Sunday, March 13, 2005

Various Bits of Things

Legend has it that the name "chop suey" is an Americanization of the Mandarin phrase "tsa sui", meaning "various bits of things".And that is my topic for tonight... various bits of things that I've been wanting to blog about for a while, but hadn't quite gotten around to yet.

Like the Hipster PDA, which is the absolute latest in retro-tech. I simply must have one. I've dabbled in being an Allenite/GTD guy for a very long time, and experimented with various ways of keeping an on-the-go "In" list and "Next Action" lists (both electronic and paper), and frankly nearly every one of them sucks. When I had enough things going on in my life to support it, the Palm-based LifeBalance program worked well for me, and at the opposite extreme I've successfully used a single sheet of 8.5x11" paper (folded into 8 parts) to make a pocket-sized collection of action lists.

The main drawback to the Palm is the relative difficulty of data entry, and the drawback to the folded paper is the relative difficulty of retrieval. I tried to find a midway point by using a pocket-size binder, but it never really gelled for me, as it suddenly takes twice the space when you open it up to write something in it, and doesn't allow easy rearrangment.

I think there' s a good chance that the Hipster could solve both problems, by allowing super-easy removal or reorganization of the individual cards, while remaining compact during data entry. I might actually need to use a felt-tip marker or one of those "space pens", but it's probably not a big deal.

I could especially use a Hipster this week, as I've just started scurrying around to do final prep for PyCon. My presentation materials are pretty much done, but I need to turn them in. And I'm a bit restless about getting everything else ready for my trip, be it the laptop or my food. Ever since I went to a largely raw diet a few years ago, travelling is a rather complex effort. I usually prepare homemade jerky to take along, and sometimes raw cheese (i.e. cheese made from unpasteurized milk. This trip I plan to take raw butter and honey as well.

Of course, as a practical matter, I pretty much have to break my diet to some extent while travelling. The hardest part is that it's usually difficult to get a fresh green vegetable juice with the right ingredients, and without vegetable juice or other alkalinizing foods, it's more difficult to eat the amount of raw meat that my nutritionist says I should be eating this year - two pounds a day. (As you can imagine, the difficulty of obtaining suitable raw meat or fish outside a sushi bar, steakhouse, or fondue restaurant cuts down on my social opportunities a bit as well!)

So on the road, I normally end up eating a little of this, a little of that, and trying not to have too much of any one cooked food, and plan to take it easy when I get home and have to recuperate. (After a few years on the diet, cooked food no longer makes me quite as sick as it used to, but I can definitely tell the difference in my energy levels and brainpower.)

But, when my wife Leslie and I were in Las Vegas last year for the International Lingerie Trade Show to do inventory purchasing for my wife's store (yep, it's tough when she has to go on a business trip!), we actually managed to find this nice little juice shop that would make pretty much whatever juice blend you wanted, although they thought I was crazy to be drinking celery juice without much of anything else in it. The stuff did in fact taste awful, but I need quite a bit of juice in order to maintain a carnivorous attitude for my other meals.

Speaking of Leslie and her lingerie/adult shop, she had a rather surreal experience last weekend that I thought would bear blogging about, but I never quite got around to it. She'd gone to an annual open house/sale at one of her adult toy and video distributors, and met some stars of reality porn (i.e. Devinn Lane of "Seven Lives Exposed"), the stars of a reality show about making porn (i.e. "Cousin Stevie" and "Mari Possa" of Showtime's "Family Business"), and the star of the reality movie (i.e. documentary) "Porn Star" -- i.e., Ron Jeremy.

The part that was surreal is that in the last few years, Leslie and I have seen all of those shows and movies. We quit watching "Seven Lives Exposed" after we quickly figured out that both the sex and the drama were fake, but we've enjoyed "Family Business" for both of the seasons it's been out. Anyway, she described the experience of overhearing Cousin Stevie as surreal in the extreme, as he carried on one of his trademark bitch sessions, in this case about the $100 cab fare he paid to get there from the airport. It was, she said, as if she had fallen into the TV set and ended up in make-believe land, especially once she got into a conversation with Myrna/Mari Possa about her (Mari Possa's) breast implants, which had been a subject of some drama during the show's second season.

It was even weirder, she said, to be talking to Devinn Lane, who she described as being very introverted, and not really a "people person" -- a rather odd quality for a porn star, one would think. And yet, oddly enough, Leslie ended up talking with her quite a bit, and on some rather personal (for Devinn) subjects. Leslie tends to have that effect on people, though, as she's just the sort of person that people tend to feel "like they can talk to."

For me, however, the weirdest thing I learned from Leslie's recounting of her adventures was that Ron Jeremy has a line of greeting cards. This was not new to her, but apparently it's new to lots of other people besides me, because he was surprised and pleased that she had even heard of them, let alone that she wanted to have them in her store.

All in all, I'm kind of glad I didn't go. :)

But I am glad (how's that for a segue'?) that I've been practicing my backbends semi-diligently for a few weeks now. I've gone from being barely able to tilt my head back with my hands on a wall, to being able to hang my head upside down in a "limbo" position without using any hand support. After my last bit of travel in December, I wanted to make sure my back was in really good shape, and I'm definitely moving that way. That particular exercise, and some others I'm doing, are from Matt Furey's "Combat Conditioning" book, which is a really fascinating treatise on the benefits of non-isolationist bodyweight-based exercises.

In effect, Furey argues that bodybuilding with weights creates "false" muscles, by exercising only the body's larger, more-showy muscles, leaving the ancillary postural muscles to atrophy. By contrast, bodyweight exercises work a larger set of muscles, including the ones that help with things like sitting up straight -- and preventing carpal tunnel syndrome.

One minor downside of Furey's approach is that every day I get spam from him. Or, to be precise, his "email newsletter", which is mostly a sales pitch for one of his many, many products. However, to be fair, he does include interesting motivational tips, and frequently gives away pieces of useful information, if you read him carefully -- which is why I haven't unsubscribed. Heck, sometimes getting the newsletter is a nice reminder that I should exercise!

Motivation is often a problem for me, as you probably know if you've followed this blog for any length of time. The really weird thing is... I actually like to exercise. I still find that surprising, because I was so set against it as a kid. However, it would probably be more accurate to say that it was sports I was against, because they always involved competition and I invariably lost. However, in adult life I've come to realize that I really enjoy the endorphin highs that can come from running or lifting weights or doing some of Furey's bodyweight exercises, especially in the last few years that I've been on a relatively raw diet.

There's something about it that just brings out the animal soul of the body. When you eat raw food, you learn that your body is not a passive thing; it's not just a vehicle that you move around in and have to rest and fuel. You learn what your body does to get rid of things it doesn't like, such as all the stuff you were putting it in before. And in my case at least, I learned that moving around and even working really hard feels better than not doing it. When, last fall, I had to work for almost sixteen hours straight, through burning sun and pouring cold rain to assemble makeshift hurricane shutters, I definitely felt sore, but I also felt really good.

But strangely, I rarely work out, even though every time I get on the treadmill I end up walking much further than I planned, because it feels so nice. And even though pumping iron or doing bodyweight exercises feels even better, I don't do those as often as I ought to, either.

But only today did it really occur to me just how weird that is. I mean sure, lots of people don't do things that they know feel good and it would be a good idea to do. But this is something so simple, and requiring so little time, that it doesn't seem to make sense that I wind up spending my time doing things like reading amusing pages on the internet, which isn't nearly so pleasurable, no matter how funny said pages might be.

I think maybe the problem is that "I just don't see myself doing that." I mean, my self-image doesn't really have a mental label of "fitness buff" or "exercise nut" attached, even though if I look at my inclinations toward, and enjoyment of exercise, I'd have to say that the description could easily apply, if I actually ever "exercised" those inclinations. :)

And, when I look at other areas of my life that aren't as I'd like them to be, I find myself asking, "Is the problem there how I see myself, too?" I suppose it makes sense, because in none of these areas is it an issue that I lack interest in the result, the skill at achieving the result when I apply myself, nor do I actually dislike the processes involved. But for whatever reason, the behaviors don't "stick". They're just things I do in response when something (such as my weight, or lack of energy, or carpal tunnel syndrome) gets out of control; they're not things I perceive as "me".

So, the really interesting question is, what would I have to do to make those things "me"? Is it really just that "I don't see myself doing that", and so all I need to do is "see myself doing that", as some self-help folks might suggest?

Heck, I dunno. But I'm sure I'll blog about it once I find out. Or at least, once I get around to it, after finding out. :)