Monday, January 31, 2011

Bootcamp 2011: Month One

It's been a month since I started my weightloss and get fit kick. The good news: I've lost one kilogram, I've bought a skipping rope and I can now run around the local park without stopping. The not so good news: I haven't used my new skipping rope. Nor have I done any situps, weights, pushups or star jumps. I've cut out the biscuits at work, but replaced them with a hardboiled egg. And I'm not convinced that all this is going to lose my unwanted kilos.

I seriously contemplated the Quick Start Three Week Program that John Birmingham mentioned on Twitter. He's had good results with it, so I thought it worth a try. But it's a really restrictive diet. Ok, I may lose the promised 7kgs, but what happens when I've finished the program and go back to my usual (healthy) eating? Will the kilos creep back on? That's been my problem with every weightloss idea I've tried.

Time for something different. Today, Smithy and I signed up with Jenny Craig for a three-month weightloss program. Already I can see the meal portions provided on the program are a lot smaller than what we usually serve up. This just may be the key to us both losing weight. And we get to eat pancakes, pizza and chocolate pudding!

Watch this space. I hope to have some real positives to report next month.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Book of the Month

This is the first in a monthly series of blogs highlighting one of the many books I manage to read each month. I've read nine books so far this January and the standout book for me this month is Salmon fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday.

I first came across Torday through the book club I belong to, when we all read his The girl on the landing. I didn't enjoy that very much and wasn't particularly inspired to go and explore his other works. But, whilst browsing the returns trolley at my local library I came across Salmon fishing. The blurb intrigued me and I decided to give it a go. And am very happy I did.

Salmon fishing in the Yemen is Torday's debut novel. The basic premise is that Alfred Jones, a staid fish scientist, is approached by a rich Yemeni sheik to head a project to introduce salmon to a wadi in Yemen. At first, Jones dismisses the idea as impossible, but slowly begins to think about how it could be done. Told via letters, diary entries, police interviews, newspaper articles and emails, the story unfolds in leaps and bounds, giving the reader insight into the various characters' perspective.

On the surface, a whimsical tale about salmon fishing, the novel explores love, faith and belief whilst at the same time offering a satirical attack on New Labour politics. I found it very entertaining and whilst the ending was unexpected, I came away most satsified with it. It's definitely a novel I'll be recommending to friends to read.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Generation who?

There's a lot of talk in the media these days about baby boomers, Gen X, Y and Z. We all get lumped into these broad categories and have gross generalisations made about us based on the years we were born as if we all share the same characteristics regardless of what end of the generation we were born at. My partner, Smithy, and I are both baby boomers, but she was born in 1947 and I was born in 1960. The influences that formed our childhoods were very different. Her parents fought in the war; my parents were still children. She grew up watching I Love Lucy and Bandstand. I watched The Partridge Family and Countdown. She did the classic overland trip from London to Kathmandu in the early 70s. I went to primary school. Woodstock was current affairs for Smithy. To me, it's history. My first protest march was against nuclear weapons, not Vietnam. My parents were teenagers in the 50s, listening to the likes of Elvis Presley and Cliff Richards. Hers were middle aged in the 60s.
My brother and younger sister, although only three and five years younger than me, are Gen X - as is my son. Yet we all shared the same childhood circumstances (not my son, obviously). We all watched the same programs on telly, read the same comics and argued over who was better - Sherbert or Skyhooks. My son wouldn't have a clue who Skyhooks were. His musical tastes were formed in the 1990s, ours in the 1970s.

See, I think that is what better defines us - the decades we grew up in. All people born in the 60s have similar experiences, as do those born in the 70s, 80s or 90s. And they have much more in common with each other than they do with those born at the other end of their generational span.

Those born just after the end of the war grew up in a world very very different to those born at the start of the 60s. Calling us all baby boomers hides the reality of our different experiences. I don't have very much in common with the baby boomers who are currently retiring and whenever the media mentions them, they are not talking about me at all.

Now, if they talked about the children of the 60s...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Brisbane floods

Terrible images on the television of the devastation wrought by the floods in Brisbane. Thankfully, my home and street are safe, although surrounding streets are under a metre or so of water. Friends in Flower Street, around the corner, are overseas and we moved a stack of their belongings onto our back deck yesterday for safe keeping as most residents in the street evacuated their homes. The floodwaters did not get as high as first feared but there will be a lot of cleaning up of under-house storage areas in Flower Street.

Police checking homes in Flower Street, Woolloongabba

Other areas of Brisbane are not so lucky. Whole suburbs have been completely inundated. The clean-up and recovery from this disaster is going to be massive. My heart goes out to all those affected.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Bootcamp 2011

Smithy and I are planning on doing a trek in the Nepalese Himalaya (surprise surprise) later this year, so I have decided 2011 is going to be Bootcamp Year. Yep, I am going to get serious about losing weight and getting as fit as I can possibly be. The goal is to lose at least 8kgs and my belly. We've got a treadmill and an exercise bike, cardio workout DVDs and some weights - every thing we need to work out and get fit. I'm gonna be trim, taut and terrific by October and it all starts today.  Did the official first weigh-in - and no, I am not going to tell you what the scales showed - and went for a 45min walk/run this morning. The plan is to go running/walking every morning before work and do some weight and cardio training in the evenings. We're cutting out alcohol until Smithy's birthday (end of February) and cutting down on the snacks and nibblies (bye bye chippies and Venetian biscuits).

For a while there, I was even contemplating signing up with Jenny Craig. It worked for Madga Szubanksi, why not for me? But then I heard that Jenny Craig had been bought out by Nestle. I don't know if that is true or not, but it doesn't sit right with me. A company that generates a vast income from sales of chocolates and sweets now owns a weight loss company? That just feels wrong.

The hardest part of all this will be staying motivated and persevering with it. I find it really easy to talk myself out of doing an exercise session, so sticking with it will be the big challenge. Oh, and resisting the desire for a glass of wine on a Friday night...

Part of my strategy for staying on course is to write a blog article about my progress at least once a month. With luck, the prospect of having to confess to being a slack arse will be enough to keep me on track! An added incentive are the trekking trousers hanging in the wardrobe that I can't quite get into right now. I'll be damned if I'm going to spend money on buying new ones. I also have a few pairs of jeans I'd like to wear again...

Right now though, it's lunch time...

Sunday, January 02, 2011

A year of reading adventures

As regular readers of this blog know, I keep a record of all the books I read and, at the end of each year, write a short article about the year's reading adventures. In 2010, I managed to read one hundred and twenty books - an average of ten a month. The most books I read in one month was sixteen - in March - and I only managed to read one book in November - William Dalyrymple's City of Djinns: a year in Delhi - but I was travelling (in India) that month.

The books I enjoyed the most: Parrot and Olivier in America, The Book of Salt, Wolf Hall, Dreaming in Hindi:coming awake in another language, My Name is Red and The Lacuna.

The book that had the biggest impact on me was Waste: uncovering the global food scandal. It explores the monumental waste that occurs at all stages of food production and the environmental costs of that waste. The one fact that shook me to the core was the story about a sandwich company that insists that not only the crusts from each loaf, but the slice of bread next to each crust is also discarded - a total of 13,000 slices a day, from just ONE factory! How many acres of land are needed to grow the grain to make those 13,000 slices that will never be eaten? The extent of food wastage around the world is breathtaking and is probably one of the key environmental concerns of our time. I recommend this book to everyone.

And my least favourite book of the year? Orhan Pamuk's The museum of innocence. Read for Book Club and not one of us liked it. As a portrait of obsession, it was very good. But having to read about that obsession. Oh My God - it made my eyes bleed!

My reading habit is very well supported by my local library service (Brisbane City Libraries) - only twelve of the 120 I read were books I owned.  I found most by browsing the shelves at my local branch. Several I reserved from other branches and two I got on inter-library loan. Things will be different in 2011 as this year, I have resolved to read every unread book on my bookshelves, rather than library books. The only exceptions will be Book Club selections, and new releases by my favourite authors. But first, I have to finish the stack of books I brought home from the library just before Christmas!

Here is the full list of books I read in 2010. The titles are split fairly evenly between fiction and non-fiction. I like reading travelogues and, because I was going to India in November, the list features a few books about that country.
January: Parrot and Olivier in America, Truth, Write Away, Luminous Bliss, We Are Now Beginning Our Descent, China Cuckoo, The Lieutenant, Meltdown, Cleopatra's Needle: two wheels by water to Cairo, Indian Balm: travels amongst fakirs and fire warriors, The Book of Salt, The Lost City of Z
February: The cactus eaters, High Crimes: the fate of Everest in an age of greed, The Library of Shadows, An Echo In The Bone, Peaks and Lamas, Vanishing Tracks: four years among the snow leopards of Nepal
March: Chasing Lightning, The Boat, Travels with Herodotus, Dreams of My Father, The Broken Shore, Skytrain: Tibetan women on the edge of history, Dead Europe, In Turkey I Am Beautiful, The Secret River, Bangkok Days, The Lord of Death, The Compassionate Life, Freeing Tibet: 50 years of struggle, resistance and hope, The Love Children, China's Great Train: Beijing's drive west and the campaign to remake Tibet
April: Singing for Freedom, Get Her Off The Pitch: how sport took over my life, Wolf Hall, Stones of Silence: journeys in the Himalaya, The Honey Spinner, Too Much Happiness, A Snowball in Hell, Dreaming in Hindi: coming awake in another language, You Must Die Once, The Last Men: the harrowing story of Shackleton's Ross Sea Party, Love and Punishment, Kingdom, Halfhead
May: Eat My Globe, The Jadu House: travels in Anglo India, Red Tape and White Knuckles, Xanadu: Marco Polo and Europe's discovery of the East, The Writing Class, The Spirit Level: why more equal societies almost always do better, Thomas Paine's Rights of Man: a biography, Hold The Enlightenment
June: Birdwatching watching, The Constant Art of Being a Writer, The Museum of Innocence, Dharma Bums, A Life Stripped Bare, The Path to Buddha: a Tibetan pilgrimage, The Longest Climb, The Audacity of Hope, Think of a Number
July: No Way Out, Neon Pilgrimage, The Lacuna, Making News, Dear Fatty, A Fraction of the Whole, The Opposite of Me, Let's Face the Music and Die, Caught In The Act
August: Stronger Than Death, Tasmania's Convicts, Come Back Como,Jerusalem, Shattered, Bleed for Me, Absurdistan, Adventures in Caravanastan: around Australia at 80km, The Untouchable, Googled: the end of the world as we know it
September: My Name is Red, A Year Without "Made In China", American Vertigo, Bombproof, My Mercedes Is For Sale, The Girl On The Landing, No Stopping for Lions, The Art of Travel, After Amerika, Long Ride for a Pie, Trick of the Dark, The Nature of Ice, Sizzling Sixteen
October: Among Flowers: a walk in the Himalayas, Magic Bus: the hippie trail from Istanbul to India, Saraswati Park, One Hit Wonderland, Waste: uncovering the global food scandal, Vroom With a View, Bad Boy, Brown Skin Blue, Suspect, The Winter of Our Disconnect, The Elephant Whisperer, India
November: City of Djinns: a year in Delhi
December: Mortal Remains, Liberty or Death: India's journey to independence and division, A Balcony in Nepal, Body Work, To The Holy Shrines, The Last Family in England, The Snow Tourist: a search for the world's purest, deepest snowfall, The Athiest Manifesto, A Beautiful Place To Die, A Beginner's Guide To Dying In India, Indian Nocturne

Three books I started but never finished were: A room in Bombay and other stories, Snow and Collapse: how societies choose to fail or succeed

Any books in there that you also read? Any of your favourites? Let me know in the comments below.