Thursday, April 19, 2007

What to say

Maybe I could talk about world events.

Maybe about diet and exercise.

Perhaps a book I just read and had to share with you.

I could write about sock-outfit coordination, since that seems to have taken an important role in my life lately.

I could update you on me and my goals and aspirations and state in life.

Or I could just say nothing at all, and everyone, including myself, will continue to get along in life just fine.

No more blog. I hope you liked it.


Monday, March 19, 2007

Your Monday Motivation

If you're not inspired by must be dead.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The New Plan

One must change one's tactics every ten years if one wishes to maintain one's superiority. --Napoleon Bonaparte

And such it is that I must change my tactics. I have been working out for about 10 years now, as you may have read previously. As you have surely seen, I have not turned into those dudes from 300, and they just had 6 months of preparation. Man, those guys are ripped. I'm not even gay, but if you want to see some fit-looking guys, see that movie. Anyway, I've been doing more or less the same workout for...the entire 10 years. Somewhere between 6 and 20 reps, 1-5 sets, 20-120 sec rest, bike, run, blah, blah, boring. As anyone who knows anything about exercise will tell you, doing to same thing all the time doesn't make you fitter - it might keep you in shape, but it is just as likely to give you overuse injuries.

So the goal is the do something different. If possible, something different every week. So why not take it one more step, and do something different everyday? That will keep the body guessing, keep it improving. And while we're changing the workouts for the better, why not make them shorter? I don't mind the gym too much, but if I can be out of there in 20 min instead of an hour and see the same gains, that is what I will do. Perhaps we could even change it to make it easier to do at home. Minimum equipment. And full-body, functional exercises. Biceps curls are nice for impressing girls, but do they really help you scale a fence or climb a tree or lift a grocery bag? Not really; my time could be much better served by using all the muscles involved in a real-world activity. If I did that, maybe I could even combine my "cardio" and "weights" together - it should be self-evident that working more muscles simultaneously will give your heart and lungs a better workout than working one small muscle at a time.

But...that sounds like a lot of planning. And creativity.

Enter CROSSFIT. Lo and behold, there is a website that fulfills all of my wishes. It gives me a new workout everyday (yes, it is free), and even tells me when it is a rest day. The workouts are short, and use functional movements with minimal equipment. If you really want to see what the CrossFit theories on fitness and training are, check out the following pdf files ("What is Fitness?" and "Foundations"). If you want the short version, here it is - CrossFit's "World-class fitness in 100 words":
Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat. Practice and train major lifts: Deadlift, clean, squat, presses, C&J, and snatch. Similarly, master the basics of gymnastics: pull-ups, dips, rope climb, push-ups, sit-ups, presses to handstand, pirouettes, flips, splits, and holds. Bike, run, swim, row, etc, hard and fast. Five or six days per week mix these elements in as many combinations and patterns as creativity will allow. Routine is the enemy. Keep workouts short and intense. Regularly learn and play new sports.

So try it. I dare you. Abandon your long, knee-jarring runs. Forget about your biceps curls. Or just get off your backside. Do something functional instead. I can tell you, after 2 days of following the prescribed exercises, you'll never feel 13 minutes in the gym was so well-spent.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Learning to Lose

It has been a while since I have written. While I wasn't really physically doing much, there was a lot of learning going on. A lot of learning about me. I was learning about me the hard way - about 3 weeks ago, I failed a flying test. To make the gravity of the situation clear, failing a flying test can have slightly harsher consequences than failing a test (or even a class) at university, or failing your driver's test. It could mean the end of a piloting career here. Out of an original class of 20 on my first flying course, 13 remain (and only 3 out of the 10 of us who didn't already have a pilot's license). So failing = bad.

First thing about me that I didn't know - I am not good at flying tests. I am pretty good at flying, but somehow the tests don't fit under the same category. The lowest mark that can be awarded on any flight is "unsatisfactory," followed by "marginal" and then "low standard." Out of the 79 flights I have done so far, I have one unsatisfactory and two low standards. I have only done 3 tests - one was unsat and another was low standard. How is that for keeping a high proportion of bad grades at the important times? Pretty bad.

Another thing is realizing where my strong points are. I always thought that I would be struggling through the "hands and feet" aspect of flying - I could make the right decision at the right time, and the challenge would be making the plane do what I want. As it turns out, it is quite the opposite. I actually have good piloting skills, but I make bad decisions more than I should. One of the instructors said that my aircraft control is smoother than 95% of the people here. Looks like I will be spending more time thinking about what to do, since the part of actually doing it doesn't seem to be my problem.

The most important thing I have been learning is how to handle failing. I'm not big into losing. Sure, I can lose in board games and solitaire and sports, but the implications of this one made it much more important. Having been part of losing sports teams was probably a big help, but my experience that was most nearly related was getting hired for Rapattack, the guys who rappel from helicopters to fight forest fires, and then injuring myself and not being able to do it. Wow, did I ever think that life was going to end. I was not a happy person at all. I thought I needed to do it to get points for my city firefighter application. If I didn't do the job, I wouldn't be able to go on the vacation I was planning and I wouldn't get hired by the city. I wouldn't have the career I wanted, and I was pretty pissed off about that. All the world was against me, and I wasn't too happy with the world either. I saw no good in this at all. Trust me, you did not want to be around me.

This time... I had to do it better. I decided that the world does not stop just because I did something wrong. I have every right to be upset, and no right whatsoever to be rude, impatient, or angry with people around me. My temper seemed to be slightly shorter in the weeks following my failed test, and that is something for me to consider next time, but it was much improved over the last time. I decided that, while self-reflection and consideration are called for, moping and detachment are not. I still went on our planned trip to Lake Louise. I continued to go for wings and a beer on Wednesdays with my friends. I can honestly admit that I have still not considered what I would do if I did get canned (keep the eyes on the prize), but I was well aware of what was at stake. Knowing this, though, I still decided that I would not be the guy who needs to get hit by a car and live or have a near-drowning or whatever in order to appreciate what I have. A career is a pretty big thing to lose, of course, but even just the fact that I would be quite capable of surviving with a few bucks and the goodwill of family and friends until finding another one should be enough to keep me happy.

Most importantly, I decided that failing a test would not be only negative. If the only good from this is that I am learning how to lose a little better, then I will accept that positive. Nobody writes stories about people who are always on top of things, who always get it right the first time, who always make the right decision and live a charmed life. Teams that never lose a game in the regular season, in my experience, don't often win championships. Challenges, including failures, are the stuff through which character is fashioned. I don't want to lose, I don't want to fail, and I don't plan on doing it again on this course, but something must be taken from it if it happens. Maybe I even needed this failure to help me consider what I am doing, to give me the motivation to refocus and get back into it.

I think the quote called the Stockdale Paradox that I first saw on Jay's blog is my new ideal for dealing with losing (or any adversity):

Retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties. At the same time, confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.

I failed, and I will be just fine. Retest passed. 21 flights to go.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

A Speedy Evolution

After reading Why Darwin Matters and The God Delusion, I can't help but find this Family Guy clip hilarious. Just hilarious.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Inconvenient Truth

This weekend, I finally saw "An Inconvenient Truth." It's about time. Though its purpose may become slightly distorted in some of Al Gore's personal moments (like showing results of the presidential election and recounts and all of that fiasco), the overall message is clear - we are destroying the world, eating it up faster than it can regenerate itself. It is refreshing to see a politician who is so clear and passionate about something, obvious though his claims may be to many people, and to see it presented by a man who knows how to lecture. It provides quite the contrast to the speaking skills of the man who beat him in the aforementioned election. It makes one wonder what the world would be like, if the votes had turned out differently. I recommend that you see this movie.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Students wave signs, change world

Hey everyone! Big news! Students think they pay too much for school! Oh...oh wait a minute. They have rallies every year. They have rallies about many things, too - the young and naive idealism of that generation, some might say. But nothing brings more students together for a common cause than to complain about how much money they have to pay to go to university.

Granted, I am not an ideal candidate to write about their plight. Yes, I was a university student at one time, but I did not borrow a single cent during those four years. In fact, when I was done, I had a vehicle and a house. I still have something to say, though, and since this here soapbox is for saying things, that is what I will do.

I don't agree with you, protesting students. As nice as it would be for everyone to get free university and study whatever they wanted and live in eternal happiness, it is not the case now and it will not be the case ever. Society is structured around incentives, and in the past years it just seems to me that the incentives are artificially weighted too heavily in favour of going to university. Perhaps it is unfortunate that a person's financial state is of such importance in their choice, but it has to factor in there somewhere.

Problem 1 - horrific use of resources - How many university students do you know that are losing weight or going to the food bank because they can't buy adequate food? And how many do you know that drink Starbucks and eat at the cafeteria everyday? How many people in the rally today were wearing Parasuco jeans and fancy watches and designer shoes? How many spend gratuitously at the bar on the weekend?

Problem 2 - bad choices - Who wants a degree in English Literature? How about a BA in Philosophy? What's that, you can't get a job? SURPRISE. Sometimes, if you want to do what you love, you are going to be poor. If you don't want to be have to do something else. Are all these students aware that, if they wanted to do a trade, they would get paid while they work, and collect EI while they were in classes? Yes, the government subsidizes that training too, because we need more tradespeople. Making university cheaper is not going to solve this problem, and I would think it would exacerbate it.

Problem 3 - time management - I know way too many students who would rather build up debt than work at a crappy part-time job during the year and full-time in the summer. "I need to study," I hear. "I don't have time for that!" Well, you still have time to watch your tv shows every night and go out with the boys from class for beer and the game on Monday and your rez floor-mates every Thursday for wings and talk on MSN for three hours every night, so there is no sympathy from me. I don't see "going to school/partying" as more balanced than "going to school/working to pay for school."

Problem 4 - greater good - If taxpayers are supposed to subsidize higher education, will they get a benefit from it? I don't know. I seem to remember reading a survey from Career and Placement Services saying that "under 30%" (the lowest level) of graduates from my faculty were employed in the industry within two years of graduating. Same numbers for the Faculty of Arts. Doesn't seem like that subsidizing is doing a lot of good in many cases.

I don't hate students. I know it is expensive to go to school. I don't mind some of my tax dollars going to deserving students, and to the research and development done at institutions of higher learning. I just don't think that freezing tuition and continuing to write off millions of dollars on defaulted student loans every year is the answer. And it's MY soapbox, so I can tell you that.