Some Really Follyful Ice Follies.

I don’t care what spell check says. “Follyful” is totally a word.

This is pictures mostly today.  Yesterday, I was back at the rink.  My daughter and I had finally gotten back to the ice after having skipped the previous week for reasons.

I asked my daughter to get some pictures of me on the ice.  As it happened, she got the pictures while I was doing a lap doing Forward Swizzles. (Local class calls them “fishies” for the kids.) That’s a technique that looks like this:

So, here was what I looked like doing it:

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Looking at the pictures, I noticed a couple of things.  One was that I leaned a bit too far forward while doing the technique.  The other was that I had my hands too low.  Instead of being out mostly straight at shoulder height, I had them closer to waist height, spoiling the line and the inherent grace of the movement.

I didn’t just do that technique.  I also did some work on the circle, this included forward inside and outside edges, and backward pumps on the circle.  The latter move is supposed to look something like this:

I ran into trouble was trying to do a two-foot turn on the circle.  That’s where you skate forward on the circle, doing a two foot glide around, it with bent knees  You then rise up to unweight the skates a bit, and pivot from the waist down so that instead of skating forward, you’re now skating backward.

The usual problem I’d been having with that technique was dragging too much during the pivot. Most of that, I think, is a matter of finding a “sweet spot” in the rocker of the blade.  Missing that sweet spot, the drag basically pulled me to a stop, so I was facing the other way but not actually moving.

Well, yesterday, I tried.  Came to a stop as had been happening, but then, just when I thought to get going to tray again, my skates went one way, I went the other, and then there was no direction but down.  Whacked my elbow on the ice.  I was pretty much done for the session at that point.  The result was this huge lump on my elbow:

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Ice and compression reduced the lump dramatically be the evening session so I was able to go back.  Evening session I was wearing elbow pads and, frankly, I need to make a point of wearing them when practicing.  Given my tendency to crack my elbow when I fall, and knowing that as long as I’m learning I will fall from time to time–that’s going to happen any time you push limits and you have to push limits if you want to progress–pads are a good idea.  Might want to add knee pads as well, although I seem to be less prone to impact injuries to my knees than to my elbow (and it always seems to be that one elbow.

The thing is, I’m wearing a knee pad on my arm right now and it seems to fit.  I measured for knee pads for the knees and the “large” sizes I’m finding readily at Amazon are supposed to fit a thigh something like 15.7″ around–two inches too small to fit my thighs.

In any case, I’ve at least got the elbow pads in my skate bag.  That, at least, I can protect going forward.

 

My Rocky Personal Life

I’ve alluded to the rather significant issues in my personal life here (particularly the fundraiser for my daughter).  So, I’ll grab what “upsides” I can along the way.

This week I Broke 33″ on the waist (32 7/8) and I’m up to 50 push-ups and 50 of my sort-of wall squats (an exercise I do specifically for ice skating, a half-squat I do standing just in front of a wall, not leaning against it but using it to ensure I keep my upper body straight upright),  50 second squat and hold (same kind of wall squat), 50 regular squats, and a 50 second “Planking”. I think with the new year instead of simply pushing the reps on my daily exercises I’ll add higher intensity versions of several of the exercises and try the same progression with them, adding one rep per week. One leg squats both my sort-of-wall-squats and regular ones will match what I need for some of the things I’ll be learning as I complete the “Basic” series in Learn to Skate, and maybe one-armed pushups.  Start with one each arm/leg daily the first week, add one each week, and see how far I can go.

Examples of the kind of things I’ll need the one-legged squats for:

The above is a “Basic 6” technique.  The next one is a considerably more advanced technique, but again shows why being able to do one-legged squats:

Still, even without the future plans 50 push-ups a day, most days (M, T, Th, F), with Tabata air squats on Wednesday and ice skating on Saturdays and Sundays is pretty good.

Conservatives, Liberals, and Liberty

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Readers of this blog know that I lean pretty heavily libertarian (while rolling my eyes at the Libertarian Party.  Really, “bake the cake” Johnson and “ban the guns” Weld as the party chosen ticket in 2016, and don’t get me started on their insane foreign policy positions).

And while Goldwaters “The Conscience of a Conservative” is close to my political bible, modern “Conservatism” (or at least the Republican Party, which many consider to be the “Conservative” one) gives little heed to the principles Goldwater (or at least his ghostwriter) expounded in that volume.

That does not mean that “liberals” are any better, despite the origin of the word and what it used to mean (late enough that Milton Friedman apparently thought he could rehabilitate the term in works like “Free to Choose” and “Capitalism and Freedom” but that’s another tale), the party styling itself as “liberal” (i.e. the Democrats) has little to do with actually fostering liberty.  “Freedom” does not mean “free stuff.”

So we get Democrats passing ever more restrictive laws.  What we’re allowed to do.  What we’re allowed to say.  How we may see to our family’s protection.  What personal transportation we may have.  Who we may do business with.  How we might conduct that business.  And on and on and on.  Rules and regulations and laws in such volume that nobody can possibly know a tenth of what the law requires of him virtually guaranteeing that each and every one of us breaks multiple laws, often carrying felony penalties, every day.

Then we have Republicans.  They’re a bit better (although not as much as they would have you believe) on the passing more and endless laws restricting individual liberty, they tend to cover different areas.  Things Democrats are willing to leave to the individual, Republicans are quick to restrict.

Both parties, when out of power, are quick to point out how “evil”, or at best mistaken, the other party is in its various new restrictions and other liberties.  As quick as they are to condemn, they are equally slow to repeal when they are the party in power.  Democrats pass a gun restriction?  The same Republicans who got up and told how wrong it was become silent on the matter the next time they have a majority.  Republicans pass sweeping surveillance legislation.  The same Democrats that talked about how much of a violation of civil rights it was quietly renew it when they are in power.

The exceptions to this practice are notable for their scarcity.

The end result is that restrictions on individual liberty ratchet up over and over.  Freedom is lost regularly and rarely regained.  The best we generally can hope for is that one party (the slightly more conservative leaning Republican Party) is somewhat slower in restricting individual liberty than the other.  But neither seems terribly interested in increasing liberty.

And their supporters can often be no better.  While democrats often pride themselves on their “compassion” when they vote some new program to take from one what he has earned and give it to someone who has not earned it, Republicans are often equally proud of their support for the agents of the state tasked with enforcing these various infringements on individual liberty.  “They don’t make the laws.  They just enforce them.”

Yeah, they are just following orders.

And this is where the Libertarians scream at me that this is why I should instead vote Libertarian.

Well, I might if I thought that the Libertarian Party was actually a political party.  It’s not.  It’s performance art at best.  As a party they do not seem to be serious about attempting to build a base, win support, and actually win elections.  You find a few in local and State elections but…not many.  Instead, they keep trying to go straight for the top.  And they tend to be so caught up on “principle”, completely unbending in the slightest.  What TV Tropes called “knights templar” (not to be confused with the real world Knights Templar).  They are far more interested in priding themselves on being “uncompromising” and making themselves feel good about that than in actually making deals that might get them some, or even most of what they want.

And then they turn around and pick Gary Johnson who agrees that a Christian baker should be forced to bake a custom wedding cake for something that he finds morally objectionable.  And his running mate, Weld?  The guy who would ban a host of guns.  How are either of these “libertarian”?

It’s enough to make you snatch off your hat, throw it on the ground, and stomp on it.

The Tragedy of Loki

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Most people think of Loki as one, of if not the, major villains of Norse myth.  And while there’s some truth to that, like with many things in Norse/Germanic myth, the “reality” within the stories is much more complicated.  If anything Loki is, I believe, a tragic figure.

Loki was always, first and foremost a trickster god.  He played a role similar to that of Coyote, and many others in various mythologies.  As a trickster, to some extent, he was at least a bit of a physical coward.  This goes hand-in-hand with the trickster role.  After all a strong, courageous forhtright warrior-type (like, maybe, Thor) is hardly going to be one to resort to trickery and deception (although even Thor has been known to do so–see Thor’s tricking of Alvis).

Loki’s position among the gods was complicated.  He wasn’t Aesir or Vanir, but a giant.  As a Trickster, he was often somewhat on the outside looking in, as it were, but he was also often the “go-to” guy for solving problems.  And while much of the time it was his pranks that caused the problems, that was not always the case.  And example is when the gods hired a giant and his horse to build a wall around Asgard with the provision that if the giant did not complete the wall within a certain time, the gods would not have to pay.  Odin didn’t want to pay so he had Loki come up with a plan to delay the giant’s work so he would miss deadline.  Loki did so by shape changing (one of his specialties) into a mare and leading the horse away.  Little did Loki know that the horse would catch him (or “her” since Loki was in the form of a mare).  The result, some time later, was Sleipnir, Odin’s eight legged steed.

The role of Loki as active villain rather than a trickster who was, nevertheless, mostly on the side of the gods, came very late in his story cycle, with events moving swiftly from the first act of true “villainy” to his binding as depicted in the image at the top of this post.  It started with Frigg’s dream of doom coming for her favored son Baldr.  Balder was generally considered the most beautiful of the gods.  Everybody loved him.  He was beautiful, he was brave, and from the way the poets gushed over him his bowel movements smelled of lilacs.

As you might guess, I’m not a big fan of Baldr.  He reminds me too much of the pretty and popular of my childhood who made my life hell growing up.  Perhaps if more of his story survived and I had a more complete picture of the god I would feel differently.  But, that aside, the gods loved him and Frigg’s dream foretold doom for him.  As a result of this, Frigg went through the nine worlds getting everything to promise not to hurt Baldr.  She only skipped the Mistletoe plant deeming it too small and helpless to be a threat.  This done, the gods then thought it great fun to throw things at Baldr and see them divert away from him to avoid hurting him.

Loki, on seeing this disguised himself (shapeshifting being one of his attributes) and wheedled out of Frigg the one thing that had not promised not to harm Baldr.  He then went to the mistletoe and used his magic to make it grow and fashioned it into a dart.  He then got the blind god Hodr to take the dart, and with Loki helping him aim, Hodr threw the dart at Baldr, which struck and killed him.

With Baldr’s death, a representative was sent to Helheim to beg Hel to release Baldr back to life.  She said she would do so only if every thing living and dead wept for him.  So once again Frigg went around the worlds begging every thing to weep for dead Baldr.  Only the giantess Þökk refused to do so.  According to the edda it was presumed that the giantess was actually Loki in disguise.

With Baldr’s death things moved pretty fast.  Loki went on the run.  He ended up crashing a feast held in Aegir’s hall where he and the other gods exchanged insults (Loki’s Flyghting). He escaped from their (basically driven off by Thor’s arrival) and was soon caught while hiding in a stream in the form of a salmon.  He was then chained to a rock, with a snake dripping caustic venom on him which his wife, Sigyn would catch in a bowl.  Only when the bowl filled and she went to empty it, the venom would drop directly onto Loki and his writhing would cause Earthquakes.

That is the story, in brief, that we have, and certain aspects of it have troubled me.  For one thing the final bits, from the death of Baldr denote a considerable change in Loki’s character.  It’s possible, of course, that the tales are collections of various deities that got combined into the tales told of Loki, but supposing these tales actually did refer to a single individual, what might cause that change?

I think, in the surviving lore, there are indications of what do mark that change.

First consider the latter part, where Þökk is the individual responsible for keeping Baldr in Hel’s realm.  The Lore says the gods presumed it was Loki, a remarkably coy statement given that the Lore is never shy about saying “but it was really Odin in disguise” or anything like that.  Can we take this presumption as truth, even within the context of the myth itself?  I think not.  We might speculate on who Þökk might actually be, including that it really was a giantess named Þökk.  But we do not know.

As for killing Baldr in the first place, Loki was not stupid.  Indeed, cleverness and outsmarting opponents was his primary attribute.  And given his history as something of a physical coward consider the opening to the tale of Geiroddur’s Castle, where Loki was captured and intimidated into convincing Thor to come, leaving his hammer behind.   So why put himself at such risk, risk he could not have been able to talk his way out of, for such a prank?

Well, consider that as the death of Baldr proves along with many another tale, the gods of Germanic/Norse myth are not invicible.  This sets them apart from many another mythology.  They can be slain by weapons, they can be affected by magic, and even age can bring them down if not forestalled by Idun’s apples of youth.

Perhaps, the death of Baldr was not Loki’s intent.  After all, could Loki count on blind Hodr inflicting a lethal wound with a thrown dart, even with Loki himself to guide his aim?  Doubtful.  Simply attempting to bring Baldr down a peg, by having him wounded would be more in keeping with Loki’s previous character.  And only horrible luck–or fate perhaps, the gods were a subject to the pronouncements of the Norns as any mortals-led instead to Baldr’s death.

Or maybe not luck or fate, but a curse.  And this leads to the part of the surviving Lore that I believe explains the change.  In the Volsung saga, Loki kills an otter with a thrown stone.  That Otter turns out to have been a shapeshifting dwarf named Ótr.  The dwarf’s father claimed blood-price for his slain son equal to enough gold to first fill the skin, then cover it completely.  Loki is sent to fetch the gold, which he accomplishes by robbing another dwarf, Andvari.  Andvari tried to hold onto his last piece a ring called the Andvarinaut as it could allow him to regain his wealth.  When Loki demanded the ring as well, Andvari cursed it so that it would bring misfortune to all who possessed it.  Much of the latter part of the Volsung saga details the working out of that curse in all it’s horrific awfulness.

However, the first individual who would be affected by the curse is Loki himself.  The Lore does not seem to go into this but as the lore has shown, the gods are vulnerable to things like magic.  It would be clear that Loki would be equally as much under the curse as would Hreimdar, Fafnir, Regin, Sigurd, and the Nibelungs.

So, Loki, intending merely to deflate Baldr’s ego a bit, instead inadvertently kills him.  This sets in motion a series of events that in the end will bring about the end of the world at Ragnarok.

This makes Loki, although not a “good guy” in any sense of the world, not so much as a villain as a tragic figure, complete with tragic flaw in his own hubris at his own cleverness.

More Goth than You.

Posts have been spotty the last couple of days.  They’re going to be spotty, I’m afraid.  It’s one crisis after another here.

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Over on the book of faces, in one of the gothic subculture groups someone said that goth came from the music and so the music should be respected.  I can agree with it, actually, but I think many folk take that too far.

First, a brief introduction to what “goth” means in this context:

Unfortunately, there are those who can be a bit…elitist…about being a “true” goth, and seem to score points by being “more goth than you.”

As I said, I can sort of agree with the basic premise because, as the history above shows, the modern gothic subculture really did start with the music.

The problem is that the terms themselves need to be defined. What, specifically, counts as “goth music” for this purpose? I’m not talking about a list of goth bands. but rather, if you were listening to a piece of music and knew nothing about it or the band playing/singing it what exactly would lead one to say “goth” or “not goth.” I have a certain element of “I know it when I hear it” but even that’s not terribly reliable, at least not for me.  Mostly, “I know what I like” which may or may not fit a particular genre.  There were bands I thought had a lot of similarity to bands that were considered “goth” but I learned that, no, they were nothing like goth.  And, well, some bands that are considered goth sound nothing like other bands that are also considered goth, at least to me.  So what makes a band “goth” or not?

And that “respect” thing. What exactly does that mean? If someone likes The Sisters of Mercy and the 69 Eyes but doesn’t care for The Cure and Bauhaus, do they have to turn in their goth card? How about symphonic/gothic metal bands like Within Temptation, Nightwish, Xandria, or, yes, even…Evanescence?

What if they have broad musical tastes. They like goth groups (however defined) but also like, say, 80’s pop or even “pop standards”?

Personally, I tend to think of goth more as a mindset, an outlook. People with that mindset will tend to appreciate goth music, not necessarily all goth music and they might appreciate other types of music as well and that’s okay. They may find themselves leaning more toward the “metal” end of the gothic music spectrum or they may favor more “dark wave” and gothic rock. And that’s okay. They may or may not incorporate gothic style into their attire. (Perhaps their job frowns on gothic attire and, well, a person’s got to eat.) And that’s okay. They may dress up some form of goth every day (“What are you dressed up for?” “Uh, Tuesday.”) or save it for special occasions. And that’s okay.

Goth is in the mind and the heart. The rest follows. And different people will have different ways of expressing it.

And that’s okay.

My Life, Part 2, The Trailer Park

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By Dr Zak – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Trailerpark.jpg, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2065966 — Representative, not the actual trailer park

My first strong memory after my mother and father separated was living with another man I called “Dad.” I don’t have continuous memory of that period so I don’t really understand the transition.  I was…four maybe.  Later my mother said that she didn’t “count” him as a husband because he had still been married to a previous wife and thus his marriage to her was null.  Today, given other things I have learned over the years (not related to this, but to other things) I don’t know how much of that to believe.  In the end, I suppose it doesn’t matter.

I remember we lived in a trailer park.  Now, these days that comes with all kinds of connotations, but I remember it as a happy time.  I had toys.  I had friends to play with.  Apparently the social anxiety and awkwardness that would plague me in my later life had not cropped up at that time.  There were places to explore.  We had fun.

While we were there I got my first bike.  It was a little thing, appropriate to a four or five year old, with training wheels.  I rode it all over the park.  Well, sort of.  You see, the roads were rife with speed bumps.  I’d ride up to one, hit the speed bump, and over the bike would go.  Over the speed bump, yes, but also over onto its side.  However, with the dauntless fortitude of an explorer barely out of toddlerhood I’d get up, pick up the bike, and set off again.

I remember winter there.  I have vague memories of Christmas decorations but the clear memory was of building a snowman.  My mother asked if we wanted it to be a showman or a snow woman and I said snow woman.  So instead of being just three giant snowballs piled one atop another, it was actually a crude snow sculpture, with breasts.  I remember being disappointed about it growing increasingly distorted over the next few days until, with the next warm snap, it became an unrecognizeable lump of snow before finally melting away.

We didn’t stay here long, nor did my mother stay with this man for long.  I was no older than five when my mother was single again and we moved into the next place.  I’ll get into that next time.

 

Censoring Anti-Vaxers.

Over on the Book of Faces, a friend shared a link about FaceBook removing “anti-vax” content.

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As I’ve said before, my stance is fairly straightforward in several ways, but there’s two things going on here. First: vaccinate your kids people. The “scare stories” are just that, stories. The “awareness” they’re talking about is empty headed foolishness by people so deep into Dunning Kreuger to make it negative knowledge–more misinformation than information. The whole “anti-vax” (or as they’re trying to rebrand now “vaccine awareness”) started because a fraud, the never to be sufficiently despised Wakefield, lied about it in an attempt to sell his new vaccine formulation.

The “injuries” caused by vaccines–which don’t even have to be proven to any scientific standard but just have to be enough of a “just-so” story to sound plausible to someone not knowledgeable in the field, are fewer in an average year, than the deaths from a single “harmless childhood disease. The benefits vastly overwhelm any possible risks. Yes, there are certain individuals whose personal or family history might indicate that certain specific vaccines might be better off delayed or even skipped entirely (thinking of a particular friend and her daughter, mother had an allergic reaction to a particular vaccine and so wanted to separate that vaccine out from others to give her daughter separately to be ready to handle a possible reaction) but that’s a reason why everyone else should be vaccinated so they don’t get exposed to the disease in the first place.

That said, as folk who read this blog should know, I am close to a free speech absolutist When a forum like Facebook, with an overwhelming share of the market, starts censoring based on content, that’s concerning to me. It’s concerning when they censor people, groups, and topics with which I agree. It’s concerning when they censor people, groups, and subjects with which I disagree.

My position on speech with which I disagree is more speech expressing that disagreement and arguing why the disagreement is there. I can unbend a little on the absolutism when you get to the point of deliberate slander and libel (defamatory, untrue, and known to the person or persons spreading it that it’s untrue or spread with a reckless disregard for the truth), and direct incitement to violence. But not beyond that.

There’s actually a straightforward “fix” that uses existing law–the difference between a public carrier and a publisher. The one does not control content and the other that does. If FaceBook wants to be a publisher, picking and choosing the content that is allowed, as opposed to a communications medium where they don’t control content, then they should be held accountable as a publisher for that content. Which means FaceBook should be sueable for for any actionable content that they allow–after all, if they’re censoring content then that content is there because they want it there.

In any case, vaccinate your kids.