Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Roundball Routine

I am very proud of myself. I seem to have gotten myself back into 7th grade form... in terms of basketball.

Granted, this is only a few notches higher above "terrible" on the basketball skills scale. One big advancement is that I can dribble down the court while looking ahead. If you are not familiar with basketball, this is roughly equivalent to being able to drive and change a CD in the car. I can even hit, I dunno, half my shots from within 15 feet?

All this is due to the fact that the gym at our apartment building has a small basketball court adjacent to the cardio and weight machines. And that's really what I'm blogging about.

I've been going to the gym for just about five solid years now. About 5-6 times a week. 60-90 mins each time. Without that, I would likely be sitting on a couch somewhere right now, alone, balancing a can of Pringles between my thigh and a gut so I could leave other hands free for the remote control and a bottle of beer.

Instead, I'm a pretty fit guy. But I think I've realized a deficiency in my workout. Much like eating a group of nutrients may not add up to full "nutrition" (see previous blog,) I'm wondering if a group of rote exercises gets me as fit as I could be. I'm no trainer. What do I know?

What I know is this... I used to pretty exclusively use an elliptical and then walk. Lately, I've been doing a set of running intervals and the 20-25 mins of shooting on the court. Dashing after rebounds. Playing two bounce with myself. Throwing the ball off the wall to pass it to myself, turning and shooting.

And tonight, I really noticed it: I can run longer than normal. I get less winded. I started doing some different weight exercises, too. But the dramatic change has been my level of stamina and fatigue in the gym. I'm having fewer days where I feel like I'm just not able to give my all in the gym.

But I'm going to blame the basketball. It's the most regular "full-active" activity I've done in some time. I think I sweat more on the court than I do on the treadmill. Plus, the basketball-as-workout is giving me, a competitive guy, some new benchmarks to aim for. I figure I will never hit 100% of my shots. But, that means nearly endless constant improvement. I felt like I hit a wall on the elliptical. I knew how hard I could go and really was only getting a few calories of improvement.

Weights are the same. I do not need to bulk up. Last thing I need is to have to go buy new shirts as a result of bulging muscles (say that with the "c"). So going up a weight level is not my goal.

I think it can also be chalked up to walking to work every day. I get 20 mins of walking in by default. Add in the running and the ball... I dunno. I'm feeling like I'm onto something new in my gym routine.

And I am deadly on the periphery of the key. You know. Without a defender up against me.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

More reflections on eating...

We watched Food Inc. the other night. I read The Omnivore's Dilemma several months back (Sarah is starting it soon) and last night I started In Defense of Food.

All of this is reinforcing some things that I had suspected, showing me some new ways to look at things and... generally making me immune to hearing about what we should be eating.

Among the many points that are at very least worthy of discussion by everyone:

  • Why do we want to ingest food that wasn't raised like what it's supposed to be? For instance, cows shouldn't be eating corn. In fact, corn makes cows sick. Yet, for reasons of economics (corn makes a bigger cow faster so you can sell more meat at lower prices), that's the way it works. Chances are you wouldn't want to eat mutated fish or some sort of anything that has been brought up in a way that wouldn't occur in nature. Yet, that's what we do for the most part.
  • I already hear the "that's why I'm a vegetarian!" cries. Well, don't worry, most of your greens aren't brought up the way greens normally are. Most everything is grown in a monoculture that makes plants more and more susceptible to disease, drains them of nutrients in some cases and (not to get all Darwin-y) hinders their ability to survive non-ideal conditions. And this is to even begin to start on...
  • ...seasonal foods. You think apples are ripe in your area all year? Grapes? Lettuce? Ask yourself where these things come from in the months that aren't your area's growing season and you might find some alarming answers.
I by no means am a perfect eater. And I certainly don't have a solution to this on a mass level. But I do think Sarah & I are starting to try to find ways to be more local, to eat more in season. And to worry about calories instead of nutrients. We've been on this planet for 50,000+ years and it's only been since the 1960s that we've had crazy health problems related to eating. Yet we know more about nutrition than ever. Odd, no?

And, more and more, I am becoming sure the solution is not to become a vegetarian. After all, we've got acids in our stomachs and a set of teeth that show we're certainly meant to have some meat now and then. If I am going to profess that we've got the natural order of things out of whack, then I need to respect what nature has done to make me a true omnivore and eat some meat, no?

But the final takeaway, I think, is that there isn't any real reason I shouldn't enjoy the foods I love. As long as I am making the right decisions at the store, and not gorging myself at home, I should be able to eat the things I love with no apprehension whatsoever.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Superlative-mania

I don't want to blame the iPad. So I'll blame Glee. Blame for what?

My ire. My frustration... I am more than done with hype deeming things the "best things ever."

Ah, before you protest hear me out. I am all for guilty pleasures (I mean, anyone who has ever seen my iPod knows this). But, when something has obvious flaws - or worse, several obvious flaws - how does it suddenly become elevated to "legend" status? Or "revolutionary" status?

Exhibit A - Glee. This could be a good show. Lord knows the acting talent is there. Is it used? Not so sure. What is glaringly awful? First, the show was written by a teenager. Or so it seems. Melodrama is lovely, but doing it the expense of truly becoming attached to any of the characters? That's definition bad TV writing. I do not simply need to be entertained by a show in a world with an Internet. Every time the show seems to do something that might make me care to turn in next week beyond hearing some new performance, they come up with some ridiculousness that renders it moot.

Beyond the writing, the songs have been glorified to some insane level that people are actually telling me they prefer the Glee versions of songs to originals. That's fine and all, and I could argue the contrary point... but regardless. A three-minute song and dance doesn't make a 22-minute half hour of TV great.

Yet, everywhere I turn... "Glee is the best show!" On what measure? I wish I could tell you. I have yet to read a TV review of the show that actually reviews the TV aspect of the program. It's all - "oh how fun!" It's the Pepsi Challenge of TV... try it in a small taste and you love it. And tell people how great it is. Drink a whole bottle and... my doesn't that taste a bit too sweet?

Exhibit B - The iPad. This week, I met someone on a plane with an iPad. I played dumb. I asked what was great about it. "Oh it's just so cool! Look!" I asked "How does it do as an e-reader?" The response was: "Well, it works great as one. I mean I haven;t read a book on it yet, but I tried it for a couple minutes and it's totally great!"

Well, kids... maybe I'm nuts. Or maybe other people are starting to realize a backlit LCD screen that is smudged with touchpad fingerprints yet still turns into a damned mirror in sunlight might not be the best way to read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

And yet... finding a mainstream review - a real I-tried-it-for-a-set-amount-of-time-and-here's-what-I-thought review - is difficult? Yes it looks cool. Yes, it does lots of cool things. How bloody well does it do them?! Instead I get articles about "Are you making the most of iPad media for your business?" Sorry, I don't make business decisions for anything that barely has market share. Apparently other people do.

I could go on... for instance, all year I had to hear how great a quarterback Tim Tebow is though he routinely throws behind receivers and can't read defenses.

Make. It. Stop. I am sure everything mentioned above has its merits. But don't cheapen standards by suddenly making these things into the best things since the wheel. The iPod, for example, actually changed things. This was brand spanking new technology that fit an existing functional need (we all carried around music... now we carry all of it around). American Idol, love it or hate it, showed that TV could be produced cheaply (relatively) and draw the biggest audience short of the Super Bowl.

Glee breaks zero new ground and cheapens writing. It asks nothing of you... which is a reason to enjoy it, but also a reason to see it as what it is. The iPad does many things and possibly none of them well... certainly not so well that I need to lobby my office to switch us off of laptops and go for the iPad. And, sorry... if you think otherwise, you are not living in functional reality.

Like these things all you want. But pretty please lose the hyperbole.