consulting, as well as consults with aspiring freelance writers. I did some ghostwriting and some test item writing and sold article reprints. And I was interviewed for an add-on bonus for a writing guide put together by the people behind Daily Writing Tips.


I got to attend a lot of great events this year. I covered a medical conference for a business site, and got to interview Kenny Beckman. I received a scholarship to Growing Power’s Sacred Soil: Cultivating Seeds of Community Transformation conference in Milwaukee. I attended a Whole30 seminar (life-changing) and a Brutal Recess workshop by the awesome peeps at BodyTribe. I attended the World Domination Summit in Portland (with some amazing speakers) and the National Writers Union conference in Detroit as a delegate and was elected co-chair of the Journalism sub-division. I even got to visit both Madison and Orlando.

While traveling, I visited some really great gyms, went to weird places like King Spa, which was crazy, and Decompression, even crazier. My friends are awesome.  I even played with pottery. And Todd and I got to Milwaukee for UFC 123 and to hear Joe Rogan do stand-up. I was also lucky enough to catch some great live tunes this year, both in and out of town, including Catfish Stephenson, Jayke Orvis and the Broken Band and the Stanton Moore trio.

I did a lot of cool things in or near town, too. Todd and I went to see the Prairie Home Companion, and we went to book signings by Henry Rollins and Christian Landry. We also got out to ComedySportz and to hear stand-up at Acme. I found lots of cool cafes and a far infrared sauna. I dressed up as Mystique for Halloween and got myself invited to a party.

My jiu jitsu game did not improve as much as I would’ve liked in 2011, and I lost tons of tournaments, but I was lucky enough to visit multiple gyms in Milwaukee and Madison and even attend the women’s grappling camp in Minneapolis. I got to go to a seminar by Fabio Gurgel and one by Chris Haueter as well.


There were a LOT of hard things this year.

First of all, I made a lot of mistakes. I was pretty disappointed in my original coverage of the Nate Marquardt debacle, for instance, and although I did do additional reporting in the field, I still feel like my original reaction showed very poor judgement.

I had two articles in purgatory. That means they are written and ready to go but are being held indefinitely. I believe one of the two will run in the summer. I am very sad about the other one, because it is very good and I am not sure when or if it will ever get used. My fingers are crossed.

I had another article butchered in editing to the point where it was unrecognizable. More sadness ensued.

The vast majority of my clients for the year were amazingly awesome, but I did have a total of three problem clients. Two were deadbeat clients, and one assumed I would do work far beyond the scope we’d originally agreed upon. Setting clearer terms is something I hope to continue working on, as well as scouting out clients better to make sure they are a good fit.

On the list of mistakes I made, I helped put out an amazing product, and didn’t do enough to market it yet. There’s always next year!

Another item of concern is that I have recently noticed that I can never take a day off. Even when I travel, I must continue to work. Likewise, some local writing is not really as location independent as I’d like. I am hoping to remedy this in 2012, as I’d love to visit my parents one of these days, and working 24/7 is not my idea of a fun time.

I had a lot of trouble outside of work, too. Living in a small town is NOT for me, and I am glad that I’m gone now. I think I am slowly relearning how to interact with people.

Switching gyms, although it was absolutely necessary, was a difficult experience for me–kind of like getting out of a bad relationship. There was a fair bit of backlash and drama associated with it which I’m still feeling a little. And trying to find a new gym by visiting a ton of them, while also necessary, was a bit unsettling. Moving was another necessary evil that was a bit destabilizing.

I had my share of random suckage this year, too. I suffered various injuries (including a knee injury, an arm injury and getting elbowed in the face–ooh, fun) and the worst cold ever. I lost my favorite pair of mitten/gloves, got the worst haircut ever, and had a traumatic rolfing experience. I also had to deal with crazy neighbors and a landlord I am not a fan of. Figuring out how to respond appropriately in these types of situations is something I believe I need to learn in this lifetime.

Beyond my own personal experience, I believe the year was hard for a ton of us. A lot of really cool people died this year: Poly Styrene, Gil Scott-Heron, Shawn Tompkins, Steve Jobs… There were so many tragedies, with Gabby Giffords and in Japan to name just a few. The media landscape was very dark, with a Texas judge beating his daughter and the Penn State scandal, to name a few. Collective bargaining was harmed by Scott Walker. Borders Books shut down. And the Utne Reader is moving to Kansas.

I do believe the good outweighed the bad, even in 2011, and I have very high hopes for 2012. I feel like I have a very clear picture of where I am, where I want to be, and what I need to do to get there.

How was your year?

2011 Goals, Revisited (and a look at 2012!)

Each year, I spent a week or so in December trying to make some sense of the past year, seeing what goals I accomplished and which obstacles I’d still like to overcome in the year ahead.

I’m afraid that the goals I set for myself in 2011 were far too numerous. Although my “2011: Here’s Looking At You, Kid” post only listed a few, I had an enormous list of goals on facebook, divided into

Some of them I gave up on mid-year, such as an audio interview series that became too expensive due to editing, or an e-course idea which never panned out.

Some of them were added to a task list, such as updating new clips on my site, along with articles available for reprint, or getting testimonials from proofreading/editing clients.

Really interesting goals such as gardening, finishing some nature classes or getting my CPT just weren’t priority, and many others did get done. Still, my list of goals felt more like a to-do list than anything else. It was cumbersome and annoying, and even though around 2/3rds of it got done, I didn’t feel that sense of completion I wanted to have.

When I looked at my 2009 Goals, Revisited, I noticed that there were only 8 goals: getting a new used car, finding a different job, clearing space in my house, working with my posture, taking care of my health, working on my jiu-jitsu, working on my writing, and doing things I am bad at. I actually moved forward with all of these goals, and it was a lot easier than my ridiculous list for this year.

I literally had 36 goals for this year, and added more to them as I went along. They were divided into categories, also: career goals, house/clutter clearing goals, health and fitness goals and nature-related goals.

My goals for 2012 are similarly broken up into categories, but I decided that I will focus more on each of the categories than on very specific itemized tasks in each area. This will allow me to look at the big picture, and adjust the tasks on the lists as needed. I also decided to assign each category an element.

Earth is gardening and plant work. I would love to finish this Kamana program I’ve been putting off forever. It is the 2nd part of a home study course in naturalism, and I believe I was putting it off because I did not like where I lived enough to want to go outside and develop a connection with the area. I would also like to grow my own vegetables, which is another thing I put off when living in Hudson because I did not want to spend a ton of time working the soil for a house we did not intend to stay at for long. I’d also like to study with herbalist Matthew Wood, if possible. This is another thing I didn’t get to delve into because of the drive. Being in Minneapolis instead of Hudson will make this much easier.

Air is my writing. I have had fantastic opportunities this year (more on that tomorrow), and have a lot of ideas on how to help develop my writing abilities and continue developing my skills, as well as do more of the type of writing that I am most interested in. I picked the element air because it is primarily intellectual work…though often, my job is simply to get out of the way and let articles write themselves.

Water is Brazilian jiu jitsu. this may seem like a strange element for a fighting art, but I have really learned that I need to develop the technical aspects of the game and work on flow, more so than strength and aggression. I am in very, very good hands this year–in an amazing gym with excellent instruction and a very good vibe. So all I really need to do is be open-minded and consistent in my training. In the past, my physical fitness and health were separate categories, but in 2012, I’d like to focus them on this one goal…getting beyond the perpetual beginner stage I’ve been stuck in forever in this art. However, BJJ also spills over into other areas of my life, and I believe the lessons I learn on the mat are applicable outside of it. I’d like to respond to fire with water, for example.

Fire is decluttering, which is primarily limited to the boxes in my office, books and clothes I need to sell or give away, etc. This causes undue stress…in addition of me having to move things from state to state–things I don’t need. Burn, baby, burn.

So there you have it. Tomorrow, I’ll take a look back at the year professionally, and on Thursday, I’ll take a more personal look back.