Core Muscles

I forgot to mention in the Wii post that the Wii Fit talks a lot about core muscles.

I had not heard of “core muscles” prior to the Fit, though I did intuit what they were. Especially when they became “those things that hurt” after doing the Fit’s balance games–which are, in essence, all about leaning slightly one way or the other.

Althouse has a post about this, though with not much commentary, referencing a New York Times article on how people are wrecking their backs in the quest for washboard abs. I had a couple of thoughts.

Like, first, if they meant “abs”, they would call them “abs”, not “core muscles”. There was no stigma attached to “abs”, such that they, like stewardesses, had to seek a new name. If the secret to great abs was just “exercise your abs a lot”, well, that wouldn’t be much of a bloody secret now, would it?

Second, I used to be really skinny. This was a time when I could crank out a hundred sit ups, and was required to, actually, as part of my martial arts training. Never had six-pack abs. I never thought of it as something to strive for. In fact, I thought–and still think–it’s a little effete to focus on that sort of thing.

Third, when did washboard abs get to be the thing everyone had to have? What’s wrong with a nice, flat stomach? Or even a slightly rounded one? And if they’re so gosh-darned important to have, why can’t people face just doing what needs to be done to get them without wrecking their bodies?

OK, I’ve gone into full Andy Rooney mode, which means it’s time for this post to end.

Wii-dux

We recently passed the One Year mark on the Wii Fit board–we had one pre-ordered, actually. Sort of amusingly, I’m the primary user of the board, though I’m sporadic. The Boy used it for 8 hours one day, got all the high scores, took his blood sugar down to alarmingly low levels–interesting that–but then never cared to use it again.

The obvious distinction there is that The Boy is definitely a hardcore gamer. (I’ve been one in the past, but it got difficult to keep up ‘round about kid #3.) The Wii isn’t really about hardcore games. We have a few, but they don’t get much play.

Of course, what the Wii is about–the reason it comes close to outselling the XBox 360 and the PS3 combined–is a simple physicality that makes it both accessible and interesting in a way that thumb twitching is not.

What’s less obvious, of course, is that–particularly with the Wii Fit–the physicality isn’t all that interesting to The Boy, at least in part because it’s just way too easy for him. And this is before he started doing his current program, which he says has really improved his reflexes. (The other part, I think, is that hardcore gamers tend to want to minimize any exertion between their intention and action.) But it’s not that easy for me, which I take to be a sign of “aging”.

And, when I say “aging”, I of course mean “any deterioration I can attribute to forces outside of my control, regardless of actual causes, particularly causes that I might not want to address.”

Anyway, one of the tests on the Wii is to stand still–well, really to balance. If a kid can hold himself still, it’s just a matter of standing very still and with weight distributed equally on both legs. I’m pretty sure this was never a problem for me before. I mean, I do okay on the test. Very close to perfect. But this and a lot of the other tests (shifting weight, standing on one leg) seem challenging in a way I don’t think they would’ve been a “few” years ago.

I used to do all kinds of karate maneuvers on one leg (which is of dubious practicality, but that’s a discussion for a different time). But not having had the technology at the time, it’s hard to say how much (or even whether, he suggested optimistically) of a deterioration there’s been over the years.

Meanwhile, I’ve wrested quite a few of The Boy’s high scores away.

It’s just a temporary respite, of course. The Flower and I played a couple hours of Wii Sports over the past few days, and she can give me a run for my money–beat me, even–on tennis and baseball, and her bowling skills are coming up. She doesn’t quite have the light touch needed for golfing, and nobody can really touch me on boxing. Well, yet. Give her time.

All’s not perfect in the Wii world, of course. As much as I love the Wii, it’s more a tantalizing taste of the future than a great implementation. The wiimote suggests a time when true motion capture will be used to interact with games–and perhaps other software, though I think contra Minority Report, big gestures aren’t going to ever be the norm–and the new MotionPlus is supposedly dynamite, but the games do show the limits of the motion control. (Of course, at the other end, you have complaints that the MotionPlus is too sensitive. There’s a lot of frontier to be crossed, technologically speaking.)

Worse, despite the killer console sales I’m not seeing a lot of games that really embrace the motion, and the whole gaming support industry is really not set up to distinguish between traditional hardcore games and games that use the motion system effectively.

Then, there are minor issues. I think the Wii Fit board is too narrow. (I’m used to a wider stance from my karate days, and one size fits all doesn’t seem optimum.) Also, there’s a lot of nagging. I understand why it’s in there, but it does seem condescending at first, and–after two years–irritating. It’s all designed to be gentle, but needs to be a lot more easily dismissed after the 200th viewing.

Still, we’ve enjoyed the console, and I foresee it having another three years life, easily, on our shelf. I don’t see replacing it with a button masher ever though.

Sadder Than A Really Sad Thing

It was sad that I went to eat a veggie dog. (It doesn’t matter that much: Put a bun around it, slather in catsup, mustard, relish, pickles, sauerkraut and sawdust, and it doesn’t matter what the hot dog is made of. A fact hot dog vendors have relied on for years.)

It was sad that I dropped the dog.

It was really sad that The Big White Dog picked up the dog whole.

I had a moment of hope when The Big White Dog spit it out without having bitten into it.

But then, there was this dog on the floor. So I called the Little Black Dog over.

Sadder than a really sad thing? The Big White Dog snatched the veggie dog up and swallowed it whole.

Worse than kids.

Things That Have Ruined The Internet, Part I: “Free”ware

So, I went to make a recording. (I’m not much into recording. I prefer to let any given performance, warts and all, be ephemera. I find myself more easily convinced by the praise of others when there are no records to disabuse me.)

I fired up SndRec32, the multimedia extravaganza application built-in to Windows (my only mic is on my Windows laptop, though thinking about it now, I could’ve booted it to Ubuntu, hmmm) and recorded for about 3 minutes.

‘course, SndRec32 stops recording after a minute. You can force it to go in minute increments with some trickery but I thought, shoot, I could put together a simple recorder in 5 minutes. (Might, even.) Surely, there would be a plethora of simple sound recorders.

Which brings me to something that’s ruined the Internet: A proliferation of pages offering “free” software that tops any search you do, where the software isn’t free at all–or the download link for the free software is almost completely occluded by a bunch of links to paid software.

I ended up downloading a program called AVS Audio Editor, a “full featured audio editor”, which was so not what I wanted. (I just wanted a slightly less dumb SndRec32, fercryingoutloud.) But what the hell, I figured I’d try it and see. If it were a genuine limited-use software I might stick with it. (For what I need, I don’t really want to pay $40. And even more than the $40, I don’t want the overhead of keeping track of some registration key and upgrading, etc. etc. etc.)

So I hunt around on this massive panel for a “record” button, set up the microphone (oh, yes, it required setup, because this is a Serious Audio Application) and got to recording. Recorded my three minutes again and used the special effects panel to boost the rather soft results. Went to save and discovered that the “trial” version inserted a blank second for every 5 seconds or so of recording. In other words, you couldn’t save.

Well, fine. I guess. I looked for a free app, instead I got a non-free one by mistake, and it was so crippled and annoying that there’s no chance, ever, that I would buy or even use this application. Of course, I uninstalled, but nothing ever really uninstalls in Windows.

And it’s all due to these jerky pages serving these “free” apps and, besides plastering 10 ads on the page, hide the legit app to full you into downloading a fake one.

I miss BBSes.

“I Believe In The Principle of Free Speech But…

…shut up already!“ Or so says Althouse in this post. I assume it’s the "but” she objects to, so apparently if you believe in anything less than absolute freedom of speech all the time, she doesn’t want to hear it.

I feel for her. Her blog’s been inundated with trolls at a time when she probably couldn’t be much less interested in maintenance issues. But I’ve never seen an online community with an absolute freedom of speech rule that wasn’t ultimately destroyed by that devotion.

The logical paradox I see is that she’s not rebuking the trolls, who are acting in bad faith, but she is rebuking people who bitch about the trolls, even though they’re acting in good faith. So why is free speech an absolute for trolls–but not for troll haters?

Stupid Graph Tricks

My pal Esther, who I hope hires me again someday soon, tweeted about Indeed.com, a site that tracks job listings over multiple sites and allows you to graph trends in relative and absolute terms. (She was lamenting the rise of squooshy terms like “social media” over terms like “editor” and “writer”–though anyone who’s been involved with “social media” knows there is a desperate paucity of writers and editors out there.)

So, I did my own research–and after determining that nobody anywhere ever needs the skills I have–I went further afield, as encapsulated in the graph below:

As you can see, job opportunities for “sex”, “drugs” and “rock and roll” have been on the rise over the past four years. What’s fascinating–and by fascinating, I mean utterly meaningless–is how despite the way drug demands rise and fall, and sex demands spike then plateau, and rock and roll rises steadily, they all pretty much go up at the same speed.

So, I guess this means putting “sex, drugs and rock and roll” could only improve your job prospects.

Or maybe I’m not the sort of person who should be using these tools.

White Devils

I detailed my eight month treadmill desk experiment here and also my water drinking, and noted that neither of them caused any net weight loss. I’m sure I must have swapped some muscle for fat in those eight months, but as the water drinking was accompanied with a reduction in my soda drinking habits, I was expecting some sort of net weight loss. But no dice.

Of course, I started doing the Reams program in solidarity with The Boy and, much to my dismay, it worked. So, now I’m eating a largely vegetable diet, with meat two, three (okay, sometimes four) times a week. And there are things I am not eating.

No white flour. No white sugar. No white potatoes. Also, no corn syrup, and really, I’m not supposed to be eating corn (unless it’s white corn on the cob). I do have popcorn and soda at the movies.

Well, I guess it’s not mystery where my extra pounds were coming from. I’ve lost 20 pounds in two months. Without any exercise at all. I’m not supposed to exercise too much yet though I am finally back on that a little bit.

My interpretation of the various food prohibitions fall into two categories: Some foods are bad because they are actually harmful while others are bad because they take up the space you’d normally have for nutritious food. Shellfish, pork, protein bars are examples of food in the actually harmful category–something about the high protein content. (Again, this is my casual impression. I’m not claiming to understand this.)

Sure has made weight loss simple, though. If you call this living….

When Numbers Get Serious

A week ago, The Boy and I took one of our not infrequent road trips to visit the dietitian. I’ve been a little suspect of his devotion to the whole regime of vegetables, and I thought he’d been a bit lax with some of his supplements (vitamins and minerals).

But the numbers came back great. Mine came back pretty good, too, which sort of surprised me, since they’d been so bad before. I’m allowed to exercise a little and eat a little meat. (This diet discourages heavy meat eating. Three times a week, maximum.)

I spent a year and a half as a mostly-vegetarian. That is, I didn’t eat any meat during the week, but since I went home for weekends and mom considers vegetarianism a personal affront, I did eat fish then. It was actually very difficult for me to start eating meat again. I mean, just contemplating it was sort of appalling.

Weird, eh? Well, I just spent six weeks as an actual vegetarian and I assure you my celebratory hot turkey sandwich was quite welcome. (I’m not even a turkey fan but–well, I’m not going to food blog just yet, but the sandwich will be back.)

I could observe that I continue to benefit from this program, and The Boy continues to reduce his insulin, but I see the government has already established that alternative forms of treatment are pretty much universally bunk.

Well, not really: They’ve apparently spent $2.5B paying other people to test them, in God knows what fashion. I’ve linked to this guy, Phil Plait, instead of to the direct article because he captures so well the attitude I’ve seen of some: It’s vitally important to them that nobody ever believe anything that can’t be proven in a double-blind study.

Frankly, I don’t think most of these things work, but since placebos (called “dummy pills” now, apparently) have something like a 20% success rate, I tend to think the placebo is under-prescribed. I mean, I doubt those “male enhancement” pills have any effect whatsoever, but if a guy believes that they do and benefits from that belief, how cruel to take that away from him!

Most of the programs I’ve seen that seemed very effective were not really pharmaceutical replacements, they were regimens. Lifestyle changes. You could argue (successfully, I think) that the gains were from a variety of banal things, rather than, say, distilled water or walnut tincture.

And I wouldn’t really care if you did, so long as I’m free to do whatever crazy thing I want.

My concern, of course, is that the government will get both wrong: Prescribing things that don’t work while proscribing things that do. In fact, I can guarantee you that already happens, routinely.