Monday, May 28, 2012

Backpacking is No Longer about Pain

I know I've written about this in terms of boots, but makers of backpacks have made incredible strides in backpack comfort.  I'm on my third backpack (forth if you count the external frame one) and I'm worn out pretty much none of them.  What I have learned over time is that they are in order of decreasing discomfort to use the double negative that I'm kinda fond of.

Not only that, these days backpack manufacturers have created a sizing system so that you now have the equivalent of a shoe size.  Now I can walk into any outdoors store and ask about backpacks that fit a size 15.5 (inches I believe).  If your equipment is more than 2 or 3 years old, seriously consider taking a closer look at the new stuff.  Backpacking gear is not that expensive, and your body will thank you.

You also owe it to yourself to have your pack fitted to you by a knowledgeable person which should mean an employee of a reputable outdoors store and not a Significant Other (hearkening back to Snowboarding: Domestic Discord).  You do not want your S.O. to be blamed for any soreness.  There are a lot of fitting details and variables and getting it right can make a real difference in pain free or real pain.

Brain Health: Do Tasks the Hard Way

So according to some recent studies (here's one: doing something that is difficult is actually good for your brain.  Examples they use are using your non-dominate hand, or reading or writing upside down, or physical things like jogging backwards.  I've also heard that working on learning a new language or a musical instrument are very good.  You brain has to develop new pathways.

I'm finding this whole thing very intriguing.  It means that you can try to do something just on the basis that it's difficult.  Personally I would need more motivation than that, but it really does take you off the hook in terms of having to be good at something.  You don't have to be perfect at it you just have to be willing to work at it.  That's very freeing.  Work at it just because it's hard.

My current example is of course an odd one.  My dogs like herding stock, and herding is very difficult.  If you though dog agility was hard, try it with all of the obstacles moving.  It's brain bendingly difficult, but the challenge is fantastic and you learn new observation skills and you learn how to make efficient choices on what to watch and how carefully.

It also means that I should really consider going back to guitar playing or staying involved in some way.  Songwriting and story creation are very difficult and frustrating for me but it's probably something I should persue.  Struggle is good.

Eat Before You Exercise

A while back I wrote To Run Further - Fill the Tank First.

Today I was on a training climb that was intended to be a shake down of a new backpack and my experience is still the same.  An hour before, I ate lunch a veggie burger patty, and tortellini pasta.  I did a 1300' climb with a 30 pound pack pushing pretty hard.  I didn't eat at all during the climb.  I had plenty of energy and did not bonk at all which would often happen under the same circumstances.

 I haven't tried this at altitude or over a longer period of time.
Altitude is especially tricky as altitude depresses appetite for me at least (others too).  I've been reading (kinda sorta) that there really is something to "carb loading," but that more has to do with eating a lot of carbs the night before but that you can store extra energy in your muscles for a little while.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Mighty Haddorff Vertichord Piano

Some years ago my mom gave me the family piano when they moved to Seattle.  I actually don't remember how it got here - their movers must have dropped it off.  She had told me that someone told me that it was unique (vaguely implying valuable).  I finally checked into it.  The reason the Haddorff Vertichord is special is that it was a fantastic design error:

The one thing I don't understand is that I'm comparing the Vertichord's string layout to another upright and they actually look pretty similar.  This is mine.

And here is one from

Theirs look even more vertical.
 But the poster is right it doesn't stay in tune for very long.  Fortunately unlike the poster's experience there aren't any glue failures in this one.  Although having said that I just checked and only 3 keys are out of tune and it's been a few months.

A plus side is that after I had one tuner out, I figured out how to tune it. (and yes, those short strings are a pain), and we use it to practice on and Terri's band uses it to rehearse with, so it actually does get played.

Regardless I am getting tired of its fussiness and and just about ready to buy a new piano sounding weighted keyboard (no room for a grand piano and we're not good enough players to really appreciate it.

Monday, May 14, 2012

I Miss Dodgeball

Dodgeball.  That word alone makes a legion of people shudder.  It seems as it any number of people who were forced to play it in school have horror stories about it.

I walked my dog past the local elementary school and they were playing a game where you threw bean bags at the other team, but the object wasn't to hit them.  You wanted the bag to hit the ground (a la Baseball I think.)  It still resulted in what appeared to be complete mayhem due to multiple bean bags in play, but I'm quite sure the injury rate is much lower, (save for the fact that they're playing on asphalt.)

But all I could think about was how I kinda miss the, oh-so not PC, near bloodsport of Dodgeball (or Nationball when it was on a Basketball court instead of a circle.)  I and a female neighbor of a similar build and age were chatting about how it was an excellent way to get back at boys that had been tormenting you.  Even though I didn't think about it then, dodgeball was definitely a time to settle scores.

There actually is a National Amateur Dodgeball Association and you can get an official ball here: Wonder if old scores are still settled there.

Make Your own Switchbacks

When you're out of a trail on a hill the trail will often turn into switchbacks to make the climb easier.  When you're on a snow slope it's common to traverse across it back and forth essentially making your own switchbacks.

Where I live there are various trails that area actually bulldozer created wide, steep fireroads.  How do people climb these things?  By going straight up them and breathing (gasping) real hard and stopping a lot.  The other day I started zig-zagging up one.  Suddenly all the effort went away.  I was even able to work a rest step in by accident.  It was so easy and I got up that hill in 90 degree heat without nearly dying.  Seems so simple, but it was quite a revelation.  Or course no one else was doing it and that surprised me as I was the only one to be able to ascend with any consistency and I wasn't dying at the top either.  It was really straightforward, but you do have to get past the feeling ridiculous part, but there isn't anyone there to impress save for the fact that you are not collapsed in a pile..

Plus you're happier when you get up to where you are going.

I am Plot Impaired

I like to write, and I can create small character vignettes about nearly everything.  I also can write dialog without issue.  So why is it the idea of creating a story with an actually plot makes me completely freeze up?  Eeek, I don't know how to do that.  Yet that can't be true.  I've read 100s of stories and I know what makes them good and not so good.

Person Q is a [such and such job] and yearns for [some goal] but [something] is standing in the way.  How Q overcomes the obstacles is a Story.  This is not Nuclear Physics ya know?  And there I stand not moving until the oncoming car runs me over.

Though I can go on and on about what it's like just standing there.  Maybe I should just go back to eavesdropping in public places--a great source of weird ideas.  Especially on people having cell phone conversations with lettuce.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Blogs as Resumes? Hardly.

Linkedin just sent out a missive saying how you can use your personal blog as a sort of resume.    This blog mostly shows how easily distractable I can be, and my dog's blog shows how obsessive I can be.  I'm not sure either would be good job hunting material though I don't hide them or deny their existence.  They both show that I can write and have the will to stick with it, but defining just what "it" is can be a challenge.  Perhaps glorious determination to research and to think outloud about silly things.