Chicken soup for kicking winter’s butt

Because, come on.  CHICKEN SOUP.  A good chicken soup can slay even the nastiest physical or mental cold-weather malaise.  It also freezes great, and is the perfect thing to grab and run over to a sick friend's house.  (Also, I've noticed that pretty much every winter I post some recipe…I think it's because winter is my natural enemy, and I've been fighting it with food for quite a while now — and winning, if I do say so myself!  \o/)

I don't hold with watery or bland soup; mine is NUTRITIOUS and will stick around, keeping you full and your energy up.  (It is, in the tradition of soup, easy to digest, though.  For tender stomachs or weak digestive systems, you can dial the spicy back / make mild batches and limit or eliminate the chunks of meat.) 

I *am* a fan of broth, as a nice hot not-sweet not-caffeinated drink for the cold night hours especially.  Since I make my own broth/stock and use it to make this soup, I'm going to tell you how to do both!

(Making your own stock/broth is in no way mandatory — you can use storebought or, if you give it a little extra time and seasonings to compensate, just skip the broth altogether.  But making it is not only cheap, it actually saves you money by using ingredients you'd otherwise throw out; and it's fun and awesome to have around, so why wouldn't you?  If you have the freezer space, make stock!)

I.  THE STOCK

–  put a gallon freezer bag in your freezer.  Label it "STOCK" or something equally clever.

–  whenever you have scraps from cutting up veggies, or bones from meat, or awesome sauce left over from making a thing — seriously, basically ANYTHING — instead of throwing it away, put it in the stock bag.  (Obviously you can use only veggie ingredients to have vegetarian stock, if you prefer.)  Just fill that sucker with anything that looks like it could be a good flavoring for liquid.  Carrot tops, potato shavings, rib bones, chicken skin, the scrapings from the pan when you made that awesome thing — whaaatever.  Cooked or raw; doesn't matter as long as it's not rotten.  Just freeze evvvvvverything, until the bag is full.

–  when the bag is full, put on a large pot (the big ones are called "stockpots" for a reason) and fill it with 3-4 gallons (yup, gallons) of water.  Or just use a big pot that holds a gallon or two and make several batches.

– at some point before it boils, empty that bag into it

– check your fridge for leftovers too, while you're at it, and throw in anything that will taste good.  You're going to strain out all the bits and just use the liquid here, so almost anything you liked the seasoning of, or which contains meat or veggies that still have some flavor to offer, is fair game.  Plus, stock that has seasonings in it from past meals is always tastier than just the plain-veggies kind; AND it lets you use things you might have otherwise thrown out, so go for it!

(Gods I love stock.  Even writing about it is fun.  :D)

– bring to a boil, then lower the temperature so that it's barely boiling / simmering

– ignore for as long as you can — stock that cooks all day is wicked good, but an hour is enough for the basics.  Just make sure you leave the lid closed and keep the heat low enough so you don't boil off all the water!  If it starts to get low, just add a little more water to compensate, but try not to do that too much.

– you can add extra seasoning if you want, but I don't!  You're going to use this magic fluid for cooking other things mostly, so you'll have a chance to salt/spicy/etc it later.  Some people who really like a certain seasoning (garlic, cumin, whatever) add it to their stock for that extra-layered oh-hell-yeah flavor — go for it.  Stock is really hard to screw up, if you haven't figured that out yet!

– once you declare it Done, strain it all into containers, cool and freeze the extra.  Now USE IT IN EVERYTHING, because it's amazing and nutritious and it was free!  Dump it in soup/stew/etc., use it in the crockpot with anything, pour it over food you're cooking that needs a little moisture, you name it.

– you can also just drink stock, as mentioned above; I ususally salt it a little and yup, that's it, just drink it.  If you like tea and sometimes want a savory hot thing that's low on calories (especially if it's veggie stock, but stock made by boiling meat-bones forever is not exactly high-cal either), go for it.  You can honestly do pretty much anything with this stuff!

FOR INSTANCE, YOU CAN DO THIS:

II.  THE SOUP

– there are three layers to a good soup:  The allium layer (garlic, onions, shallots, whatever kinds of those things you like), the meat layer (if using meat; I'm just assuming you are but obviously feel free to skip it if that's your bag — if you substitute tofu or mushrooms or something though, do the same things to it that I talk about here for meat), and the veggie layer.  

– almost EVERY ingredient here is substitutable, as long as you have something from each of those three categories.  I'll make suggestions, but wow are they *just* suggestions!  You can also have just one thing, or sixty things; it's all gonna be good.  BE BRAVE, because this is some of the hardest-to-ruin food there is, given these basic steps.  

– start by prepping / chopping the alliums, chicken/whatever, and big or hard veggies like potatoes and carrots.  Go any size/shape you want. 

BTW, I REALLY like using chicken gizzards (especially hearts, but all gizzards are good really) — they're high-nutrition, wicked cheap (because they're not great for a lot besides soup) and taste wonderful when chopped smallish and cooked forever like this.

A NOTE ON MUSHROOMS:  You can add these in either with the meat, so they get super soft and seasony, or near the end, with the "soft veggies", so they stay bigger and chewier.  What you want may differ by soup, and by mushroom, so experiment or just shrug and guess; it's all good.  :)  Oh, and super crazy hint: There's an asian mushroom called the Drum Mushroom (at least that's how my local store translates it) that is ~excellent~ in soup; it's very firm and pleasingly chewy, takes seasoning well, and never disintegrates.  I use it like crazy (it's also cheap, whee) and add it in with (or instead of) the meat.

– STEP ONE:  put about 2tbsp of butter in the pot and turn it on med-high.  (Yes you can use oil, but there's no good reason to.  Butter tastes great, does the trick, and you're putting a spoonful of it into a WHOLE POT of soup.  It's not fattening in this context, lol.)  Wait for it to melt and then add the alliums and stir.  Cook them by themselves until they smell amazing and have gone clear/floppy.

– STEP TWO:  Add the meat (or tofu/whatever).  Season it about twice as much as you think you should (with any seasoning you happen to like / want your soup-meat to taste like), and cook it for a while with the alliums, until the meat looks mostly done.  You want to fry the meat to cook it, rather than boil it, because it'll be tastier and more tender.  The boiling is for the veggies.  :D

– STEP THREE:  Add the hard veggies (or just all of them; it doesn't terribly matter — I add soft veggies later to keep them from falling apart, but it's not like it's bad if they do).  Carrots, potatoes, radishes, bok choi, turnips, *any* veggies, seriously.  Whatever you've got or feel like buying, it's probably great.  (Hard things like turnips and yucca will mean you have to cook the soup a little longer to soften them, FYI.)  Then fill the pot with liquid to a sane level.  I use either half water and half stock, or if I have a lot of stock, all stock!  The more stock the tastier.  Even a little bit really adds depth to the flavor, though.

– bring it back up to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and let it do its thing for at least 30m, preferably longer

– about half an hour before you want to stop cooking it, add these things:  A cup or two of rice (one cup will give it a nice heft and extra healthy-carbs; two cups will make it thick, almost a congee…I like both!); the soft veggies you want to survive intact, if any (usually celery and maybe mushrooms, for me); and a good amount of salt and pepper…and cayenne if you like your winter soups to have a kick (I do).  You want it to be not bland, and it takes more salt and pepper than you probably think to bring actual taste to a whole potful of soup — but also remember that a) soup is easy to season to taste per individual bowl, and b) it'll get more seasoned-tasting when it's reheated, so don't overdo it.  If you do though, don't panic; just add more water and cook a little longer.  You can also cut it with water to reduce the seasoning/spice when you re-heat it, if needed, too; it won't care.  Like I said, this stuff is HARD to mess up.  :D

That's it!

If you don't believe me, ask anybody:  I roll a pretty continuous batch of random-ingredient stock AND soup, and my friends and roommates vacuum it up happily, as do I.  I love that I can switch ingredients all the time; it keeps it from being boring.  And I can cook this stuff while watching TV and cleaning and napping and generally barely giving a crap about it, which is *precisely* how I like my cooking to go, heh.

Happy weather-related challenge time, everyone!  Enjoy!

Posted in better thinking, consumer warfare, ditch medicine for suburbia | Leave a comment

Also, I love the band

If you have no idea what Mastodon is (not the band, the social platform), then this article is a great place to start.  Move on to the official FAQ here, if you like.  I've been reading about it all morning.  :)

Like all y'all, I've longed for a Something Better in the social-media realm for quite a while.  I *know* it isn't just age that makes me feel like there was some grand possibility for Internet Social Life to explode and become amazing, back in the 90's; and that it's somehow been dammed or diverted since then.  

I certainly wouldn't be the first to posit that Facebook and Twitter have been the greedy corporate dams installed on that early gush of Internet possibilities.  Being a teenager in the grip of that early rush, and then a sorta-adult in the data-mined-to-all-hell future, it's perhaps easy for me to feel like what we really wanted out of this got…diverted, somewhere.  Hijacked, perhaps.  We wanted to use this amazing New Telephone That Can Do Video And EVERYTHING to call all of our friends at once, make friends in other countries like Dad's HAM Radio +5, join groups all over and do awesome things together…and instead, we wound up with centralized, curated, marketing-infested feeds, and a privacy (not to mention political) nightmare.

Maybe Mastodon isn't The Thing that takes it all back, that lets us just connect to each other, darnit, without the intrusion and manipulation of greedy middlemen…but this, Mastodon, is the first thing that's really made me say…maybe it is.  I'm also thrilled to report that, as a software backend, the project seems conscious of and involved in the awesome attention-economy-destroying design principles exemplified by timewellspent.io.  Freaking YAY.

I haven't signed up yet, but only because I'm pausing to consider whether I'd rather run my own server.  It might be much better than Slack as a community-tool (Slack is, I maintain, wonderful as a work-tool, and still one of my fav sysadmin-management backbones, but…) — it has, it seems, the good features of a Twitter without most of its drawbacks, and the FB features it doesn't have, it wouldn't be hard for it to do better.  On the other hand, I haven't fully explored what's involved, so, this is me excitedly talking out my butt for a moment.  Realism will be along shortly, after more reading.  :)

If you have thoughts on this software / topic, I would love to hear them!

-PD

Posted in better thinking, consumer warfare, ethics, site - about, technical-ity | 2 Comments

Use Details to Battle The Devil

LIES AND MORE LIES

The Devil is the Father of Lies, as we know.  And that terrible capital-D voice in your head when you're depressed, most of us also know, wants to make everything look hopeless.  Depression wants to color everything with its bleakness — past, future, here, elsewhere, us and other people.  The voice insists, Nobody likes youthings will Never get better, you are Completely worthless.

Well, here's the thing:  By doing that, by spreading like the black creeping Nothing and taking over our whole souls, Depression is making itself an enemy…of logic.

Logic to Depression:
::points fingers at eyes::points at you::points back at eyes::

THE MORE YOU KNOW, or, BEING AN ARGUMENTATIVE ASSHOLE FOR ACTUAL PROFIT

First-year logic students learn two symbols, the "for all" (the universal "in all cases"; a cool upside-down A: ∀) and the "there exists" (the existential; a backwards E that means "there is at least one case where": ∃).  And they learn that very, very few logical operations work when you just swap out those two!  

And anyone interested in society or politics at all knows that individual or small-group truths do NOT translate directly with general statements, about human rights, values, worth, ethics, anything.  Generalities and specifics are different, and it is a hard mistake in logic, in rational thinking, to accept a generality / universality based on a existential example.  If you do it, your conclusions are wrong, wrong, wrong.

So, not everybody is a devotee of rational thinking, like I am — but if you are, if you really believe in using your mind and consciously attempting to make sense, then having that flaming angel to fight the Devil with can be really useful.  

It's not a cure-all!  (If there's a cure for Depression and I know about it, I will drop everything and devote my life to telling everyone, don't worry.)  But over the years, I've won several significant battles, and greatly improved my "baseline" outlook and my resistance to the Devil's nastiest tricks, thanks to putting my foot down and insisting on logic, in response to the demonic voices.  

Instead of hunching over and taking the blows, whenever I can I put my philosopher hat on and quiz the living hell (ha) out of those capital-D voices:

"You have enough evidence to conclude that, eh?  A FEW people don't like me; a few also do.  And I haven't met, like, a zillion people yet; talk about sloppy induction.  Plus I can't reliably know what everyone I have met thinks of me, and using what they think as a gauge of my worth, even if I could know it, is an entirely hypothetical imperative and useless as a principle.  This idea is so full of shit we should be spreading it on the crops."

Here's the best part, though:  That Devil is great at knowing just what to say to hurt me — but he sssssuuuuuuuccckks at logic.  So if I can grab one breath amid the sting of it and put on my arguing hat (and I do love my arguing hat; that helps), I often win that argument in a blazing TKO.  The dark insistings of Depression are as vulnerable to blunt refusal to play along as a goth cosplay wedding.  So the more pedantic I get, the more I pick apart every choice of words the inner voice uses to harass me, the more I insist on specifics and details, the faster and harder I win. 

IT DOES HELP!  (DON'T BELIEVE ME: TRY IT)

Winning these arguments means you win battles, not the war; but battles matter in the aggregate — and they feel amazing in the moment.  The voice evaporates in a huff.  Depression, for the moment, retreats.

They say the Devil's in the details — but he isn't, not really.  Bad luck is in the details; bad luck is what gets you if you overlook something in preparation or miss a cue in execution.  The Devil, the real one, works by attacking the emotions.  It doesn't always use words, but since our minds are usually so verbal, words are nearly always a part of its attack.  That gives us a weapon.  Words are a fat chain leading back to the bedrock on which language is built: the desire to say something real, to find clear meaning and honest truth.  The dead opposite of Depression's Lies.

We call that intention to speak truths "reason", rationality, or as a formal study, logic.  And here's the damning (ha) technical detail one more time:  Reason works on details.  Reason looks close at your word-choices and your meaning and demands further information, clarification, reality-checks.  Reason calls bullshit.

And while it feels strange to me that this should be true, even after years of proof…the Big D here…it falls apart under that kind of scrutiny.  Just falls apart.  Sunlight on a vampire.  It's a weapon you have to keep swinging, and it can be heavy sometimes, and it doesn't strike critical blows 100% of the time — but it's a weapon, and at least for me, a good one that I'm immensely grateful for.

 

If this sounds useful to you or someone you know, I hope you/they try it.  It was really cool for me to be able to share this trick, and coming up on Halloween to boot!  …Come on, I enjoyed the hell out of the whole Devil metaphor.  :D

-PD

Posted in better thinking, philosophy, psychology | 2 Comments

We attract what we need…

…So apparently I needed a new writing-project?

Trick question:  It is categorically always true that I need a new writing project.  However, in this case, I *did* need a new publishing project.  I have all this cool fiction going on, and plans to have a novel draft ready for publication by Feb 2019, and I haven't published anything, really, since the Second Edition of Ubersleep!  There are a lot of skills there I could stand to work on, in advance of trying them out on my novel.  To practice the writing as much as I do, and then practice nothing about the publishing work that I know will be on me to do as well, seems silly. 

Once again, I solve the problems of being busy by doing more things…hey, when it stops working, I'll stop doing it!  ;)

I need something that can be completed by year-end — the holidays are a great launch-time and I should have a slow few weeks at work to do the push/brunt of it, I hope.  So I asked myself, and some of you, what's the most useful thing I could answer in a reasonably-sized e-book?

The thing that immediately jumped out was how to pick a sleep schedule.  Like, the fact that there are options, and not just weird uberman ones but even just biphasic or other arrangements, actually doesn't occur to a lot of people; and when it does, their next question is almost always "how do I pick one? and then what?"  I hear that question more than any other, from every source.  

And I've only answered it spottily, so far, in individual conversations and a few pieces on whether polyphasism is compatible for X people.  Ubersleep-the-book is mostly about the personal-experimentation and adaptation process — because that's definitely what I got familiar with first, mostly on my own.  But since I began talking to people about it, and trying to help them have something like the success I've had (in being a zillion times more rested and happy since I found an "alternative" sleep schedule (or two or three…) that works for me), I've gotten a ton more experienced with just that:  Finding one that works, or at least works better than ones than don't work at all.  It's a crucial step in the process, and for some it gets done unconcsciously or mostly automatically; but for many more people, knowing what to ask and how to interpret the results would be game-changers, I think.

Probably all of you reading this know this already, because I've talked to so many of you about it!  You've watched and helped while I flailed around and tried schedules, and I've listened and maybe occasionally helped while you've done the same.

I think it's time for a write-up on finding your well-rested schedule.  (That's my tentative subtitle for it.  Title is a secret for now!)  It's going to be an amazing ride, trying to keep everything I want to say about HOW this is possible, WHY it's important and WHAT we can do about sleep, in under a novel-length!  …But I'm game.  If it gets too sticky, I'll resort to poetry.  

(In all seriousness though, I'm using this as an opportunity to flex my editing-chops too — to keep it clear, useful and to the point.  Should be fun!  :D)

If you want to hear all the details — and have access to all the free offers and bribes that come with a publication/launch! — then make sure you're signed up for the mailing list!  (There's a sign-up box in the upper right corner.)  I'll put some of the offers on this site too of course, but the mailing list people, as is Earth custom, will get some exclusives.

More soon!  Wish me luck — I'm enjoying my new life of crazy word-count goals, at least so far.  And I'm excited to have something not-the-novel to write too, that I can talk about more…the novel doesn't really brook discussion about it until it's done, unlike this fun little project, which I'm actually *expected* to talk about as part of getting it done.

Best to everyone and Happy Near Halloween!

(P.S. There will most definitely be a Halloween Story this year.  It's been too long since I've done one!)

 

Posted in better thinking, polyphasic sleep | 2 Comments

Researching Polyphasic Sleep (warnings & sources)

So you want to know more about polyphasic sleep schedules…yay!  They're really interesting, and also very good to research before attempting.

Unfortunately your "Internet research" phase is going to be tricky, and laden with bullshit.  :/  I have done my best to offer good information, but I can't out-yell the hucksters:  and in recent years, polyphasic sleep has seen growing popularity, which means growing attempts at commercialization.  It also hasn't been popular enough for long enough to garner much scientific research, especially when you consider that:
–  studies on sleep schedules have to be in-depth and long (at least a month), i.e. expensive, to get good post-adaptation information;
–  sleep itself has only been seen to merit scientific study for a bit over 100 years (during which time monophasic has been the norm); and
–  the whole process by which the body adapts to and controls/is controlled by a sleep schedule is still largely mysterious to us humans.

–So if your usual source is "scientists", well, even sleep scientists don't have a whole lot to report on when it comes to polyphasic sleep…yet!  My fond hope is that this will change, of course.  But until it does, there's still a huge and valid category of information to be purused, including stories from people who've done it, and especially tips about how to do your OWN experimentation and learn what works for you.  The trick is just to sift through the unreliable sources, like always.

Here are some tips for doing so.  (These are just mine; I encourage you to use the best methods you know for checking the quality of information.)

STEP ONE:  Look for ACTUAL SOURCES for all claims that are made to sound bigger than personal experience — and if they're personal, that's fine, but remember sleep is VERY individual.  (In fact, even if someone shows you a scientific paper, remember that.  It's *your body*, and the best-best information is going to come from how you feel.) 

Just as if you were researching a diet, stories from people about what it's like and whether it worked for them can be VERY helpful, as long as you remember that they're stories.  Testimonial evidence is a type of evidence — just remember that that's what you're looking at, whether it's mine or anybody else's. And if the stuff you're reading claims to be more than that, then look for whether they can adequately explain how they got to that claim, from what data / experiments (more than one, right?) and using what logic.  

Then RUN AWAY if people are misusing scientific language.  For the most part, that includes almost ALL claims that science supports OR does not support polyphasic sleep — to repeat the above, there just is not a lot of scientific work done yet on polyphasic sleep (though it's worth pointing out, there is enough to know for sure that it CAN work).  But the absence of good science is one thing, and the presence of bad science is another!  I take someone's willingness to MISUSE scientific terminology, which includes claiming scientific backing for something that doesn't have it, as a very good sign that whatever they have to say is biased crap.

STEP THREE:  DO NOT BUY AN APP.  I've tried most of them, and they're garbage, frankly.  You also don't need one — it can not help you decide on a sleep schedule, and normal alarms and timers and simple lists can do everything you need with regards to an adaptation, and are much more adaptable to your individual needs.  I might say an app would be helpful for a long-term polyphaser at certain things, but of course long-term polyphasers aren't a big market, so people keep trying to make apps that will help you "become polyphasic", and they're uniformly awful.  …Sorry if that's disappointing, but on the upside, maybe I just saved you some money.  :)  

STEP FOUR:  DON'T BELIEVE PEOPLE WITH NO EXPERIENCE.  And experience means *adapting* to a schedule, not just trying it for a couple days, getting tired, failing to sleep on-schedule, and then deciding that either it can never work for anyone, or that it's magic and you're the new guru of how to do it.  Adaptation takes A MINIMUM of 30 days — sleep patterns are very much habits, duh — so anybody telling you what's up who hasn't gotten past that point is some combination of "full of it" and "giving you useless advice".

That step winds up being a big one, especially since long-term polyphasers are thin on the ground, and not prone to writing much about it.  (And I can't blame them; I can attest from over a decade doing it that writing about your sleep gets pretty boring after a while!  Dear diary, today I had three naps.  Again.  ;))

Also, it may go without saying, but I feel responsible for pointing it out:  Reddit, and the polyphasic subreddit especially, is a marvelous source for the writings of people with no experience.  Take everything there with a bucket of salt, as always.

Where websites discuss specific schedules, start/wake times, nap and waking durations, schedule-tweaking and adaptation methods, it's a good idea to be EXTRA CAREFUL of this one, and to also remember Step One:  You don't want the schedule advice of someone who's never adapted; probably you're just reading the sleep-deprived ramblings of someone who decided to experiment with not sleeping for a couple days and had a productive spurt.  :)  Also, while it's good to start with a broadly-sensible schedule (which is largely based on individual experimentation too), remember that again, your body is your body, and it's going to have its own quirks.  Be aware of yourself, and even with no research (hey, it's not like I had any! you couldn't even get a google result for the word "polyphasic" when I started!), you'll do great!

Good luck!

Posted in polyphasic sleep | Leave a comment

Writing bug

Hello again, world!  Wanna read a story?  Only got a minute?

OK, here!

###

I had a dream, once.  Heard my friend’s voice calling me from the living room, calling up the stairs, telling me, of all things, to come climb into the television.

“I figured it out!” the voice is yelling, all excited.  “I got into a parallel universe, or something!  Inside the TV!  Oh man, it’s super weird in here — come see, come see!”

So in my dream I leap up, run downstairs, the TV’s on but the screen is blank, and nobody’s there.  And you know, weird things are easy in dreams, so I just kind of haul up and climb into the screen like it’s no biggie, like I’m just looking for my friend.

I think I remember some colors?  A sensation of falling, maybe.  But that’s it; then the dream ends.

I woke up on the floor in front of the television.  And I did often sleepwalk, then.  Just to be cruel about it.

What a thing for a brain to do to itself.  

I tried…I tried to go back to work, to live my life, to shake it off.  But…well, you know how there are always things that don’t feel right, or look right, or seem right?  Deja vu, glitches in the Matrix, heh.  They’re just part of life.  

Normally they’re perfectly safe.  But that’s the trick.  Those things, they’re usually safe, because you don’t know.  Because you don’t have enough evidence to really doubt it, to doubt reality.

Once you do know…they eat you alive.

 

 

Posted in better thinking, writing | 2 Comments

The Hanging Swing

The Hanging Swing

I.  Oh man, life-wise I am kinda hanging off the crumbling edge of a cliff after a seizmic explosion and it's cool, it's cool, I'm scrambling up over the ledge and it looks like nothing is broken…but holy cow, world.  Sorry (again) for the lack of posts lately.  >,>

II. I'm not sure what I'll call it more permanently, but for lack of a better term, the "hanging swing" is my new favorite exercise, I think! 

Using my chinup bar, I hang straight, and then try to point my toes at the ceiling, lower down, and if desired also point them backwards — without building up any rocking motion/momentum.  It's a controlled thing, and slow is better than fast generally; and it nicely works a huge amount of muscles, including the core and focusing on the lower abdomen — which is what you use to lift your legs, not your thigh-muscles! If/when those burn, try to relax them and use your stomach more.

This simple exercise, which I kind of do a few sets of here and there just as I walk under the bar (and am now committing to trying to do more of!), is the closest thing I've felt to dolphin kicking (underwater, with fins), my other favorite workout-movement.  (I'm excluding silk reeling and taiji-in-general as obvious, bc otherwise this post would be stupid huge. :P)  This one works the hands instead of fins working the feet, but other than that they imitate each other's resistance and muscle-groups nicely!

FOR KUNGFU BONUS POINTS:  The Hanging Clock:  My sifu Henry used to dead-hang from a bar, point his feet straight to the ceiling and then "trace the clock" circle in front of him, sometimes muttering numbers and pointing at them with his toes.  I can only point my feet 90 degrees in front of me for now, and draw a tiny pathetic wobblyclock…but who knows, right?  :D  

Posted in hacks, kungfu yay, mad exercise | Leave a comment

A daily workout that’s simple and works: HIIT The Deck

THE "HIIT THE DECK" WORKOUT

There are doubtless other posts about similar workouts, but as I learned this through oral tradition (passed on to me by a footy team, no less) and I've definitely developed my own way of making it work for me, I figured I'd write it down anyway.  

Also yes, I'm responsible for the terrible name, as far as I know.  Sue me, per usual. :D 

For background, I've done weightlifting and strength training as well as swimming and kungfu, and currently my life is pretty bereft of fun ways to stay in shape — so I started to notice that I was getting out of it, like, puffing if I had to bike more than 5 miles kind of thing.  So I went digging through my piles of previous workouts for something that's

  • EASY,
  • NOT BORING, and
  • WORKS.  

Of all the training workouts I've done, HIIT — High Intensity Interval Training — is a type that just works.  There are other kinds of training that work, obviously, but this one's effective and flexible, so I like it. 

A workout of this kind isn't much fun by itself, but it does the trick — like making sure you get good nutrition even if it doesn't taste great.  It's simple and portable enough that I can do it every day, and it not only keeps me fit, but also lets me make progress and train, even if life isn't providing me much to train for at the moment.  Training has plenty of its own rewards, and I never want to be someone who doesn't consciously grow and develop myself physically — and I can't always rely on life to provide enough exercise and time for fun!  

I think it takes me roughly half an hour to do, but I never look at a watch while doing it, so I'm not sure.  HIIT almost always invovles timers, but in this version, we're outsourcing all the rep-counts and rest-durations to a simple tool:  the deck of cards.

EQUIPMENT NEEDED:  DECK OF CARDS.  THAT'S IT.

Any cards will work; you just need A) numbers and B) suits.  Grab a tarot deck if it makes you happy.  Don't worry if it's ratty or missing cards (just replace them with slips of paper).

PREP:  CHOOSE FOUR EXERCISES

I usually shake the list up by one or two items every day, both to keep from getting bored and to accomodate my body that day.  (i.e. today I could NOT do squats, thanks to yesterday!)  …I also often use weird workouts I've learned from kungfu or whatever; but it doesn't matter; pick what you like.  

Let's say you're on the AFL team that taught me to use a deck this way.  Their typical choices looked like this:

Hearts = pushups
Diamonds = burpees
Spades = jumping rope

Clubs = squats

If you have weights or equipment on hand, you can use it, obviously.  My chinup bar is damn handy, as is a simple kettlebell or weights.  But really, anything works.  Planks for X seconds is a great beginner one that takes no equipment, for example.  And I've recently fallen in love with doing deck-workouts with my punching bag, where practicing strikes and combos take the place of pushup-type exercises.  It's SO fun, it works the whole body, and for me it just flies by compared to most raw/boring exercise.

To make an exercise harder, or to add more cardio, just add "2x" to an exercise and do double the number of reps that come up.  

For a good deck, I try to balance upper/lower body workouts, and include something that's definitely cardio and definitely core-muscles.  I also have a "backup" for exercises that are particularly difficult — for example, I can't do a zillion pullups (yet), so if I'm doing pullups, it will be "pullups to failure and then X seconds of half-pullup hanging after that".  Similarly, you could use "seconds of horse-stance" for when you run out of ability to squat.  It's nice to have that in place so that the thing you're worst at doesn't force you to quit too early.

NOW, FIGHT YOUR DECK

Flip over a card.  It's the eight of clubs?  Ok, eight squats, fast as you can.  (All of this is done "fast as you can"!  You don't want to cool off too much in the middle.)

Flip another card.  Queen of diamonds?  Yikes — that's twelve (Jack=11, Queen=12, King=13, Ace=14, and yes you'll learn to hhhhhaaate aces) burpees.

Flip another card.

And another.

DON'T STOP for longer than a sip of water in between cards, and don't slow down any more than you absolutely have to.

Keep going until you can't.  One trick I use to make sure I don't wimp out is that if I flip a card, I have to do it — so if I want to know what the next card is, I'm stuck doing it.  It's amazing how many times I can't stomach not knowing what the next card is, and that'll get me several farther than I would have if I'd been able to flip it and then decide to stop.

GROWING & TRAINING

You have a lot of options to make progress with this one:  You can fight to finish the deck (which totals up to 104 reps of each of the four exercises, complete with the HIIT ideal of tiny randomized breaks between sets).  Then you can fight to finish it faster; then to do a double deck.  You can swap in harder exercises, or do decks that focus on a specific area you're trying to train.  If you pick up a physical hobby, you can swap in drills from that, and wham, your usual daily workout is also a training tool for more complicated goals.  It's really easy to do with friends if they're roughly on your page, fitness-wise; and if not, you can still do separate decks at the same time, if the motivation helps.  (It helps me!)

And that's all wonderful, because things that keep a workout fresh keep it happening; but for me, the killer feature here is that it's EASY to do this one, and to KEEP doing it, even if life gets in the way.  It's flexible in all the important ways, from accommodating beginners to working around injuries and travel to staying fresh and challenging after you've been doing it every day for months.  

Enj–well, maybe not enjoy, per se, but get off the couch and enjoy the results, at least!  :D

 

Posted in kungfu yay, mad exercise, psychology | 2 Comments

Technically correct is the funniest kind of correct

Hey all!  OMG, I'm so sorry to have vanished for so long.  :/  I think I got — to be brutally honest, which OH HEY I've missed this little forum where I get to be entirely that — I think I got overwhelmed by peopling and attention, and was forced into a bit of a retreat.  That kind of thing happens to me pretty regularly in life; but I hope no-one was worried.

To be honest though, this site and the sleep "community" really contributed to that overwhelming-of-forces that forced me into retreat.  It's not your fault!  I just forget sometimes that I'm not the way I wish I was, socially speaking.  Like, I learned pretty much everything wrong when I was a kid, and I treated myself badly and blindly and without good guidance for a long long time.  I normalized isolation, and a weird combination of self-harm and self-reliance (that kinda worked for a while, i.e. it kept me alive, but I was almost 30 before I learned to abandon it, and it did its damage).  

I've since learned Goethe's lesson (YAY THANK YOU GOETHE) about attitudes and weather, and also (let's call it, for fun) Neo's Lesson about choosing the fundamentals of reality; and holy COW am I a good sight better and more functional of a human now — and I hope to improve, obviously!  (Big plans are in motion; I guess I'll have to come back and update about them later.  :P)  

But like I said, I lose sight of what's underneath sometimes; I try building castles on quicksand and then my mind gives out at a weak point I hadn't acknowledged I had — great lessons, sure.  But when suddenly there are too many people in the world, and it's too hard to hear myself, my Goethe-program and my lessons, I just can't anymore.  I'm not an introvert actually — not anymore; they would have said I was a severe one for a long time; but in actuality I think I was always a Broken Extravert.  …Which is all a very dumb and convoluted way to say, I don't want to go hidey; I don't really need to escape; and yet, I can't help it sometimes.  Gods willing, I will always fight my way back.

Even though looking at the "new" front page of this site makes me cringe now — I kind of threw it up there in a last-ditch "do something" before systems shut down completely, last time — I'm glad that the Blog is no longer the front page, and I'm happy that I still have this space to write the kind of thoughts that just. don't. fit. anywhere else, including in a personal journal, because they're shared thoughts between me and those who think like me, which dammit, we're rare but we're out there.  As much as my brain tries to insist that that doesn't matter, I know damn well it does.  And part of admitting that is taking a deep breath and reaching out sometimes, even when you're sure you'll eventually be embarrassed about what you say.

Such is growth.  The Art of Sucking At Things.  :D

HELLO AND HAPPINESS, everyone!  I hope you've been well. Feel free to drop me a line and tell me what's been up.  

I'll be back.  :)

Posted in better thinking, psychology, social laquer | 4 Comments

Finally, a perfect body

I’m being told, by individual mouths as well as much of my culture, that I should be upset and/or ashamed that my body is, at age 38, no longer “perfect”.

Well, it wasn’t perfect before. Or rather, if I looked at my 20-year-old body now I might say, “Perfect!”, but I never felt nor was allowed to feel like it was perfect then; and in strict terms it was never true — I’ve always had the uneven breasts, thick legs and most of the scars, for starters. And I was obsessed with that inch of belly-fat back then; I hated it and myself, because I was told to, every day. It was awful, and my body and I had such a terrible relationship for a while because of it. Even though it looked “perfect”, or so I’m told now.

So it’s hard to grieve for this “perfection” that never felt like mine to begin with. Perfection seems like something that’s only designed to be appreciated from afar — i.e. when you have it, you can’t enjoy it; and once you lose it you’re supposed to feel sad. …I smell bullshit.

If, however, “perfect” is a designation relative to a thing’s use, or the zeitgeist it’s in, then my body is undeniably MORE perfect now than it ever was in my numerical youth. I’ve found parts of life to occupy where my breast-evenness doesn’t matter at all (or is interesting, or even “cute” and exciting to people), and where most of the people around me love my leg-muscles and sure as hell don’t mind scars. This body is also flexible, has great endurance, and is usually pain-free — things that might have also been true before, but which I was in no position to appreciate. I’ve taught it to dance, and do kungfu, and swim and climb — all in the last decade. Every day it gives me new opportunities to play with and learn balance, strength, relaxation, and a host of other amazing skills that a) I couldn’t gain without a body, one that has limits and challenges; and b) a perfect-looking body wouldn’t help me obtain one whit.

I feel joy and appreciation for my body daily, now, partly because it has taught me how to seek and find and experience so many wonderful things. Is that not what having a perfect body is like? Daily joy and appreciation?

“OK, so you’re lucky,” they say, “but as time goes on, your body’s going to fall apart.” Yes, thank you; I knew that. I’ve actually had it fall apart already, several times in several ways. I know what it is to be unperfect in the sense that you can’t walk because you have 250 stitches in your gut, and to use crutches because the damn knee is acting up again, and other such things. (I’ve also gotten to re-learn walking and then for good measure learn to do plank push-ups, which I never could before the gut-surgery; and I’ve gotten to grit my teeth and train like crazy until the bum knee never lands me in crutches anymore — all wonderful, brilliant gifts that my body gave me by failing to be flaw-free.)

“But you won’t be able to look attractive when naked anymore.” I love when people say this, because thank you for holding up a giant sign that says “I’M BAD AT SEX, DON’T BOTHER” — I’ve got a long list of potential lovers, and I appreciate the administrative help identifying the ones who aren’t worth the effort. The more years of experience I rack up with attraction, sex, and love — all things I was a flailing newb at, at 20 — the more important it becomes to me to have partners who are good at it: And people who think that judging someone’s looks against preconceived models is any part of foreplay are, I can say with confidence, terrible lovers 100% of the time. (People who are *not* my potential partners who judge what they think I look like naked and whether it would be “good enough” for them to fuck are not just bad at sex, they’re gross and inappropriate, and they can rest assured that this body is way more likely to punch them than get in their beds. Perhaps they should be looking at its form and strength more than its scars and skin, because it might help them to know that I throw one hell of a punch — way harder now than when I was 20. And I like punching almost as much as I like sex, so it’s all good by me. ;)

When we say that something is “perfect”, are we calling it immortal, unchangeable? If so, then “perfect” is a simply meaningless word. If not, then no breakage, aging, or failure of any part of my body makes it less perfect. It just makes it a perfect, mortal, changing thing, that yes, will eventually give out entirely. Exactly the same can be said for a perfect flower, a perfect animal, a perfect forest or a perfect star.

And if you ask me today, with a few more inches of belly-fat and a few more scars, to imagine and name off the perfect things in this world, well. This body, that’s driven me all around the planet for all these years, that’s taught me brilliant lessons and brought me amazing pleasure in a thousand ways, is one of the first things that leaps to mind.

Posted in aesthetica, better thinking, kungfu yay, psychology, sexytime | 2 Comments