Saturday, February 23, 2008

Big Bear III

This past week was our 3rd annual trip to Big Bear to do something resembling snowboarding. I did not magically discover how to snowboard properly between last year and last, but at least i did not get any worse. My older son Nathan has nearly mastered the proper form, and my younger son Henry is essentially fearless so he barrels down the tougher slopes, form be damned.

Wednesday was a good day for boarding, but when we stopped for lunch at around noon, it was cold and windy and wet. We got some significant snow on Wednesday night, so on Thursday morning there was pristine snow at Snow Summit. The weather wasn't as warm this year as it has been in the past, so the snow stayed nice and powdery well after noon.

We went with two other families this year, but i was the only dad so it was me, 3 moms, and 6 boys ranging in age from 13 to 5-- all by odd coincidence also half-Filipino. The place that we rented was just large enough for the lot of us.

We left early, on Thursday afternoon rather than Friday, because more snow was forecast for the evening and we didn't have 4-wheel drive. The drive down the mountain is challenging enough when it's not slippery, so i didn't want to take any chances.

I had hoped to do some running at Big Bear this year, but the weather did not cooperate. I've never really run at altitude. Even walking up stairs or a snowy slope can be quite taxing at 8000 feet, so i suspect running would be a challenge. It's probably coincidence, but my morning run today felt really good. I did about 6:10 pace for 5 miles, and i felt like i could have kept going.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Over the last five years i've dedicated an inordinate amount of time to getting and staying fit. As a result, i'm not only in really good shape, but i'm quite thin compared to my peer group. I work out enough that i can get away with the occasional transgression, liking eating a bag of tortilla chips or a bacon cheeseburger. One of the side effects of obsessive fitness though is that you become preoccupied with what you eat. Even when i'm definitely hungry i find myself debating the necessity of calories or contemplating relative nutritional value. Put another way, now that i eat less i spend a lot more time thinking about eating.

Eating sensibly seems to be natural for some people, but it goes against my upbringing. In my family, food was solace and celebration. Of course, most cultures use a good feast to mark a special event, but i think there was a particularly dangerous emotional link in my family. My grandmother made the most wonderful pies in the history of pie-making, but as a Type II diabetic she also basically ate herself to death. I sometimes think that family members on my dad's side of the family (myself included) lack that protein that signals to your brain that you are full (leptin?). I rarely leave the table feeling "full"; Thankgiving dinner is probably the only time when i actually eat to the point of satiety.

To compensate for that i have to think about what i eat more than many people. I have to play games with myself, like going to lunch 15 minutes early if i finish some task at work. I make sure that i have fresh fruit around at all times so that i don't have an excuse to get a bag of M+M's. I tend to eat small but frequently, and i usually try to satisfy my cravings by having a glass of water or a diet soda before succumbing to more caloric options. For a treat i leave dark-chocolate Hershey's kisses in my freezer, because that way you can't really eat a whole bunch of them at once. I don't "diet" in the normal sense of the world since my workout schedule allows me plenty of calories, but i try to follow one simple rule: only eat when i'm hungry.

I sometimes hear people say that they got so busy or so focused that they forgot to eat lunch. That's inconceivable to me. Sometimes i am so preoccupied with food that i think of work as just a way to pass time between meals, even though i am capable of tremendous focus while programming or writing. Most people that i know casually would probably be surprised by that, since outwardly i appear to have greater-than-average willpower (e.g., i can avoid the "free food" in the work kitchen). But this is a behavior i didn't learn until my late 30s. It's an aspect of training, just like getting up to run or diligently doing my stretching to keep my hip joints flexible. In a moment of weakness or depression, i could still easily eat a whole pie.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Trouble With Syndication

I came across Sam Jacob's Strangeharvest blog in a roundabout way: the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi died, which led to Alex Mardas, which led to the Mardas Gap, an idea that Jacob suggested to describe the gap between a designer's idea and its realization. Strangeharvest is, at least to my mind, one of the coolest looking blogs i've ever seen. It's geometric, but not rigidly symmetric, and its form maps clearly onto its function. It's nice to look at and navigate.

Most of the blogs that i follow get unceremoniously dumped into Google Reader, and i rarely navigate to the actual blog even for full text. Of course, this is partially the fault of the bloggers. They could choose to syndicate only beginnings so that you have to go to the regular blog to read the full text. But it seems like what I really want, at least for the cases where people go to the trouble to make their sites attractive, is less like the Google reader's digest approach, and more something like the channel guide on my cable system. There's gotta be some Ajax-y feed aggregator out there that does this, right?

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Depression Peaks at 44

I'm not sure if i should consider this article to be good news or bad. I guess i can take solace that my risk of depression is not going to get worse, although the articles does say that in the US the peak for men is closer to 50.