Archive for December, 2013

It’s been a good week, in fact I’d even go as far as to say a really good week.

Plus points – Made the gym three times this week, which is pretty good for the time of year. Xmas was really good, everyone enjoyed themselves and presents were well recieived by all. Weight has stayed the same over the week which again for the time of year is pretty good. Overall diet has been pretty good, whilst allowing for some festive excesses. Started planning ahead for 2014.

Negatives –  Not managed much reading. Nothing really apart from that.

Neutrals – Work a bit bland mainly due to the festive season.

Gym wise I managed two upper body workouts and one lower body. Definitely felt it the day after each. Getting back into the swing of things and my mood is more positive as a result.

High point had to be managing 120 kg on the deadlift (my highest yet)without struggling too much and felt technique was still OK.

 

Reflections on 2013

Posted: December 28, 2013 in General, Motivation, Musings

With 2014 almost upon us, it’s time to take stock of 2013. 2013 is coming to an end and its time to have a look back and see what has gone well this year. Overall its been a fairly good year. A quick look at how it went.

Positives:

  • Had a superb holiday to Mexico, two weeks of absolute bliss.
  • Relationship has been great, we are growing in the same direction.
  • Fitness level and physique have improved. Gym attendance this year has been up on last year. I can now do proper dips.
  • I’ve become far more knowledgable about fitness and nutrition.
  • Elder daughter became a doctor of chemistry and left University for a full-time job and that seems to be working out really well for her.
  • I’d wanted to replace a lot of my old XL clothing and replace them with better, smaller sized and more flattering garments. Managed that and then some.
  • I now have slim-fit shirts!
  • I’ve had a good year performance wise at work.
  • Got the kitchen redone.
  • Discovered Sons of Anarchy.
  • Bought a new TV. 50″ of hi-res awesomeness
  • Quit playing World of Warcraft

Negatives:

  • My mood often focussed on the negatives rather than the positives. Too much of the glass being half empty.
  • Socially I feel we are becoming more reclusive than ever. I don’t seek out new people to interact with. Or even stay in touch with existing contacts as much as I should.
  • The prevailing attitude at work of profit over all and the focus on cost cutting has been depressing.
  • Spent too many hours just killing time. Spider solitaire and the likes when I could be doing something more interesting.
  • Been a bit too indulgent with money buying fripperies. It has not caused any problems but has resulted in missed opportunities.
  • The plan of finding new recipes to try sort of fizzled out.
  • Haven’t read enough. And not found much in the way of new authors.
  • Started 2013 reading up on business books which helped me pick up new skills and alternative processes but I let that slip as the year went on.
  • Didn’t get round to replacing the PC
  • Haven’t found much in the way of new music to listen to.

Looking over the above it feels as if not only are there more positives than negatives, but also the positives are more significant too. As the year draws to a close I feel pretty good about 2013. As I go into 2014 I don’t need to worry about some of the things I wanted for 2013 (e.g. replacing my clothes to the same extent as I did in 2013) and having done my homework on fitness and diet, 2014 should be about keeping up what I did in 2013 as opposed to having to fundamentally change anything.

My relationship with the fair one continues to go in all the right directions and definitely moving together rather than apart. While we getting are older we both feel pretty good about it and I’d even be as bold enough to say look pretty good for it too. For 2014 it’s about continuing the same and if all goes to plan we can be looking back in twelve months time thinking that 2014 went as well for us as 2013.

The challenge for 2014 will be to remain more positive. Sometimes I get bogged down in the negatives and its only when looking over the successes and reminding myself of them that I realise that things are actually pretty good.

Xmas Day for the Mid Life Male

Posted: December 26, 2013 in General, Musings

I remember when young that Xmas was very different to our Xmas now. It was about a house full of relatives that were complained about as soon as they left. Bickering with different family members, and some quite incredible arguments about cooking (the perils of a grandmother who would tell my chef father how to cook dinner). Everything stopped at 3.oo to watch the Queen’s Speech. Elderly Aunts would drink a single glass of Advocaat (does anyone still drink this foul concoction?) and then insist they needed to go and lie down. Someone would always remind us ‘how lucky we were’ etc. We’d gather to watch the worst possible crap on TV that offended no one but entertained even fewer. When the relatives all finally left, my parents would sit down exclaiming “Thank God its over for another year.” It always felt a duty at best, an ordeal at worst. We invited people we didn’t want to see. We would complain how awful they were.  We’d do things we didn’t want to. And then do it all again the next year. I’m reminded of the adage that Insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly but expecting different results. It was doing the ‘right’ thing at Xmas, sanity not so much. I vowed when older there is no way I would inflict such things on my loved ones.

For me and mine Xmas should be about having a fun time. It doesn’t have to be a lavish affair, but we make the effort to ensue that everyone enjoys themself. Firstly, we ban everyone else that might be contentious. No old grumpy relatives allowed. The ‘kids’ can stay as long or as short as they want. We exchange presents and we eat together, other than that they can do what they want. Now that they have boyfriends we accept we just aren’t the most interesting offer.

Gone are the days of being woken early on the day to the sounds of excited small children calling us down to see what Santa Claus has left them. Instead they just want left in bed until they rise naturally which if it involved being out the previous night can be pretty late.

The presents are fewer as being adults they would rather have cash or just as good – a bank transfer. No matter how I look at it, shoving cash into someone’s bank account just doesn’t feel Xmasy at all. I get the practicalities, but it’s just somehow a bit meh. But hey ho, it’s what they want and I don’t see any point in giving them one thing when another would be preferred.  So it’s a few small things to open on the day and then they have the fun of planning the expenditure of whatever they have got in the way of readies.

What is good is a chance to spoil my better half. It’s always a challenge. She’s pretty easy to find presents for but finding something that would surprise her is a lot harder. Wouldn’t be so bad if we had a few thousand £££s to spend but with an agreed budget of a couple of hundred instead it’s that much harder. I do however take out the annual life assurance policy that involves buying chocolate. I was told early into our relationship that the ‘True’ meaning of Xmas involved chocolate. It was said with that pleasant tone and the sweet smile, but the eyes were granite hard. Yep, OK I’ve registered that one.

So Xmas has gone full circle for us. It’s not about the kids any more and instead its about the adults. Presents exchanged and the imagination is more important than the monetary value. That said the focus is on buying things which the recipient wouldn’t normally buy themselves. Buying my loved one a new vacuum cleaner would deservedly result in me being beaten to a bloody pulp with it. Nice food (usually turkey), washed down with a couple of drinks and the chance to sit back and spend some time together without working interfering for a couple of days. Now, that is Xmas bliss.

In the evening we usually sit down to watch a movie. I can’t imagine action movies are everyone’s idea of Xmas, but they sure work for us.

We try not to overdo it too much so we can make the gym on Boxing day. Always a quiet day at the gym that one. We also have the usual routine of finding new recipes for leftover turkey. Turkey curry – yes please. Turkey quesadillas, bring that on. And of course turkey sandwiches.

If some one wants to accuse me of being selfish on Xmas then I couldn’t care less. We have a day to enjoy ourselves, which we do and I don’t feel remotely guilty about it. We’ve also never had a Xmas together where at the end of it we have said “Thank <insert diety here> that’s over.”

So the advice of the Mid Life Male is to be a bit more selfish this Xmas and remember who your priorities really are.

Merry Xmas people!

PS Posted a day late.

Christmas – What’s in a name?

Posted: December 25, 2013 in General

Firstly, lets look at the title. Yes, it’s about Christmas, but being an atheist I tend to call it Xmas, that and its less to type. I have no interest in religion having any place at the festive table chez Mid-Life Male. If someone wants to preach in their own home then that’s up to them, but I reserve the right not to have to listen to it in mine.

I saw this post with loads of comments arguing about the merit of ‘Merry Christmas’ v’s ‘Happy Holidays’. To be fair I’d never heard anyone wishing someone ‘Happy Holidays’ at this time of year or possibly just hadn’t noticed. I’ve always just said ‘Merry Xmas’, but wishing someone a good time is fine by me no matter what words are used. After seeing that post I did notice that Tim Cook of Apple used the ‘Happy Holidays’ comment in his recent annual message to Apple employees. I wouldn’t have given it a thought prior to reading the afore-mentioned post. Sheesh, people do get worked up about this sort of thing.

To any poor Christians out there frothing at the mouth at this usurping of tradition I can only say ‘get over it’. Really, is that all you have to worry about? I feel the intention of wishing people well trumps the actual words used every time. I can’t help but think anyone citing ‘tradition’ as a reason to maintain the status quo needs to remember other well established traditions like slavery and burning witches. Just because its something that has been carried out for some time is not a reason to avoid changing it for the better when the better is now available. The word ‘progress’ does spring to mind. It should be embraced not feared.

Celebrating at this time of year predates Christianity by a long way, it’s the winter solstice celebration of the pagans. Carried out for many years prior to the Christians getting involved. They just had the best PR machine – and some would say the biggest sticks. There is no monopoly for a religion on a date. Celebrate what you like but cut the rest of us some slack too. I just enjoy the time with my family and relaxing without worrying about what anyone else is saying. I suggest everyone else does the same.

Merry Xmas.

I’d read the biography of Steve Jobs a while ago and I had been meaning to read the book about the ‘other guy’ behind Apple for some time. It’s safe to say Jobs gets most of the headlines when it comes to information about Apple, but Wozniak’s contribution was every bit as important, so I started this book with high hopes. I even read it on my iPad.

iWoz-313387

The book started with the usual biography stuff, early family details, school etc. From there it was into college life, how he met Jobs, the formation of Apple and the launch of Apple up to the initial IPO.Thereafter it was about what Steve or ‘Woz’ as he seems tobe known did next. The first ever universal remote control and Rock concerts that lost a lot of money.

Overall I  was disappointed with the book. Whereas Jobs biography was written by Walter Isaacson and was done in a compelling style taking the reader seamlessly through Jobs life, this read like a bunch of episodes loosely linked together. I found the writing rather bland and far from gripping.  Which considering Wozniak’s part in the Apple story, was almost surreal. There was a real story to be told here, but this book just didn’t do it.

For anyone who doesn’t know, Jobs was the moneyman, the frontman  and driving force through marketing that made Apple great. Or at least made it a phenomena – Wozniak was the engineer who designed the Apple Mac and who’s goal to produce a low-cost computer that everyone could use was years ahead of the competition.  Without his engineering prowess Apple would never have designed the items that sold so well.

The book uses lots of engineering terms which are nicely explained and it comes across quite clearly that Wozniak loves engineering, but does little to make these things as interesting as they could have been.

Wozniak, from the book, had little interest in money and would have been happy to have all but given away the design breakthroughs which made Apple rich. The feeling I got from reading was there must have been some wild ‘discussions’ with Jobs about how the company should do things and these are hinted at but we get little detail. When Wozniak left Apple, he complains about what the press said and how they got it wrong. He doesn’t really go into detail as to why he did leave, ‘I just felt it was time to move on’ seems very lame. Why Woz? Why did you feel it was time to move on, what had changed, what did you try to do about it? All unanswered, barely mentioned.

I got the feeling the book went out of its way not to upset anyone and this robbed it of a lot of its potential. I wasn’t expecting scandalmongering but I was expecting a little more than ‘nice’.  There is also a bit of an ego to Wozniak, he talks at some length about doing things which lost large sums of money. But it was all worth while for the pleasure it brought people. I can accept that up to a point but this feels laboured. Especially when any form of Jobs/Wozniak confrontation is either glossed over or missed out altogether it just doesn’t sit right. Instead any failures financially after he left Apple are put across as not being about the money anyway, it reads a bit like he’s ‘beyond money’ and it’s almost a charitable event instead. Yet it doesn’t ring true. He didn’t stage concerts to make money, that’s true, but did he stage them to lose millions either. Yet rather than deem them failures he puts across that they were success because it wasn’t about the money anyway. To me its justification for the failure (to make money/break even) is ‘oh well it wasn’t about that anyway’.

So what do we end up with:

Steve Wozniak

  • A nice guy. Check
  • More generous than Steve Jobs. Check
  • A brilliant engineer. Check.
  • Tells a compelling story. Nope

The biggest disappointment in all this for me was I couldn’t help but thinking a more honest story with less whitewash would have been a compelling story from start to finish. I think ‘I Woz’ was a bit of a missed opportunity. At the end of the book he says it took him this long to tell his side of the story as he wanted the facts put across accurately. I think instead we got some of the story of Wozniak and the other bits with a better writer would have been downright fascinating.

Score 6/10.

I’m a fairly judgemental person. Debating the pro’s and con’s of this is for another time, so meantime just accept that it’s what I do. This includes looking at myself and how I have performed this week. I’m not sure about being my own harshest critic, but I’m pretty sure I’m near the top of the list.

Plus points – started blog, finished reading ‘I Woz’, no major hassles at work, planning my goals for 2014 well underway, Xmas everything in place, still loving the new TV.

Negatives – Only made gym once, ate too much rubbish, spent the whole week feeling tired and general performance was affected throughout because of it.

Neutrals – Weight dropped at start of the week, but went back to the starting point as of this morning. Still OK at 79kg.

Definitely not the most active week I’ve had. Only made the gym once for an upper body workout and I could feel I was out of practise. Only takes a week for the rot to set in.

Medicine ball press ups – managed but no chance of me using the step today

TRX pull ups – managed, happy with those

Landmine Press – Heavy bar wasn’t available so had to make do with the light one and therefore managed easily

DB 3 Point Row – Managed 2 sets with the 20kg but had to drop to 18kg for the last set and even then only managed 10 instead of 12 reps

Standing BD curl – Managed 3 sets but had to drop from 10 kg to 8 kg for all three sets

Dips – 3 sets of 10 as opposed 3 sets of 12 and from was rough by end of each set.

Need to be doing this more often.

Warm up – 8 mins Cross trainer

Upper body workout:

  • Medicine Ball press ups (3 sets 12) raise feet on step for extra challenge
  • TRX pull up (3 sets 12) single leg
  • Landmine Press (3 sets 12 @ 7.5kg)
  • DB 3 Point Row (3 sets 12 @20 kg) Aim for sets of 20/24/20 kg
  • Standing DB Curl (3 sets 12 @ 2 x 10kg) Hammer Grip
  • Dips (3 sets 12)

 

Lower body workout:

  • Deadlift (3-5 sets @ 95 – 110 kg) vary the sets and load per day
  • Reverse Lunge Cable Row (3-4 sets 12 @20kg) or KB Reverse Lunge (3-4 sets 8-10 per leg@ 2 x 16 kg)
  • KB Front Squat (3-4 sets 12 @ 2 x 20kg)
  • TRX Bodysaw (3 sets 15)
  • Standing band press (3 sets 10 per side)

Being 47 years of age it was quite straightforward to wake up one morning and think ‘I’m going to write a blog about my version of middle age’. OK, not really. For some time I’ve liked the idea of blogging. A couple of attempts include a World of Warcraft site and a site about trying to get fitter. I lost interest in WoW and my views on fitness changed a lot over the months I wrote about fitness and I ended up being miles away from what I originally thought so I called it quits on those.

As anyone reading this will already have worked out I have very limited skills as a writer and I certainly have enough in my life already to stop it ever becoming anything more than a pastime. I have been looking around for sites about middle age for guys and found little I could relate to. Most seemed to be from a female perspective. The few male ones I did find were about people with far different outlooks to me and the rest were offering to sell me ‘help’ getting through it. But here’s the thing, I’m pretty happy where I am. Sure life can always be better, but I’m looking to enrich my life not lament over times gone by. Could I find any sites like that – not a single one. Hell, I’ll write my own. Who knows, perhaps some one else may be interested in it, kindred spirit perhaps? I can’t be the only guy out there that thinks yeah I’m in my 40’s and pretty cool with it.

I have some experience of this mid-life thing. So I think I have all the qualifications necessary on that score. Next, just writing and laying my thoughts out in this way is a chance to reflect and decide what I want to focus on and what the next goals should be. It should keep me mentally active too. Keep moving or stagnate, and that’s not just a physical thing, it applies mentally too.

Why now? We’re coming to the end of 2013 and I always end the year thinking about how its gone, what’s worked out well and what could have gone better. I also start thinking about the coming year, what do I want to do and one of things that is high up the list is coming up with a reasonable blog. Definition of ‘reasonable’ in my book is something I am happy with, even if no one else notices it as long as I’m happy with it that will do me just fine.

I’m also starting to find technology more daunting than in the past. I think that’s inevitable. I can remember my parents trying to program the VCR (yeah kids, go Google VCR or look in your local museum) with stark terror in their eyes. I’m not quite at that point (yet, gulp!) but writing a blog will give me chance to play around with software I’m not too familiar with and hopefully get better with.

So going into a new year with some new goals seems a good time to start. Crisis, what crisis?