Approaching another milestone

I’m sitting at my computer noshing on Kraft Macaroni & Cheese (white cheddar) mixed with toasted pecans, carrots, parmesan cheese, and a handful of spices. Why? Because that’s what my brain said would taste good… though if it had its way I think it would’ve added a half a cow, medium rare.

Today marks the last class before our next belt tests in Tang Soo Do, and being the idiot I am, I had a bowl of Cocoa Puffs, a Fiber One granola bar, and some trail mix before class. Not as in “right before class”, as in “that’s what I ate today”. Oh, and most of a half gallon of peppermint tea (unsweetened).

Needless to say, that was not sufficient foodstuffs to maintain brain function, let alone a full almost-two-hour workout and I am starving for sugar, meat, and fat.

I’ll be buying and making a much more wholesome meal for Wednesday.

Of course, I don’t know if my efforts will actually net me a promotion… I missed close to three months of class since I made orange belt last summer and I don’t even know if I qualify to test right now. It’s considered disrespectful to ask, so I won’t — plus, I owe it to my fellow orange belts to give it my all during the test so that we work together as one unit, and if I knew I wasn’t testing I might be tempted to slack off.

I have studying to do right now. There’s a written component and I feel woefully stale.

Non-stop, but rising to the challenge

Wow, I have been flat-out busy the last two days.

Yesterday, the conference session on Visual design for the web (check out the nifty podcast) I attended started at 8:30 and ran until 5:30 — with generous breaks to keep us all sane, but most of the break time was eaten by things like waiting in line to use the bathroom and waiting for the elevator.

(Quick elevator aside: I’m in a hotel with no less than 26 floors. I’m on floor 21. The conference is on floor 2. If you want to get on the elevator to go up, the easiest way is to go downstairs to the lobby via the escalator, and push the up button from there, because despite the volume of folks at the conference, it’s still easier to catch the elevator at the floor it almost always has to touch on a “down” trip. Once inside, we’ve been playing “elevator bingo” — we won earlier today by loading a full row (floors 5-6-7) on one trip. I’m hoping to see us win with a column sometime before we leave. As for catching the elevator going down, rule 1 is wait patiently for it to arrive, rule 2 is wait patiently some more, and rule 3 is once you’re on board you’ll be stopping on every floor, so wait patiently. Patience is a virtue I don’t have, so it’s been a challenge.)

The session was highly interactive and quite interesting, though, so it wasn’t a challenge to get through it. And I feel a lot better about the basics of visual design and the idea that I can have an intelligent conversation with a visual designer and not make quite as much of a fool of myself.

After the session, some of the guys I work with and I met some other PhillyCHI people that are also at the conference, and we went out to dinner at Cambridge Brewing Company. The food was good and the conversation was excellent. It was a relief that we didn’t spent the entire time talking about user experience, but instead spent most of our time on more pressing topics, like “Why hasn’t Anne ever been on a subway before this week?” and “How old do they potty train kids in Brazil?” and the weather in Chicago and how the Phillies were doing. I had a great glass of Riesling wine, some sweet and spicy wings, and a butternut squash soup that was just sublime.

The weather here has been crisp — definitely fall in the air — but not cold, so we’ve been able to walk back and forth to restaurants and the like without any issues. It’s been quite nice.

Anyway, got home to my ivory tower and turned on the Phillies game, and at the time we were winning 2-1, which was awesome. I talked to Nighthawk on the phone for a bit and then chatted with my sister online, and the Phillies were going downhill and more downhill, until the score was 5-3 and I was just waiting for a horrible loss. Not having the energy for it, I shut the TV off and instead did some desk work and fought to stay awake.

When I’d just about finished that, I decided to go to bed, but my curiosity about the game was killing me. I finally killed the cat and checked out the Phillies search feed on Twitter (which is filled with folks tweeting all throughout the games) and discovered that holy shit, the Phillies had tied the game. I turned on the extremely sexy flat-panel LG tv in my room just in time to watch Matt Stairs park one, putting the Phils ahead. Well, there was no sleeping after that until the game ended, that’s for sure.

I didn’t drag my sorry butt out of bed until almost 8:00 this morning and barely made the first of the 90-minute mini-sessions today, but once the day got started they were pretty damn awesome. And also flat-out. Watched a session, then a break, then another session, then a lunch with other information architects, then the keynote, then what was supposed to be an ice cream social, but my head said no. My sinuses said “hey, moron, we want water and pain drugs or you pay.” Two tylenol sinus, a bottle of water, and a power nap later, and I was back on my feet for the final session. By then it was 5:30, so we were done, right?

Wrong. After that, there was a really cool social down in the ballroom, where we ate totally excellent pasta and other foods (jerk fajitas, olive bar type doohicky, lots of little desserts, oh, and alcohol) and chatted with existing and new friends about what we’d learned and how everything was going. I had a great time and overate, of course, so when that finally broke up at 7:30 I was stuffed and feeling icky and exhausted.

I seriously considered hitting the pool but I’m not confident I have anything appropriate to wear over my suit and I’m 100% sure I don’t have the confidence to haul my fat ass through the halls and 17 floors down the stops-everywhere elevator in just the swimsuit. Plus, I was raised by a Coast Guard vet so I’ve got a natural aversion to swimming without a buddy because I’ve got the kind of luck that would make me the only person in the history of Information Architecture that drown to death at a conference.

But one of the great things I hadn’t really considered about Tang Soo Do when I first joined is that you can literally do it anywhere, so instead of swimming I cleared a spot in my room and did the basic stretches and kicks and punches that we do to open most classes. It was a little difficult to warm up without a kihap on the kicks (which I figured might freak out the other folks on the floor) but I pulled it off. Now I’m feeling a lot better, much less achy, and willing to sit down and be a geek for a little while.

So… my poor iBook laptop (the Dread Pirate Roberts) with its 933 MHz PowerPC chip and its 1.12 GB of RAM has been processing video and Dreamweaver downloads for me all evening and I think it’s about ready to throw itself out the window. I’m taking some down-time and reveling in it while I can, because it’s back to full speed tomorrow morning.

A few quick notes

Spent Friday working from home because Kaylee tried to choke herself on her leash that morning. At least, that’s our current guess… Vet said she could’ve also tried to swallow something weird, and considering that on a walk around our building she usually tries to eat or carry around no less than six things, I can’t say that idea would shock me much. The short-short story was that in the amount of time it took me to turn away to holler at Chance and then turn back she went from bouncy and bubbly and causing trouble to quiet and subdued and clearly in pain. She was also making a nasty nasty choking noise every few minutes, and my extremely vocal dog wasn’t even whining.

Anyway, within 36 hours she was totally back to normal, though we have moved both dogs to harnesses on walks instead of clipping their leashes directly to their collars just to keep that from reoccurring.

Saturday I took a well-deserved break to go out and visit my sister at LVC, and we decided to go to Hershey Park in the pouring rain. We got in free because some group in front of us had two extra tickets and they’d already paid for them so they just gave them to us, so I paid $10 to go ride roller coasters and flume rides with my awesome sister all day. Can’t beat that.

(OK, $10 plus the money to buy some sweats at Walmart so I didn’t have to drive 1.5 hours home in incredibly sopping wet clothes. The Tidal Force was one of the rides that was still open.)

Today was lots and lots of errands and chores, and a huuuuuge sinus headache. Plus, the Eagles pissed me off. But altogether I can’t complain.

Tomorrow (whoops, today, Monday) I test for orange belt so I’m really hoping my sinuses clear by then. And considering that I test for orange belt, I’m thinking I should go to bed. Now: sleep.


Today I broke two boards: one with a hammer punch (strike?) and the other with a side kick.

Earlier this week I learned how to twirl a bong (that’s a bo in Japanese and a staff for the rest of you) and I didn’t make a single Daffy Duck Robin Hood reference. Which shows I’m learning self-restraint as well.

I didn’t think I’d be tired tonight since most of class was breaking, but I’m exhausted anyway. Maybe it was the 15 minutes of cardio at the beginning. Or the fact that I’m up at 5:30 with the dogs.

Anyway, almost all of my side projects are on hold while I try to get a routine set with the dogs. Ironically, that includes posting pictures of the dogs. We’ll see what the weekend brings.

Ow ow ow.

Do bohk + sunburn + sparring = pain. I think I’ll be sure to lather up in sunscreen for the rest of my life.

Oh, wow, I ache.

Today, we moved back into the master bedroom we started remodeling over two years ago. I know it was over two years ago because I comicked about putting the floor in. Moving back in meant buying a new mattress, new sheets, new boxspring, drastic but fruitless attempts to buy lamps and drapes, and moving everything into the room, which turned out to be a much bigger task than expected and involved going up and down the stairs way too often.

Tomorrow I pray my feet don’t hurt nearly as much as they do right now because, well, I have martial arts and that would suck.

Tales of a 31-year-old white belt: 3 lbs of furious wattage

So things have been a little crazy the last few days or so….I have a major project due on Monday at work and it’s brought with it a lot of new challenges, particularly around project management. The root of the issue is that when you take a new businessperson and team them up with a new information architect (me), and a few other individuals who haven’t necessarily ever filled their exact roles before, and let them loose on a project with a vague scope, well, there’s a lot of cat-herding going on.

And I’m not afraid to say that I panic easily, am terrified of upper management as a general rule, and get obsessed with having pixel-perfect wireframes (yes, I know that’s a contradiction in terms). The end result is an all-nighter last Friday into Saturday (along with a few other assorted hours throughout the weekend) to get my wireframes done, crazy hours Monday, crazy hours again yesterday, and crazy hours today.

And OH MY GOD I’m exhausted.

The problem is I’m so exhausted I forget I’m exhausted. Case in point: I was smart enough to go home Monday after work instead of going to martial arts because I knew I couldn’t get through the calisthenics and I’d collapse. So that was smart.

What wasn’t so smart was not realizing that I wasn’t any better off yesterday.

Yesterday, I ate a healthy breakfast, ate a healthy lunch, and then spent four hours in an intense stress-filled situation cramming to finish a presentation that I then had to give to upper management (see point A about my feelings on management above). As soon as the presentation was over, I literally ran to my car (choking down a York peppermint patty on the way) to go to martial arts, which is in another building down the road.

At class, we did the usual warm-ups, then this cruel thing where you go from standing, to a squat, to kicking your feet behind you, do a pushup, back to the squat, then stand back up, then do it again. Ten of these. This was new exercise to me. My heart started pounding.

Then 50 jumping jacks. OK, I can swing that.

Then we went from standing into a squat, into a jump to tap our partners’ hands, back into a squat, like hyper frogs, for a total of 60 seconds. I think that’s probably when I started to lose my breath.

Then what I’ll call “laps” up and down the room – front kicks, then side kicks, then this cruel thing where you hop on one leg while kicking the other.

OK, look, I’m 175lbs on a good day and I’m 5 foot 3 when a generous nurse runs the scale. I’m built like a fire hydrant. Hopping on one foot sideways is freakin’ impossible to begin with, forget all the way up and down the room. Each lap I fell further and further behind the rest of the crowd, breathing harder and harder, heart feeling like it’s going to explode, which because I’m one bullheaded sunovabitch, just made me push myself harder. If all these other folks can do it, then the problem is I’m just not trying hard enough.

And I continued with that attitude until the edges of the room started to get kind of fuzzy and both Mr. and Mrs. Robinson made a point of saying “If anyone can’t handle this, you can bow out” while looking pointedly and directly at me.

Even I’m not dumb enough to ignore that particular mix of signals. Which is good, because by that point I was panting so hard that I couldn’t catch my breath at all. I think I might have been hyperventilating. Thank God I have a class of caring intelligent people — one of our highest ranking red belts came over and talked me through holding my breath just to slow my heart rate down so I could breathe again. And I got a good (positive, effective) talking to from both of my instructors, which I totally deserved for being so dumbass stupid and bullheaded.

But I couldn’t figure out what the hell happened. Yes, I’m out of shape. Yes, I shouldn’t try to keep up with people who have been practicing since 2005. Yes, I’d totally screwed my sleep schedule over the weekend and skipped not one but two workouts since the previous Wendesday. But I haven’t had a full breakdown of physical mechanics like that since college, when I discovered that not eating for an entire weekend is not conducive to crossing campus Monday morning.

And then tonight Nighthawk and I watched Human Body: Pushing the Limits, which we’d DVR’d, and something clicked. We were watching the episode on the human brain, which talked about the need for sleep, the need for cooling, and the need for energy. Turns out this three pound lump of grey matter between our ears uses on average 1/5th of our energy in a day. That’s right, the brain’s a giant energy sucker. And I ran it ragged for 4 hours.

Even though I’d eaten a good 1000 calories or so yesterday, the same amount I usually eat, and I’d had plenty of water, I’m now realizing that I’d burned through a lot more energy than I thought I had. (Keep in mind that if I eat more than 1550 calories in a day I gain weight. 1000 calories through lunch is actually *high* for my slow-ass metabolism.)

By the time I got to class, as my cousin would say, my stubbornness was writing checks my body couldn’t cash.

When I finally did catch my breath, by the way, I recovered enough to practice forms with the rest of the class with no further issues except for the blister I got on the bottom of my big toe. (Apparently they are not yet made of iron.) But I popped that nasty thing and it’s healing nicely, so I should be fine by Monday.

Monday — when I have to give two more presentations and hand over this project. Yeah, I’m thinking that had better be a 2000 calorie day.

In other news, I think I’m going to have all my ducks in a row without resorting to another all-work weekend by Monday, and then I might just get to revert back to a normal work schedule. As an added bonus, my brother and I are going to the Phillies game tomorrow, so life is really damn good. You know, if you ignore the screaming thighs, angry toe, and pure flat-out exhaustion.

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