Thursday, 28 March 2013

This Post Intentionally Left Blank

Because I've been very busy with job interviews, script re-drafts and staying warm. Back later.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Toronto According To Roosh, London According To Me

So you should read the original where Roosh gives his fifteen reasons why Toronto sucks for a young man on the make. So I compared and contrasted with London.

1. Girls are more excited about getting late night food than having sex. Uh-huh, London too.
2. Girls cockblock more than anywhere else in the world. I can't really comment on that one. I never approached sets, only singles.
3. Girls think they are cooler than they actually are. This is probably universal. Except in Paris, where they really are cooler.
4. Girls are obese. I've seen some horrors coming into the West End on the Piccadilly Line, but mostly the girls just aren't slim. Or shapely. We've done the Great London Girl Problem.
5. Girls don’t give eye contact Not true. For me, anyway.
6. You have to be approved by the “mother hen” See 2.
7. Too many Asian and Indian girls. In London, when these are pretty, they are very, very pretty, but when they are not, or when they have attitude, they are slightly worse than the Anglo women.
8. Ugly girls are desperate while attractive girls are inaccessible. This may also be universal, but I wouldn't know. Ugly girls are kinda invisible to me.
9. The entrenched PUA culture is raising the egos of all women. I read that London has a thriving PUA culture, but I don't think they are doing anything to girls' egos. Saturday nights, which I usually leave to the kids, can see some garishly-dressed and heftily over-weight females pretending they are hot stuff and a catch in the West End, but then I have yet to see a real porker in Chelsea or Kensington, and the rare occasions I've been out East on party night, the girls have looked pretty regular. It may be something about city centres that attracts girls with delusions. Generally, the immigrant girls think they are the shit because they came to London and got a job, while the English girls are pretty much a mixture of modest, strident, deluded, timid and shut down.
10. Last call is at 2am Uh, no. London stays open all night if you know where to go.
11. If you make just one mistake with a Toronto girl, you will be rejected. Rude women are everywhere. Seems Roosh met one.
12. It’s very expensive. Hell yeah.
13. It’s a suburban city. Double hell yeah. London logistics suck badly. Read Krauser if you want convincing. I live in the freaking suburbs.
14. It takes a lot of work to date up. Always and everywhere man, always and everywhere.
15. It beats men down.. I will quote The Man: "I saw too many men who looked like corpses. They had no color, no energy, and seemingly no will to live. Spending too much time in Toronto (London) will reduce your ambition, your horniness, and your happiness." Now, London men don't look like corpses, but they are overweight, flabby, soft, out-of-condition and that applies to their bodies as well. They drink too much and eat too much bad food. They don't exercise and dress badly. The older ones have residual booze-red faces, and a certain pallor seems de rigour amongst the younger East London-based men. However, they don't have much ambition, horniness or happiness. Or maybe they are incredibly horny and that's why the girls don't bother. But I think the girls don't bother because the guys mostly prefer to drink, work and do whatever it is they do for a good time. 

What struck me was 13 - it's a suburban city. That is exactly London's problem. The place is geographically huge, a twenty-mile diameter circle consisting of a lot of what-were-once-villages linked together by long roads of houses. The only people who sleep in the middle of London are the very poor, the very rich, tourists and council tenants. Middle-class people with jobs in the City or the West End commute in from miles away. Most of the people who live right next to the City of London don't have jobs, let alone jobs in those City office towers. So everyone's logistics suck. No-one in the centre of town is going to pull because she lives on one side, he lives on another, and the hotels are expensive and mostly full. Cab fares are astro-freaking-nomical. Most everyone in London knows they are going home alone. And most everyone in London drinks - like a guy at my gym said when I mentioned I don't drink "Oh, you're The Guy in London who doesn't drink". Well, there's more than one of me, but not many. Everyone in London drinks because the place would be hard to take without it.

Having said which, this was written after I'd left work at 16:00, crossed from the City to my gym in the West End, had a swim, changed into some casual clothes, had a light supper at Bills on Brewer Street and then crossed back over to Islington to see Tomatito at Sadlers Wells. That's a pretty good second half to the day. Notice that it doesn't involve any other people.

It's the logistics, isn't it? If I had a flat in the middle of town, She-Who-I-Want-To-Ask-Out would have been asked out by now, and been Back to Mine, and all the rest. No problem. That's why reason 13 hit me.  

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Diet Stuff (3): Isolate and Eliminate The Bad Food

So the lard-ass next to you on the train this morning did not gain those excess 12kgs simply by eating an extra digestive biscuit a day. (12kgs x 7,700 calories / kg = 1,320 days or just over 3.60 years at 70 calories per biscuit.) They gained it because a chunk of what they ate was laid up as fat. That laying-up of fat is not inevitable, though it is common. The trick is to work out what food sets your body off laying everything you eat into fat.

There's an exercise tape somewhere by someone who trained all sorts of impressive people, whereon he says "There isn't one diet that works for everyone. If there was, it would be called "The Diet" and we'd all be on it." So how do I / you find out what works for us?

I have two theories. One is that each of us has Bad Food that reacts triggers the triglycerides that store fat. Stop eating the Bad Food and the weight drops off. Weight doesn't go on and on dropping off, but the junk weight you put on through your Bad Food does. Hence the idea of diet elimination: quit eating one food group after another until you start losing weight and feeling better. The first Bad Food candidate is bread, rice, pasta, flour, potatoes and anything else that's been near a carbohydrate. The slogan is "carbohydrates drives insulin, insulin drives fat". You will hear Gary Taubes' name mentioned in this context. He's a smart guy but not perfect. That's why I said the first Bad Food candidate is carbs. Serious distance runners eat the damn things by the plate-load and they aren't fat, so there's more going on here. Serious weight-trainers stay away from carbs, partly because carbs increase the amount of water the body carries, which means bloat and excess weight. But you don't see weight-trainers running very far either.

The other is that all this exercising and dieting stuff works for previously pretty people who subsequently mis-fed and under-worked. No previous pretty person, no real improvement. The lard-ass will lose weight, but still won't look good. This is what discorages a lot of ordinary people from trying: in that place in their head they deal silently with the truth, they know they will miss the after-work drinking sessions, the weekend curry, the crisps at snack-time and the chocolate while watching box sets, and will not be rewarded by turning into swans. Being a swan is its own reward, and so the maintenance is worth it. The reward for being a duck is that no-one really notices or cares if you're a fatter, flabbier duck than you need to be. Also, it doesn't help that those of us who push weights and eschew carbs now and again can come across as morally superior to all other forms of life except professional athletes. (But then, well, that's because the self-discipline required to eat and train like that proves we are superior.)

So what's my Bad Food? I don't know my answer, and there's no guarantee that an answer from *coughs* years ago is today's answer. And experimenting was one of the things I said I would do this year. 

Way back when, I went through a period of feeling bloated and tired, and I was overweight and flabby. I saw a nutritionist, who listened to my diet and told me to stop eating wheat. This was when wheat allergies were all the rage. I cut out wheat in all forms, and three days in had a craving for chocolate biscuits that told me I was right on the money. In about four weeks I had lost a stone, looked and felt completely different. (We are talking major improvement: a few weeks after that I was propositioned by four women in the office within the same week.) The nutritionist himself was surprised. I may not have mentioned that I cut back on the whisky-drinking at night as well, and I'm sure that helped a bit, but subsequently I drank more and weighed less. I've repeated this a couple of times and it has worked. I tend to think my Bad Food is wheat-based specifically and carbs more generally. 

Eating chocolate and other sweet stuff late at night really doesn't help. Recently I have cut out eating anything after supper at about 19:30 latest and I lose weight overnight. Of course some of that is de-hydration, but some of it is real weight loss from what amounts to a ten-hour fast. When I ate the 150 gram chocolate bar at 21:30, I didn't even de-hydrate as much.

The morning home-made breakfast smoothie works: I feel like my system gets a little sugar kick-start first thing. It is 05:50 when I drink the damn thing. I can eat a three-egg cheese omelette without flinching at 06:00. 

The evening is complicated. Another day with no satisfaction, back at my single quarters. Nothing from work. No sex. No tasty food, no highs, no laughter, no sunshine, no fresh air, no beautiful scenery, no attractive women, no freaking nothing. Food in the evening is pretty much all I have left to save the day: is it any wonder I get chocolate cravings? So I suppose I could just eat something and stop expecting anything from it. The best thing I can do is just go to bed early. Which kinda makes the whole quality-of-life thing even worse. 

It's the bit in-between that's a mess. I wake up at 05:45 and eat breakfast by 06:05. I go to bed at 21:30 - 22:00. That's sixteen hours, and supper is around 18:30 or 19:30. On a three-meal routine, that would put lunch at 13:00, which is what I used to do, and it didn't work. I'd be hungry and eat too much, so I'd be dopey in the afternoon, and need an apple before the gym to kick in some sugar and prevent a hypo or a severe lack of motivation. I took to having a sandwich at 11:00 (five hours after breakfast) and then another at 15:00 (four hours later, and four hours to supper). That kinda worked except for the bit where it means I'm eating at least two sandwiches a day. Protein can be had round Bishopsgate, and in quite large quantities. How many people are going to remark or complain about me eating hot meat at 11:00 in the morning? I'm bringing the mid-morning snack to 10:30, because eating lunch-part-two at 15:00 feels a bit weird. Even 14:30 feels better. Four meals a day is 375 calories a meal. You just try that.

Well, I am.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Eva Yerbabuana, Sadlers Wells Flamenco Festival 2013

"Is that it" the woman behind me said when Friday evening's performance ended at 20:50, having started the traditional ten minutes late. Well, yes it was, and what more could she have wanted. Possibly some sets, a troupe and a bigger band, plus some upbeat stuff, as in Eva's shows in the early years of the Sadlers Wells Flamenco Festival. Three years ago Eva gave us Rain, a piece that was modern dance for the first twenty minutes, last year there were some uneasy moments in When I Was involving pottery clay, and this year brings the stark and stripped down Ay!. Three cantores, a violinist, her husband Paca Jarana on guitar, a percussionist and Eva herself. In black. All the time.

The blindingly fast rat-tat-tat is still there, as was her trademark traverse of the stage by tapping and not seeming to actually move her legs. There was the dance with the shawl, and the passage I like best, where she portrays the angry and upset wife, throwing her hands around, stamping and being cross, while the cantore as husband pleads and remonstrates with her without for one moment losing his manliness. I have no idea what the row is about as I don't speak Spanish. There was a duel between two of the cantores, one passage of which delighted the Spanish in the audience, and there was drumming and guitar work.

It had, in other words, all the traditional moments. And it was more. This was the premiere, and they hadn't quite settled into it. There was a passage where they got lost in the improvisations and couldn't bring shape to it. And that's why it was more. I've said before and will repeat as often as necessary: the best flamenco artists today are amongst the best artists performing anywhere in any genre. When we get to Yerbabuana and her troupe, the comparisons are with the very, very best jazz artists. At that level, it simply doesn't matter if they lose their way for five minutes, because watching artists of that calibre teaches us something no matter what they are doing. Who cares if Ornette Coleman fluffs a note? Or if Keith Jarrett stops a minute in because he's not feeling it? At that level, simply watching the artists at work is a privilege.

That's what the lady behind me didn't get. Yerbabuana moved on from being a virtuoso entertainer a while ago. She's worked with Baryshnikov and Pina Bausch, and that's not something Arlene Phillips ever did. Her work is no longer judged by us, it's something by which we have to judge ourselves.

And when it all comes together, it is as ever breathtaking and moving.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

International Slump Week

The week commencing Monday 4th March was International Slump Week. I had a bad slump and so did a friend who now lives in Gozo. One is an anecdote, two is a world-wide trend. My slump came during yet another week with gammy elbows, so I had some osteopathy Tuesday the 5th, which helped a lot, but then I couldn't do weights until Sunday 10th. And my elbows still hurt. Also I decided to go on a low-carb diet. I didn't go see Arbitrage on the Monday, like I'd timetabled, and I didn't go see the Liechtenstein show at Tate Modern Friday either because it was raining and I felt miserable. The elbows were irritating, but that wasn't what was getting to me.

It's freaking March already. The year is practically over. I still hadn't updated my LinkedIn profile, or sent out CV's to all the agents who have ever sent me their details. I still can't decide whether to ask Her Whom I Have A Crush On for Saturday lunch. And I am not making any moves towards finding women with whom to have shallow, empty short-term sexual relationships. Shit. I can't even find a photographer to get some profile pictures taken. I look dreadful in photographs by the way: the camera really brings out my un-happiness and shows the strain I'm under. I'm much better in person. Apparently there are lots of people who are like this, and they have a dreadful time with on-line dating.

I'm too used to my little cocoon of movies, gym, work, music, books and meetings, and I don't want to step outside it. My tour round the Manosphere has simply confirmed that my already low expectations of relationships and female behaviour may have been too high. But this year, for some reason, I can't let myself stay in the cocoon. 

I can feel that old reluctance to go on holiday starting up, but I know I have to ignore it. I need to figure out how I have a holiday abroad. Maybe I don't try so hard to "do things". After all, that's what I do every working week of the year. What I'd really love to do is something like an intensive one-week R course. So I just Googled that and the Royal Statistical Society offered two days at nearly £800 last year. No. I don't think so. However, maybe I could lock myself in a cheap hotel for two days and do a teach-myself R?

Either I get serious about getting some dating going or I stop beating myself up about it. 

(So since I let this vent I have:

Arranged to get a visit from a kitchen planner
Sent the round-robin to the agents
Made contact with a photographer
Made some more specific holiday plans
Booked a restaurant for the family celebration of Sis' birthday

Mostly I have been cold. My life now goes on hold in the cold.)

Monday, 11 March 2013

Diet Stuff (2): Why The Official Advice Is Half The Story

I never did like chemistry. Too many long pseudo-latinate words. Too many formulas and equations to remember. Biology was worse. The insides of a human body are way less real to me than the uncountable set of countable ordinals. I was never convinced that the human body was some kind of carbon-based life-form and they all worked the same way. Maybe in the sense that cars are metal-based life-forms and "all work the same way", but some are Ferrari Testarossa's and some are Fiat Punto's. You don't drive or service a Testarossa like a Punto.

I've spent enough time in gyms to know that human bodies are incredibly various: I look fairly big and strong, but I'm not. I have small wrists and a curved back. There's no way I can push heavy weights or do big squats: I would just hurt myself, possibly permanently. I have awful heart-lung-circulation and I've been jogging for ages. It might have been all those years smoking twenty-a-day (long since passed) but I don't remember being any better at school. I can't play chess or solve problems to save my life either. I do have style, and I am one of not many people who actually understands Heideggeran phenomenology and cohomology. I'm good at deep ideas and foundations. I'm good at steady exertion of power, I can't do explosive stuff like squat jumps. It just hurts. You will be different. We all are, and I don't mean that in a "it takes all sorts to make a world" or "all difference is equally valuable" sense. I mean it in a what-works-for-you-might-very-well-just-hurt-me sense. Everyone knows people who can eat anything and never put on weight, just as we have all been squashed against on the train by the person who puts on fat just by looking at food. 

The official advice, by contrast, portrays the human body becomes a simple, uniform machine that only works one way. Calories in, calories out. Eat a bunch of crap that our good donors in the food industry make. Don't eat anything that comes from a dairy or herd farm, because the bureaucrats hate actual farmers and real animals and want to get rid of them. Factories are so much easier to monitor. And no-one, but no-one, even journalists who pour scorn on the incompetence of government and its agencies, ever argues with the food officials. It's not because they don't understand nutrition and physiology, they don't understand economics either but that doesn't stop them babbling on about economics.

They don't dump on the food officials because food is about class war. Ever notice how nothing that the "working class" eats is healthy? How being fit and healthy is always about self-denial and self-discipline? That being fat is always due to moral fault? How what is supposed to be "good" for you is always expensive and not available in food shops anywhere near council estates? How what's bad for you always sounds like stuff that teenage girls pretend not to like just to irritate their parents? 

Much more to the point, ever notice that none of the diet or health spokespeople, officials or professors have a decent set of triceps or indeed any muscle definition at all? Ever wondered how much they could bench? Or indeed, what their attention span is? If they do anything at all, it's always running? Trained runners can do a sub-three-hour marathon on a large plate of pasta. Running is a lousy way to burn off calories. It's only exercise when you're no good at it: when you're good, you use the minimum of effort. Unlike weights, where you can always push yourself harder, and always burn more.

And have you ever noticed that the more expensive the food is (steak, game, fish) the less important a role it should play in your diet? Yep. You can feed yourself properly on cheap food. Which is a good thing for the taxpayer, because on minimum wage, you can't afford steak, salmon and nuts. Actually, you can't afford good bread either, which is another thing you will notice about official diet advice: it never talks about quality. All "bread" is the same - which it isn't. All "vegetables" are the same - whereas Dutch hydroponic carrots are not the same as the real ones Grampa used to grow on his allotment. So let's not get into that, because maybe someone will do the math and discover that putting all the government's advice together (never mind the stuff about saving) would push the Minimum Wage up to about £10/hour. So of course other people can live perfectly well on a diet of rice, onions, a couple of carrots and some chick peas. Strangely, the person telling other people this doesn't eat that way themselves.

The official advice is crap. Like all memos, it's there for the protection of the sender rather than the information of the receiver. 

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Diet Stuff (1): My Numbers

At the moment I weigh just over 90 kgs (198 lbs), down, thanks to a bout of food poisoning, from what had been a stable 92 kgs. That's not a viable long-term weight-loss regime, though it got me to 89.5 kgs, or just over 14 stone. (Being English, I still think in terms of Stones.) At university I was about 11 stone (69 kgs, 154 lbs). When I started weight-training, I was around 13 stone (82 kgs, 182 lbs). My new-scale BMI comes out at 26.8, but every doctor in the world takes one look at me and tells me to ignore it. I'm clearly not a Fat Bastard, I am clearly a Big Fit Man. To be BMI-friendly, I would need to be back at 82 kgs again. That's an 8 kgs (17 lbs) loss. My body-fat is around 23% - don't you dare say a word - and it always has been. On a really good day I can get down to 21%. Let's say I lost all those 8 kgs in fat. That would put my body fat around 15%. According to some calculator at my age, 15% is "lean" and 23% is "ideal". At 15% I would look like a freaking Greek God. Seriously. So how about losing more of the weight in body fat than muscle? When I very first started at the gym, and held on to a vicious 1,500 calorie / day diet, I got down to about 85 kgs and 20.5% body fat, but that was unsustainable.

According to this calculator I need 2,400 calories a day to "maintain" my weight. 1,500 would be "extreme" fat loss, and 1,900 would be "regular fat loss". 

Know what the difference between 1,500 and 1,900 calories is? Or between 1,900 and 2,400 calories? It's a 120g bar of chocolate, or six digestive biscuits, or a Pret smoked salmon sandwich, your five-a-day fruit choice, a Krispy Kreme donut... You get the picture. One slip and you've blown your diet for the day. My carrot/parsnip/beans/onion and tomato stew is about 300 calories (I use larger vegetables). A Pret Tuna sandwhich is 550 calories. Two eggs and ham for breakfast, with a small fruit smoothie, is about 500 calories.

The idea anyone can lose weight by cutting out a couple of biscuits a day is simply silly. Mainly because while they might be able to control their food intake, they can't decree the day-to-day calorie burn their body decides it's going to do. Your body does not burn a constant amount every day. You can't find a measure of the variation, so I'm allowed as a first approximation to assume a 10% coefficient of variation on a Normal distribution. In other words, to be 95% sure I am always eating less than my body is burning, I need to be eating 80% (two standard deviations) of 2,400, or 1,920 calories a day. I know you're going to point out that a 1,920 calorie day should be balanced by a 2,400 calorie day, but we both know it doesn't work like that. You're slower more days than you're quicker. The distribution isn't really Normal - it's skewed over to the slower side. So if I really want to cut down the weight at a speed that gets you results this side of next year, it's 1,500 calories a day for me. 

The standard calculation is that a kilo of fat is 7,700 calories (3,500 calories / lb x2.2 lbs / kg). With a "maintain" of 2,400 and an actual of 1,500, that's 1kg every nine days. That's 72 days, or eleven weeks. Isn't that do-able with a bit of will-power? Three months at 1,500 calories a day? Yeah. Sure. 

Damn good thing it doesn't work like that.

Monday, 4 March 2013

February Review

February started with a Thai massage at Thai Charms in Teddington, which I have about every five-six weeks and stops me having problems with my back, no matter how slack my posture is at work. I got a new pair of trainers at Sweat Shop in Teddington, after they used all sorts of gadgets to examine the shape of my arches and the way I hit the ground when running. So now my knees don't hurt after a gentle 2km jog with gradients on the treadmill. I had the fireplaces out a few years ago, and left, for reasons that made sense at the time, an MDF patch in the back room. The reasons had stopped making sense a while back, so I got the Mark from Evolution Sanding round to make my floor look piney and shiny and new. My back room is now sharp. I put some shoes in for a re-build at Crockett and Jones, and got the car MOT'ed. I saw Playing Cards: Spades at the Camden Roundhouse one Friday evening. Fabulous sets, good acting, cliched script, no real stories. What the hell is it about English theatres that they only put on bad writers? Sis and I had our monthly supper at the Savoy Grill. Good food, but not great food, and an excellent setting. Why can't I just live at the Savoy all the time? The month ended with a farewell supper at the Hoxton Grill for one of the team who is moving on to another product area in The Bank. Oh, and British Gas actually showed up to do the service call on the boiler. I saw Shiro: Dreams of Sushi at the ICA, NO and Cloud Atlas at the Curzon Soho, and Die Hard 19 at the local cinema. I have made some serious progress with reading Musil, but it's tough going.

Now for the flip side. It was cold, cold, cold. It was freezing walking from the Savoy to Waterloo station. I gave up going out in the week and just scuttled straight back home every evening. And I have so far had three massage sessions with the wonderful Peta at Sports Massage Zone to get my frakked-up arms sorted out. I've had what gets called "tennis elbow" for a while and it didn't go away, so I had to get treatment. I could not push weights of any magnitude without my elbows shouting "stop that now" at me. It is better, but I may need some osteo to get the bones back in their rightful place.

I bought a blender, nice heavy glass, and am having a home-made smoothie (banana, kiwi / orange / apple, milk) each morning. I make two glasses worth every two days in the evening and keep them in the fridge. It does add a kick to the start of my day.

I have also been playing this song a lot.

Okay, it's Tegan and Sara and that's girly. Get over it. The song is about someone who has taken a hard emotional shock and actually doesn't know how they feel anymore. And the girls are explaining it to them: "what you are is lonely / what you are..." And that's what I am. Lonely. It's just that the hormones are low enough that I don't really feel the pain, and, of course, I know about the bad stuff I'm missing, so I'm prepared to take the trade-off. This is the first time I've thought of my situation like that. (No, I do not want to "share my/your life". If you knew what that phrase was code for, you wouldn't either.)