Lexifabricographer For when the right word just won’t do…

January 22, 2010

Unfit for fitness

Filed under: fitter/happier,Uncategorized — lexifab @ 3:47 pm

I’m pretty bad at exercise. I don’t imagine I’m alone there: not too many of my close acquaintances are particularly inclined to fitness (Andrew’s an exception, but I don’t think ‘disciplined’ is the word he would use to characterise his fitness regimen). Given that the advantages and benefits of a rigorous approach to personal health and fitness are obvious, I’ve been thinking a little about why I’m not all that worked up about workouts.

It’s an oversimplification to just call myself lazy and move on. I mean, I am lazy, no doubt – but why? I like being active and doing energetic and exhausting things almost as much as I like profoundly sedentary activities like sitting about reading a book or hours-long roleplaying sessions or playing video games. But I engage in the latter group of activities overwhelmingly more often than I do anything that could be described by the former. If I were skiing or swimming or playing cricket, I would happily do those things for hours upon hours at a time, far in excess of what my typical fitness levels will comfortably allow, yet previous attempts to ‘get in shape for the summer/winter’ have historically failed within weeks, if not days.

I think this might call for a list:

  • Time – At this stage of my life (when one gets to the age of nearly-forty, it is mandatory that one begins speaking in terms of one’s ‘stage of life’; this is an irrefutable law of nature), the small amount of free time available to me is reduced further by competing interests (i.e. playing with the Joey, watching The Wire, writing blog entries). Unless I want to get out of bed at 5 am (I don’t) or go for a run after the baby is put in bed at around 7:30 pm – when I would prefer to be eating dinner – there’s just not that much time spare for a couple of sets of tennis or an hour on a bench press.
  • Convenience – Unless I exercise at home or I take advantage of the great outdoors nearby, the time problem is exacerbated by getting to and fro, usually beyond the point where I can be bothered. This used to be less of a concern when I was driving to fencing or indoor cricket, but it has been a while since I’ve done either. I just don’t see where I can fit transit and/or preparation time into a daily routine already constrained by the needs of my little boy. Damned if I know where people with multiple kids would get the time.
  • Physiology – I’m pretty lucky in that I gain weight pretty slowly and lose it pretty quickly, according to the amount of exercise I am doing. I’ve never been what you would call fit (though I have certainly had periods when I was stronger and had better stamina) but I’ve never ballooned out either, despite a world-class sweet tooth. I assume that I just have one of those metabolisms that burn a bit hotter than is usual. far from taking advantage of that to become one of those lean athletic types you see on TV, I’ve gone the opposite direction of habitually doing no more than the absolute minimum work necessary to maintain myself in semi-reputable physical condition. I’m pretty much habituated to relying on this to manage my weight for me. Thinking about it, that’s probably how middle-aged spread starts for most people.
  • Jack-of-all-trades by nature – (This one might be a long bow, but I decided to draw it anyway and see how it feels). I’ve never been much of a one for expertise. I would rather know a small amount about a lot of things, or be able to demonstrate a wide range of skills with competence, rather than attain a high degree of specific ability. Developing real skills or significant depths of knowledge requires application, practise, repetition over long periods. I’ve never been able to pull the trick on my own brain of becoming ambitious or determined or diligent enough to just keep going and going and going at anything – be it playing an instrument or learning to program or comprehending economics – past the point of ‘good enough’ or general understanding and into the realms of genuine skill and enlightenment.
  • Boredom threshold – This should be at the top of the list, no doubt. Mindless, repetitive running and stretching and lifting and just generally doing the sorts of things that create resistance/relaxation cycles and build muscle memory and so on are really fucking boring. My problem is that I can’t easily switch off my brain, which demands a constant stream of novelty or it starts to get cranky. That’s why I can exercise in front of a TV or play a team sport that requires interaction with other people, but I can’t run more than two hundred metres without getting the shits with it. It doesn’t help that I am really not a great music listener, so jamming in some earbuds and seeing how far I can jog to the ‘Streets of Fire’ soundtrack just doesn’t work for me.
  • Too much burn, not enough zone – Further to the last point, my periods of sincere effort to ‘get fit’ are so infrequent and intermittent that I am intimately familar with ‘the burn’, which tends to appear about nine seconds after commencing physical exertions and dissipating about three days later, give or take a muscle spasm. But I have never become closely acquainted with this ‘zone’ that athletes – runners, typically – talk about. You know, where they claim to lapse into trancelike state in which they could just keep running forever, like they’d suddenly broken into an uplifting training montage. The wind blows through their hair, their limbs pump with metronomic precision and a sexy sheen of honestly-bought perspiration glistens at their brow. If my description sounds less than convincing, it’s because I have my doubts that this phenomenon is anything other than a lactose poisoning-induced fantasy.

I’m not sure what to conclude from this, other than that I should really get onto that technician to come and fix our treadmill.

January 12, 2010

Stories! (Not mine though)

Filed under: the interweb she provides — lexifab @ 6:58 pm

I have nothing useful to contribute to the internet (not that that appears to be a qualifying criterium for participation), but some other people have:

The Things, by Peter Watts, is a clever and audacious retelling of John Carpenter’s 1982 film, the horror classic The Thing. I think the story stands well enough on its own – someone who hasn’t seen the film or at least not recently could perhaps voice an opinion – but I have extraordinarily fond memories of staying up way too late at Ev’s place in the latter years of high school, and this one was a regular feast for our hungry little eyes. It’s paranoid and suspenseful and horrific (and, having seen it again a couple of months ago, the pre-CGI effects stand up pretty well) and has an ambiguously apocalyptic ending that still resonates with me. This short story expands on the film in all sorts of cool and chilling ways, even approaching the material as it does from the potentially-hackneyed monster’s perspective.

Be warned though – the final line contains a consciously nasty bit of wordplay that some readers will find upsetting.

The other thing I’ve come across is a new Laundry short story by Charles Stross. The Laundry is Stross’ underfunded, bureaucratised and wholly cynical civil service agency dedicated to the control and suppression of magic that might if left unchecked allow extradimensional horrors consume our universe. Perhaps it’s the jaded public servant in me, but I adored the first two Laundry novels “The Atrocity Archives” and “The Jennifer Morgue”, and am eagerly awaiting the third instalment (“The Fuller Memorandum”, due out this year, I think). They’re like a sweet and tangy collision between H.P. Lovecraft, John le Carre, Ian Fleming and maybe a bit of early Ludlum. This story’s a pretty good illustration of what to expect.

(Additional note: OMG, in the comments thread after the story, he mentions that he has tentative plans for a fourth Laundry instalment, which will be a Modesty Blaise pastiche! Freakin’ yay!)

Next day addendum:

I’ve also come across – though have yet to read – a Firefly fanfic novel written by Steven Brust (author of the excellent Vlad Taltos novels, which series I am suddenly reminded I am way behind on). Like I say, I haven’t read it yet, but I am (a) an admirer of Brust’s writing and (b) a slavering Firefly fanboy. If you share these predilections, you too can waste your valuable web surfing time instead reading ‘Verse-inclined prose about space cowboys.

January 6, 2010

Standing by to witness the Future unfold

Filed under: news of the day — lexifab @ 10:03 pm

2010, which I’ve always thought of as a bit distant and futuristic – probably because it’s the year that I will, barring unfortunate incidents, turn forty – has suddenly arrived, to the expected total lack of fanfare. While my long-departed younger self might well bemoan the lack of mass public teleportation infrastructure, I suspect that the present me’s preoccupation will tend more towards the mundane, like paying down mortgages and finding effective ways to stop my son from making that eardrum-bursting shrieking sound.

Young Me and I do have one bit of common ground, that of giddy anticipation at the coming year’s new series of Doctor Who. Early signs are promising, though I will say no more until the final 2009 specials are screened.

The Xmas break was quietly industrious, much of it spent on the patio with a paintbrush, a hammer drill or a shovel. (The majority of) the work is done now, and as soon as I get around to downloading the photos from the camera I’ll have a sporty little garden to show off. The best part is that we now have an outdoor area for the Joey to play and draw in, so the loungeroom sofas are in considerably less danger of being attacked with crayons. That stuff is hard to get out.

I don’t know about you, but I haven’t given much thought to what I expect from this year. I suppose that Fi and I will have to do something to mark the occasion of our fortieth birthdays, but nothing relevant is springing to mind. Suggestions are welcome, but be aware that extreme sports are off the table.

I’m waiting for my turn in Facebook Scrabble, trying hard to make something viable from a V, an N, 2 Rs, 2Ds and a T. Unless my opponent obliges with a vowel, I believe that I am screwed. (Edit: I won’t keep you in suspense: a moment later I made “rod” – probably the nadir of my Scrabbling career – then picked up the Q and the J. Inexplicably, my opponent then forfeited, giving me the win. There is no justice in the world.) I keep telling myself this is a more productive use of my time than reading articles on gaming and cricket. Or blogging, probably.

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