Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Service, Please!

If I can wax poetic for a moment, there's a voice in my head. It's me, of course - what else would it be doing there? - but not the me-that-is. It's a me-that-was, or a me-that-might-have-been. The version of myself that could comfortably dwell behind a desk, viewing the world through panes of glass for the rest of his life. He doesn't understand me-that-is.

The accountant runs his audits. He dwells on questions of worth, demanding to know where I get the values I ascribe to things. Half-marvelling at the prices I'll pay for the given reward.

He doesn't understand. He can't understand, because he's never lived. A million lives, perhaps. He lives in his own way - vicariously through the voices inhis head, the voices he crafts. Those voices never talk back, never tell harsh truths. He will not grow - except sideways.

I live. Every day I jump headlong into the fire and every day I crawl back out. Some days, I am invigorated. Those days I breathe deep and the fire draws into my lungs. It suffuses me, powers me. The sparks kindle deeper, inner fires. That is the prize. There is nothing tangible. A living may be earned a hundred ways, but there is no drug that can match the burning of kindled passions.

Some days, I crawl back out broken and bruised, my shell cracking under the heat.The fire makes fools of us. It is our workhorse, but also our undoing. Most never learn to breathe it. Those that can simply burn less than others. These days, I come home and let the ash form weak ink at the bottom of my shower and I just hope that soap is salve enough to fill the cracks. Bruised pride heals, maybe. But you don't care if it would, because eventually the burning will outpace the burns and you won't have to answer that question.

But whether I burn or get burned, I live. I walk among the flames and find peace, or don't. It is a strange idea, to turn to the voices outside your head to do your thinking, but in it, there is a certain reward. You pay the price of liberty and earn instead leadership. It's liberating, not to think. To do without thinking contains a certain satori, that zen-high which both of me chase.

That, it turns out, is all we have in common. We have our own prices. Burns and blood and ink-stained fingers.

I, alone, grow. Even the me-that-would-be knows that he had no chance of becoming me-that-is without the fire.

Blisters will callous. Short fuses burn away. Order up.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Human Machine and the Neglect Cycle

My innards look something like this.
When I was writing my earlier inexpert articles on nutrition, I frequently likened the human body to a machine, which isn't entirely inaccurate. While there are some differences, the basic rules of mechanics apply, particularly when it comes to fuel and maintainance.

Humans suffer any of a broad variety of physical and mental breakdowns over time, from acute problems to more chronic ones. Today's bad posture is tonight and tomorrow's back problems, bad shoulders, and overall "age-brokenness". Today's bad diet could very well be tomorrow's Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

I find myself particularly aware of when I am and am not fatigued, partly because the job demands a fairly reliable high-energy, and partly because fatigue can also be a symptom of my own idiosyncratic chemical imbalances.

Recently, I went through changes in my life that dramatically impacted my fatigue level. I reduced my overall activity level from five-times-daily full-hour aerobic activity (not counting for the anerobic exercises of being employed) down to a piteous ten minutes. At the same time, I rather dramatically (and foolishly) reduced my caloric intake by a good 20% and went off of caffine cold-turkey, down from a habit of double-dosing on energy drinks first thing in the morning.

The resultant month-long experiment has been a tremendous burden and I found myself having serious doubts about what I was doing - in all aspects. Being literally too tired to care has its definite disadvantages.

I'm feeling better now. To some degree I think my body has adjusted, but it shouldn't have had to. I consume far less than I should calorically, even at my reduced activity level. The nutrient balance is so far out of whack I often wonder how it's possible I function at all. I became severely ill for about a week, and in one 24-hour stretch I slept for about 18 of them.

I'm more or less back to normal now - mostly because I've let softer forms of caffeine back into my life and consume an unabashed quantity of empty sugar calories - but the continuation of the easy fatigue and the other help problems has inspired me to write about patterns of neglect.

We, that is to say humans who are in a position to be healthy and yet aren't, habitually neglect ourselves.  For me, as with all other behaviours, this is a somewhat cyclic process, though there are certainly some aspects of health I neglect more than others, and on the whole I think the neglect probably wins out over the otherwise. I'm a socially-anxious homebody who prefers the company of books and pixels over the company of other noisy humans (when I'm not the society-starved extrovert who spends and spends and spends just to keep my friends company for a few hours), after all.

Then periodically, something comes along and causes us to give a damn. We take a stab at resetting our diets onto healthy patterns, maybe go for a walk, run, or cycle now and again. Take up a sport. Try freakin' yoga. Whatever.

Then, as our focus wains and we realize superhero training montages are only possible in the movies, we lose our interest in our latest health initiatives and go back to assaulting our bodies with casual neglect.

I think, to change that, you'd need to make a few changes:

  • Bad Diet Habits are Good Diet Habits-in-Waiting. Every craving has a healthier alternative, and the example I usually use for that is that a furious craving for fruity candy is almost always slain by fruits. It's easier mentally to think of diet adjustments less in terms of what you're trying not to do, and more in terms of what you are doing.
  • Ditto for Exercise. You aren't a couch potato. You're training for your sport/activity of choice. I think humans in general and people in my mindset in particular have a fear or aversion to being seen as novices in a particular craft, which is odd, because I've always considered the position of the novice very endearing and the pursuit of expertise a noble effort - one of the most human drives, in fact.
  • Game it. It bears repeating that humans like to win at things. That's why we think of physical activity and sport as synonyms - they often are. So keep score. Chart your times, or your reps, or which targets in your nutritional system of choice you hit. (N.B.: A lot of different nutritional guides have been published by numerous countries that are very interesting in their design. As with everything the truth is in the results, but many of these alternatives are worthy of pursuit if you, like me, can't actually be bothered tracking each individual neutrient). You'll then have a useful tool to gauge your progress toward goals, which is also important.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Life In The Lapse I : Syncretic Decay

(Let me appologize in advance for the quality of grammer here. I am bound to typing on a badly-damaged touchscreen for a few more days.)

It should come as no surprise to anyone that I am a member of the Choose Your Own generation. We come from an entertainment culture of games and books so open-ended that clear interpretations are entirely subjective. As a result, we ourselves take things in pieces.

For me, at least, religion is no different. A brain fuelled by critical thought on every available topic leaves little room for rote orthodoxy. In the months following my conversion, I grew increasingly heterodox, as I dropped doctrinal positions I knew in my heart to be false - in a manner of speaking.

I replaced thed doctrines with new ones - often borrowed from the world's other religions - to try and make sense of issues I have only half-understood. It probably wouldn't surprise anyone that the geneartion of infalibility produced an attitude of unaccountability, but there you are.

Still, from time to time, I feel a call back to orthodox Catholicism. Perhaps not radical orthodoxy as grows prevelant in the Catholic blogging community. I think simpy accepting the dictates of the Catechism should suffice.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

An Announcement Long in Coming

This seems to be a suitably recent photo.
So while those of you who are also friends with me on facebook have already long known what I'm about to tell you, as are those who know me or The Katherine in person (these groups are not identical), there's quite a few of you out there who I hope are still reading who haven't been told.

Back in April, on our 7th dating anniversary at a cosy little sushi restaurant downtown here, Katherine and I got engaged to be married.

There aren't many details to be had besides that just yet, but I'm sure I'll be too excited to not keep you posted!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Polymath Approach

Vault 29 owns this photo of my work.
One of the things I like most in life is the development of skills. I hesitate to say I am an expert in anything - whenever I become convinced I have attained some level of mastery in this hobby or that ability, the universe conspires to forcibly remind me that I'm going to likely be a student forever.

My current sous-chef (that is to say, under whom I work, not who works under me), actually, has a favoured saying in the family regarding such things, namely, "if you are the smartest person in a room, you are in the wrong room". Granted, he usually says this while actively being the smartest person in the room - but tales from the workplace are past-tense now that Anthony Bourdain wrote his Kitchen Confidential.

Something I fail to capitalize on, however, is the idea that all the numerous individual skills and talents I daily hone can be taken together. While this is somewhat obvious in the fusion of my business and culinary training in the rekindled desire to open a restaurant of my own one day, being as I am a mad man in a hurry to grow grey.

However, it's taken until relatively recently to realize that sometimes the lessons from one profession, or indeed one hobby, can be taken together with the goals and lessons of another. For some time, the Katherine has been expounding upon the virtues of her powerful design systems and extensive training, while I sit here in my obstinate refusal to admit that Word is not perfectly adequate for all tasks.

This comes in a number of forms - it's basically an extension of the idea that no man is an island, only applied to skills - but I think the true inventiveness is in the overlap. The visual arts impact the culinary in more ways than cute menu photography. Colour theory works as well on the plate as on canvas. A good understanding of growing conditions and labour involvement leads to a better understanding of the true value of food. Spreadsheets are remarkably useful in the kitchen both at home and at work. And so on.

Mostly, though, the whole concept is good for filling a page or two, while I wait to make a much larger announcement tomorrow.