Saturday, May 21, 2022

May In Flagstaff



It's spring in Flagstaff and our world has become beautiful, and but for some windy days, it's perfect here. We hired a new programmer for the team at work and there is hope of reducing the proportion of my time on call and that means I should be able to enjoy more time outdoors on weekends.

Anyway, May has Memorial Day and I will have a couple of days off for the holiday, meaning a four day weekend. I feel a little guilty about celebrating on such a somber day, but on the other hand there is little enough time off for those of us who spend our lives as employees. I'm probably overthinking things again - that's what I meant in my previous post that my mind tends to numb itself.

Maybe some future generation will figure out how to allow people to live without arranging their entire lives around work?

Friday, May 20, 2022

Mind Numbing

 

My old girl Zelda during happier and healthier times. She looks healthy and bushy in this photo from 2018. Lately she's looking pretty skinny and it isn't healthy. We only have so much time on our personal clocks and her's is running out.

Life can be mind-numbing. I think the reason I haven't blogged much lately is because my mind numbed itself to normal interactions with the world. I've been pretty busy with work and other things and my brain went into a near-vegetative state after work every day for the last few weeks.

One of the "other things" is that my oldest cat had her required annual veterinary appointment, legally required to renew her medication. Unfortunately her kidney disease has progressed and she has lost yet more weight. I think we are probably in the last year of her life. It's sad, yet most days she acts normal and even gallops around the house and yard sometimes. It's just that she keeps getting skinnier.

As usual, the vet appointment caused the worst day she's had since the last vet appointment. I sometimes think vets (and human doctors) don't realize just how negative the process of diagnosis and treatment can be. By the end of the day, she lay sprawled and exhausted in an unnatural position, even for a cat. The treatment is often worse than the disease.


Thursday, May 19, 2022

Roxy Music

 


I discovered Roxy Music this week. It's a band I had heard of but never paid attention to. They were on the charts a little before my time, but several of their tracks are familiar, and a couple of them are wonderful. You hear them as background music and on movie soundtracks. Some of the earlier material sounds like an inferior copy of David Bowie, but they really hit their stride starting around 1978 and it got better.

It kind of sounds like the lead singer, Bryan Ferry, is somewhat of an icon in the UK, not only of music but also fashion and art. He's not that famous in the USA.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Novel Progress

My first novel was handwritten in two of these, but my latest is in word processor format.


I continue work on a second novel. The first sits on the shelf where I last touched it over a year ago - finished in 2011, abandoned during rewrite. I wrote a few thousand words on my latest several months ago and then ran into the conundrum that my protagonist is the least interesting character.

That's a problem. Not an "issue," or "challenge." I don't like to mince words when something goes seriously wrong.

I've been stuck with writer's block for a while now, trying to figure out what to do about it. Occasionally I have edited a few sentences or added a couple of paragraphs without getting to a point I can move forward. The cause was a combination of procrastination and hesitance to throw out the characterization already written. Of course, I really had to throw out the characterization. Fortunately, I have a solution, or at least an approach.

I admit it wasn't an epiphany, but rather a comment on Twitter that gave me the idea. The comment referred to characterization in Hitchcock movies, and suddenly I realized the value of reading a lot of other author's works to inform your own writing. This is advised by Stephen King, among others, and this is probably the first time I've seen the link directly.

I'm always willing to steal an idea, as long as it is a good one.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

The Workout

Strength training: I hate it, but I try to do a little every week.


This entry is kind of just fitness journaling so I can look back at it later.

I'm one of these people who goes through yo-yo weight gain and loss. I've been in exceptional shape for periods of my life: carved and fast. And I've been in lumpy, inferior condition through other periods. Normally I do some type of workout, but it can be intermittent for many months at a time, which is how I get out of shape. Currently my weight is greater than I'd like, but I've been in worse shape.


Cardio Training

My current plan is to do cardio two or three days a week. Usually this is two runs and a bicycle ride, but sometimes one of these is replaced by a hike. Running consists of trying to go at least 2 miles without walking, but sometimes I go farther and walk intervals.

Until last winter I didn't bicycle (or run) in winter. I finally got a bike trainer setup in my garage and managed to ride about once per week. I found it difficult to make myself do much more as I dislike the monotony. When the outdoor season begins, I usually start off with 6 to 8 miles and work my way up to as much as 20 - 30 miles by September or October. The farthest I've ever gone is 35 miles at the Grand Canyon a few years ago. I should clarify this is mountain biking, which is relatively more difficult per mile in terms of energy requirements than riding on pavement. I tend to take my mountain bike and ride everything: pavement, single track (trail), gravel bike path, dirt forest roads, etc.

Strength Training

I don't like strength training so I only do a minimum, just enough to make a difference if I'm persistent over time. Persistent means at least 2 days a week for me. I refuse to go to a gym so I only do whatever can be done at home. I used to do calisthenics but had to switch to mostly dumbbells due to joint pain.

Sets of 20 crunches - right now I only do a couple a week.

"Back lifts" or "Supermans" - I lay on my stomach and lift up my head and all four limbs and hold as long as I can. It's important I do these on the same day as crunches to balance out the front and back of my torso or I get back pain.

I lift the dumbbells from the carry position above waist level. I don't know the proper name of that exercise. Usually do a couple of sets of these. They are "easy" yet seem to work out certain muscle groups very well.

Bench press - sets of 12 (1 or 2 twice a week)

Overhead presses - not consistent with this

Curls - once a week, one set of 10 or 12

Sometimes I do other things like pushups or leg lifts on a whim.


Stretching

I'm not very good at stretching but I roll back on a yoga/exercise ball at least 3 or 4 days a week to stretch my back and the vertical muscles on the back of my neck. Skipping punishes me with neck and back pain. I also usually get a few relieving pops from the joins.

I also stretch my gluteus and psoas muscles nearly every day (5 or 6 days a week). Again, this is a back pain thing, which manifests in sometimes severe pain on my lower left back. It's asymmetrical and I think it dates to a back injury I got kayaking one year, but it also might be related to my twisted skeleton, as I have scoliosis of 11 degrees.

Other

I see a chiropractor once a month. I enjoy getting the joints cracked, although chiropractors tend to be quacks when they range off into metabolic theory or nutrition, so I like them to just stick to manipulation. I find this helps my flexibility around my torso and provides pain relief, though usually only for a couple of weeks.

I also sometimes use a foam roller stick, mostly on my calves and glutes when they feel too tight.

Un-American Scrambled Eggs

 

Three eggs only slightly gooey. Sometimes I cook them even less. No butter in these but I can recommend it.

Americans typically expect scrambled eggs to be cooked to dryness, but I prefer European style scrambled eggs, which are curdled but almost fluid. I've preferred them that way since I was a child and my stepfather apologized for undercooking the eggs one morning. For me, it was a happy accident, because I realized how good they are that way. The thing I can't understand is why many Americans will eat an egg fried or poached with a runny yolk, yet won't eat scrambled eggs that are comparatively more done.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Lenticular Clouds and Wildfires and Mountain Biking

 

Lenticular clouds downwind of the peaks, seen through my garage door screen. There is a new wildfire raging in the spring wind somewhere beyond.

I try not to make this blog a register of complaints, but often the most remarkable events in the average day are negative.

Flagstaff has entered wildfire season, and as usual the fires aren't really "wild." People start most wildfires in Northern Arizona and the idiots are off to the races again. We've had an outbreak of several different fires, all of which were likely caused by humans. I haven't heard thunder around here for several weeks, nor has the weather forecast included any lightning. The remaining possible causes are all anthropogenic: cigarettes, vehicles, campfires, etc.

The number of people who believe they are entitled to a campfire without taking any reasonable precautions makes me disappointed in the human race. That is to say, even more disappointed than I already was before I moved to Arizona.

A view from the Railroad Springs trail, about halfway up Observatory Mesa. Might be Mormon Mountain in the distance?


I replaced my back mountain bike tire last weekend and got in an excellent ride up Observatory Mesa. The tire had been flat since sometime last fall. I shouldn't have put it off so long, because I've missed the joy of a good trail ride. I have another bike but it's suitable only for pavement. Changing the tire was difficult and I dinged up my hands, but it was worth the effort. Sometimes you have to invest time in preparation to have a good time.