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Category Archives: Diet and Exercise

(Personal) State of the Jackalope, May 2016

Self Improvement 150The past couple of months have been marked by the death of various tech around the burrow and the attempts to replace them. Now that Bigwig (my desktop) and Hazel-rah (the new laptop) are settled for a while, I can get back to the business of writing and I’m tremendously excited about that.

Hazel-rah is a Dell Inspiron 7559 15″, and it is a beautiful thing — it’s got a 4K HD touchscreen, Intel i7 Core chip, 16G of RAM and a 1TB HDD. The resolution is so high that it actually doesn’t know what to do with some apps or windows where things tend to be small, like my digital Pomodoro timer or the note cards for my Scrivener app but that’s OK. We’re still feeling each other out. I wrote on the laptop most of yesterday, and really loved the experience; I’m getting used to the international keyboard design, which means becoming more precise with touch-typing. That’s never a bad thing, right?

Speaking of writing, here is what I’m working on: building a buffer for the Jackalope Serial Company, starting one long-overdue commission (the prize winner of a fundraising contest for last year’s Clarion Write-A-Thon), editing another long-overdue commission, pre-writing another serial project being written in a shared universe (*really* excited about that!), and brainstorming ideas for submissions to People of Color Destroy Fantasy! and the Black Power POC Superhero anthologies. I’m hoping that I can write three short stories by the end of June while making good progress on the edit for a fourth, all while keeping up with the Patreon and the blog. That’s why I’ve scheduled ten hours of writing a week!

In addition to that, I’ve been forced to learn better time management and organization techniques through work and I am ever-grateful for that. Learning how to juggle multiple responsibilities is not something I’ve ever been very good at, but what the crunch time at the day job has taught me is how to go into each day with eyes open about how things are likely to go and what needs to be accomplished in spite of that. I may not hit the mark every time, but I get a lot closer than I used to and that’s entirely a bonus effect of work craziness. Thanks, day job!

This weekend will be The Overnight, a 16-mile moonlight walk through San Francisco to raise awareness for suicide prevention and mental health issues. I’m tremendously excited to be taking part in this, and extremely proud of the money I’ve raised so far — $1,708.00. I didn’t think I would be able to do this well, and I am very grateful to everyone who’s donated so generously already. If you would like to help me bring more attention to this very important issue, please head on over to my Participants’ page and make a donation. Any amount helps, and I would love to raise as much as I can for this.

In order to make sure I was prepared for The Overnight, I’ve really stepped up my running game. Over the past two weeks I’ve run at least three times — short ones (two or three miles) at reasonably easy paces (only 12 minutes per mile) but for me the most important thing is consistency, which I think I’m learning to develop! So that’s excellent. My diet is still a little shaky, but I’ve been taking strides towards eating better. More fruits, vegetables and fiber, fewer candies, carbs and fat. Hopefully this will translate into less of a pear shape, but even if it doesn’t that’s OK. I like what I eat and how much I move now, and hopefully I’ll get to continue on that path.

I think that’s it for me this fortnight: writing, time management, Overnight preparation. What projects are you folks working on? What do you hope to have done by the beginning of next month?

If you’d like to donate to the Overnight, please go to my participant’s page here: http://theovernight.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.participant&participantID=18579

And if you would like to hit up my Patreon, which features serialized adult anthropomorphic fiction, go here: https://www.patreon.com/jakebeserials?ty=h.

 
 

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(Personal) Where I Stand

Writing 150I thought that 2016 was going to be different. With the launch of the Jackalope Serial Company and a host of opportunities for this little black geek to write stories for anthologies specifically for him, I had prepared for a big focus on storytelling. Now we’re entering the middle third of the year, and the JSC is sputtering along, I’ve still only finished two short stories and I’ve had to take frequent breaks to manage other things that are going on.

All of the reasons have been well documented here, of course. I’ve changed positions at my day job, and that required a lot of training and focus; at the same time, the company I work for is undergoing a massive upheaval that means it’s next to impossible to get settled, so there isn’t a solid foundation for me to dig into. I’ve worked pretty hard to succeed in those conditions, and I’m getting to a point where I’m doing all right. But lofty goals for extracurricular activities had to be pulled back or scrapped entirely.

I’ve also had to learn a lot about how I’m interacting with the world and the various communities I inhabit; the climate of our society has become so aggressive and uncompromising and it’s easy to be swept along in that current if you let yourself. I didn’t like the conclusions or consequences that I was being lead to, and I had to pull back to reorient myself towards the truths I’ve gleaned from my own experience. That means pulling back, reflecting on my experience, and observing how others act on theirs for insight, connection and understanding. It’s been a fruitful process, and I feel much more solid on my beliefs, why I hold them and understanding why people believe and act the way they do.

That’s not to say that I have all of the answers — of course I don’t. I don’t know any more than you do. But I’m a lot more comfortable with where I stand on my path and I feel more confident about the direction I’m going. I’ve made choices to stop, reorient and refocus, and what’s left is acting on that knowledge to see where it leads me.

The Jackalope Serial Company will fire up again this week with chapter 3 of THE CULT OF MAXIMUS. I’ve set down an outline for the rest of the story, and it’s allowed me to know what’s really important character-wise as well as work out the kinks of plotting and purpose. The first two chapters felt…exploratory by comparison, and while that can be fun for exercises it’s really not that great in serialized fiction. It’s important to establish a sense of momentum, the idea that the story is leading somewhere, that there is acceleration, waystations, the whole bit. The serial has that baked in a bit more now, and I’ve learned from the bad start.

I’m working on editing “Stable Love” so I can finally clear that off my plate; then there’s the People of Color Destroy Horror! story that I’d like to submit by the middle of the month. There is the Clarion Write-A-Thon prize that I still owe to a good friend, and right after that I’ll set to work on my People of Color Destroy Fantasy! short story. I’m also working on a collaborative project that I’m quite excited about; I was nearly done with the outline there, but a few revelations about antagonists and character-building have encouraged me to take another look at it. There is a black superheroes anthology that I would love to submit a story for, a contest for transformation and mind-control stories that I think I’d like to submit something for, and online-only stories that I want to publish at least once a quarter.

My ambition to publish short stories hasn’t diminished at all this year, even with the bumps along the way. I just have to make sure that my ability to deliver and be organized is up to where it needs to be.

Oh! Ryan and I have also gotten into cooking through this service called Blue Apron. Basically, ingredients for three two-person meals are shipped to us every week and we learn a lot about cooking through making them. They’ve been surprising and delicious, every week, and I’ve liked most of them (the only one I didn’t really care for was the catfish po’ boy). If you find yourself eating out a lot and want to have healthier meals, I’d recommend it. $60/week seems steep but if you compare that to the money you spend on restaurants you might find yourself in a wash.

I’ve also begun running again, which has done wonders for my energy and mood. This is nominally training for The Overnight Walk, to build strength and endurance in my legs, but the truth is I’ve just missed being out on the sidewalk. It feels so good to be out there again.

That’s where I stand right now. The day job continues to be demanding, and I’ve taken some time to assess how to deal with that and work on the things that are important to me. Diet and exercise continues to improve, but the weight isn’t coming off just yet. All in good time.

If you would like to support my serial erotic fiction project, please head over to my Patreon site and sign up! For as little as $1/month, you can have (almost) weekly episodes delivered to you!

And if you would like to help me support the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, please make a donation to The Overnight, a 16-mile dusk-til-dawn walk through San Francisco to raise awareness for suicide prevention and mental health issues. My participant page is here; anything you can give would be very much appreciated.

 
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Posted by on May 2, 2016 in Diet and Exercise, Self-Reflection, Writing

 

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(Personal) April 2016: Spring Cleaning

Self Improvement 150It feels like when I sit back and look at my goals for this year and how little work I’ve done to actually move towards them, I have a laundry list of extenuating circumstances to account for that. In January, New Years lead right into the day job summit in New York which lead right into Further Confusion 2016, making it all but impossible to establish a rhythm. In February, half of our team was overseas to get training for half the month, which left the newest and greenest of us to handle a really heavy caseload. In March, the progress I made getting back on track was derailed by Ryan’s trip to Japan and preparation for the burrow to get fumigated, which meant that I basically had to pack up, organize and clean up a LOT on my own. Last week I took a week off from the Patreon to try and finally catch up, but I ended up spending that entire week on cleaning. In addition to that, we had the highest caseload for our team in history last month, so work continues to be hectic.

As April begins, the burrow is at the tail end of its fumigation and I should be getting the all clear to head back later today. Tonight will be pretty much dedicated to moving back in and setting at least a few things into place as the work of unpacking everything begins. This week, hopefully, I can be a bit of a hermit; I’d like to divide my evenings between straightening up, paring down the things I don’t need any more and finally, finally getting into the writing habit I’ve been hoping to establish.

Obviously, the serial story for the Patreon will be getting most of my attention this week. I want to back-track with my notes, make sure that I’m really nailing down what each chapter and scene needs to do in order to advance the story, and update character notes so that I understand what motivates the characters, what their arcs actually are, and how those arcs are completed through the full measure of the story. I’m actually excited about this work, but I just need the time and focus to work on it.

In addition to that, there’s writing the story for a very generous friend who donated to the Clarion Write-A-Thon last year(!!), editing the first two chapters of the Patreon serial so they can go up elsewhere, editing the huge commission I finally draft-completed for another friend, and writing a short story for the next issue of Megamorphics. Somewhere in there, I’ll also want to come up with ideas for the People of Color Destroy Horror, People of Color Destroy Fantasy, and Black Power Superhero anthologies.

Here on the blogging front, I have a lot of ideas for future posts at the Writing Desk about Buddhism, managing anxiety, the thorny issue of processing offense and outrage in activism, comic book reviews and a lot more. I’d like to finish up the pair of Zootopia articles I’m writing for [adjective][species], work on a review of Hermann Hesse’s Steppenwolfe for the Furry Canon project, organize the list of suggestions and writers who’ve taken them up and write/submit poetry for their Poetry Festival.

I’d like to eat in more often, train more often for the Overnight walk, and go through my wardrobe and closet to set aside the clothes, shoes and electronics that I can offer for donation. It’s all good work, and I am happy to be doing it, but it’s so much. A lot of my anxiety these days is wrapped up around being able to see a task through to completion, and that’s very difficult to manage when there are so many irons in the fire that feel time-sensitive.

But on days like these, I have to remind myself that I can only do one thing at a time. Right now, I’m writing to you (but mostly to myself) to talk about everything going on. After that, another item on my to-do list will be focused on until it’s done (or I need to take a break). After that, I’ll continue work on something else. And so forth, and so on, until I have a list of completed things under my belt.

I’m still learning how to see a project through after I’ve signed up for it, but I’m really hoping that paying attention to that this month will allow me to make progress on that front. Fingers crossed, and back to it.

 
 

It’s the End of Summer, Start Falling

Self Improvement 150The summer of 2014 was a pretty crazy one for me! Most of it has been structured around Ryan’s trip to Clarion, the associated Write-A-Thon and all of the lessons I’ve learned since then. It turns out I needed to take a bit of a break from writing after that, just to process what I had done and return to the desk with a greater understanding of what I’m about.

Now that August is behind us and we’re looking ahead to the season of turning leaves, cooler weather and hot drinks, I thought I’d take a little time to think about how I would like to spend it. Where do I want to be by the end of the year? What would I have liked to accomplish?

There are a few things that I’d really like to focus on over the next four months: writing, reading, exercising, eating. You know, the basics. I think of them as the four things that encourage both physical and mental health, two sides of the same coin. You have to exert the proper effort to keep yourself in fighting shape, and you have to make sure that you’re intaking the right things to fuel that effort.

For writing, I’d really like to get more consistent. A friend of mine intimated that his goal for word count is 500 a day, 3000 a week — I think that’s pretty strong, so I’m going to shamelessly steal it. That word count will only count towards short stories (both preparation and writing) and the Pathfinder game I’m running. Blog entries will be their own thing entirely, hopefully focused on over the weekend. Putting in the effort consistently, grinding out the words every day rain or shine, has never been one of my strong suits. I really need to learn how to do this if I’m going to get serious about writing.

For reading, I’d really like to read short stories and novels in both the science-fiction/fantasy and furry fiction “genres”. There’s a ton of great stuff out there in each space, and I think there should be more folks who are really invested in the literary traditions that have been built. I have a unique perspective, and I’d like to get better at thinking about fiction critically. Part of that means reading as many stories as I can and breaking them down to see how they work. I’d like to post critiques and thoughts about these stories as I go, just to get into the habit of talking about them, sharing them with all of you.

For exercising, I really need to get a bit more flexible than I am! I’ll be trying to settle into a routine with body-weight exercises and stretches/yoga so that I’m toning myself and making it easier to get in running and biking. For the next few months I want to focus on cardiovascular health and mobility — those are pretty easy spots to hit with a minimum of, say, going to the gym or needing special equipment. One thing I’ve learned about myself is that I’m going to need to remove as many barriers as possible to getting exercise. Otherwise, it’s just way too easy to make excuses.

Finally, for eating, I’m going to have to retrain my palate towards healthier food. I love carb- and sugar-heavy things at the moment, and that really needs to shift towards fruits, vegetables and lean meats. I don’t think I’ll do anything as crazy as Whole 30 or Paleo right now, but cutting down on carbs — or at least being a lot more mindful about the carbs I do eat — is absolutely necessary. It’s going to suck for a while, but I need to push through that if I ever hope to slim down and get rid of this rather impressive spare tire I’m sporting at the moment.

So those are my goals, in broad terms. I’ll have to develop a plan to make sure I actually stick to those, and that’s fairly exciting. I know I talk a lot about my interest in project management, and it sounds really boring, but there’s this exciting bit of alchemy in taking these vague, broad, big goals — “I have to eat better.” “I have to write more.” — and figuring out how to actually turn them into working, flesh-and-bone plans of action. Drawing a line from desire to doing is pretty satisfying.

So that’s my fall — as usual, putting my head down and trying to calm the mind from being flighty and thoughtless. Every time I put a new plan together, it’s a little stronger. I learn from my mistakes, incorporate more personalized protection against pitfalls, have a bit more willpower. I accept that I might not reach all (or even most) of the goals that I’ve set, but striving for them gets me closer than I would be otherwise.

 
 

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Personal: Life After Crunch Time

Gaming 150There wasn’t a Friday Fiction last week because a) my full-time job has been pretty demanding this past week and, b) any free time I had was devoted to putting the finishing touched on my Pathfinder game. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything I wanted to do, and in the end making sure that the game was ready had to be my one big hobby project for most of the week.

If you’re not familiar with Pathfinder, it’s basically Dungeons and Dragons with some rules tweaks. D+D 3rd ed. was a very popular game, and when Hasbro/Wizards of the Coast/TSR decided to come out with a drastically revamped 4th ed., people balked. The new edition was more like a video game than a traditional table-top role-playing game; word around the table was that the powers that be wanted to make a rules system that could work through every type of gaming platform — tabletop, miniatures, video games. For some reason TSR decided to bail on the idea fairly early in, but 4th ed. was already a thing so….good job there, guys.

Pathfinder basically took the ball and ran with it, publishing a core rulebook that promised to make a lot of the problems with 3rd ed. (and there WERE problems) a bit more palatable while publishing new content including adventures and settings. I’m not sure where it sits on the popularity scale in general, but among my (admittedly small) circle of friends it is THE de facto fantasy RPG. You want medieval magical fantasy? You play Pathfinder.

I’m running a campaign that’s been going for a little over two years now, and the characters are getting fairly advanced — around 9th level or so. This means all the usual beginner’s stuff won’t represent much of a challenge for them; they can pretty much punch goblins and skeletons and the like without breaking a sweat. The demands of their abilities and the demands of the story means that the stakes have to be raised continuously — but not too much, or else you’ll end up with dead player characters before the story’s finished.

With my particular story the PCs have sailed across an ocean that’s been…corrupted by outside chaotic influences. As far as anyone knows, no one has been able to travel by ocean for over a hundred years, but they’ve managed it while sampling just some of the horrors that are out there in the open water. They’ve done this to get to an island where they believe a dimensional portal has been constructed, allowing demons and…other, more terrible things to enter into the world. One person in their group, a paladin named Alexander, had gone as part of a scouting party two months before and hasn’t been heard since. They have reason to believe he’s in a bad way.

On getting to the island, I wanted to give my players an immediate and memorable welcome — but this isn’t easy when you’re dealing with 9th-level players being backed by an entire squadron of paladins. Their entire purpose in life is to hunt down evil creatures and destroy them, and they have an astonishing array of abilities that lets them do just that. I needed to find a way to give the upcoming skirmish a proper scope while still making sure it’s challenging and fun for the players.

I’ve learned a few things after running the game I wrote last week; that it’s really OK to ‘fudge’ or simplify rolls that don’t directly involve player characters, that the less you have to worry about moving pieces the better, and accuracy will be trumped by great, exciting description every time. Pathfinder is a system that tries to construct rules geared towards a balanced, repeatable result. While that’s appreciated by a lot of people, I’m sure, the work it takes to get that result really disrupts game flow and can suck the life out of a game at the precise moment it should be at its most exciting — during combat. I’ll be working on other skirmishes of that scope (and bigger) as the players move closer to their objective. Hopefully they’ll get better as they go along.

In the meantime, the crush of deadlines has subsided for a time and I find myself with a bit more breathing room. I hope to put the time to good use; I’ll make sure that I write my blog entries a bit early so I can polish them a bit more before posting, and I’ll begin writing one short story and editing another. Here and there, as ideas come to me, I’ll be putting together the next Pathfinder session. I know that I have a good story in there, but I’m mostly concerned about being able to tell it in the best possible way.

Diet and exercise has gone about how they usually do — ups and downs. But it’s still at the forefront of my mind, and I’m trying to cook in as much as possible. There are a few more trips to the store before I’d feel comfortable cooking off the top of my head one lazy Sunday afternoon, but I’m getting there.

So, those are my goals for the week: consistent writing, eating in, some sort of exercise every day. What are yours?

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2014 in Diet and Exercise, RPGs, Self-Reflection

 

The First Quarter (b. 1/2014 – d. 3/2014)

Writing 150I’m sure today there are going to be a lot of blog posts from alternate universes where people say the exact opposite of the things they normally stand for, and that’s fine. Major internet companies have actually gotten really clever with their April Fool’s Day pranks, and I’m looking forward to seeing and sharing the best ones. I have a bit of a tin ear for pranks myself, though — I either come across as too pointed and/or mean or too strange to evoke anything other than confusion. I’ll leave the actual pranking to the experts until I come up with something awesome enough to pull off. You’ll simply have to put up with earnest navel-gazing from me today instead.

The first three months of 2014 are in the record books, and I haven’t really done a whole hell of a lot with them to be honest. I’ve been struggling in the quicksand of more ambition and less willpower for some time now, and my scattershot approach to my goals has been my undoing. At the time of this writing, I haven’t finished any short stories so far this year; I’ve run two or three Pathfinder games; and I haven’t been updating the blog as often as I should (three times a week). I’m saying this not to rub my face in my failure or anything — I just want to take stock of how far away my productivity has been from my goals.

So what gives? Pretty sure it’s the same problem as always — making plans to do something is not the same thing as actually doing something. When the appointed time comes to work on my game, or a short story, or a blog entry, or exercise, or eat well, there’s the crushing weight of Resistance aiming to stop me from doing the things I know I should be doing. Work has been too exhausting, and our TiVo has piled up, so it’d be easier to nuke a dinner and catch up on a TV show or two. Or I’ll actually write something and hate what I’ve done, scrapping it as soon as I’ve taken a look at it. Or the fear of the blank page consumes me to the point that I simply give and read what someone else has written instead.

On a high level, I’ve come up with a number of solutions for this. The difficulty arises when I’m trying to tie that mindset to individual, small moments. My toolbox for combating fatigue or fear or apathy in the moment is astonishingly bare, and that’s something I’ll need to deal with.

I need to turn my home into a place where productivity and creativity is welcome and expected. I’ve been trying to change my personal space so that it’s more comfortable and I’ll actually want to sit down there and bang something out; that means clearing clutter, making sure there’s a system in place so that clutter doesn’t appear again, making sure that my computer desk has the peripheries needed to make sure I have as few excuses as possible to write.

Progress is there, but it’s slow. I realize that in a very big way I’m going around in circles, identifying the problem, putting a solution in place, failing again and again. And perhaps I’m simply too close to the situation to see what’s really going on. Either way, it’s very frustrating to feel that need to write so strongly that I can’t turn it off, but not strongly enough to push through all the obstacles in my way.

At any rate, I’ve fallen off the wagon for the month of March, and now it’s time to get back on again. Hopefully I can stick to the plan a bit more closely and develop more discipline so that it’ll be a while before I have to set things down again. I’d like to write two short stories this month, make sure there’s a lot on the Writing Desk for you nice folks to read, have my Pathfinder game sketched out well in advance and work on clearing away distractions and obstacles to writing regularly, eating healthy and exercising. This month, it’s back to basics. I’m rededicating myself to the things I find important. Again.

 
 

The Art of Pacing

Exercise 150I strap on my heart monitor and put on my shirt — the one that is clearly athletic wear but doesn’t bunch around my “generous” stomach so much that it accentuates how out of shape I am. I put on my shorts, my performance socks, my baby-minimalist shoes. I grab my phone/running app, my keys, a stick of gum to chew when I’m racing down the block. I stretch, I walk out of the door, I imagine myself breezing down the sidewalk, breathing deep (but not panting). I open the app when I’m ready to go.

It tells me that my estimated time for my distance is 28 minutes. I know I’ll do it in 25. I’m going to OWN. THIS. RUN.

When I limp back home 30 minutes later, panting with shooting pains in my ankles and knees, I can only think one thing: that sucked. Usually, I do fine in the first mile or so, before my breath starts to fail me. I push through that, and then my muscles start to seize and cramp; before long, there’s persistent pain in my ankle, or my knee. Either my lungs or my legs give out soon after, and I come to a point where I need to stop. I walk the rest of the way home, and my legs are sore for days afterward.

A couple of days pass, and then it’s time for my next run. I try to find an excuse to put it off — the leg isn’t quite healed from last time, or I’m way too tired to get in a run today. Sometimes, those excuses actually work and I skip a run day. That just makes the next one harder, but since I’m rested I think I’m going to ace it. The cycle begins anew.

The problem here is that I’m a weak-lunged, sedentary office worker who thinks he’s going to be a rock-star athlete every time he laces up his running shoes. Pushing myself is a good thing, but maybe not to the point I’ve been doing. To even get close to the ten-minute mile (which is my personal nirvana), I have to push my heart rate towards maximum for a fairly sustained period. I’m just not fit enough to hang with the big dogs yet, even though I want to.

Recently, I’ve joined an online training program for runners, and my trainer is really, really big on pacing yourself. She says that making sure you want to run slow enough that you can hold a conversation while you do it, which…to me doesn’t sound like running. But she swears by it; going slow increases your endurance and fitness levels to the point where you can run faster, easier. I’m clocking 14-minute miles right now, and most days I’m chomping at the bit to do more. But I’m running more regularly than I have in a long time. And that’s the point.

Transferring this lesson to other areas of my life is a really great idea. Most days I’m chomping at the bit to get everything done — I want to cook in as much as possible, keep up with the Writing Desk here, bang out short stories, read more novels, exercise more, clean the burrow, spend more quality time with the husband, work harder with the day job, catch up to the system and story in my Pathfinder game…the list goes on. But the truth of the matter is I’m still a 98-pound weakling when it comes to productivity. If I try to do everything at once, I’m going to push my brain to a level of activity it just can’t sustain. It will break down and burn out.

That happened last week, which is why the first chapter of Sleepwalkers didn’t go up as planned. I’d like to make it up this week, but…we’ll see. The trick is to push myself, but not too much, and to go ridiculously slow until the habit is built — and THEN see about pushing myself a little more. I’m late getting to this game, and I feel like I should be doing so much. But there’s only so much I can handle at the moment. That’s OK.

It’s quite important to remember that the energy you have one day will not necessarily be there the next; it’s a lesson that has bitten me in the tail time and time again, and I think I’m finally learning it. Though I’m sure there’ll be a couple more crashes in the months to come. I’m leaving this semi-realization here for posterity.

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2014 in Diet and Exercise, Self-Reflection, Writing