Wednesday, September 30, 2009

BB: Social commentary in BB

In BB, the house is divided to Paradise and Slum. Slum has the same food all the time, cold-water tap for a shower and work tasks in the beginning of the week.

The slum work tasks provide the best long, unscripted conversations that the show has to offer. The tasks are so simple that there is no need to talk about the work, and take so long that the slum residents start to talk to fend of boredom.

As if slum/paradise gap wasn't enough social commentary, this time they were disassembling electronic trash late in the midnight while the paraside resident were having a party. Its clearly a metaphor for Third World workers doing long shifts to process our trash while we are having a conspicuous consumption party.

The irritating thing is that they cut the show to maximize the social commentary impact. This meant quick cuts (opposite of long conversations) between paradise and slum, and choosing soundbites where politically correct attitudes were expressed.

If there's one reason I'll stop watching BB, it's probably dumbed-down social commentary and manufactured drama destroying the "reality" factor in this reality show.

BB: Nino got kicked out

The most popular story now in Helsingin sanomat is that BB-Nino got kicked out for sexual harassment.

Nino is an extroverted homosexual with mild attention deficit disorder. He seems to be well liked, although I found him irritating because he was talking all the time and steering conversations to frivolous direction. I didn't find his humor witty.

They showed one clip of mild sexual harassment in TV show, where he was playfully groping a male resident. Based on what other residents talked after kicking, they considered it a non-issue.

A more serious clip showed provoking a fight. There was a pair in sauna, Ragnar and Minna, and Nino started to blame Ragnar for seducing Minna. Luckily Ragnar didn't get provoked.

Sexualily is a barrel of gunpowder, so the producers probably decided that it's better to kick him out in time and get blamed for overreacting, rather wait and deal with assault charges.

They hit a jackpot by managing to create lots of spectacular drama and publicity in the press, although I'd prefer to watch less scripted and dramatized clips.

BB: Why am I watching Big Brother?

A friend of a friend is in Finnish Big Brother. In Facebook language, he could appear in the "potential friend" widget but wouldn't be a friend since I haven't met him. Both me an BB-Esa A. play go, and many go players know both me and Esa A.

So I watched a few episodes and noticed a few merits in BB. The characters behave according to human psychology, and the dialog is realistic. This is not the case in most TV series, where dialog needs to advance plot, develop characters, entertain with humor, express emotions clearly, etc. That's the main reason I don't follow any TV series.

BB is at its best when they show long pieces on unscripted and uninterrupted human interaction. It puts the responsibility of quality for the watcher: it's just you and your interpretative repertoires making sense of reality. The director is not inserting uplifting ideas, but he's not dumbing it down either (although in practise BB is dumbed down by too heavy cutting and scripting and drama selection).

Monday, September 28, 2009

Dumbbell wisdom

Iron has taught me much about my body during the last year.

To avoid hunger, I eat smaller meals more often. It is definitely better for ability to concentrate. Weightlifting theory books emphasize the need to control insulin level. You must not let your insulin level spike by eating big meals with lots of fast carbohydrates. Nor should you go hungry, since it puts your body to catabolic (muscle wasting) state.

Avoiding biochemical anger has forced me to recognize that my mood is a physical state. Daily social events have effect on it, but not nearly as much as food, rest, training and supplements. I've already explained the effects of training. Taking the supplements reduces "low energy days" when I feel like I don't have energy to do anything.

I'd say that mood is 40% physical thing, 50% "macro-social" thing (dependent on your feeling that life is taking you where you want to go) and only 10% dependent on daily events, even if people always mention daily events as root causes for their mood swings.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

北京美女 - The beatiful women of Beijing

That is the title of the first Chinese-language book I've started to read, usually one page a day at bus. It seems to be Harlequin-style romantic book, and that's exactly what I need. Shallow plot is good if you don't understand every sentence. Easy topics like love, sex and success are good for maintaining interest despite slow reading speed.

I chose it, because it was the first book in the shelf for which I recognized all the characters in the title. The second such book was 告诉我你的梦 - Tell Me Your Dreams by Sidney Sheldon. When this Chinese reading binge is over I'll know chick lit really well.

If some girls asks what I'm reading I'll say it's a classic of zen buddhism, since 2/3 of Chinese character tattoos I've seen on girls have included such references.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Gym-induced personality changes

The cutest girls in Tampere train at my gym, but it's not only about trained young bodies, tight shirts and short gym pants. Pumping iron puts chemicals to my blood, which make me horny among other things. I don't act on it though since it would be too easy to scare them.

No matter how much make-up the disco dolls spread on their face, they don't get near the level of sexiness, especially since alcohol inhibits horniness. When I'm really drunk, I may look at a girl and notice on intellectual level "She has all the features I consider sexy" while wondering why looking at her doesn't invoke any biological reaction which it usually does when I'm not drunk.

  • Adrenaline is emitted well before you start exercising when you know you are going to experience stress, making you feel totally awake.

  • Endorphins are body's internal opiates. Exercise makes your body ache and endorphins balance it so that healthy exercise feels good while too sternous one doesn't. These opiates make you addicted to good stuff.

  • Testosterone increases making you feel aloof and healthily indifferent about the small slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

The dark side of personality change comes the following day. Exercise tends to keep me awake, so I'm tired the next day. Endorphins are no longer balancing the soreness of the body, making me grumpy.

On bad days I have certain kind of "biochemical anger" where I feel angry even if there is no one to be angry against. My mind seeks explanation for the biochemical state of anger by browsing through various small slights that people experience daily and enlarging them.

Overall, gym-induced personality changes feel good. Nowadays I know not to train too hard and to keep enough days in between to avoid biochemical anger. The aloofness makes me just shrug off insults, drama, rejection and embarrassment which would have paralyzed me earlier for weeks or months.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

How strong is strong?

In India, 3 of us went to gym to benchmark our bench press max.

I lifted 50 kg in this unfamiliar move. I had started to train 3 months earlier twice a week.

Samppa lifted 70 kg. He was sporty in his youth, without specializing in any single sport. Was.

Juha-Matti competed in Finnish championship in weightlifting when he was young, but now at the age of 31 he had been drinking, smoking and eating greasy pizza more than the others combined. He still lifted 85 kg.

Pasi had not trained at any point.

Later Jani joined us. He was the most fit of us. Sports is his lifestyle, and it means gym and skiing in the winter and jogging and cycling in the summer. He didn't bench press, but he would have surpassed all of us - and if not, his total fitness was undeniably the best because he practised regularly. He convinced me that life is a maraton when it comes to staying fit, and good lifestyle choices produce good fitness results. Having "good genes" or identifying as "athlete" as teen is good for you, but your own lifestyle choices trump them at age 30.

So here's my scale for judging strength, based on this very small sample. The scale is for educated office workers - if you get any practise in your work, or lack the middle-class healthy habits, your game is different.

Bench press max:

  • probably below 50kg: You are in the bottom 20%. Train a bit. Begin with some non-scary individual sport like jogging. Listen to your body.

  • Over 50 kg: You are weaker than average. Find a sport which you like, and practise it regularly.

  • Around 70 kg: You are smack in the middle 20%. You know what suits you and how to stay fit. Don't stop like Samppa did.

  • Around 85 kg: You are in good shape, either because you have good lifestyle or good sports history. Congratulations!

  • Over 100 kg: You are strong enough for all practical purposes. Your marginal benefit from more weightlifting is going down sharply. Switch to some other hobby where you learn new things - or good luck for competitions, if that's why you train.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Recovery drink

When I returned from India, I could bench press 40kg for 10 reps. For the next 3 months, the result varied between 6 and 12 reps. Then I bought a weightlifting book. The diet advice in it restored slow but steady progress.

My most important new habit was recovery drink. It contains juice and whey protein, and is based on the following advice from my weightlifting book. I drink half of it before exercise and the other half after exercise.

Whether it is Gatorade or orange juice, active people have been fuelling their workouts with carbohydrates [my take: juice is just fine, I prefer it to gatorade since it contains unresearched good stuff]. Carbohydrate consumption before, during and after your workouts is very important as these carbohydrates will help blunt cortisol release, stimulate insulin release, and replenish your muscle glycogen stores so that your body is ready to go for its next training session.

While consuming carbohydrates is better than just drinking water, new sprots nutrition research consistently shows that adding a small amount of protein or amino acids (the molecules that make up protein) to your workout drink will make a huge difference in your progress. A recent study examined the effects of a carbohydrate workout drink vs. carbohydrates + amino acid drink over the course of a 12-week training period. At the end of 12 weeks, both groups lost approximately 4 pounds of body fat. However, the carbohydrates + amino acid group gained 5 pounds more muscle (for a total of more than 9 pounds) than the carbohydrate group.

Recovery drink also abolished reckless hunger which I used to suffer during and after training, so I could train longer while feeling better.

To sum up, the recovery drink was recommended by theory books, removed hunger and improved results. What more can you ask?

In addition, I take magnesium, zinc and fish oil. Fish oil, whey and maltodextrose are recommended in this Pakkotoisto thread as basic supplements, but in my case juice replaces maltodextrose. Magnesium and zinc are recommended in this thread about rising testosterone levels. Fish oil also contains lots of vitamin D, which is recommended by pretty much everyone nowadays.

Taking supplements is cheap and convenient, so the burden of proof is very light for taking them. The reason I don't take more of them is that some of them may have unresearched downsides as told in the previous post about vitamin C. It's a bit scary idea that one wrong kind of supplement can abolish the effects of endurance training.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Unintentional anti-ad

Today, I saw a foolish ad for a recovery drink. First it showed a banana. Then it said that banana is for apes, drink Gainomax instead after exercise. What's so foolish in it?

My magnesium container says "Ravintolisä ei korvaa monipuolista ruokavaliota." (Nutritional supplements are not a substitute for a versatile diet). This is true since only a fraction of effective compounds in foods have been researched, and new results are emerging even for age-old compounds like vitamin C. One study found that too much vitamin C abolishes endurance training effects, so it is not recommended to eat too much vitamin C if you want to make progress in athletic training. Here they say that although training causes oxidative stress, dulling it by antioxidants like vitamin C is no good. Fruits and vegetables are still healthy despite the fact that plain vitamin C is not that good, but nobody knows what makes fruit-C better than supplement-C.

There is absolutely no reason to believe that Gainomax is a substitute for fruits and vegetables like banana.

Besides, what's wrong with apes? An alpha male gorilla thumping it's chest is a known symbol of masculine strength. In more refined circles, "parkour ape" is a title of honor for those who demonstrate prowess in climbing, hanging and jumping.