Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The making of an action hero pt43

Several months ago I had issues with foot and joint pain. That resulted in a month and a half of down time. I can’t say I was happy with that development. Complicating things, my talking scale gave up the ghost. It declined to take weights or gave measures varying by as much as ten pounds. Switching the batteries didn’t help. So it’s toast.

There was a period there where I just didn’t want to get back to exercising. I like exercising. It feels great afterward. The catch of course is that one has to find the time and motivation to start the process. I didn’t want to go back to having a sprung back, foot, and elbow; so I waited longer than I had to in order to make sure I was back on my game—that and the lazy is strong when it takes hold. Now I’m back on the wagon with some small changes. For one, I’m taking it much easier during stretches. I’m pretty sure that some of the joint problems I was having were due to attempting to push joints, especially hips and knees, farther than they were designed to go. So I’ve “adjusted” my expectations. Second, I’m exercising every third instead of every other day. My rule is it’s ok to be sore—it is not ok to have significant joint pain since the last session. Throw a couple four year olds around for 6 hours, climb up and down stairs for a day, and stay on your feet for 8+ hours— these things are going to hurt until the weight comes off. So I’m finding a better balance of frequency and intensity that will let me enjoy life while getting fit. If things even up in a few weeks I’m going to move on to the next section on the video past the lunges—which did more damage than good. Seriously, I have no idea how I ever did lunges—stupid knees.

I am feeling better now. It only took a few sessions to make me feel stronger. Which is probably why when my department decided to pimp a “get active” program I signed up. You record the number of steps taken each day, your daily weight, and the number of minutes exercised. The objective is to get to a set goal in each category—thereby advancing your team’s standings. Since I don’t want to let my coworkers down, it’s a nice motivator.

I’m going to hold off checking the weight. Obviously, I don’t have a scale. Every once in a while I need to change things up. I’m going to use this get active initiative to focus on exercising. I need to build up strength. I need to reintegrate exercise into my life. I’m looking forward to using the pedometer. If the one they give me isn’t accessible, I’m going to get a fit bit or some such item. Living more actively would be nice. Being able to actually evaluate how active a week has been would be better. Oh, and with summer coming on, this is the time to get it done.

You may have heard of the game “are you smarter than a 4 year old?” Saturday MX, Squish, and I played a slightly different version called “are you faster than a 4 year old.” It worked like this. We took MX and his new bumblebee transformer bike, complete with training wheels, out to the old NCR trail. I started power walking while Squish got MX settled. MX would then take off like a shot and pass me. When he thought he was far enough ahead, he would look back and taunt me. I would sprint after him, catch up, and the process would start over again. I was impressed that I could catch him in the first place. I was more impressed that he made it 6 miles on his bike without help. It was a good follow-up to my club workout that morning. The weather was clear and crisp—no bugs, dust, muck, just a perfect Saturday afternoon.

Sunday we hosted Easter for MX, Squish, and my family. I tried a few new recipes including scorpion bourbon scalloped potatoes, baked ham with sriracha brown sugar Dijon glaze, and Kielbasa sausage. Things I learned:

1. Precooked ham needs to be cooked at 325 not 350. Looking back, I didn’t distinguish between the bone in and precooked ham recipes—resulting in a wonderfully flavored but slightly over cooked dish.

2. Always be careful to validate the recipe you are using. Different components cook at different speeds so you can’t always substitute on a one-for-one basis and use the same cooking times and temperatures. I almost didn’t follow the direction for the potatoes and would have severely undercooked the dish.

3. Most of my family love spicy food. The rest will tolerate it if the flavor is good enough.

4. Recipe portions lie. They lie about how many people they will serv. They lie about how much material is required to fill a slow cooker. I now have way more potatoes than I know what to do with.

5. Cheese graters are amazing. I don’t know why it took me this long to figure it out, but the ability to add smoked Gouda to any dish is a terribly wonderful discovery.

6. Cooking things in bags has potential. This bares further investigation.

Unfortunately, I was rather ill throughout most of the event. This was particularly sad since I have been collecting laser tag guns for months in anticipation of my tiny relatives showing up. You know you’re doing something right when the first thing the three year old does when he comes through the door is to run up and whisper in your ear “can we play with the nurf guns?” It about broke my heart not being able to play with them. They will be coming back for mothers’ day, so we’ll see if the second time is the charm.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Things to be thankfull for.

The last few weeks have been good to me. Often I get caught up in the troubles of the world. I forget to mention the good things in my life. The Saturday before last I spent the day with Wmtrainguy, Super E, and Ceri. Wmtrainguy introduced me to bloodbowl, a rugby-like game in which various fantasy races compete on a hex board. Dice are used to check skills, randomize ball bounces, assess tackle results, and determine damage. Each race has its own character, skills, and style. I played the orcs (large heavily armored bruisers) while he played the humans (well rounded generalists.) We played through 6 turns out of 8 for the first half. It was fun—as much because I love new games as for sharing the experience with friends. I’m going to get into this game eventually, but not until I get some more games under my belt. I’ve committed myself to finishing some long-standing projects before taking on new ones.

We followed that up with an excellent dinner of grilled lamb and veggies. With super E put to bed, the three adults had mint juleps and talked politics and religion. Normally these are not relaxing or “fun” topics; however the three of us enjoyed a lively discussion free of acrimony. Their house is one of the few places where things are really relaxed. It’s good I don’t go there more often; I’d be tempted to stay.

Friday I took a half day off in order to take 4 of the brunette’s coworkers to the range—three of whom were first time shooters. I enjoy introducing people to firearms. Everyone want’s something different—a chance to assume the mantle of an action hero, the desire to try something new, even the chance to confront one’s fears. We started at the house where I went through my standard safety shtick—the four rules, guns should be respected not feared, some general handling tips, and basic stance/grip coaching. It’s important to me that new shooters get eased into the process. Fear and uncertainty can mar an otherwise rewarding experience. I don’t expect new shooters to remember most of what I say in the initial briefing; but if they retain a few of the points I’m happy. I’m looking to get them somewhat familiar with guns and introduce them to the idea of handling them. The reality is that they aren’t going to get unsupervised access to a firearm until I’m entirely sure they won’t be a danger to themselves and others.

I packed up my colt diamond back, my Ruger 10/22 takedown, my Colt Gold Cup 1911, and the brunette’s Taurus thunderbolt. We checked in, renewed our membership, got our ear and eye protection, and touched base with the range officer. It’s always good to let the guy in charge of range safety know what’s going on. That way he can offer help where needed and keep a second weather eye out for trouble. The brunette and her somewhat experienced coworker set up on one lane with her rifle and his Ruger 9mm while I set up on the other with the Diamondback and the 3 neophytes. Several of Continental’s 12 lanes were occupied—creating an intermittent roar as various shooters went to town. If you want to cure flinching, spend a few hours on a public range. You still notice, but it doesn’t engage the fight-or-flight instinct after the fifteenth time someone cuts loose with a 12 gage.

Side note, It seems that due to recent legislation, people going to a public range in Maryland have to turn in their license or green card to be recorded. This is probably a two or three hour rant—but I’ll keep it to one paragraph for now. The document presentation bit doesn’t bother me. We’d had to do that before for liability reasons. The difference was that then it was for the range’s private use. Now not only is it a liability thing, it’s also a state thing. I knew the state looked over recent range attendees before this—looking for parolees who weren’t supposed to be on premises. In this case it just rubbed me the wrong way—just another example of how Maryland treats gun owners as second class citizens. If we asked voters to do the same thing there would be a huge public outcry. But when thousands of gun owners protest restrictive and pointless gun control laws it means nothing—deep breath.

Back on topic, I spent the session walking people through safe range practices, familiarizing them with the guns, and giving them the confidence to enjoy what they were doing. It’s easy to get people to like shooting. It’s like driving a fast car or going on an amusement park ride—the thrill does the work for you. I also enjoy teaching. There were people in my life who helped me in the beginning—especially squish and the Jew. But they weren’t really experienced shooters either. Teaching new shooters is rewarding because every time someone gets it—that guns are fun as long as treated with respect—I feel like I’ve won a victory.

That evening we had our normal Friday night dinner gathering. Food was excellent. Conversation was outstanding. I may not always agree, heck I usually don’t agree with my friends on everything, but it’s nice to sit down and just let the conversation ride. Our larger group has so many varied experiences and perspectives that large conversations are always enlightening.

1. I spent the rest of the weekend reading, cooking, and getting some quality time with the Brunette. I’m lucky to be married to a woman who loves good books, gaming, and large caliber firearms as much as I do. We just finished reading Gardens of the Moon (The Malazan Book of the Fallen, Book 1), an excellent but dense read. We’re on to the second book in the series now.

Life has been good to me ;)