Constructed Memory

The reason I don’t remember much about going to Thermopylae is because we never went. I am combining my dad’s blogs and just got to the Greece entries. He wrote specifically that we would NOT go to Thermopylae. I guess I just remembered the name.

Dad was always giving me books and sometimes I would even read them! One that made a big impression on me was “The Invisible Gorilla: How Our Intuitions Deceive Us.” The title is from an experiment; the book is about “the myriad ways that our intuitions can deceive us… why we succumb to these everyday illusions and what we can do to inoculate ourselves against their effects.”

If I was mad about a perceived slight, my dad would basically tell me why I was wrong. This was very annoying–I felt he was “denying my lived experience,” to use the current vernacular–but I’m grateful for the lesson. Once I realized my brain is telling itself stories 24/7, and that I have some power to affect those stories, I felt less victimized by circumstance.

It also helps me be more compassionate towards others because I understand they are telling stories too. To very loosely paraphrase Marcus Aurelius: everyday you’re gonna have to deal with jerks, but they’re only jerks because they don’t know any better, and at the end of the day we are all bros who need to work together so try to be chill. I’m not saying I’ve mastered these concepts myself. But WHEN, not if, I fail, I always resolve to try again. I think that’s a useful lesson.

He was really big on bias in perception, memory, etc. He often advised people to write down their predictions just so they could see how wrong they were later. I’m generally not in the business of making predictions but if I do I try to write it down. The problem is I always scribble it somewhere random and forget to follow up. So, that needs work. 😬

I seriously considered not mentioning this at all so nobody would know I was wrong but the fact that I created a convenient new memory for myself based on bits of information floating around in my brain was exactly the sort of thing he liked to talk about. So, I confess! 😄

Hey, nice marmot.

Dad took me with him to see The Big Lebowski in theatres. I would have been 13, too young to really understand it. I remember sitting there kind of bored while Dad was next to me laughing so hard he could barely breathe. He especially liked the ferret in the bathtub scene. It was one of his favorite movies.

When we talked about the cremation, Espen and I both independently joked about putting the ashes in a coffee can (we tried NOT to spread any ashes against the wind, though). I did keep some ashes for myself– Folgers no longer makes metal cans so I got the cheapest can on the shelf.Today I was looking through more of the Doomsday Book and Dad specifically wrote “it might be a funny joke to bring in a coffee can like in Big Lebowski.”

I know this is a little tacky and ultimately I think I’ll spread the ashes in the yard up here–maybe to help out some pollinator plants–but for now it makes me smile, and it really ties the room together.

Visiting Rio

When we went to Rio, Dad remembered our room number 1821 because that was the year the Texas constitution was signed. He told me to “remember the Alamo,” but then corrected himself because that wasn’t until 1836 so don’t go to room 1836. Later on, completely out of the blue, he said he was wrong and that the Texas constitution wasn’t signed until 1824, and I never would have found our room. You know, because obviously I would have thought to myself “well indeed the Texas constitution was signed in 1824 BUT THIS ISN’T OUR ROOM?? NOW WHAT??” (the only reason I know the dates for this story is because I Facebooked it at the time)

Historically I’ve had a bad habit of being a little jaded (interestingly, I’m getting LESS jaded as I get older; as it turns out, finding things interesting is more of an attitude) but even I thought Christ the Redeemer was pretty amazing. I may or may not have even said “wow” out loud. It was also really fun to watch other people taking their photos, striking the pose. I wanted to take a high-five picture instead and as you can see it didn’t work at all, but Dad still lay down on the ground to try and get it for me.

He was very proud of his Marriott platinum status which got us access to the concierge lounge. We drank many complimentary caipirinhas. He had also recently learned about “over medium” eggs and asked the chef to prepare his eggs that way. I was like, Dad, this guy barely speaks English and WE didn’t even know “over medium” existed until like a month ago, how you gonna ask him for that?! Probably the eggs were over easy but he didn’t fuss about it.

This trip was in November so he got Duff beer from the commissary so we could celebrate Thanksgiving in the American way.

Bonus story not related to Dad but it makes me laugh: He did have to work on this trip and when he was gone I just hung around the hotel (I was told NOT to leave the cabana area–I think he was worried I would get Fast and Furioused). I was sitting at the hotel bar reading (and drinking a caipirinha) and there was a group of American dudes there, I think they were some sort of sportsball team. The bartender’s name was Roberto, which I know because the group was getting a little rowdy and started going on about “MY MAN, ROBERTOOOO.” Roberto had this look on his face like, yeah these guys are annoying, but I’m about to make sooo much money in tips. I Facebooked about this at the time, too! Here’s a quote: “What’s your name? Roberto? In English that’s Robert. Robert, that’s my shit! We’re tippin’ American to let them know what’s up! “

Visiting Greece

My dad studied Classics in college and for bedtime stories he told us sanitized Greek myths. I have three Athena statues in my office right now. One I actually got in Athens; the other two my dad just randomly sent to me. (He liked to send stuff. One time I opened the door and found five pounds of Smarties candies on my stoop with no note 👽)

Espen and I met Dad in Athens. He kept trying to talk to everybody in classical Greek, which I imagine would be like somebody speaking English to me like a medieval lord. Like, I mostly understand you, but what’s wrong with you?I had food poisoning & threw up right in the middle of the street while we were downtown. Dad purchased a donut that came in a paper sleeve, which he gave me to throw up into. I’m pretty sure he just wanted a donut and as a coincidence he thought I could use the sleeve. Needless to say, a flimsy paper sleeve was not sufficient to contain my next barf on the hotel shuttle. Dad tried to tell the driver what had happened by miming throwing up and going “blahh, blahh.” I guess he didn’t know classical Greek for “barf.” The guy seemed to understand.

For our hotel stay my dad had purchased Coke, Coke Zero, and Coke Light. No water. I was so sick and just wanted water but all the stores were closed. Somehow ice seemed safer than the tap water so my first night in Greece was spent eating ice and watching Reba, the only thing on TV in English. (As I write this I am wondering why my dad didn’t ask the hotel desk for water. 🤷)Luckily I felt well enough to go on our planned bus tour, which had a stop in Thermopylae, the site where 300 Spartans repelled the Persian army (you may have seen the movie 😄). Another thing I found annoying growing up but now think is pretty neat is how Dad seemed to be able to imagine the history as if it was right in front of him. He was very excited to be there. I’m sure he told me about the battle in great detail and I retained exactly none of it.

There were strikes going on so many of the museums were closed and I’ve planned to go back. Sucks I can’t go with Dad so I can ignore him while he tells me the complete history of every pillar of the Parthenon. 🙄🙂

Visiting Brazil

The first time I visited my dad in Brazil I had to get a yellow fever vaccine and endure an hour-long, alarmist presentation about all the ways you can get ill while traveling. The lady warned us not to eat at any buffets UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. I was like “awesome I can’t wait to get cholera because my dad frikkin loves buffets” and indeed we basically exclusively ate at buffets. Like, he went out of his way to find them. The cheaper the better. I was fine as far as I know.

The embassy was sponsoring a film at a film festival in Rio Branco; it was a documentary about the revitalization of the Wampanoag language. The director came to the festival and we traveled with her to meet an indigenous tribe that lived in “Village 27.” I guess the theory was that her documentary was about a tribal language so it’d be cool for her to meet a Brazilian tribe. They told us their history, we played some games, and although technically the food was not buffet-style I still think that vaccine lady would have been mad about it. I didn’t pay close attention to what my dad was doing but you can see in the pix he was schmoozing. 😄

As part of the visit, they asked my dad if he would plant a tree. You can imagine how excited he was about that. He nodded and said, “with my daughter.” It was probably just for show and the tree is probably no longer there, but it’s nice to think that it might be.

The other big event on this trip was a visit to a jaguar sanctuary. It was cool as hell and now I’m terrified of big cats holy crap they are scary.

I actually didn’t see much of Brasilia itself–most of the rest of my time there was spent watching Dad watch Big Bang Theory in Portuguese, which was how he kept up his language skills. I did get to see that cool curly bridge though.

Forest Memories

When I went down to the farm my dad would mostly show me his favorite napping spots. There was a nice flat rock next to a stream that he particularly favored.

As we were walking around, he would whap with his handsaw at vines that were choking the trees. One time we were walking down a hill and just as I put my hand on a tree to steady myself, he whapped it and caught my finger with his saw. My finger started bleeding so he gave me a dirty rag to wrap it in, the only thing he had. I was like, great, I’m going to get an infection and my finger is going to fall off.

The cut wasn’t that bad–it spooked me more than anything else–but what I told my mom was “dad tried to cut my hand off in the woods” because I’d never miss an opportunity to get him in trouble. 😄 I still have a little scar.

When Bren and I got engaged he had to come see the farm. You gotta come to the farm if you’re gonna be part of the family. We were looking around all day and got really hungry; we asked my dad if he had any snacks. He rummaged around in his trunk and dug out an open sleeve of trail mix with like two almonds and a raisin left. We weren’t sure how long it had been rolling around back there so we opted to stay hungry. He apologized that he had forgotten his box of Cheerios. That’s what he lived on down there: Cheerios and Coors.

As we were leaving the farm, we noticed a knife stuck in a tree as if it had been thrown. Bren became very concerned about the family he was marrying into: being taken down to the farm and seeing knives stuck in trees is a great setup for a horror movie. We never did get an explanation for the knife but we also did not sacrifice Bren in some weird forest ritual (yet).

We’ve helped plant a few longleaf pine seedlings. It was hard work and I don’t like being outside but I enjoyed my dad’s enjoyment of the land. He was so happy to see us there. These photos are from yesterday and today when we visited his favorite spots and talked about how annoying he was. 🙂

Random Dad Memories

After my dad passed, I posted various stories and memories on Facebook that I wanted to save on this blog as well. My dad was an avid blogger and now I feel like I should dust off this ol’ blog too… 🙂

Originally posted June 23, 2020

I was going to text my dad yesterday to ask for advice on starting a compost pile. He would have told me something dumb, like just throw food scraps in the yard, so I would have had to consult the internet anyway. But I always liked getting his dumb advice (most of it was not dumb).

He heard about al dente pasta in Krakow in the 90s, where there were no Barilla boxes with precise timing instructions so he had to figure it out on his own. He served us undercooked pasta multiple times. We kept telling him it wasn’t cooked and he insisted it was al dente. He did eventually figure it out but we ate a lot of crunchy pasta on the way.

One time McDonald’s had a specialty “Chocoshake” dessert. My mom was trying to order our food–in Polish–while my dad just stood there saying “Chocoshake. Chocoshake!” over and over again to her, as if she’d forget. For the longest time if somebody was being pushy or overwhelming we’d respond with “CHOCOSHAKE!” 😂

Whenever he would call me it was with some specific purpose, and he would just launch right into the conversation when I picked up. The most recent one I picked up he immediately went into “HOW OFTEN DO YOU USE THAT FIREPLACE DO YOU NEED FIREWOOD I HAVE SOME BIRCH WOOD IT’S GOOD FOR FIREWOOD IT’S DRY”

I had to decline the firewood because we still have wood left over from when he cut down the tree in my front yard with a handsaw.

He tried not to be too self-indulgent. I remember him smashing a Sega game cartridge with a hammer because he felt he was spending too much time playing it. He threw at least one Civilization II CD out the window like a frisbee. I think he threw out multiple Civ II CDs. It somehow always got back onto his computer. He never advanced beyond Civ II because he felt that game had everything he needed; all the 3D graphics in the newer games were too showy and unnecessary.

He loved the cheese steaks at Mama Lucia’s on Greenmount & 33rd in Baltimore, and the green beans at the State Department cafeteria. He really liked State’s cafeteria in general, but especially them green beans. Go figure.

One time at my house in the city, my mom and I went to Lowe’s while my dad stayed at the house. We called him to ask what he wanted for lunch and he was like “I HIRED A GARDENER FOR YOU.” We were only gone for like 45 minutes. But that was all the time he needed to strike up a conversation with a stranger and make a new friend. They kept in touch even after I left the city. My dad seemed to have an endless interest in other people, something I try to emulate but am nowhere near as good at (to be fair, he had 30 extra years to practice).

He was always very calm and measured and rarely got upset. If you were upset he’d usually say something to deflate your outrage. When I was young this was VERY ANNOYING but as an adult it’s another thing I try to emulate.

There’s more of course but these are some of my favorites.

For every moment of my life I knew he loved and was proud of me (us). I am grateful and lucky that I have no regrets or loose ends. I’m just upset that I didn’t get more time. Of course, in his Doomsday Book he told us not to be upset because he was happy with his life and we should not mourn a life well lived. See, he’s doing that thing again. SO ANNOYING!! 🙂

First Impressions: Renaissance Periodization

Earlier this year my mom asked me if I knew of any sports nutrition-type services as a possible birthday gift for my brother. The one that came to mind was Renaissance Periodization (RP), which I understood to be a diet aimed at athletes. It seems like every Fitness Influencer(tm) I follow on Instagram uses RP templates. After recommending it for my brother for his birthday, I got myself a template for MY birthday. 😀 My curiosity finally got the better of me — and, after a year or so of growing muscles, I would like to see them! So I got a fat loss template (and I got 10% off because the fitness people always have discount codes). They also have muscle gain templates that I may try someday.

These are my initial impressions after two weeks. I am still on Base and haven’t moved onto Fat Loss yet – I’m sure I will have many more hangry things to say when I’m in Fat Loss. 😛

Apparently they recently came out with an app that will just tell you what to eat and adjust your macros on a weekly basis depending on how your gain or loss is going — I might check that out once I’m done with this template.

Why This Diet?

This is the sample template from RenaissancePeriodization.com

This is one of those macro-tracking diets, which are increasingly popular. Rather than tracking calories, you aim for a certain amount of macros per day or meal. Some people find this tedious, but I think of it as Catan for my nutrition. I sort of enjoy figuring out how to maximize my meals within the constraints.

Although there are macro calculators all over the interwebs and I am very comfortable tracking macros, I was never sure if I was doing it “right.” I was interested in these templates for a few reasons:

  • They are designed by PhDs* and athletes, so I am more confident that the guidelines are worth following. Lots of generic nutritional advice is aimed at losing weight, not losing fat. These templates are designed to maintain as much muscle weight as possible. Many people report continuing to gain strength while on these cuts, which is hard to do.
  • The phased dieting means you don’t have to diet harder than you need to and when you’re done they provide you with a new maintenance plan.
  • For me, there is a psychological benefit to “doing a cut”: I only have to put up with this nonsense for a maximum of 12 weeks. They discourage you from dieting for more than three months at a time and recommend at least two months of maintenance between each cut.
  • The meals are supposedly timed around your workouts, but as I’ve discovered, this basically just means you get an extra protein shake and workout carbs (aka gatorade) when you train, so that’s not a huge component. But you do get more carbs on training days.
  • You get four meals a day plus bedtime casein and a protein shake on workout days, which appeals to my Hobbit eating style (breakfast, second breakfast, elevensies, etc).
  • I’m at the point now where I just want to pay somebody to tell me what to do vs. trial and error my way through things. Well, certain things. I’m still a DIYer at heart. 😀

*the PhDs are related to physiology and exercise, I did check. 😉

Phased Dieting

The templates are phased: you start with Base to get your body to a good starting point, and then there are three phases of fat loss. If you are losing weight on a phase, you don’t need to move on. A lot of people end their cut during Fat Loss 2, and a lucky few never leave Base at all!

I really like that they don’t push you into a crazy cut if your body doesn’t need it. They also provide you with a new maintenance for when the cut is over, so you can maintain the loss and let your body recover from the stress of dieting.

Workout Ratings

RP gives you more or fewer carbs depending on how intense your workout is — light, moderate, or heavy. This was a huge difference for me. The average CrossFit workout is considered “light.” I used to consider my powerlifting workouts as “heavy,” because, well, the weight is heavy! Haha sucker, according to RP I’ve never done a “heavy” workout in my ENTIRE LIFE. At best I get “moderate,” and some powerlifting sessions are considered “light” if the weight is heavy but there aren’t many sets.

On my template, the difference between heavy and moderate training day carbs is 80C = 320 calories. I train four days a week, so that’s an extra 1,280 calories per week that I wouldn’t even need to be eating. I think if I did nothing else but rate my workouts appropriately, I would cut a few pounds.

Also, cardio is not considered training at ALL. If you do cardio, you get “non-training day” carbs. SAD

Set It and Forget It

I have been on the MyFitnessPal train for a while and have found that I don’t need to use it with these templates. I like that the macros are per meal, rather than per day (which is what many calculators provide). And I REALLY like that if I know my meal is compliant, I can just eat it and be done. No need to go back and log it. There is a lot more upfront planning and work but once you’ve got your meals for the week, you just roll through and don’t think about it at all. Past Mariza did all that thinking for me.

And speaking of upfront planning…

Food Prep

First of all: If you don’t know how to cook, you’re gonna have a bad time. It’s the only way to control what’s going into your food, and if–when–you get tired of the same thing week after week you need to be able to get creative.

Also, get a food scale.

There are several “approved foods” on the templates in each of the macro categories. If you eat one of those foods, you don’t have to worry about taking into account the other two macros. For example, if I eat 90% or leaner meat, I only have to count the protein content and disregard any fat content. If I accidentally grab 85% lean ground turkey then I do have to count the fat content. Yes, it’s sort of complicated at first. They make it really easy to eat approved foods and really annoying to eat something not on the list, although technically you’re allowed to do so.

They also make you eat like 3,000 cups of vegetables a day. I know they’re trying to trick me into thinking I’m getting a lot of food but I’m not falling for it.

My first week, I decided to make my meals the way I usually do – just make five versions of the same meal. I messed up my fat content right away due to the aforementioned 85% turkey plus I added mayonnaise because I didn’t realize I had the wrong meat. Since the fat was cooked in there, I couldn’t make any adjustments to that meal. I adjusted by taking fat out of my other meals, but was annoyed that I had screwed up right out of the gate.

I immediately understood why RPers prep food the way they do: huge quantities of protein (usually chicken and turkey), vegetables, and rice, all separate and plain. Everything is separate so you can assemble as-needed. It also helps to prep everything plain so you can smother it in whatever calorie-free seasoning appeals to you in that moment.

I just completed my third meal prep and finally got my macros right. Woohoo!

Eating Out

Try not to. But if you do, just get some protein and vegetables. I’m not a figure competitor so I don’t worry about eating out once a week but if you’re trying to be 100000% compliant, it will be hard.

The RP Group

Shortly after I bought my template, I was invited to the RP Facebook group. I like it because I get all the latest hot tips on calorie-free sauces, sugar-free jello, and weird protein pudding recipes. Some people in there are trying a little too hard to HaCk tHe SySteM with their weird recipes that aren’t really food, but we’ll see how I feel about those when I’m in the throes of Fat Loss.

I also find it helpful to see other people complaining about how hungry they are. I know that sounds weird, but if I get hungry I sometimes worry I’m doing something wrong. Knowing that it’s A DIET and everybody is hungry reassures me that this is all planned suffering.

Results to Date

Not really enough to register a large change, but including for completeness. For my first pic I accidentally defaulted to my Belly Dance Contraposto pose and then realized that was a bad way to actually see what was going on.

In two weeks, I have lost either 6.4 or 4.8lbs depending on if you wanna go by average weight or lowest weight; maybe even 9 if you want to include what was clearly a water retention spike on March 30. 😀

I am using average weight to track the loss because of those aforementioned random spikes. RP does not require you to weigh yourself daily–although they do recommend a minimum of twice a week–but I prefer to because I like GRAPHS. I’m at the point now where my weight is just a number but it took me a long time to get here and I totally get that weighing too frequently may be too stressful for a lot of people.

A lot of people in the RP group have really amazing visible results but very little weight loss–body recomposition is a strange thing. In my case, I think I’m carrying enough fat that I do anticipate losing weight vs. recomping at the same-ish weight. If I were already super lean I might not track my weight so diligently.

The first few days I was low-grade hungry all the time. Towards the end of the first week I would usually be OK for a bit, but it would be like falling off a cliff where I’d go from “OK” to “STARVING” within a matter of minutes. Luckily that would be right about time for another meal. At the end of week two, I am not so constantly hungry. Which probably means I’ll have to move onto Fat Loss 1 soon.

Unexpected Side Effect: Offensive Odors

A couple nights ago, Bren very gently and lovingly told me that, since starting RP, my breath has been terrible. :O I had no idea!! It’s like that episode of SpongeBob where he thinks he’s ugly but he really just had bad breath.

This diet has me eating more protein than I’ve ever eaten. I googled around and apparently It is Known that high protein diets can cause bad breath. I took away two primary possible causes and solutions:

  1. Sometimes your body has trouble breaking all that protein down, which can lead to bad smells coming up from your belly. It’s possible the issue will resolve itself as your body acclimates, but you can help it along with digestive enzymes (the enzymes also help if you are struggling with the 91849308 cups of vegetables you have to eat every day).
  2. If you are eating a lot more meat, it’s probably getting stuck in your teeth. Floss after EVERY meal and buy a tongue scraper.

I have acquired these items and hopefully they will help. I’ve also got some mints so my breath can smell like minty butt instead of just butt. If you see me in real life, I apologize if I offend; I am actively working to resolve the issue.

Cauliflower Rice

Stop trying to make cauliflower rice happen. It’s gross.