pktechgirlbackup: (pktechgirl)
Hobbyfest got slowed down a bit with my SEVERE GUM INFECTION, and will clearly be carried on into 2013. But I managed to get Trapeze in under the wire.

Overall: I'm glad I did it, I plan on doing it a few more times, but it is never going to be a regular hobby. First, it is expensive. s $48 for a two hour class, and for most of that class you're just sitting around, because there's only one trapeze. If you're going to do it, I highly recommend waiting for a groupon and going two days before Christmas, where you can work until your arms fall off.

The scariest part is not the actually flying, because at that point you're just sort of doing it. The ladder you climb is much, much scarier. They attach you to a line for it, and all I could think was "great, so I'm going to break my back instead of cracking my skull. That's much better." then you stand on this tiny, rickety platform, and there's a moment when you have the ladder harness off but don't have the flying harness on yet and all I can think is "YOU DESIGNED THIS WRONG". Then you catch the bar. You're leaning with your center of mass way over the platform, holding something shockingly heavy in your outstretched arms, and the only reason you don't fall is some idiot is holding on to your harness.* Then there is the jumping, which is done on their cues, not yours, which made the whole thing more nervewracking for me.

The good, I guess, is that I got some really cool pictures, and I have some really pleasant muscular exhaustion today. The first time I do anything is often the best, in terms of body response, because I haven't learned how o be lazy about it yet. I find ways to cheat efficiencies shockingly fast. There is something hugely symbolic and powerful about waiting and holding the bar, and I think I have to keep going under I've unwrapped that. Hopefully I can do that in two classes, because that's the discount pack they offered me and I'm not going to pay full price for it.

Trapeze either never gives you time to get in to a flow state or drops you in it immediately and then kicks you out just as fast. That is probably also a good thing to experience.

I was really reluctant to go to trapeze because I thought it was just going to be one long slide of hitting my limitations- I wouldn't be flexible enough or strong enough to do anything. I got talked into going by a friend, who lived up to her promise to relentlessly cheerlead everything I did. This gave me enough space to realize that if I'm angry about not being able to do all of the things in a set, refusing to do any of them is more likely to make me angrier than it is to make me feel good about myself. That lessen was totally worth the $30 the class cost.

*Surprisingly, this doesn't become less stressful if the holder is an attractive member of your gender of choice.

On abortion

Nov. 1st, 2012 10:11 pm
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
This is the story of a woman carrying a fetus that was self-evidently non-viable, but still had a heartbeat. The heartbeat is used as the definition of life for the purpose of Chicago laws. Right now, this means that she had to listen to a doctor explain what abortion was and sign consent forms 24 hours in advance, and that her insurance carrying wouldn't cover it. If abortion was banned, or only allowed for dead fetuses, or only in cases of imminent deadly threat to the mother,* she would have had to carry a dying fetus inside her until she spontaneously miscarried or went into labor. This could have left her infertile, or killed her. If it did none of those things, she would still have to carry around a reminder of the child she wasn't going to have, fake happiness for strangers or share an intensely personal story, and suffer the usual risks of pregnancy.

Individual pro-lifers may not want this to happen, but the laws they advocate predictably lead to this result. They can either admit that this is an acceptable cost to them, or they can advocate for something else.
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
I can't speak to the inflammation side of things, but cutting out grains at breakfast has done wonders for me. I'm much more awake, and I've completely lost my desire for caffeine. Moreover, it puts me under critical mass for bee stings, such that I now notice when something delicious crashes my blood sugar and makes me take an unsatisfying three hour nap. This drastically lowers the amount of willpower required to make the long term good decision, because the payoff moves from "6 weeks, at a minimum, if I keep doing everything right, I might feel slightly better" to "There is a direct correlation between this action and the happiness of me 15 minutes from now"

The resistance stretching is also working well. A walk that would previously have left me limping in nonspecific foot pain didn't hurt at all, and my back pain has moved from "well, something is definitely hurting in that region but it's too painful to investigate" to "that specific spot hurts". The pain spots don't actually follow any musculature or connective tissue, and I suspect that's a necessary step for it to stop hurting, but it is still a huge improvement.

TQI diet

Oct. 16th, 2012 12:43 pm
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
My whole life, I've had issues with inflammation. Joint pain, inflexibility, allergies, dental pain, weak immune system. Treating my hypoadrenia helped, but we have reached the point where that is not the problem, or at least the old cure (cortisol supplements) will do more harm than good. So we're going to try diet, specifically the To Quiet Inflammation diet. Honestly, the description and testimonials look sort of crazy, and I'm suspicious of anything that assumes the modern American aesthetic ideal for body fat is healthy, especially given that all the evidence points to exactly the opposite. But someone I really respect said several people she respects had a lot of success with it, and I've exhausted the stock of things I thought were good ideas, and five weeks is a reasonable amount of time for the potential payoff. Even if it doesn't work, I can see the denial being an interesting spiritual exercise. So I'm giving it a shot.

TQI has some principles you have to follow forever, but kicks off with an even more stringent elimination diet. I do not like my chances starting off with the strictest form of the diet, so I'm introducing phase 0, where I learn to cook according to the forever-rules, so that when I have to cut out a bunch of delicious, delicious foods, I will at least be able to feed myself.

So my goals for now through Halloween are:

  • breakfast is 1/2-2/3 produce, with the remainder being made up with protein. No grains.
  • I am debating following the "no additional sweets" rule for breakfast, because I think honey is good for me.
  • Stop eating several hours before bed. I do this one naturally unless I badly screw something up. This may mean planning workouts better.
  • At least one meal a day where I'm not doing anything else while I eat.
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
Last night I got down to 6.5 inches for forward folds. This morning, 12.5. Urgh.


Sep. 15th, 2012 02:21 pm
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
Martial arts, like every other sport, yelled at me to "commit" to it a lot. Committing simultaneously a completely undefined concept and something everyone knows when they see it. I really want to dissect it until I prove it isn't real, but I also know damn well that committed more to jumping kicks than I did to the same kick on the ground, and was more awesome at them even when you remove the awesomeness of jumping, so I am forced to conceded that commitment is probably actually a thing. A frustrating nebulous thing that it is not helpful for people to yell at you about, but a thing.

I think I have finally figured it out, and it's all thanks to toddlers and tiaras.


Apparently you can't embed and mark time, but skip to 29:00, 30:05, 31:00, 32:15 to watch them in rough order of increasing commitment. These girls simultaneously are not good at dancing, not committing to the movement, and don't want to be there.

This girl, Eden, is an excellent dancer and is having fun or reasonably good at faking it. She's far more fluid than the girls in the candy pageant. And yet, she's not quite there.

Then there's Madison.

(skip to 32s)

Madison fucking owns it.

A couple of key differences:

  • She looks genuinely thrilled to be there, the entire time. More impressive when you saw how miserable she was backstage.
  • Madison's motions are much, much bigger than everyone else's- even the girl doing the backflips (Eden is somewhere inbetween).
  • Madison clearly believes she has all the time in the world for each movement (see especially the thumbs up around 1:30).
  • Madison's much, much more fluid between movements (Eden starts fluid but gets increasingly stilted as time passes, even though her smile gets bigger).
  • She's much more fluid across her body within movements. Compare Madison's shoulder shakes (1:38) with the girl in the Mickey Mouse dress in the first video (29:15), or Eden's at 0:28. She's getting way more movement with way less muscle because the movement is transferring through other muscles rather than being stopped by them.

I think the muscle thing is key. Committing is when you set up the initial movement and then just let it flow, rather than making constant course corrections. This explains why little kids are not nearly as good at committing as you would think, given their total lack of shame: they're still sort of crap at using muscles. Every agrees that fluid, committed motions look better than precise but rigid ones, so why don't people commit every time?

Because you look like an idiot.

Take a look at this guy, who I actually thought was pretty good when I watched it through the lens of commitment, but the judges absolutely crucify for having the audacity to audition.

So this is pretty much the physical manifestation of the punishment for presumption. You had so much confidence in your initial motion you didn't feel the need to correct it, and you were wrong and you much be punished. This is maybe what I was getting at with this post. Confident fat people do better than unconfident fat people, but fat people are punished way more for perceived-unmerited confidence than otherwise identical thin people would be.
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
One thing instructors at my martial arts repeat a lot is the idea that how hard they hit us lower belts is controlled by how hard we hit them, because they're just reflecting the energy back. This makes my inner scientist/statistician freak out, because while it is certainly a thing that is happening, it does not account for all of the observed variation. If it's just my energy reflecting back, why do some people hit me so hard relative to others? And why do those same people have a reputation for hitting everyone hard? Yes, expectations can be self-perpetuating, but that is a *lot* of variation to explain. In addition, you will observe local spikes where everyone rates person A as hitting harder than usual or otherwise deviating from their routine, generally because A has had a tough week.

The actual lesson here was (as far as I know) "this is the only you can control, so pretend it's the only thing". This is neither the first nor the last lesson karate has tried to teach me of this form, and it always ends with making little charts in my head about all the things their model is missing. I feel like a pessimist being taught happiness strategies by an optimist, or an introvert being taught socialization by an extrovert*: I intellectually understand why their strategy works and that I would be happier if I followed it, but it is fundamentally incompatible with my personality.


Three weeks ago I had a breakthrough. I went to sparring, and sparred the man we will refer to as Exhibit A, because he is my number one of example of how hitting very softly sometimes still ends with me getting hit very very hard. And one time, vomiting, although other stuff was going on that day. Anyways, he was still doing what he does, but it didn't hurt as much. I sparred him again two weeks later, and it didn't hurt at all. That same class, I acquired a massive bruise on my hamstring. I've had people deliberately go for tendon bruises before, and they *hurt*, and then they hurt more because they get in a bad feedback loop with muscle spasms. And that did in fact happen the next day, but I didn't notice it at all at the time, to the point I don't know who did it.

I got body work done on Thursday, and it was more productive that usual, but that's not the interesting part. On the way out, I hit my toe on a chair. I do this a lot. I'm a consummate toe stubber. But this time I was aware of two things: 1. It didn't hurt, and 2. My hip flexor was stretching. It's like my upper body kept going but my foot stopped as soon as it hit the chair. And all the previous toe stubbings were a result of my tight hip flexors forcing my foot to keep up with my upper body.

My favorite instructor says I'm learning to process the good parts of the experiences in sparring and ignore the bad parts. I don't like that word choice, because I've repressed pain in the past and it has gone *poorly* and I would like the phrasing to reflect the fact that this is something different. But the overall point is quite possibly accurate, and I'm curious to see where it goes.

*fucking extroverts
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
I'm about halfway through Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters by Courtney E. Martin, and mostly it's great. It captured the appearance-related bind my generation has trapped itself in really extraordinarily well. But there's something that's bugging me.

Any time the author talks about exercise, it's always "running on a treadmill", and it's always negative, often contrasted with what a truly liberated girl would be doing. This is disappointing on several levels. I present to you this list of reasons someone might run on a treadmill that are unrelated to appearance

  • Endorphin high
  • Non-endorphin related enjoyment
  • Stress relief
  • Rehab after an injury
  • Cardiovascular health
  • Numerous other weight-independent health benefits
  • Trying to get weight down before an athletic event
  • Trying to up aerobic capacity in service of a job or sport
  • Trying to up aerobic capacity because aerobic capacity is awesome
  • It helps them think about things
  • Induction of a medidative state
  • Warming up before an activity that is risky to do cold.

and if you expand this to anything that could be theoretically classified as exercise:

  • Self defense
  • building muscles because they are useful
  • Building muscles because they are awesome
  • Being part of a team working together to achieve a concrete goal
  • Experiencing parts of nature that are far away from roads
  • Confidence building
  • Sheer enjoyment
  • All her friends were doing it
  • etc

Which is not to say that these are all good or healthy things (Hugo Schwyzer has a great article up today about how he replaced cutting with running) or that these reasons have never been used as excuses by someone who, in their heart of hearts, was really motivated by a desire to look thinner. Or that treadmills are the best way to achieve any of these goals (I find the elliptical a pareto improvement). But there are excellent reasons to work out, even on the dreaded treadmill, and sentences like "Men prefer a woman who takes an improv class over one who spends all day on the treadmill" seem to encourage the worst kind of female competition for male attention. In a book that's all about recognizing interalized external pressure, that's really disappointing.
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
Insurance cost for martial arts is vastly, vastly lower than that of dance or yoga. I knew that dance was horribly destructive mess, but the yoga thing surprised me. I put it down to a combination of bad teachers and "no one expects to pull something in yoga". You might get injured more often in martial arts, but you're not really in a position to sue if you break a rib when someone kicks you in contact sparring. You knew the risks when you signed up.

Warrior Girls brings up another possible explanation. All of the anti-injury programs focus on the following things: creating a balanced musculature, control, proprioception (knowing where your body is in space), developing the neuromuscular patterns to land softly and move deliberately. And what do you know, martial arts is all about all of those things. It even teaches you to do them at speed. Yoga does have the proprioception and control aspects, and I assume it develops muscles evenly, but it's easy to get lazy when you're moving so slowly.

This makes me feel substantially better for my tiny ninjas. I suspect a nontrivial number of them are, or will be, the highly focused one sport female athletes that are so prone to injuries. But not only are they getting cross training now (via the school's gym class rotation- which, coincidentally, also includes dance and yoga), but the things we're teaching them may be giving them the body and mind they need to prevent injury in the future. So there's another thing you can add to list of things I'm giving to the future.
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
One of the nice things about Warrior Girls is it's a rare chance to hear girls complain about how much weight they lost during an injury. They're complaining about losing muscle, not fat, but number-on-scale means muscle to them, and that's awesome.

In semi-related news, I had to put back a shirt at goodwill because while I otherwise looked awesome in it, the sleeve was cutting into my bicep.
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
As presented in Warrior Girls, the conversation on girls in sports goes something like this:

person 1: I am concerned about the higher rate of injuries in girls and women
person 2: The idea that sports are bad for a woman's reproductive system is preposterous. In fact, men get many more reproductive tract injuries on account of external genitalia.
person 1: ...but ACL tears.

And the thing is, they're both right. They're just not responding to each other. First, Person 1 is not suggesting that there are injuries that only occur to women, she's suggesting that there are injuries that occur in both sexes but more frequently in women. I think this is representative of a more general pattern in discussion of sex- and gender- based issues: confusing differences of kind with differences in amount. When popular articles come out saying that (straight) women value money and (straight) men value looks, feminists are quick to attack them as insane, or at best culturally based. The truth is that if you look at the actual data, you do see moderate differences in preferences- but in general, men and women have the same top five, and looks and money tend to be beaten out by things like kindness and sense of humor in both genders. It's inaccurate to say there are no differences, but it's equally inaccurate to describe women and men as wealth and boob seeking missles.

There's a really good metaphor for this in our endocrine system. We call testosterone the male hormone and estrogen the female hormone*, but the truth is that everyone has both, just in different proportions. And there are a ton hormones not affiliated with either sex, some of which have different distributions in men and women and some of which don't.

Secondly, Person 2 seems to be assuming Person 1 thinks the injury rate is a reason not to let girls play sports. She's not doing it maliciously, she's doing it because there are a lot of people who use concerns about safety as a trojan horse to getting their way, but in this case it's inacurrate. Person 1 just wants accurate statistics to make informed value judgements, and to minimize negative side effects. It's unfortunate that concern trolls will misuse this data, but you can't fight ignorance with ignorance.

*Which annoys me because estrogen isn't even a hormone, it's a class of hormones, and calling it a hormone allows people to market chemicals that match no molecule in the human body as estrogen. But this is not relevant to the story.
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
When the HPV vaccine came out, a lot of religious nutjobs opposed it because if we don't let God punish sluts with cancer, how will they get their comeuppance? Knowing that not all of us view sex as a capital offense, some of them phrased some of their objections as questions about the medical value of the vaccine. And so another group of people said "fuck you, sex is awesome and even if it wasn't, cancer is bad. we're going to promote this vaccine like woah." Many years later, I heard rumors the manufacturer had suppressed some evidence of adverse effects, which were possibly more frequent than seen in other vaccines. Any attempt to investigate this was drowned out by proponents so used to hearing bullshit criticism come from people who wanted to control women. Now, I don't know if the story of excess adverse effects is true or not (and I got the vaccine myself), but it's certainly a good story illustrating how you can get so used to tuning out the voices of your clearly wrong opponents that you miss legitimate criticisms.

My current book Warrior Girls: Protecting Our Daughters Against the Injury Epidemic in Women's Sports suggests that the same thing is happening with girls' and women's sports. As Hugo Schwyzer says, any book with the phrase "protecting our daughters" in the title is suspect, but the author, Michael Sokolove, really does seem to care about women's and especially girl's sports for the value it brings the participants, and simply wants to make these incredibly valuable activities not perform the equivalent of bringing down a hammer on the knee of one girl in twenty.

I'm of the opinion that even if there were no environmental effects, the range of men's behavior would differ from that of women's behavior. I'm still opposed to gender essentialism because humans are unbelievably varied and the fact that a trait is highly predictive for a group doesn't mean it's useful for predicting the behavior of an individual. But this fact was brought up mostly by people who didn't want girls to play sports because they thought it was bad for their uteruses, so the pro-sports people got used to tuning it out. Now, my personal opinion is that our training programs for high school athletes are abominable for both genders and aren't based on the slightest bit of research, but it appears to be even worse for girls than for boys, judging by rate of injury**, and this needs to be worked on. And while I think the training programs for male and female athletes, I think our pursuit of a one-size-fits-all approach is really part of the problem, and we need to focus more on how to teach kids to distinguish good pain from bad pain, how to track what exercises are most productive for them, and to respect the limits of their body.***

Meanwhile, there's the sexualization of female high school athletes.**** For years I assumed that the cheerleader bikini car wash was made up by hollywood and/or porn. The first time I saw one for real, I went apoplectic. I'm assuming I don't need to explain to any of you why this is bad, or why it was bad to illustrate the story with a picture of what a sexualized high school athlete might look like*****, so please just join me in being angry.

*while I have to work for every pound of gain. Bastards.

**I'm only a few pages in, the statistics given were for soccer, where girls have 8x the risk of ACL tears. If you count cheerleading as a sport, and you should, the discrepancy is worse, because they get no padding while risking considerably worse impact than football players.

***Which would have all kinds of side benefits too.

****I'm a bigger fan of this Schwyzer's blog than his officially published work- one of the reasons I don't do a lot of editing here, possibly too little, is that I've seen several bloggers I really like get more professional gigs and polish everything interesting out of their work. This article is saying valuable things, so I'm glad it was published, but it doesn't have the same sense of watching someone learn that his blog does.

*****I'm annoyed by the trend of including an on-theme but zero-information picture along with articles and blogs in general, but this one in particular.


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