Music To Write By

musicalnoteSooner or later, it’ll happen to you: you’ll have time carved out to write but will be absolutely unable to concentrate. In case taking a break isn’t an option, listening to music might do the trick. Here are some of my favorite tunes and sounds when I really don’t feel like doing anything, but need to convince my brain to work in spite of it all. Feel free to share your own in the comments.

American Primitivism

Songza has all sorts of great playlists, but I always keep coming back to this one. The finger-picking acoustic tunes have a hint of country and a hint of blues. No lyrics, so it’s not completely distracting, but it’s interesting enough to help you focus.


It’s not really music, but rather an app that mimics the sounds of a local cafe. If you’d like to be able to turn the volume up and down at will, not worry about spilling coffee on your laptop, and have a strong wifi connection that isn’t slow as molasses, you’ll enjoy Coffitivity.


If you like white noise in theory but can’t find any that doesn’t want to make you break things, Focus@will just might do the trick. The free version plays 60 minutes of sounds at a time, and paying for a subscription unlocks all sorts of other features.

Other People’s Soundtracks

Sometimes when I’m writing a profile on a specific person, I listen to the type of music they like to try to get in their head a little bit. Of course, this only works if it’s not music you absolutely despise. I usually look for them on Spotify or just find soundtracks of the type of music they say they like.

Your Favorite Tunes

I know, I know, it’s so obvious that it’s barely worth mentioning, but you probably have some tunes laying around that just might work. I find myself listening to classical guitar and ukulele quite a bit (Jason Vieaux, Jake Shimabukuro, Adrian Holovaty, etc.) when editing, and more raucous music (Jayke Orvis and the Broken Band, for example) for idea generation. What do you listen to when you write?

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.

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!

Yael’s Variety Hour: A Little Bit of Everything


  • The December issue of the The Performance Menu: Journal of Health & Athletic Excellence is out! My piece is about picking yourself up after a loss; I spoke with sports psychologists Brady Greco and Dr. Kate Hays for their knowledge and expertise. The issue is packed with goodness. Greg Everett discusses 18-week programs and fixing the clean, Matt Foreman talks about missed attempts in training, Ryan Kyle describes emerging superstars in world weightlifting, Ryan Atkins explains the play day as a programming tool to maximize results and Sean Greeley gives biz strategies on getting more money flowing in your gym. Plus recipes by Scotty Hagnas. I made the pumpkin kale stew last night, and it was good.
  • PatchFitness is a pretty cool site Ryan Atkins turned me on to. I wish there was one in Minneapolis!




  • Check out this video for some slick grappling by Red Schafer and Chris Senner at King Grappler (and not for the soundtrack). Great submissions and nice transitions.





Friday Musings: The Dovekeepers, and other random things

The good:

  • Getting a pink gi! Whee! I hated it at first and was scared of its bold pinkness, but I finally wore it and now I like it. It was on sale for $75, so that was great, too.
  • My boyfriend’s sister found a restaurant in Minneapolis that has Sonoran hot dogs! I’m sure it won’t be the same as in Tucson, but I can’t wait to try some! (Cheat meal!)
  • Getting ready for my weekend trip. So psyched. Will write all about it when I return.
  • Planning to move to the Cities on Thanksgiving weekend (or at the end of the month.)
  • Getting called sir via text message, making me laugh hysterically (in addition to obsessing about whether to correct the guy or not.)

The hard:

  • Our crazy, evil neighbor. OMG.
  • Listening to too much sad music.
  • Clients expecting me to be overtly persistent to get things they want, thus making me feel like a stalker.
  • Realizing how little I see my family, which kind of makes me feel like I don’t have one.
  • Visiting gyms, while fun, is also disorienting and I can’t wait to settle somewhere.

The random:

So I have a Google Alert on my name, and keep getting notified whenever anyone reviews this new book called the Dovekeepers… Unfortunately, my namesake appears to be this chick who hooks up with a married assassin, keeps doves as pets and is a cutter. And her parents didn’t love her. From the Seattle Times:

“‘The Dovekeepers’ begins with the narrative of Yael, a character who is at first unlikable. She has been rejected since birth by her father, who blames her for her mother’s death in childbirth. Then Yael falls in love with an assassin, with whose family she and her father flee Jerusalem after the Romans crush a rebellion there. She lives in a cave above the group’s camp and walks naked there, even having sex with her lover where his wife can see.

Yael depicts a perilous journey through the desert to the haven of Masada, an old fortress of King Herod’s that has stores of food and sits atop an enormous rock plateau protected by treacherous cliffs. There the Jews dig in.

Yael becomes one of the women who keep doves, for their eggs and to create fertilizer for the settlement’s fields. All of the narrators work in the dovecote.

…By the book’s end, all four characters are richly rounded, and Yael is as beloved as the others. In retrospect, her habit of cutting lines into her flesh to mark the grueling days in the desert — and probably her other actions there — also reminded her that she was alive.”


Friday Musings: Hot Water, Proverbial Rollercoasters and Taking A Day Off

I typically compile my Friday musings from various thoughts I’ve posted on Facebook, and it appears I haven’t done a lot of thinking this week. But here’s the few things I’ve been pondering.

So we have been having all these hot water problems, until the very day that my landlord comes out to look at the thing. Then suddenly we have TONS of hot water. So hot that you couldn’t even keep your hands in it. This after weeks of tepid and lukewarm madness, which made it impossible to take a bath. I’m not crazy! Well, maybe a little, but not for the reasons my landlord was thinking. Like, I would not make up cold water. Anyway, at first I thought it was the crazy lady downstairs, who was flipping out because apparently her water bill is now $5 more each month (we share a water heater and the cost is split) since we, you know, do laundry so that our clothes will be clean, and take showers after working out. Maybe she lowered the temperature on the water heater and then turned it back up when the landlord said he was coming. Though I’m not sure she is smart enough to come up with that nefarious plot.

So then I thought it was just the universe’s way of fucking with me. Like when my hair looks really sweet right before I’m about to get it chopped off. Or the times in my past when I was so ready to dump the guy already, but then he would do something really nice–making me second-guess myself. Or when you’re about to quit a gym and suddenly everybody’s polite and respectful and it’s actually a pleasant environment, for a change. This leads you to believe that things aren’t so bad and stop you from making your well-thought-out decision unless you power through it! Um, that doesn’t tie into water at all, but it just is something I’ve been thinking about.

The rest of my week has also been a rollercoaster. I was pleased to learn that my ACL is, in fact, intact and I do not need knee surgery. But I wasn’t so happy to learn that my knee is or was partially dislocated. And the rehab exercises I’ve been doing aren’t any fun at all. I feel weak and helpless, even though I know it is helping build strength in my knee, which is what I want. It doesn’t hurt, but feels weak, so building it up again is the best thing I can do…even if it sucks at the time because these seemingly easy things are so difficult.

I also got turned down from a dream job this week, which sucked, but my silver lining is that I now don’t have to try to start months from now or cancel projects I’ve already committed to (most of which start in October.) Anyway, although I’m more than a little disappointed, I’ve been consoling myself with the thought of better things in store and reminding myself how much I love the flexibility of freelancing.

And I took a day off to try to recharge. It was excellent. I got my hair straightened, bought some zines from an independent bookstore and ate lunch at the co-op.I listened to Fabeku‘s awesome sound shifting audio (the free Sound Shifts Things audio, available on his site, as well as the music from the Don’t Lose Your Shit Kit.) I also did an online audio retreat a la Jen Louden, and tried to think about the sense of longing I have being the calling itself, and ways to really enjoy the journey rather than focusing or obsessing over my lack of things I don’t already have. This is not easy work.

Taking a day off was really hard! I am used to working pretty much 24/7. But I really needed the recharge time, and feel like I can tackle the world with renewed vigor.

My weekend is going to be awesome. My boyfriend and I are going to Milwaukee for UFC (and Joe Rogan!) after he runs a half-marathon. Beer, food and frozen custard are also on the itinerary. Then back to strict Paleo for 8 weeks to prepare for another tournament.

Hope you have a great weekend, too.

Friday Musings: Immaturity, “Credibility,” Special Treatment, Vices, Expectations

It’s been a bit of a whirlwind week for me, and I thought I may not get to my Friday musings…but luckily, my evening just cleared up. 🙂 Perhaps this is the “abstract” edition…

  • Every once in a while, being a writer will get me better treatment or service. This became very obvious at an event I was covering when I looked at what happened before and after they found out I was writing about them. And it made me really sad. I feel like I’m the same person, and should be treated the same way… and that other people should also be treated with respect, whether or not they are writers. At the same time, when I was a teacher, I used to always take extra care with lesson plans when I knew I was being observed… and I guess that’s the same thing. A hoop I had to jump through, though I believe I cared equally as much about my students whether or not I was being observed. Interesting food for thought, anyway.
  • I had a strange recurring experience since last week where people insisted I did things which I did not do. One of the people I believe was flat-out lying. One I believe had made a semi-innocent mistake. (He was flat-out mistaken, but I see how he falsely got the impression that something happened though it didn’t.) And one was, in my mind, slightly delusional. It made me wonder whether, upon hearing these people’s version of things, one would think they were more credible than me though I of course know otherwise. 😉 Or maybe not even ask me for my side of the story. As a teacher, I knew I had this luxury–any story I told a parent would likely be believed whether I was mistaken or not. It’s something I can honestly say I tried hard not to take advantage of, but who knows where my perception meets reality. This is another thing that made me stop and scratch my head a bit, though.
  • It always surprises me when people think that putting others down will make them look cool. Oh, and, telling someone they should be thick-skinned also does not excuse this kind of behavior. I suppose their karmic retribution is that they then must spend their lives surrounded by the type of people that they attract.
  • Since I’m on the topic of immature behavior… temper tantrums are for babies. Nobody likes people who can’t handle it when things don’t go exactly their way. A little bit of humility, grace and composure goes a long way. Or if that’s not possible, silence.
  • I was at the Academy this week to interview Volkmann before his upcoming fight. He was incredibly cool and funny and nice. Also, the Academy got struck by lightening. Not sure which of these two was the least likely scenario.
  • I realized that caffeine gives me anxiety. And so I really need to cut back. This is going to be hard, since I already also know that too much sugar messes with my mood and blood sugar, wheat and grains mess with my emotions and some of my favorite music makes me depressed… Sometimes I feel like everything I love is bad for me.
  • Speaking of sad music, I’ve been listening to far too much Juliana Hatfield than I should be. But I love this lyric so much! “I found a way to use my head; I go over and over every word you said. Look how I can make something out of nothing!”
  • Nobody rises to low expectations. If you feel that nobody has high expectations for you, raise the bar for yourself.
  • I’ve been getting a lot of requests to look at people’s writing, do some troubleshooting re: freelance woes or answer questions about topics I’ve written about (gardening, etc.). Happy to help & one of my values is being accessible and approachable, so I’m setting aside a specific time to do this so I can set some healthy time boundaries even on weeks I’m swamped. Trying out Wed., Aug. 10th from 12 noon to 2 PM. Will catch up with requests and actually answer the phone then, & see if this works.

Yael’s Variety Hour: Music, Recovery & Movin’ Those Hips

Welcome to the Variety Hour party! Unless you’re new here, you know that Wednesday is my link-sharing party, followed by shameless self-promotion (most often in the form of linking to my own pieces.) Here we go!

Music–since I’m totally slacking on the monthly mix tapes

  • Yonder Mountain String Band (Live At Lakeside). Yonder Mountain is this amazing jam band I just started listening to; was lucky enough to have someone send me a link to this live show which he said was more of a great hits show. I loved it. Hope you do, too.
  • freedomband. If you ever lived in or near Prescott, you probably have heard these guys. I particularly like track #10. I have fond memories of listening to it at a show…
  • Spotify. I feel like I should have more tunes on here with that nice graphic, and all, but will just direct you to Spotify–because it rocks. Seriously, ask for an invite and download it and find a ton of great, free music available for you to play. The bad news is that now I have access to all sorts of Juliana Hatfield songs I am trying not to play because it induces melancholy and reminiscence of high school hell. But you should still check Spotify out. I take responsibility for my own poor choices.
Move Yo Hips
  • How to Survive Training Layoffs from Grappling. As I mentioned in a previous post, my ACL may or may not be torn. I won’t find out for a while what is wrong with my knee (my appointment is not for almost two weeks, and of course an MRI will be scheduled way after that if necessary). This is (potentially) depressing news, but when I think about it almost every BJJ player I know has struggled with injuries of some kind. Hopefully this post by Stephen Kesting will help.
  • Feel Better for 10 Bucks is an oldie but goodie–a foam rolling article by Eric Cressey and Mike Robertson. Okay, I’m name-dropping again.
For Fun
Shameless Self-Promotion
  • I have some openings for copywriting, editing and proofreading–drop me a line to talk about your project.


Friday Musings: Totally Random Edition

does this look anything like me?

After an unexpected two-day hiatus (due to the insane awesomeness that is Women’s Grappling Camp), I wanted to finish the week off strong! I’ll definitely recap camp at some point next week, but there’s been a lot to process. Anyway, here’s my random thoughts from the week.

  • That’s great that Google has new inbox sorting/viewing options, but why can’t “alphabetical order” be one of them? Wouldn’t that be so…obvious? I would then also trust them more; I’m still a bit scared of Google+.
  • I reluctantly got a Spotify account due to promises of free music. I like it so far, but can’t help but wonder if it will one day soon have no free options. Or if the free options will start to suck as soon as I become addicted to the site. Everything seems scammy like that lately… but I guess ’tis better to have loved and lost…
  • Speaking of free things… as I was working out of a cafe this past week (due to the heat and our lack of AC), some random stranger came up to me and asked me why I wasn’t wearing perfume. Apparently, he thought I’d smell better with it, and offered me a free sample. Maybe he should’ve gone for the girl in the sundress next to me, with the designer purse and fake tan.
  • Dealing with the reactions to my training injury has been interesting. Obviously, if you are a female with a black eye, everyone assumes you are a victim of domestic violence. I’ve gone back and forth between wanting to wear sunglasses to  make things more comfortable for everyone to feeling like I have the right to make eye contact with strangers even if it makes them wildly uncomfortable. It is interesting what assumptions people make and how they treat you based on those assumptions.
  • People who make up stories to make themselves sound  cool are NOT cool. Especially when you are pretending to have military or combat experience you don’t have. This should go without saying, but it comes up so often that I just can’t help but get irked… all the time. If you have to make up crazy unrealistic combat stories to feel good about yourself… that’s just sad, really.
  • I am very excited that I got tickets to see Joe Rogan perform comedy in Milwaukee just before the fights we got tickets for. Anyone going?
  • On behalf of a reader, I am looking for kickboxers or a good (affordable) kickboxing gym in South Bend, IN. Somewhere cool and female-friendly. Please drop me a line if you know of one.
  • One of my Tucson friends came to visit last weekend, which was great fun–even though he had to put up with the insane heat in my house. We did buy chocolate malts, went geocaching and saw Transfomers III. He also brought coffee from a cafe I loved in Bowling Green, OH…one of the stops on his tour. I crashed on my brother’s couch in Bowling Greens for a few months and have such good memories, but none as good as when I came back to visit and got drunk with my brother. There is video, which I’m not proud of, but my claim to fame was getting refused entrance at a bar (in a college town!) because they said I was a liability. My friends promised they’d get me inside at the bar next door if I promised not to talk until after we got in…at which point, raucous toasts “to liabilities!!!!!!” ensued. (Note to clients and future employers: this is funny because it is so out of character for me. I promise I don’t drink nearly as much as anyone else in the Midwest.)
  • I have been so busy running around that I have not had the chance to see Harry Potter yet! But here’s an Andrew Futral quote I read which I liked: “Harry Potter is all about confronting fears, finding inner strength and doing what is right in the face of adversity …. Twilight is about how important it is to have a boyfriend.”
  • The real quote of the week is from Jason Von Flue, whose name BJJ practitioners will recognize because of his really great guillotine counter/choke. Anyway, he wrote these words of wisdom: “It’s human to lapse, what it comes down to is how you recover.” Brilliance.


What Are Your Favorite Worker Songs?

I am heading to the National Writers Union Delegate Assembly in Detroit this weekend, and as such I thought this month’s mix tape (I’ll be racing the clock to finish it before July), should contain union songs! If there’s any you’d love to hear on there, please let me know!

I won’t have the time (or rather, energy or desire) to respond to anti-union sentiment, so let’s stay on topic. (Feel free to send me a message instead of posting in the comments if you prefer.)

I, of course, am partial to Billy Bragg, Utah Phillips and various songs from the IWW song book! Of course there’s always Nina Simone, the Clash, Chumbawamba, Billy Holiday, the Coup, Kate Bush and even Sleater Kinney. And Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings! If I’m missing something…let me know!