February Challenge Fitness ladder update

Recall this February challenge I did the calisthenics Fitness Ladder.

I got up to Rung 4 and was on the cusp of Rung 5.  The sticking points are push-ups (my arms have gotten weak) and, oddly, running in place.  I keep getting lactic acid build-up.  DH tells me that as my circulation gets better the lactic acid build-up will gradually become less of a problem.  The fact that I have this as a problem makes me concerned about my lack of circulation!

My progress wasn’t as impressive as when I did the 7 min workout (for example, I can barely do 5 pushups, but I ended that challenge with 9).  I don’t know if that’s because I’m 4 years older and in worse shape, or if it’s just not as intense a workout.  However, I did not hate this workout.  I kind of like it (except the lactic acid part), and DC2 and DH are also into it.

Of course, on March 1st when the challenge was over, I was like, I don’t *really* need to do this, so I didn’t.  And March 2nd I completely forgot until after I’d showered and was already in bed.  If it had been February I’d have gotten out of bed and done it, as happened a few times, but since the challenge was over I felt I didn’t need to.  I have no willpower.  March 3rd I decided to do it in the morning.  I kind of felt like doing sit-ups which is the first time I can say that in 4 decades, give or take.

I think the big thing for me if I want to keep up with this is to have some sort of regular time and reminder for me to actually do it.  Mornings would make sense except that I am barely making it to my 8am classes this semester.  There’s just too much packed in the mornings already (and I don’t shower in the morning like DH does, so if I get to the point of sweating stinkily I’ll have to add a second shower to the day).  Right before bedtime is what I’d been doing because that’s when I would remember, but now that there’s no challenge going on, that’s not a great idea because I have no willpower before bed.  Though I suppose it could be fit in before the shower in theory.  I also don’t know if I have willpower to do it right after work– usually at that point in time I’m trying to get dinner ready.

I’m still doing a walk every day at work– generally sometime between 10:30am and 1:30pm.  That happens because I have a motivated colleague who also needs an exercise and gossip/work break in the middle of the day.  It’s also a good vit D pick-up for me since I’ve given up on trying to stagger my pills (I generally forgot the second one and it would take a couple hours to realize why I’d been so tired) and just take both of them after I brush my teeth in the morning.

It may be that I need to set a timer for calisthenics for sometime in the evening.  It helps if DH is doing it at the same time too.  I don’t know if he’ll be going back to doing it in the morning though.  I also think I should add some stretches because the ones in the workout are kind of silly… or at least seem silly to me because they’re not stretching the muscles that my American education has taught me should be stretched.

For any of the self-care things I need to do every day, showering, teeth brushing, etc. it’s important that I have a regular process for each– finishing showering means it’s time for teeth, and so on.  For things I really don’t want to do, it’s extremely helpful to have someone else there to nudge it along.  Though I can’t use another person as a crutch or excuse– I just need to be grateful for being included.

How do you get yourself to do self-care things regularly? 


What is culture for?

I am extremely cultured.  I know history and philosophy and I’ve read most of the classics (and can fake many of the ones I haven’t read).  I enjoy opera and theater (but not ballet or symphony, though my sister loves ballet) and old movies and classical music.  I can swim and play the piano and embroider and cook (though I was never able to get over my complete lack of artistic talent when it comes to drawing or painting or my complete boredom with ballet lessons).  #2 and I can trade Gilbert and Sullivan or PG Wodehouse jokes with ease.  I know which silverware to use at a fancy restaurant (pro-tip:  start with the outermost) and how to pretend I know what I’m talking about with wine.  Sadly I only speak two languages (English and Spanish), but I know enough French and Italian to get around as a tourist or to get most literary references without Google translate (ditto Latin).

I used to think that I had all this culture because my parents were sharing what they enjoyed, and culture was something to make it easier for me to entertain myself.  (And part of this is true– my father is a European immigrant who grew up in a fancy US coastal city, so his love of operetta patter songs is as real as his love for Jacques Brel or the Beatles.)

But a couple years ago I was rereading Penrod, by Booth Tarkington (free on Kindle).  In addition to being shocked by the casual racism and animal cruelty that I did not remember from my initial childhood reading (from my mother’s childhood hard copies), I was struck by a passage.  Penrod, who is established as having been from a middle- to lower-middle- class family, takes ballroom dancing and etiquette lessons.  A public school kid, this is the only time he rubs shoulders with the private school children of the town elite.  His mother wants to social climb.  His parents, I realized, are trying to help him advance.

Recent readers of the blog may also be aware of my current turn to regency romances.  In regencies (and in steampunk), women have “accomplishments”– somewhat useless entertainment skills such as embroidery or harp or watercolors that are class markers.  Wealthy tradespeople could send their daughters to finishing school so as to marry up into the aristocracy without embarrassing their impoverished future sons-in-law.

One of my mother’s refrains has always been, “to make you a more cultured person.”  And “to give you opportunities I didn’t have.”

I suspect that many of these skills and much of this knowledge that was poured into me may have been for the same reason we were pushed into math and science.  To improve our lot in life with the next generation.

But… Penrod was written in the 1910s.  By the time he was an adult, the parlor manners he resisted being taught along with the formal dancing would be archaic.  In Regency novels, the landed aristocracy of the early 19th century would be replaced with the age of industry and business would supplant tenant farming.  Eventually, stenography would be a more important skill for young ladies than the harp.

I always thought, growing up, that once I got to college I would meet people who were passionate about opera and history and so on.  (Note, this is one of the reasons that #2 and I hit it off right away in high school.)  But even though I went to a top small liberal arts college, that was not the case.  I would even occasionally have to explain literary references to professors in college and graduate school.  I did spread my various loves to my friends (especially those with cars!) and in return picked up passions for anime and Asian food.  High school also provided me with nerd culture in abundance adding, for example, the entire Monty Python library to my repertoire.

As an upper-middle class citizen approaching middle-age, I haven’t found my elitist skills to be particularly useful.  They still provide me joy, but to be honest, they are not shared by many people.  I don’t have much outlet for them away from the city.  When I am in a city partaking, I’m surrounded by professionally coiffed white hair.  These elite class markers are markers of a previous generation.

Times change.  Social class markers vary.  The approaching-middle-age elite who we rub shoulders with today are also first generation wealthy and formerly from the midwest.  They are not from East coast old money.  And so, my esoteric knowledge that my mother worked so hard to provide me with, those classics I was forced to read to “be a more cultured person,” were not as useful as the love of math and ambition that she also fostered.  In fact, I’m a bit out of place with them– elitist in many eyes.

But fortunately, even when it is lonely, cultural knowledge still provides personal entertainment.  It still makes jokes more funny and deepens appreciation of even modern media (since people in the film industry who direct and design are remarkably cultured themselves).  So maybe that itself is enough in this ever-changing world.

Getting it Together

So my partner and I are trying to be grownups now (sort of…) since we’re pushing 40 years old.  We decided to work on our health together.

We want to eat healthier.  For me, that means less pasta and more vegetables.  I’m not a vegetarian but my partner is.  We decided to try cooking healthier at home with the aid of Purple Carrot (because we have money).  We’ll let you know how it goes.  We both have doubts but we’re willing to try it.  Other meal prep/delivery services like Blue Apron seemed to have much worse options for vegetarians.

Here’s what we resolved.

He will pay for most of the food and be in charge of cooking it twice per week.  I will make sure we get the food box from the apartment complex’s leasing office (where it will be delivered if we’re not home) before the office closes on delivery day, and be in charge of cooking it once per week.  We will both help cook on all 3 days per week — currently scheduled for Wed, Fri, Sun.  The email comes to me so I can choose if we want to skip a week or pause.

The long weekend of July 4, we will clean the kitchen together so we can start cooking that week.

Also, we might exercise more.  He commits to working out before work 3 days per week, in our apartment building’s fitness room.  I can’t do early mornings probably, but I am considering (at his suggestion) starting with a 30-minute walk 3 times per week while listening to a podcast.

Also I need to look into getting our couch restuffed so it has more back support.

We’re old, Grumpeteers, but we’re working together.  Wish us luck!

Have you done any life-improvement projects with your partner?  how did they turn out?

Where do I get my research ideas?

This year I have been giving an awful lot of talks.  Along with these talks, I’ve been meeting with a lot of graduate grad students during my visit.  A  common question I get when I meet with a group of students (you know, the ones with free time) is how I get my research ideas.  This usually comes from students who are floundering without a dissertation topic.  I thought I’d write up my answer.

  1. First, I get ideas from my contrarian nature.  Perhaps it’s my math training, but I am always looking for a counter-example, I am always questioning statements taken to be true.  My own job market paper topic, in fact, was a reaction from a statement one of my professors had made in a second-year class that struck me as possibly not true and when I looked into it, I found very little research on the topic.  I figured out how to test it better than the one or two previous papers, and voila, an amazing paper.
  2. Another place to get ideas that haven’t been worked on over and over is to think about your own unique experiences.  This can be something as broad as thinking about your own female perspective on sexist things that your male-dominated field takes for granted (ex. all the new research coming out showing that women aren’t irrational, they’re just working under different constraints) or as specific as a public program that not many people know about but you know lots about because your grandfather was on it.  You have lots of unique things that you bring to your discipline.  Think about what they are.  Think about who you know.  Look at the broader world around you and question it.
  3. It is ok to start out feeling like you keep coming up with ideas that have already been done– when I started out, it seemed like when I started the lit review I’d find that the exact paper I wanted to write had been written 10 years ago.  But my next idea had been published 3 years ago.  And the one after that, maybe just out.  Eventually I started coming up with ideas that were working papers.  And then new papers.  You may also find yourself in the situation where you’re half done with a paper and it seems like you’ve just been scooped– but you haven’t been really– it is unlikely your paper is identical to this other one and if it is, you can still change things, pursue different directions, answer some things better, etc. to differentiate it.  You want to be working in a hot field because it means your question is important.  See if you can create conference panels with this other paper.
  4. It gets a lot easier once you’ve gotten immersed.  After you’ve started a project, you start realizing there are huge gaps in the literature– things you really need to know now in order to fully answer your question but that are themselves their own projects.  You’ll also come up with new questions that your project has provided you… if this is true, then why this other thing?
  5. If you don’t do a perfect job, that means future people will fill in the gaps in your literature later!  It’s kind of exciting seeing people do a better job than you did because they are taking your paper as a starting point.  You know, so long as they cite you.

Where do you get your ideas?  What advice would you give current graduate students looking for inspiration?

Part 4 of writing series: Hope

This part’s about treating writer’s block and being more productive.

Here are the other parts of the series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

What follows is a series of chunks from a paper I wrote for a class.  If you’re my boss or co-worker (or mom), please don’t tell anybody my secret identity  :-) 

The paper is about a topic near and dear to us here on this blog: how to be a more productive writer.  These sections are mostly unedited, but some parts have been snipped out for snappier reading (hahaha!).

Text behind the cut, for lengthiness.  (snerk.)

Read the rest of this entry »

Part 2 of Writing Productivity: Quick starters

Part 1 is herePart 3 is herePart 4.

What follows is a series of chunks from a paper I wrote for a class.  If you’re my boss or co-worker (or mom), please don’t tell anybody my secret identity  :-)

The paper is about a topic near and dear to us here on this blog: how to be a more productive writer.

These sections are mostly unedited [they could use it but this is a blog post], but some parts have been snipped out for snappier reading (hahaha!).

In part 1 I talked about what ‘writer’s block’ might be.  In part 2, I discuss its opposite.  It’s behind the cut (for length).

Read the rest of this entry »

Part 1 of a series: Writing productivity

Hey, a series!  Wow, it’s gonna be terrific.  Starring everybody, and me!

Part 2Part 3.

What follows is a series of chunks from a paper I wrote for a thing.  If you’re my boss or co-worker (or mom), please don’t tell anybody my secret identity  :-)

The paper is about a topic near and dear to us here on this blog: how to be a more productive writer.  Stay tuned for lit review extravaganza.

These sections are mostly unedited, but some parts have been snipped out for snappier reading (hahaha!).

Because these are so long, they’re behind a cut.

Read the rest of this entry »