Thursday, 31 July 2014

I Got A Shock To My System

You seem like you’re so restless, young at heart / Who gave you reason? 
You should be out driving people wild / Who gave you a reason?

You got a shock to your system / Knocked your heart right out of sync
You’re only meant to hurt once in a while / Who gave you reason?
You’re only meant to cry once in a while / Who gave you a reason?

You got a shock to your system / Pull yourself out of it
I know that shock to your system / Knocked your heart right out of sync

What you are is lonely

You must rely on love once in a while / To give you reason
You must rely on me once in a while / To give you a reason

You got a shock to your system / Pull yourself out of it
I know that shock to your system / Knocked your heart right out of sync
What you are is lonely
What you are is lonely

I've played that song over and over. And recently I finally understood why.

“Who gave you reason?” I never took that question seriously. I thought it was a neat chant. But it’s the whole darn point. Who gave me reason to retreat, instead of being “driving people wild”? Who gave me reason to hurt, and to cry? Who did? And the answer is, as it always is, I did. Other people did their bit, but I let them do it to me.

I wound up in my mid-50’s in a sexless LTR just like any other chump. It started just fine and sexy, and then we settled down and got comfortable and a little heavier, and then I had periods of not earning, and she had months of mysterious ailments, and a slightly botched operation on her lady-parts. She started to et body-image issues, and I lost confidence in myself. I stopped leading the relationship and kept asking her what she wanted to do. Because of course by then, there wasn’t anything I wanted to do. I turned horribly beta and she reacted straight out of the textbook. Who gave me reason? She did, because that’s how she behaved. I did, because women react the way they do when their men turn beta just like men react they do when their women get fat, and her behaviour was just the effect of my cause.

I got a shock to my system indeed. I’d never been in an LTR before: my idea of a long-term relationship had been to stay for breakfast, or maybe a second date. I exaggerate by not much. The girls I grew up with were looking for marriage like a cruise missile looks for its target, and as soon as they found out I was not marrying (aka “this isn’t going anywhere”), they were gone. So when I experienced exactly what the Red Pill said I would experience - the withdrawing of sex, the withering of affection, the growing perfunctoriness of what we did and her slowly growing impatience with my beta-ness - it was a shock. Women in sustained relationships are supposed to be supportive and caring, and they are supposed to be self-aware and in control of what they do. Oh how the gods laughed. That was the shock to my system. One from which many men never recover and seek to avoid for the rest of their natural lives: that’s what all the busy-work of gym / travel / reading / hunting / girl-chasing / working is all about.

Who gave me reason? The same person who got me drunk. Me. I could list reasons for both, but that wouldn’t be to this point. This point is that I can’t trust myself to behave in an attractive and assertive manner. How the frack would I know how? (Step Six: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character; Step Seven: Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings. Some things are internal changes and can’t be done by following a to-do list.)

And there is an issue about whether all the work needed to keep an L/M-TR going flat is actually worth it. The larger question is whether I can trust myself not to turn beta again. To behave like a freaking man again. Or actually, not so much “again” but “at all”, because I’m not sure I ever did. I was pretty: my idea of game was walking into a room and waiting for a girl to approach me. And you don’t know you’ve got that ‘till it’s gone.

Yes, my heart did get knocked out of sync.

And yes, I must rely on love once in a while to give me reason. Love as in tingles, arousal, anticipation and satisfaction. Once in a while that’s reason enough, and it’s been a long time since I’ve felt any of it. There is something special about feeling like that, which is its own reason. And there’s something specially horrible about having those anticipations disappointed. But the feeling while I have them is its own reason:

Monday, 28 July 2014

This Post Intentionally Left Blank

Because it's been too darn hot. And I've been thinking about lots of Important Stuff.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Weight Training For Office Workers

Weight training is an essential part of any exercise regime - except for distance runners, who need as little body mass as possible. I have been hefting iron for about twenty-five years, with a disastrous period of four years off, which I will never repeat again. I do weights because: a) I prefer the way I and my body feels, b) it gives me some upper-body shape, c) it takes me off the radar of any 160lb muggers who may be wandering around, d) it gives me a decent muscle tone. Also, anyone who accidentally-on-purpose bumps into me in a crowd because they are feeling ornery? Hurts them way more than it hurts me. And sometimes having the extra strength is useful. I sleep better, look better, and feel better, physically and mentally.

Ignore the bros with their 350lb bench-presses and 500lb dead-lifts. These are the equivalent of running 100m in 11 seconds, or a marathon in under three hours. It’s an elite achievement for a small number of genetically-gifted people who make it the main thing they do with their lives after the day job. I can’t do it, you can’t do it, and there’s no shame in that. Furthermore, but don’t ever say this to them, anyone doing weights at that level has most likely to have used, or still be using, steroids (aka “juicing”).

In a normal gym, the man/woman distinction is at 132 lbs (60kgs) for the bench-press. The only women you will see doing more than that are trainers, body-builders and medal-winning sports competitors. Sally at the office will never get close. But neither will most of the men in the office either, no matter how hefty they look. If you can bench 3x10x60kgs regularly, you will not be mistaken for a girl by anyone who knows what they are doing.

These reasons work for women as well. In fact, women could benefit a lot from weight-training. Chicken wings will vanish, or never appear, after making tricep curls a feature of their routine. That soft (actually flaccid) waistline will firm up a treat with some sit-ups, leg-raises and side-bends on a ball. All that crap about exercise and firm tone not being feminine is just rationalising laziness. They don’t want to look like Marika Johansson at full competition cut, and they never will. However, neither do they want to look like someone let the air out of them ten years ago. Toned is sexy.

The aim isn’t to lift a lot of weight. It’s to lift enough weight, often enough, to challenge your body. Your body will respond by making more muscle and more bone - and it will do that if you are twenty-one or seventy-one, male or female. Weight training will give you a heap of respect for the human body: it adapts and responds faster and more effectively that your thoughts and emotions. Show it you need some strength or flexibility by going just slightly and carefully out of its comfort zone each time, and it will respond by getting stronger and looser. Every time. Every body. This means you.

All those good health reasons aside, I’ll tell you why you should add weight training to your routine.

You will feel better about your body. You will feel better about yourself, because your body is a huge part of your self.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Looking at the Weights Rack and Starting Over

I’m having some kind of emotion. Or a reaction to pollen - Mother Nature’s annual fourn-month chemical warfare campaign on mankind. Or I don’t like this muggy heat. It doesn’t really matter what the heck is going on. I’m off my stride for exercising, specifically weight-training, missing sessions and having problems with the weights. It’s all hurting and too much effort.

I am, of course, trying to get back to where I was before The Accident. The one I had attempting a second rep of 200lbs on the bench press. (Bros will giggle at that and say “Do You Even Lift?". Which is why you shouldn’t listen to them.) It seems to have squished the tendons that keep my left pinkie straight and level. I can grip without any pain (now) and I can stop guitar strings (you need to play guitar to understand what size of deal that is) but the pinkie droops and it lacks firmness. (Stop sniggering at the back there.) Of course I’m upset and depressed and think I am a frakking idiot and just want to run away and hide. And that’s before I consider how klutzy my SQL coding has been recently. Thank God no-one needs anything important urgently.

This kind of behaviour requires that I beat myself up and make it worse by suspecting that perhaps retiring from the world would be better. Giving up everything and doing… I have no idea what.

So Sunday 20th, I looked at the weights rack and said: start over. Just do 110lbs for the bench press, don’t try for the 132. Do 3x10 reps. Ease back on the dumbbell presses, shoulder presses and military presses. Two sets, not three. have the symbolism of getting through a proper session. Add in the extra numbers later. Get back into the habit and pick up some confidence.

I am after all doing weights so I stay in shape. I do not need to heft bro-sized weights to achieve that end. I just need to keep it all tight and in shape.

Admit what’s true. Start over, from somewhere within the Comfort Zone. Work towards the edge over a couple of weeks. I like how I feel when I do weights, and one of the things I’ve been missing is that feeling.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

How I Know Curzon Cinemas Can't Develop Computer Systems

Some background first. The Curzon Cinema chain has a streaming product called Curzon Home Cinema. It was introduced about three years ago, I think, and re-vamped about three-four months ago. I know one thing about the Curzon management, and one about the developers they used. The Curzon management has nobody in it who knows the first thing about commissioning, specifying and testing software. The developers are pretty much, well, missing some tricks.

How do I know this? Read this…

"Are you referring to the Curzon Home Cinema website? Your membership number on our system was actually preceded by a number of zeroes, so your 'true' number was 000000XXXXX. I've removed these zeroes now and the Home Cinema website should recognise XXXXX."

I know. You don’t understand why the programmer next to you is a) rolling on the floor laughing, b) rolling his eyes with an unbelieving expression. He’s thinking what I did.

They stored the membership number with leading zeros? For real? Leading freaking zeros?

"Leading zeros” is what you do when you add 0’s to the front of a number - like a membership number - so that it is the right “length”. Like all bank accounts must be eight digits long, so some of the older ones look like 00123456. The real account number, as stored in the computer as often as not will be 123456, but what gets printed is the ’00’ version. There are reasons why people do this on manual forms. There is no reason why you do it on a computer.

It takes more to store ‘00123456’ than ‘123456’. The first is a string, the second can be stored as a long integer. Strings take longer to process (such as compare to each other) than integers. And furthermore, the number on the back of my membership card is written as a number, not with leading zeros. Nobody who followed the usual development practices would store the membership number with leading zeros, anymore than you would drive on the right in the UK. Seriously.

Anybody who tested the system would ask “Why do I have to enter all the zeros at the front? My customers don’t want to do that. Half the time, they’re going to be drunk and won’t count the right number of noughts. Change it so it’s just the number.” That’s how I know nobody at Curzon knows how to specify and test a computer application.

Anybody who wrote the system would say much the same thing, unless they were user-insensitive dolts. Even then, they will not have worked on any major system that insisted on leading zeros for at least, oh, ten years. Maybe twenty. They must have thought it up all by themselves. Which is why I say they are missing a few tricks.

The entire world moved to the Web a few years ago now. The standards are set by Amazon, who now tell me my orders are ready to collect from my post room sometimes before my post room does, by You Tube, Google, Netflix, iTunes Store and so on. These sites have deep-pocketed parents and set a standard for performance and usability that very few organisations can come close to matching. Organisations like Curzon need to think very carefully before trying to do You Tube for money, because the users are going to have very high expectations for it. Many of which can be met right at the start by having a decent spec ready for the developers. Which is the management’s job.

Monday, 14 July 2014

60? It Ain't No Thing.

I made a Big Deal about my 60th birthday, and I’d been making a big deal of it in my head for a few months before that. I thought when I got to 60, I’d be “done” somehow. I would have "made it”, “arrived”, “finished the race”, some damn metaphor with a hint of a promise of ease in it, anyway. Hell, I even considered getting ink, because all the other advice I’d been given back when I got the “don’t get a tattoo” advice turned out to be worthless junk. I didn’t do get the ink, but only because I couldn’t think of something that I would like.

Of course I still have to show up at work, even though I’ve passed the (now optional) retirement age, because my pensions aren’t worth pigeon-crap, and anyway, where else am I going to be surrounded by reasonably attractive women in their mid-20’s - early-30’s?

Turns out that 60 is symbolic of precisely nothing. 20 is the end of your teens; 30 the end of your future; 40 is when you notice you get tired more easily and recover more slowly; 50 is when you notice you have put on a lot of weight. 60 means nothing. It’s either 50 all over again, or it’s just one more day in the continuing fight against weight gain, tiredness, debt, boredom, and housework, a fight you realised some time in your fifties that for your self-respect you had to take on.

The rules changed. Back when who cares, at 60 we could start “Growing old gracefully”. That meant slowing down, putting on weight, no longer trying to figure out what the kids saw in the latest crooners, and spending more time in the garden and on some obscure local committee. It meant slowly disengaging from the mainstream world. If you had a big fat final salary pension from the Government or a previously nationalised industry, you could sod off on cruises and holidays all the time. No-one now has final salary pensions, and as for “growing old gracefully”? Not so much.

Our pensions are worth nothing, so we have to carry on working. And not in the back of the supermarket either. Mainstream work. Where the superior education and grounding in the fundamentals we got at proper schools give us - still! - an advantage over all but the smartest of the kids. It’s not acceptable to put on weight, lose muscle tone, wallow in bygone pop culture, decry the changing world, or dress shabbily.

“Growing old gracefully” might mean lifting less at the end of the year than at the start, but we’re still going to be lifting. We don’t have to know what’s in the pop charts, but we still keep discovering new music (or old music for the first time). The same goes for movies, fiction, philosophy, history, art and whatever else. We have to keep on learning work-related skills, partly to stay ahead of the kids, and because that’s what people who respect their skills do. I don’t keep up with the latest social networking apps, but I do keep up with the software I use to do what I do. A cute early-twenty-something at work said, as part of a discussion about age eligibility for our products “60 isn’t old anymore”.

Well, she’s half-right. Turns out 60 isn’t old for me. But then I’m still working in a mainstream job, with bright peppy kids half my age, and they think I’m some kind of guru. There are men twenty years younger in worse physical condition lifting less than me in my gym. I can get away with wearing closer-cut clothes than almost all men of my age. And of course, I’m single, and live alone. This is much better at sixty than your forty-year-old self thinks it will be. In fact, it’s close to awesome - or it can be, WHEN I make good use of it.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

The Great Kitchen Re-Furbishment Project

When I bought the house, the kitchen hadn't been changed since the mid-1930's when the house was built. I had a new one installed in the late 1980's and lived with it ever since, changing the appliances now and again. This year I decided it was time to re-do the whole thing. I wanted the red lino off the floor and the floorboards taken back to their original colour and varnished, and whatever it was I wanted NO cabinets. As you can see, I'd started to go for the open look before the refurb, in a fit of something or other.

So from the old to

... cleared out Sunday evening for the fitters... remove everything... the floor men could do this...

...and when it had dried, the fitters came back to do this...

...but notice the lack of decorating touches...

...which were put added by decorators...

From start to finish took two calendar week's work for two men each. The accuracy with which the fitter put up the shelves and Spur railing was amazing: they are perfectly straight. The dark wood top sets off everything put on it far better than the original light colour. I'm getting used to working in it, and stocking up the shelves with decorative food. This is basically where this year's holidays went.

Monday, 7 July 2014

What AA Gill Said

Sometimes someone else says exactly what you haven't quite allowed yourself to think. This is AA Gill in a recent article...

"And I realise with a sudden shock that I’m probably too old to sleep with anyone for the first time. The thought of having to go through the whole seduction, will they, won’t they, can I, can’t I, is far more terrifying than it is exciting."

I've been rationalising round that one for quite a while. I couldn't say the word "terrifying". I couldn't recognise that the awful ambiguity and uncertainty and potential for disappointment and embarrassment was so daunting. Which is what he said.

And now I know the enemy. Not fear, but uncertainty. Which is no greater at my age than it was when I was forty.

And AA Gill may be the only man in London who looks less my age than I do. 

Thursday, 3 July 2014

June 2014 Review

Did June happen? My diary has things in it but I can’t recall that it was anything special or that I enjoyed it. I was tired, which was why I took a week off that didn’t really refresh me at all: no more than six hours’ sleep a night. All I want to do on a holiday is sleep. Eight hours minimum, ten for preference.

I saw Sexy Beast on Curzon At Home; Edge of Tomorrown and 3 Days To Kill at Cineworld; Fruitvale Station and Frank at the Curzon Soho. A few more episodes of the Inspector Montalbano were tucked under the belt as well. I read Big Data by Victor Meyer-Schoneberger, The Anatomy of Violence by Adrian Raine, Why Is There A Philosophy of Mathematics At All? by Ina Hacking, Love and Math by Edward Frenkel, and made a start on Peter Robb’s A Street Fight In Naples.

The family had lunch at the Ritz for Mother’s birthday on a Saturday. The food is good for a London brasserie, though not one-star, and the decor exactly as awful as you imagine. It’s way too formal for anyone to actually have, you know, fun, there. Sis and I went down the far end of the Kings Road to Medlar, which had better food and decor. Though it was mid-week, every bar and restaurant at that end was packed, and everyone looked as though they were having fun.

The Girls and I had supper in Soho mid-month and they came over to my place on the last Saturday of the month to see my new kitchen and have lunch: tilapia and salad; chicken Fiorentina; chorizo with butter bean stew. All from the Leith’s recipe book they bought me for my birthday. (Big Ahhhhhhh).

During the holiday I had a full-service medical from the GP at my gym - blood tests, urine tests, ECG, breathing, body-fat, and the bit where he checks for prostate cancer. My pulse was 60, blood pressure 122 / 82, chemicals were fine except high LDH, and my testosterone levels were middling. Not low, but not raging either. I was 95kgs for the medical and that’s too high. I need to lose about a stone, and much of that in body fat.

My exercise routine was a mess. I managed to get back up to 3x10x60kgs on the bench, which is the basic level for someone with actual testicles and an office job. I missed classes and felt uninspired.

So I’m now the possessor of a FitBit One. I am becoming a Quantified Person. More on that later.