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I remember once in a shared office, two guys I worked with were complaining that they never had time to exercise. They had plans but never got to it. They commiserated with each other about exercise falling by the wayside due to stupid work deadlines then turned to see if I’d join in. I said, “Don’t look at me. I get on the exercise bike with a beer and do my ten miles as soon as I get home.”
They were impressed. Probably more by the beer than by the consistency in exercise.
This year, I made a small new year resolution: for one week (starting January 1st) I’ll focus a bit more exercise; I want to get 10k steps on my Fitbit and spend time on the exerbike as well. My goal is to get into a new habit. The plan is that I didn’t need to do ten miles on the bike, just get on it for a few minutes. For the most part, I have done my normal ten, except for that day we rented a Wii Dance game (Rick Astley and Carly Rae Jepsen wore me out).
I only have one more day to walk and bike. I don’t anticipate any problems completing my goal and I plan to make a new one for next week. Though I may take a day off. I hoped for a habit but I find I’m starting to drag a bit. Maybe on Wed, I’ll do one or the other instead of both. Also, I’ll change resolutions to something else.
After all, over the last week, I have gained wait (but lost body fat according to the scale). Maybe next week, I’ll ditch the exercise goal and spend a week counting calories. Or maybe I’ll ditch health goals for a a week and spend a week writing more (I have a 10 part series I want to blog but haven’t had time with all the exercise). Or possibly I’ll do something particularly nice for someone every day. That is always a fun resolution. Or maybe I’ll spend an hour every day promoting my book (I suck at self promotion but there are people I should ask for reviews or send copies to). Or I could garden for an hour every day, clean up the backyard so the spring wildflowers can some in.
I suppose my real goal is to have some self-improvement-ish thing every week to focus on. Every thing I add takes time. Some thing will turn out to be worth the time. Some things won’t. Some things will form habits and after a week of concentrating on it, I won’t need to think about it anymore.
So, starting tomorrow, I’ll keep exercising (that has been a habit for years) but with a little less focus on it so I can try something else. Wish me luck and strong resolve.
Happy new year!
At the zoo? Yes! Chicago was awesome in lots of ways but this is was the best. And if you are going to skip this post, go down to the bottom and watch the video. I promise, totally worth it.
Anyway, we stayed across the street from Lincoln Park in Chicago, a huge lakeside park, filled with ponds, wildlife, a conservatory, a farm, a large number of dogs and a zoo. We walked around last night, saw lots of things in the ponds and the sun falling on the skyline. The zoo was closed, of course, so was the conservatory and somehow we circumnavigated the farm without ever seeing it (well, C mentioned seeing a red barn but I figured that was a restaurant). We walked through the Lily Pad garden, visiting a family of ducks, worried they’d close the wrought iron gates on us since we were a little after the posted closing time (they didn’t).
So I got up for my morning walkies this morning. It was bright, really bright. But my sunglasses were far and the elevators a bit slow. At 6:30am, it wasn’t that bad. And I was groggy since I haven’t adjusted to the new time zone (Central). Sun was going to be a good thing.
I walked around the nature boardwalk. I casually snuck up on a dog owner with a beagle and gave it a quick cuddle (happy it was a friendly one instead of some aloof ones I could name, it was totally a good one). But the nature walk went on and one, paralleling and crossing over a stream. I got to a point there I wasn’t sure which was I should go so I went through some wrought iron gates, they were open and maybe led to a new garden.
Not so much. Instead it led to animals! I kept thinking someone would kick me out but joggers kept jogging by, unconcerned. So I stopped my furtive picture taking and started to really enjoy the zoo. The free zoo. The free zoo nearly devoid of people and full of animals enjoying the early morning sunshine.
Ok, so I saw some white lipped deer, a giant goat (takin), some trumpter swans, and some camels. Also, a ton of ducks, geese, squirrels, sparrows, and robins.
And then there were kangaroos. Bouncing kangaroos. Oh my goodness, they look ridiculous. And somehow I recorded them upsidedown? Ok, I’ll leave it here, turn your head or something…
One jogger stopped, kind of suddenly, and said, “I lived in Australia for six months and I never saw a kangaroo hop.”
That made me feel a little better when the ‘roos were eating and rolling on their backs, showing their fuzzy tummies, when I got C (but I spent more than an hour before I met up with him).
There were plenty of exhibits that weren’t open or had animals that weren’t visit. The zebras were a bit of a disappointment because I could see one’s back end in the doorway at the back of the enclosure. It surprised me when I continued to walk, and there were a bunch more. The funny thing was when C came and we re-covered the ground, nearly the same thing happened to him.
As he was admiring the stripey-ness, I looked around and saw something dark, in a display I hadn’t even noticed in my earlier tour. OMG, a great apt! I actually clapped my hands and giggled in excitement. It took awhile to get a good picture but I loved watching him move around, surveying his territory.
He was so close. Though there was a thick window between us. Chris showed me an article about giving ipads to apes to help them communicate and how incredibly effective it was, especially for the younger, tech savvy animals. I was flabbergasted until I got to the line about the zookeeper “letting the orangutans use iPads last summer, based on the suggestion of someone who had used the devices with dolphins”. Whaaaaat?!? That is so very cool. But how to the dolphins keep the ipad dry? And what is in their Netflix queue? The questions are endless.
Ok, back before C got there, I had seen the lion. He was so cool. I mean, really, really cool. Alpha predators are just energizing, you know? When C got there, he was mostly asleep. But one thing we both noticed, the lion moves and acts like a cat. I mean, like our house cats. The tail flick, the glare of derision, the plotting to kill you right after this nap, it was all there. I could see how people forget they are dangerous animals who could eat you as a snack.
C also missed the wolves. They were in the kids area. Which was empty, except for me and the wolves. They were behind a fence so the pics aren’t very good. Like the lion, though, they reminded me very strongly of the the pets. One of them scritched behind its ear with precisely the same canine enjoyment that Bear (the 8lb malti-poo). And the sign’s puppy made me think of Zoe when she howled along with me as I sang Happy Birthday to C one year.
Some of the animals seem to have escaped their cages. I don’t think this belonged right outside one of the bear exhibits. Whascally Whabbit!
C didn’t get to see the wolves but I almost didn’t walk by the rhinos again. But I would have been wrong. The rhinos had just gotten fed!
Ok, I’m almost done, I won’t show you all the other pictures of duckie families, the OCD leopard, the seals, the puma that made C say he never wanted to hike the Santa Cruz mountains ever again. C found all the other big cats, I had missed so much on the first pass. I could go every morning for a week. We almost spent our extra-Yellowstone-day and stayed in Chicago. I mean, I didn’t even tell you about the food (fantastic), the architecture (I knew it would be great but we didn’t actually get to look at it much), or the hotel (book Hotel Lincoln now before everyone else figures out it is the best).
However, I promised one final, better than everything else video. This it the lion roaring (and it is right side up!). Watch it. Well, let it cue up and then watch it.
Yes, the background sound you hear is an exercise class being held in front of the lion cage. I’d roar too, if I was the lion. Think how motivating that would be.
One of my biggest fears on this trip was being confined in the car for hours at a time. it hasn’t been as bad I thought it would be. Part of this is due to me doing more driving. Driving for the first hour is slightly boring but after that, it gets harder for me so I have to really concentrate on what I’m doing. After the second hour, I start blocking out the audio book or music since even more concentration is required as I get tired. I’d make a lousy truck driver.
Though when not driving, cooped up in a car, even a big car, I often feel like a caged rat. Sometimes the scenery is beautiful but it is hard to appreciate if I feel rat-like.
A good night’s sleep is important but I don’t have as much control over that as I’d like. I do control one other parameter though…
Every morning, I’ve been waking up and going for a walk.
Not only does this burn off some of my nervous energy, I get to see some of the places we are driving through. There is something more real about having boots on the ground (well, hiking sandals). And early morning is a nice time to see the world with fresh eyes.
Flagstaff was dry forest and bright, bright light. It was probably my favorite walk so far. I walked around Albuquerque’s Old Town before it became touristy, seeing the old church functioning as a house of worship instead of a photo backdrop. And I already mentioned my danger fraught search for field mice.
C and I walked to Beale Street in Memphis, seeing the tourist filled home of blues greats, it was pretty cool. But seeing it at 7am was different, somehow more real to what it used to be and more tawdry at the same time. And I got to dip my toes in the Mississippi.
This morning wasn’t so great, I walked though strip malls thinking about the underlying beauty of the Smokey Mountains, somewhat despairing of a civilization that would take such natural riches and plunk an AutoZone down in it. Though, I’m fairly enchanted with the haze around the hills looks like blue smoke.
My goal with each morning’s walk is to take 5,000 steps before we get in the car. The default goal is to take 10,000 steps every day. That is three miles if you use little steps (but I clocked in three miles this morning in less than 5k steps so this varies a lot but it based on your height and what their accelerometer says about how you are walking). 10k steps isn’t hard to do at home, a couple times around the block with the dogs or walking up to the grocery store is enough (once it is combined with my normal back-and-forthing about the house). But sitting all day in the car, it is easy to get only enough steps necessary to fill the gas tank and fall on to the hotel bed.
Fitbit makes the step-counter (pedometer) I use. It is a nifty little gadget that (when we have a base station for it to talk to) uploads the number of steps to a website (or to my iphone) where it can be combined with a food diary (calorie intake) and help people lose (or, if you are C, gain) weight.
I’m using the Fitbit gadget and the tracking my calories but not really using their iPhone app (partially because I haven’t set up the base station so the gadget can regularly sync to the internet, partially because I’ve been filing bugs against the app).
Oh, did I mention I have done some work for Fitbit? Yep, they’ve been my main clients for the last few months. I didn’t get to work on the nifty pedometer but on a different product (shipped!! happy dance). C and I got Fitbits when I did some engineer hunting for them. (This is less gloating, more in the name of full disclosure.)
Some people treat their Fitbit like pets (“I need to go for a walk, have to feed the Fitbit”) which makes me think that they are like Tamagotchi’s for exercise. I do like my Fitbit; I like things that bring amusement to activities that might otherwise seem like a chore. And, Fitbit does some other neat things with the internet and the gadget (Fitbit Tracker Ultra if you want to get one). For example, I really want the “you’ve walked the coastline of Florida” badge.
Anyway, the early morning walks (and the Fitbit) is helping me not go stir crazy in the car. I feed it 5k steps before I get in. C and I always manage to get another 5-7k after that, walking around Outlet Malls and Painted Deserts. So I feel like I’ve done something, not just sat in the car all day. It takes the edge off of my edginess. Mostly.
This morning, as I walked up, the nice lady at Fairfield Inn check in counter said, “Good morning!”
Me: “Hello, I want to go for a walk before I get back in the car, is it ok to wander around that field out back?”
NLAFICIC: “Oh yes, no problem at all.” (This statement had some unidentifiable accent.) (No, no, I’m sure it was her who had an accent, not me. What do you mean, I’m the foreigner here?)
Me (smiling): “Excellent. In California, wandering around can mean rattlesnake but it looks too wet out there for them.” (In fact, it looked like ten football fields, all strewn about haphazardly.)
NL: “Oh no, the worst you’ll see out there is a field mouse or two.”
We laughed and I went off for a walk.
I didn’t see the promised field mouse. If I had, I would have squeaked loudly and, then, if that didn’t scare it away, tried to take its picture. I don’t know why I would have screeched, something about creatures startling me. But maybe I wouldn’t have. We’ll never know now.
Oklahoma City is, as the song notes, mighty pretty. There is green everywhere atop that beautiful red soil. And walking in a field means that every step releases a cloud of winged creatures that fly up for a second and settle back down. As the butterfly or cricket or whatever landed, I’d see a new plant. It looked like grass from far away, but up close, there were weeds of all varieties. And if those are Oklahomian dandelions, with their adorable daisy shaped heads, then I’m jealous.
And then I turned my ankle. The field looked like a football field but it is actually rough under the mowed seemingly flat grass. But I didn’t get hurt so I wandered on, being more careful to watch where I was stepping.
The wind blows a lot here. It is a physical force, pushing me one way and another. It makes the clouds incredible. As I looked back at the hotel, I worried a bit about the weather we’ll see today. Yesterday was so warm and clear, like a California September, I admit to whining a bit. I don’t want to see a tornado or anything but we almost never see lightning at home. As I walked and watched, the clouds went from small to towering to small again.
And then I turned my ankle, rejoiced it wasn’t injured and then swore to myself to watch were I was walking. The ground was very pretty. I came across a river-let. There is so much water here. And that red soil again, it makes the mud pretty. There is so much water here. It is just everywhere. And the everything is surrounded by grass with no sidewalks at all, no one must walk anywhere. That is odd, it is so pretty but lots of things are different.
Including the bird calls. The birds here are different. I think that must be a long tailed swallow, it had a very long tail, a strange shape to me, nothing like the birds in Californis. And that little black bird says something different than it does at home, more of a chickchick than a peeppeep. Dialects are so funny.
Argh, this time I twisted my knee. Maybe I should tell the nice lady at the counter that the field is quite dangerous indeed. I’m ok but had to switch to blacktop.