Will not read

Cover of The Passenger by Cormac McCarthy

After a few years resisting New Year resolutions, I signed up for some this year. One of them goes: “STOP READING!” A persistent problem last year was an incessant queue of books, movies, and TV shows clamoring for my attention (and, significantly, chewing up time afterwards to produce a review). The issue was not just the time, it was the psychic pressure, somehow gobbling up my day-on-day resolve to write.

It’s taken me half a dozen iterations to reduce my culture load down to around nine items a month, mostly allocations by book groups and movie clubs. One of the first actions was to decide to not read a book I’d bought on Kindle, a novel by one of my favorite authors, the inimitable Cormac McCarthy. The Passenger came out in our spring and has been weighing on me ever since. I shifted it into another “not right now” category, then tagged it as “read” but kept it on another list, until I finally consigned it to the Kindle bin. (Perhaps it helped that many reviewers haven’t been kind to this late novel by the octogenarian.)

Ah, the relief, the relief… I’ve noticed a freeing of my focus and a much greater ability to relax after dinnertime. After so long striving to keep on top of all those genres and subjects, suddenly peace is upon me.

A massive month began today


I plan and monitor writing work based on weeks that commence on Mondays, so today was the first day of the four weeks of my February. I’ve cleared most of my decks, to use a tired analogy: resisting reading and watching TV, not much socializing, no travel, no special events. I should be able to work five to six days each week. If I can do so, I’ll make huge inroads into THE book.

Well, today was fine, a solid workday. I didn’t quite get done what I’d hoped to do, but only because I’d underestimated the task.

Tomorrow begins tomorrow morning.

The magic of Parkrun

Studley Parkrun

A photo of Studley Parkrun twenty minutes before the start. The familiar flags, the hubbub around me, the keyed-up sensation in the stomach … here I was, at 8 AM last Saturday. Six months ago, if you’d asked me, I’d have said I might never do a 5 kilometer Parkrun again. But now I’m light and getting fit and it was time to try my closest Parkrun. I’d previously done ten Parkruns out east, twice as far away, electing for a flat route and, honestly, a bit scared of the ups and downs I predicted for Studley. Well, the run was sweet: slow but steady, in perfect weather, happy amongst people exercising in fine spirits. I came fifth in my age group (there were six but who counted?). I adored the entire experience.

Huge lunch


Here’s the undisputed upside of my Whole Foods Plant Based experiment: the lunches. This huge plate of vegetables, tofu, white beans, condiments, and so on, is three times the size of the lunches I used to have. It is scrumptious. And, because I’ve been meticulous in eliminating oil, it’s only 500 calories, far less than a typical cafe lunch (for example). Because everything on the plate is good for me, instead of being bad for me or (depending on your view on certain foods) neutral, my blood pressure is sashaying downwards, I’m still slowly losing weight, my mind is clear, I’m sleeping soundly.

Of course the experiment’s downsides are legion. I’m not eating the foods I really like (don’t get me wrong, I like everything on that lunch plate, but hey, yummier things do exist). Eating with others can be agony. I get drooling visions of goodies withheld. Oftentimes the food I look forward to is the food I’m not going to eat. Sigh.

Exercise milestone

Strava training log extract

Last week was the first week in years in which I ran (with no downtime walking) at least 5 kms three times. Indeed on Saturday I jogged 6 kms! Every session feels so much easier at 77 kgs than was the case at 85+ kgs. I now have ambitions to keep up steady running and ramp up distances until I can do the 10 km run at Run Melbourne In October. Just two months ago, the very notion of such a goal was risible.

This diet is working! (At least for now, I’m still treating it as a personal experiment.)

I’m also back to a full three sets at the gym, and am exercising every day. I’m being reasonably diligent at my weekly roster of stretches, and hope this week to fully comply.

This diet is working!

Another staple

Spice mix

This WFPB diet takes up much more time in terms of food preparation and eating. The vegetable meals are so huge! I’ve noticed how the experienced practitioners end up organizing their food far more systematically than most people do.

One example. Banning oil (and in my case, minimizing salt) blunts food of its classic tastes, so you end up adding tons of spices and herbs. This in itself sucks up time, and the result is sometimes hit-and-miss, a melange of tastes that doesn’t quite work. So today I made my first spice mix, just whizzing up various dry spices. It tastes complex and spirited. Potatoes air-fried with this dusted on tasted terrific!

Health Big Year: the exercise portion

Jogging legs

New Year’s Day, the morning mild, the streets whisper-quiet. I have a goal today. With weight at last under control, back down to 77 kgs (and oh so easily, this WFPB food regime sings!), let me attempt a jog out of my suburb into the adjoining one, a 6 km effort I managed only three times this year and not at all last year.

I do not huff and puff. Instead I control my pace to keep my heartrate in Zone 4, below the Maximal zone. The ground zooms past. So sweet is this easy effort that I almost lose track of time. I’d fretted my legs would rebel over the final, extra kilometer, but no, I plod up the ultimate rise. I could have gone on…

Suddenly my head fills with plans. Jogging plans. Small plans to a “real” runner, but to me, it’s like a new world opening up.

What a start to the year!

Brain retraining

Complex diagram

On the exercise front, I’m increasing my “load,” that is, the total weekly kilometers, slowly and surely, seeking for once to avoid a knee or calf or tendon or foot injury. But on the writing front, today I just jumped back in and put in seven hours of labor. Should I have eased back into it? I can’t afford any delays, so no, the answer is no. I did find myself yawning, a trifle headachy, midway through the day, but I stuck with it. I guess I’m retraining the brain through bludgeoning it.

Back into Gleep and Bepo

Scribbles about early reactors

I’ve lost a bit over a fortnight of work while obsessing about the new Whole Foods Plant Based diet. I’ll now sink back into improving the draft about early British reactors with scientist-jokey names/acronyms like Gleep and Bepo. Around that time in the mid- to late-40s, other reactor names included Zeep, CP-2, Zoe, and X-10.

I feel a sense of relief. Looking back, I’ve been worried about health, diet, the whole shebang, for months now. Now I get back to doing what I love, the work.