Do You Hear The Drums, Fernando?

Filed under: — Bravus @ 10:04 am

(OK, silly title for a serious post – couldn’t resist)

North Korea is a horrible mess. It’s been a horrible mess for about 5 decades. Yet, right now, there are more media reports, more documentaries, more news in general, than there has been for a long time.

Call me a crazy conspiracy theorist, but it just feels like the intentional, planned drumbeats of the buildup to an invasion: another war of choice. Noam Chomsky’s powerful phrase ‘manufacturing consent’ is how this is starting to feel to me.

The people of North Korea are in desperate circumstances, no doubt about it. In many ways, so were the people of Iraq – although far less so. The invasion killed perhaps 100,000 Iraqi people, and the violence since many more. The invasion has not yielded a safe, stable democracy as promised.

A war on the Korean peninsula would have potentially very harmful consequences, not only for North Koreans but for those in the very populous South. Not forgetting that North Korea is believed to have nuclear weapons and the will to use them.

I could be wrong. I hope I am. But when you see that next report about how evil Kim Jong Un is, just pause for thought… is my consent being manufactured right now?

I Thought I Knew It All

Filed under: — Bravus @ 4:14 am

I was looking back through old blog posts for something I’d written in the past, and stumbled across this one, from just a little under 2 years ago: On Losing Weight.

You should click on the link and read it, because the rest of this post won’t make a lot of sense without it. Go on, I’ll wait. 😉

See, at that point, 23 months ago, I was where I am right now: at 93 kg. I’d dropped 11 kg then, and 14 now – which means that since that positive post I gained 14 kg.

All the things I’m saying there I’ve also been saying, as though I’d discovered them for the first time, recently. And yet, that time, I never really got below 92, or maybe a glimpse of 91, and I ended up gaining it back.

(The timing is that, shortly after this post, we moved house to the Gold Coast. Fast food happened in the rush to move, and kind of never stopped happening, and some old habits and attitudes came back…)

What makes me think that (a) I’ll get further and (b) I won’t gain it back? Well, there are no guarantees. A slip is always possible. I think there are two things that are worth talking about, though.

One is exercise. Last time – and the time before that – I lost weight it was by diet alone, continuing my sedentary lifestyle. (Though I notice in that post I did talk about exercise – I just didn’t really follow through.) That meant, despite my chirpy pronouncements in that blog post, that I really was ‘on a diet’. Without exercise, the allowable kilojoules in a day just meant I was hungry, and feeling deprived… and that’s not sustainable, and doesn’t feel sustainable. I wondered ‘is the rest of my life going to be a constant battle of food guilt and deprivation?’ It wasn’t… but coming off the diet had the predictable effect.

I’m eating differently now, but the level of exercise I’m doing daily, consistently is the equivalent of a whole additional meal under my daily energy target. That means I eat a much wider range of foods, and have plenty of tastier options.

It’s more than that, though: Alex nailed it. She said “It gives you more control.” If you’re just using diet, and you slip, what’s done is done. You’ve over-eaten for the day, and that day is written off in terms of targets. Even if you don’t then go on to binge further, it doesn’t work well. On the other hand, chips are not that hard to work off… rowing 2 km and walking one up a steep hill will get it done. 😉

I might blog a little further about ‘control’ later: talking about it in relation to food has a bit of an ‘eating disorder’ edge to it… but I think demonstrating some self control in this part of my life has been healthy for my self-esteem.

Which brings me to the other topic: mental health. I’ve talked about it here before: Unburnt.

To eat crap just requires lack of control and laziness. To eat McDonalds for breakfast and then a bag of lollies in the afternoon and then a few beers in the evening, for me, requires depression. Maybe not clinical, but not happy.

Making some changes to my life and our lives has helped with that. And I think the other key thing is a synergy: there’s loads of evidence that exercise is excellent for mental health.

Who knows, maybe I’m in a manic phase and that will change. I don’t think so… but maybe I need you all to help keep me accountable. Maybe I can, at the very least, be stable and not gain it back. But I hope for more: for getting to my target weight, and then not changing much… except to keep getting fitter and stronger.


Defeating The Rationalising Machine Within

Filed under: — Bravus @ 12:51 pm

Arguably it’s the one thing humans do best: rationalise. In particular, we find excuses for ourselves. (We often work far less hard to find excuses for others, but that’s a topic for another day.)

I’ve probably said too much about fitness and weight loss lately, so I’ll pass over this example quickly. Learning to get past the little internal imp that can come up with a million excuses to avoid exercise or to eat what is unhelpful (or in unhelpful amounts), though, is really the single secret of success. All other strategies serve this.

The other thing I’m working on at the moment is a literature review for my Masters in physics. It’s actually quite a short document by my usual standards – about 8 pages at the moment and it will likely end up being not much more than 15. But it’s a literature review, so it means reading and summarising a lot of physics papers. There are 30 or so in the reference list now, but that’s after a cull due to a change of direction. There are more like 40 in my Papers collection, and there’ll be a lot more before it’s done.

It’s effectively my hobby, so finding time to fit it in around a ‘day job’ that is already very demanding is a challenge. That time ends up being on evenings and weekends and so on… and it’s very easy to rationalise that I need to spend more time with the family (true) and I need more rest time to unwind from my busy weeks (also true) and the software I need is the office so I can’t work from home (still true) and so on…

But, if I want to graduate from this degree next year – which I do – I have to find ways to simply get the work done. One foot in front of the other, one paragraph and then the next, one paper and the one it leads me to.

Shutting up the rationalisation daemon in my head – who is exactly as smart as I am – is the only path to achievement.

Now, a quick caveat: I do need time with the family and time to unwind. Working too hard is unfair on others, and it’s also part of what led to my doldrums last year.

So, as with everything, it’s a matter of balance. The devil of lazy rationalisation on one shoulder, and the… other devil of overwork and obsession on the other. To come back around to exercise for a moment, it’s definitely possible to get excessive with that… and perhaps even more so with diet.

Getting to know ourselves well enough to find a liveable path between the advice of both is crucial.