Played Mass Effect 2 with Younger Nephew today. He seems to be grasping more of the larger storyline, and is also pausing more frequently to make comments about the plot and the characters.
Also, after playing through a mission where he basically double-crossed everyone (partly unintentionally, I think) and was awarded with many Renegade points, he looked thoughtful and said, "I think maybe I want to be nice to *some* people."
Certain types of foreshadowing, however, are lost on him. He cleared out a room, and got to an elevator at the far end. Garrus said something like, "Wow, we're really out in the open here, especially if there's somebody in the elevator." And Shepherd responded with, "Good thing there's plenty of cover around." Younger Nephew had Shepherd stand directly in front of the elevator waiting for it to open, and was astonished when a bunch of krogan poured out and killed him off. "They just came out of nowhere!" he exclaimed. (After a reload, he pushed the elevator button, got into cover, and handily dealt with the hostile forces.)
I still do the code-matching puzzles for him, but he understands how they work well enough that he sometimes tries to help.This entry was originally posted at https://wshaffer.dreamwidth.org/364942.html. You can comment here or there.
I've had any number of things derail my workout plans over the years, but this was a new one. On Thursday afternoons, I usually go for a long walk along the pedestrian footpath that runs along Arastradero Road, near where I work. This week, I was actually thinking of trying out a nice easy jog along that route. But on Wednesday, a jogger was assaulted at gunpoint
right on a section of the path that I regularly travel, and the suspect hasn't been apprehended. So, I'm feeling a bit weird about my lovely solitary walks and jogs.
I brought my running gear to work yesterday, and was just going to go run sprints by myself on the soccer field, but then I remembered that my personal trainer teaches a bootcamp class on Thursday afternoons. I figured I would give something new a try.
The class setup was really fun - in honor of Easter, my trainer had written a bunch of different exercises on slips of paper, placed them in plastic Easter eggs, and hidden the eggs around the area outside the gym. We were divided into teams - each team had to find 5 eggs. Then we had a set period of time to do the exercises from all the eggs, and then the teams swapped exercises. (So we ended up doing 3 or 4 rounds.)
In general, the experience reminded me of all the things I hate and all the things I love about group fitness classes.
The things I hate:
1. Gratuitous appeals to weight loss/aesthetic goals. My trainer is actually really good about not doing this, but that doesn't stop the other particpants from shouting out things like, "We're doing this for our beach bodies!"
2. Random and haphazard exercise selection. I'm used to training with specific goals and progression in mind, and bootcamp classes don't really do that. You'll get exercises that you don't know how to do properly (Hello, box jumps!), exercises that you don't want to do (Crunches, for real? In 2018? Haven't you all read Stuart McGill?), exercises that are too hard, and exercises that are too easy.
3. Lifting weights and running are both almost forms of meditation for me. When I finish a session, I don't just get the physical benefits, but I usually feel mentally refreshed, calmer, and more focused. Doing burpees like a lunatic with 20 other people doesn't really have the same effect.
Things I love:
1. I like the novelty. It's fun to try new things.
2. It does get your heart rate up like whoah.
3. The cameraderie. There was lots of encouragement, high-fiving, and lots of commiseration in the locker room afterwards about how much burpees suck. (Yes, I hate other people and I love other people. Did you expect me to be consistent?)
Also, I managed to teach one of my teammates how to do a kettlebell swing without referencing anything NSFW, which is an achievement since a kettlebell swing basically consists of humping the air while holding a cannonball on a handle.
Group fitness classes also offer an interesting opportunity to measure up your fitness levels against a bunch of other people. I used to be able to confidently assume that I would stand out as the least fit person in any group fitness class. (Which isn't so bad - if you don't let it hit your self-esteem, you can serve a socially useful function.) Now, not so much. I'm still a noticeably slow runner, although my endurance isn't bad. I'm terrible at burpees and other similar exercises that involve flinging yourself up and down a lot. I'm reasonably good at anything requiring core strength. I'm unsurprisingly pretty darn good at anything that requires leg strength.
I don't think I'll do the bootcamp class on a regular basis, but I might join it now and again for a change of pace.This entry was originally posted at https://wshaffer.dreamwidth.org/364566.html. You can comment here or there.
I almost didn't go to the gym yesterday. I'd been at a conference all day. The room had been just slightly too warm, and I hadn't eaten enough protein at lunch, and so I was hungry, dehydrated, and slightly lethargic. But I made myself a deal that I'd drink some water, eat a snack, and go to the gym, and if I felt crappy, I could do a light easy workout and go home.
Apparently, water and string cheese is one hell of a pre-workout, because by the time I got to the gym and warmed up, I felt pretty good. So I decided that I'd stick to my original workout plan and do deadlifts.
What I've been doing for deadlift training lately is doing a couple of warmup sets, and then working with 185lbs on the bar, trying to increase the number of reps per set I can do. Over the course of the past couple months, I've worked up from 3 reps/set to 4 reps/set. And yesterday, I did a set of 5 reps. So, at that point, I put 205 on the bar. And did just one rep. But it felt pretty easy.
Then I thought, what the hell. Let's try 225.
For those of you who don't lift a lot, 225 is a significant number because the largest weight plates in the gym are typically 45 lbs, as is the barbell. So 225 = 1 barbell and 2 nice big 45lb plates on each side. It just looks cool.
I load it up, and another woman walks up to me and asks, "You can pull *that*?" And I'm like, "I don't know. I've never tried before!"
So, now I'm thinking, I have to make this. At the very least, I have to break the bar off the floor. It'll be too embarrassing if I don't even budge it.
I budged it. And completed the lift. And then I rested for a bit and did it again just to prove it was not a fluke.
I did take the rest of my workout pretty easy after that.This entry was originally posted at https://wshaffer.dreamwidth.org/364396.html. You can comment here or there.
I hit 220 lbs on the deadlift today. I may make that 225 goal my trainer and I set faster than we thought.
Possibly even more exciting: I am now capable of doing a 20 to 30 lb goblet squat to below parallel. Like hamstrings and calves touching below parallel. I can't get that low in a bodyweight squat, and I can't get that low in a back squat, but the fact that I can do it in a goblet squat means that there's nothing biomechanical preventing me from getting that low.This entry was originally posted at https://wshaffer.dreamwidth.org/364161.html. You can comment here or there.
During the last open enrollment period at work, I switched health insurance plans. Same provider, but a plan that ought to save me some money and hassle compared to my previous plan.
Now, it just so happens that I need to use my insurance for a routine procedure today, and I haven't gotten a new ID card. No worries, I think, I can just go to the Aetna site and print out an ID card. So, I log in, click the link that says "ID card", and get a message saying, "Sorry, we can't show your ID card right now, try again later."
I give Aetna a call, and go through the automated phone tree until I get something about ID cards. And it says, "You don't need your ID card to access benefits, but if you want one, you can log into your account on the website and print out one." Um. Well, let's try again. I log back in, and the link in the header that says "ID card" is gone. Can't find a link to ID cards anywhere.
Well, maybe they're serious about not needing an ID card. But...how does that work? Every medical provider I've seen in the past n years has asked for my insurance card before almost anything else. Even if I don't have to show them a physical card, surely I need to tell them something besides, "Uh, I have Aetna, and I don't know my plan number or group number or any of that shit because it is all on the ID card that I don't have."
I call Aetna back and get a human being and say, "This is probably a really stupid question, but I haven't gotten my new insurance cards and your phone system says I don't need them but I literally don't understand how I use my insurance without them. Halp?"
Nice human being doesn't seem to have a clue how one uses one insurance without a card, but she puts in a request to have cards sent, and tells me that if I download the Aetna app, I should be able to access my card. Or, you know, I can log into the website and print one.
So, I log back into the website one more time for giggles, and now the ENTIRE HEADER is gone. Never mind. I get the app, it displays my card with no problem, and even allows me to save it to my Apple wallet so that it is theoretically no longer at the mercy of Aetna IT.
This new plan is probably still going to save me money, but I'm not so sure about the hassle.This entry was originally posted at https://wshaffer.dreamwidth.org/363795.html. You can comment here or there.
I started working with a new personal trainer, Nikki, a couple of weeks ago. Before we started training, Nikki sent me an email asking me what my training goals were. In the past, I think I've been a bit unfocused in describing my goals to trainers. "Well, I want to get stronger. And prevent injury. And get better at running. And get more flexible. And get better at rock climbing. And, you know, just be generally healthy." And all of that's true, but the fact is, I only get one hour a week with my trainer, and not all of those goals are things I really need their help with. I'm currently getting enough physical activity to cover the "generally healthy" part of the equation; I'm not currently injured and I seem (knock on wood) to be doing a good enough job of paying attention to my body to keep little tweaks and imbalances from turning into serious injuries; and although I'm nobody's idea of a great runner, I'm progressing enough to keep me happy.
So, I wrote back to Nikki and said: My goal is strength. I like lifting heavy things. I've been working on increasing my deadlift, and I've also been working towards being able to do a full pushup.
Nikki's email response began with a "hearts-in-the-eyes" emoji. She loves teaching the big barbell lifts. This was the beginning of a beautiful client-trainer relationship.
The real breakthrough, however, has been with my lifting nemesis, the barbell back squat. To quickly recap, my squat depth is not great. I've mostly attributed this to wonky knees, because my knees hurt when I try to go to low. My previous trainer, Tim, regressed me back to goblet squats and TRX squats, so I haven't done a barbell back squat in ages.
In my first session with Nikki, we did the back squat. The first piece of good news is that all that work I did with Tim definitely resulted in some improvement. Nikki pronounced my squat depth, "Not too bad." (It still wouldn't pass in a powerlifting meet.)
The second thing that Nikki picked up on right away is that I've got some hip mobility issues in the squat. She had me do some light sumo deadlifts in between squat sets, and my depth instantly improved.
I've also been watching a lot of video of the IWF World Weightlifting championships. Now, if you've ever watched weightlifting, you know that it involves a lot of deep squats. I was watching one lifter with her butt practically down to the floor and her legs out to the sides, and I thought, "Huh, what if when I squat I just tried to get my femurs out of my way and sink down between them?"
And I tried it, and...I'm still can't quite get to parallel, but I'm a heck of a lot closer. Close enough that for the first time in a long time, I think I might be able to get to parallel with enough strength and flexibility work.
I feel like I finally understand all those squat cues that trainers use like, "Knees out," and "Rip apart the floor with your feet," and so on. The thing is, they're not just about what you do with your knees or your feet, they're about what you do with your hips, too.
So, yeah, apparently I've been trying to squat wrong for years. And my knees may not be as much of a problem as I thought. (My knees are still definitely a bit of a problem, because whenever I happen to be on a high dose of NSAIDs, my squat depth gets better. But it looks like I might have been trying to compensate with my knees for lack of movement in the hips.)This entry was originally posted at https://wshaffer.dreamwidth.org/363614.html. You can comment here or there.
I spent the afternoon yesterday playing Mass Effect 2 with Younger Nephew, or, since Mass Effect 2 is a single-player game, coaching him through playing Mass Effect 2. (Younger Nephew's most frequent commentary besides, "This game is really fun!" was, "I wish it had a multiplayer mode!". Do any of the Mass Effect games have a coop mode? Or are there any similar games that have multiplayer mode?)
It was interesting watching his progress from the last time we played the game. He no longer chooses dialogue options seemingly at random. It's really entertaining watching Commander Shepherd, hero of humanity, being played with the social skills of a 9 year-old boy. When there are characters that it's clear Shepherd doesn't like, he tends to choose the dialogue options that straight up say, "I don't like you." Whereas with his own allies, he alternates between telling them how nice it is to work with them and saying, "Just do things my way!" He is an impatient commander.
I'm not entirely sure how much of the overall story he's grasping, although it's clear he's getting some of it. At one point, during a conversation with the Illusive Man, he turned to me and said, "I get the feeling he's not really a good guy." On the other hand, his relationship with the crew is very utilitarian. At one point he explained to me that he likes Garrus better than Miranda because Miranda "only has two guns."
I don't think he's going to be at all interested in any of the romance storylines. Oh well. Maybe when he's ready for Dragon Age.This entry was originally posted at https://wshaffer.dreamwidth.org/363402.html. You can comment here or there.
I think Younger Nephew and I have been sporadically playing Lego Star Wars II together for something like 4 years now. We've finally started to make progress on the story line in a serious way recently. Today we completed the entirety of Episode V. I might have to get some new games soon.
I find it entirely hilarious that when I'm playing Han Solo and he's playing Princess Leia, he repeatedly slaps Han Solo in the head and addresses him as "Dum dum". He also has absolutely no patience for Lando Calrissian's kissing of Leia's hand.
There are few moments in life that can match taking down an AT-AT by winding a cable around its legs with your snow speeder, and having your nephew look up at you and say, "We make a good team, don't we?" Thank you, development team for Lego Star Wars.This entry was originally posted at http://wshaffer.dreamwidth.org/363200.html. You can comment here or there.
Reader, I must confess - I made it to the age of 43 without ever having done karaoke. Primarily because the idea terrified me. I have genuine anxiety about singing in front of other people. Seriously, I've been at parties where we were playing Rock Band, and I've gotten shaky hands and sweaty palms at just the thought that someone might hand me the microphone. Also, given my music listening habits, my knowledge of contemporary pop music is best described as spotty. (I'm trying to work in a pun about how most of it comes from Spotify, but no dice.) I've always envisioned the experience as trying to croak awkwardly through a selection of barely familiar top-10 hits, which sounded about as much fun as poking oneself in the face with a spork.
But last night, a friend was celebrating her birthday, and had reserved a private karaoke room at a place up in San Francisco. Which meant, at least, that I would only have to croak awkwardly in the presence of half-a-dozen good friends. I figured that if I tried out karaoke in the most stress-free environment possible and it sucked, I could just write it off as a thing I don't do and carry on.
And, lo, it did not suck. I was, in fact, a sweaty-palmed, heart-racing anxiety bunny when I picked up the microphone to do my first song, but I played into it by choosing a song by the Smiths, the musical patron saints of the socially anxious everywhere. I think it's probably impossible to sing the chorus of There Is A Light That Never Goes Out
without laughing. ("If a double-decker bus smashes into us, to die by your side is such a heavenly way to die.") And it's very difficult to be anxious while laughing.
We sang a lot of the songs together. (The only songs I really had to sing solo were the ones that I picked that were obscure enough that no one else knew them well enough.) I was also pleasantly surprised by the range of music on offer - it was not just top 10 pop hits. And it turns out that Black Sabbath works pretty well for karaoke.
Not only did the experience not suck, I'm actually looking forward to doing it again. Once I get my voice back.This entry was originally posted at http://wshaffer.dreamwidth.org/362786.html. You can comment here or there.
Last week, I offhandedly mentioned to Tim, my personal trainer, that if the reaction on Twitter/Facebook was anything to go by, the Wonder Woman movie was going to bring in a lot of women interested in strength training. Tim hasn't seen a movie in the theater in about 5 years, but went to see Wonder Woman and loved it.
Now I really have to go see it, because he keep dropping Wonder Woman references while training me.This entry was originally posted at http://wshaffer.dreamwidth.org/362558.html. You can comment here or there.