Wednesday, March 21, 2012

70 hours

Open question for anyone who feels like they can contribute to the answer:  What can you do for exercise/staying healthy when you are physically and mentally exhausted?

Last week was my spring break. Nine days free from classes, homework, papers and all of it.  The amount of time I actually had to myself was...two days.  Two and a half, if you count the couple evenings. 
Part of that time was spent in the physics lab, working with some of the other students to make up some work and to try and use the time to get a bit ahead, starting the second half of the semester on the right foot.  That wasn't too tiring - just a lot of writing and rewiring and talking about Lissajous functions.  Out did tend to stretch on pretty late, though, so by the time I'd get home there was enough time to cook dinner, prep for the next day and get to bed.

The bulk of my time, however, was taken up by my job.  I worked right around 70 hours over the past 7 days, and that includes the two days this week that I snagged a couple hours before school, and the easy-ish 6-hour day I had last week before heading to the lab for the rest of the day.  Between Thursday and Saturday, I worked over 13 hours a day, not counting commuting time of about a half hour each way.  I'm on my feet for nearly all of that time, with my lunch break averaging about 20 minutes.  There's a lot of lifting barges and toting bales involved, too - and by that I mean hefting 50-lb batches of dough and crates of potatoes all over the place, not to mention rolling anywhere from 250 to 800 balls of dough by hand.  "Lift heavy things" is built into my job description.

Please note that this is not a sob story. This isn't a regular deal (the other baker is on vacation, so I'm picking up his hours) and I readily admit that I have a sweet job - good people, good pay, incredible food that I can buy for 75% off, and fresh beer that I can watch being made on a regular basis.  I also know there are people who do this kind of shit every week - like The Man, who figured recently that he does an average of 59 hours a week between two jobs, including 21-hour workdays about once a week (7am-3am.  freaking insane).

What I'm wondering here, and asking for advice about, is how I can recapture the badassery with this kind of schedule (note: now that the insane stretch is past, I'll get this weekend off and then I'm back to the norm of working about 30 hours a week and attending classes for another 24, not including study time).  Just working, as demanding as it can be, is simply not making me as fit as I was or would like to be - I've especially noticed how easily I get out of breath when going up stairs.  When I've got my work flow going on, I'll zip around hefting and toting and rolling and I'll sing opera while I'm doing it.  But once I'm off the clock, it seems like the most I can do just to sit up straight.  No, I'm not exaggerating.  I wish I was.  And when I do get time enough to go for a mile run, or do some shamefully low number of pushups or something, my body screams at me to stop.  All the pursuits of fitness that used to be my solace just plain don't feel good anymore.  When I have time to myself, all I want to do is curl up and sleep (and by sleep I mean watch Supernatural on Netflix).

It could be the stress.  It could be the time I don't have.  It probably has something to do with my diet.  I just know that training to be a badass does not make me feel happy anymore.  And I need to change that.  I'm just not sure how.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012


This is for my cat, Gracie.  She's totally gonna drink all of it.  From under a mini-cairn in the backyard.  Yep.

What's that?  You think I should make yoghurt, kefir and ricotta with this?  Or even drink it straight up so I can taste that pure, creamy sweetness that just doesn't exist in store-boughten milk??  You must be crazy.

Fortunately, so am I.



Monday, March 12, 2012 this right?

So that bag of Palahniuk-esque fat scraps I brought home the other day?  No longer scraps.  But I'm a little unsure of the outcome.

This is pure rendered beef fat (well, as pure as I could get it; note the floaters collected at the bottom despite the straining).  It's still translucent here, but that's only because it's still melted.  The reason for my uncertainty?  It's...yellow.  More than that, it's a medium-deep golden that, if this were chicken fat, I'd be very happy with.  But ALL of the sources I saw said that tallow should be pure white.  And it is most definitely not that.

Could be my method of extraction.  I cut it into small dice-sized chunks, thought about freezing and then putting through the food processor as Mark says to do, then left it in the freezer too long and decided to just throw it in the crockpot with some boiling water and see what happened.  It seemed to be taking a really long time, so I wanted to find a way to further break up the pieces so that they'd melt faster.  So...I fished out all the chunks and hit them with the stick blender.  It was pretty gross.  It looked like oatmeal but I knew it wasn't.  Thank me for sparing your eyes of that sight.

It could also be the fat I used.  There was definitely some good "Bible fat" in my batch (that's the stuff that's hard, like cold butter, and easily flakes into bits that look kind of like pages), but there was also a good amount (probably a larger one) of this floppy, squidgy stuff, like really fatty chicken skin.  It was all gleaned from brisket that the Kitchen Queen at my workplace was working on, so it was just whatever I could get from that.

Anyone made tallow before?  Anyone read about making tallow before?  Anyone still here after the talk of ground-up fatmeal?



EDIT: Apparently the color difference is (at least partly) because the cow was grassfed.  W00t!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

What I'm doing right now

I'll explain, I promise.  For now, just draw the mental picture of me walking down the street in downtown Durham at 7:30 this morning humming happily and carrying an enormous bag of bloody scraps.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Then and now

So today I spent an absolutely insane amount of time working on physics problems with my lab partner, John. John's a cool dude with a lot to say, so we get along pretty well despite the fact that he's a Republican (but a very good-natured one, if you can imagine such a thing!).  Amidst all the discussion on Kirchhoff's rules for circuits, the conversation drifted a bit, mostly so we wouldn't go insane.  One of the impetuses (not impeti, I looked it up) for a conversational tangent happened to be a girl with a shaved head who had just walked out of the room.  I told him "you know, my hair used to be nearly that short!" and he was all "um what, nuh-uh it wasn't!"  So of course I had to provide photographic evidence.  This was taken way back, about a year ago.

oh, R2-D2 phone.  how I miss you.

He saw this picture and did a double-take.  "Wow!  You weren't kidding, that's crazy short!"

"Yeah, the sides were buzzed but the top was long enough to spike up.  Man, I loved that cut..."

"You look like kind of a badass there!"

Fellas, take note.  If you know a lady who does lifting, parkour, rugby, martial arts or some other hobby or lifestyle that you find impressively hardcore, or if she just looks like a badass, tell her so!  It will win her heart, guaranteed.  Of course, the lion's share of my heart still belongs to The Man, but there's always room for people who think I'm a badass :)

Of course that made me perk right up.  I got to talk a little about my glory days last summer, lifting and hiking and swimming in the Eno and running barefoot and the not-then-totally-ridiculous idea of training to be a traceuse.  And then it was back to the Loop Rule and the Junction Rule and C=Q/V and all the various equations used to find power.  And TWO MORE HOURS ON A SINGLE PROBLEM.  Gah.

When I got back to the house, on a whim, I decided to take another picture in the same location and approximately the same pose, just for comparison's sake.  Here it is:

Here are the things I noticed, in order of the noticing:
1. My face and neck look thinner.
2. My hair is longer.
3. I'm paler.
4. I'm not smiling.
5.  The striped shirt lends a bit of a French air, but it's distinctly not the wicked cool nouveau homme des cavernes look.
6.  I am no longer a badass.

I just spent a long few minutes tugging on my hair and pondering all of this - the reasons why my badassery went out the window, the steps I can take to get it back, all the shit I still have to do that drains my time and my strength and my mental capacities.  The fact that my first thought was "Now I'm skinnier and therefore prettier!" despite the fact that my physical state is way, way below what it was and should be, regardless of what my neck looks like.  Other photos (not to be shared) reveal the fact that my abs do not match the trend of my face at ALL, anyways.

Right now I have to keep studying for a chemistry exam that I have tomorrow.  This post is mainly just to put a bug in my own ear about these ideas - what I had and was, what I lost, what I gained, what I can do now.  I'm going to have my first break from everything in a while early next week, so I'm hoping to get some pondering (and posting) done then. 

For now, what do you think?