Goth on Ice: Testing Day

Today was the last day of the class cycle so…testing day. I’ve been working on Adult 6 stuff and so that’s what I tested on. As things stand now, I’m a bit more than halfway through the Adult 6 progression (last step before I enter Pre-Free-Skate

Today I passed “Forward Stroking with Crossover End Patterns”, Backward Stroking with Crossover End Patterns”, and Forward Inside Three Turns. Mind you, none of them are great but they’re all adequate for the Adult 6 level. That puts me here (Bold is techniques I have “passed”, italics is techniques I am actively working on):

Adult 6

  • Forward stroking with crossover end patterns
  • Backward stroking with crossover end patterns
  • Forward inside three-turn, R and L
  • Beginning power pulls
  • T-stop, R or L (Basic 6)
  • Lunge
  • Two-foot spin into one-foot spin (Basic 6)

That puts me more than 2/3 of the way through. Close enough that I can taste it.

It’s not all puppy dogs and rainbows, however, sometimes you just have a bad day. This video, from a few days ago shows me having one of those bad days with my two-foot spins. It just wasn’t happening that day.

Participation Awards

I’ve run into people who use “participation awards” as a criticism of modern society. And to a certain extent, they have a point. If one does not reward excellence and accomplishment and reward instead simply showing up. Well, you get a lot of showing up and not a lot of excellence and accomplishment.

That said, I do not oppose “participation” awards, per se, provided excellence is additionally rewarded. In many cases, simply showing up is an accomplishment.

Frankly, there is a value in recognizing, “you came, you participated, you did the task.” Let me give you an example from several years ago (okay, the example is an excuse to brag on my daughter, but still…). My daughter was out to every softball game (except one where I thought it was rained out but it apparently cleared up enough later that they could play–but that one’s on me, not her). She played through minor injuries (getting hit in tender places with pitched balls). She earned her award. (How many kids never even tried?)

Would have been nice if her team could have gone on to win the league championship, but they washed out in the first round (luck of the draw–got put up against a very strong team with a pitcher who puts the “fast” in fast pitch). Even so, I would have given her another award if I could: her first at bat she got hit in the foot with a pitched ball. That may not sound like much but she had to be helped off the field. Still, when her turn in the rotation came up, she hobbled up ready to go. (Coach and I both said “no!” and sent her back to the bench.)

Incidentally, she was still hurting the next morning and I took her to see the doctor. Good thing, too. Turns out that hit was almost a “perfect storm” type thing. “Just to be safe” the doctor had her foot x-rayed. Well, the ball hit a tendon causing the end to partially detaching it from the bone. She’s in a “walking boot” to give it a chance to heal.

The ball did that to her and she had been game to go back out there and try. They didn’t give her any awards for that. She’ll have to settle for daddy’s praise . . . and a “participation award.” And somebody else went on to get the championship award. More power to them. They played good softball.

But all the people who stayed home never even got that. Remember, the guy who comes in last is still lapping everybody sitting at home on the couch.

So, yes, reward participation. But don’t stop there. Those who go beyond simply participating to achieve excellence and accomplishment deserve their own recognition.

Impromptu Baby Rabbit Rescue

Friday night we had a bit of an adventure.

My daughter called me into the front room because one of our dogs, Dango, had something–Athena thought it was a lizard. Turns out it was a baby…something. It can be hard to tell with the very young unless you are particularly familiar with them. Mammal at least. It didn’t seem to be hurt. Dango had a very “soft mouth”. The critter was active and “squirmy”. Very young. Eyes still closed. I thought maybe a baby squirrel so I take it out figuring to put it up in the maple tree in the back yard presuming that’s where it came from.

When I got out there, and I was trying to put the baby up in the crotch of a limb so that it would be relatively safe from the dogs and so mommy squirrel could find it, I took a closer look and decided it didn’t really look like a squirrel. Rabbit maybe? Anyway, I turned to head back into the house and Dango was over by a spot on the ground in “play bow.” I came over and, lo if there wasn’t another one. I rooted around a bit and find a group of baby animals, five in all. They’re in a shallow pit, about 6″ deep and maybe about 8″ across. I guessed mommy rabbit established a nest here and dropped her kits.

Normally, I’d simply leave them alone. That mommy wasnowhere to be seen didn’t mean anything. As I understand it, rabbits generally leave the nests alone for extended periods, coming back just a couple of times a day. However, enclosed back yard with three dogs? No, that wasn’t going to work. Indeed, I couldn’t, and can’t, figure out how mommy was able to make the nest and drop her kits without at least being chased off by the dogs.

And, frankly, if the dogs hadn’t gotten mommy, it really was just a matter of time. My best thought was to move them to outside the fenced yard and hope that mommy rabbit could find them later. My daughter, however, wanted to take them to an animal rescue so…okay. I asked her to find one and she searched, makes several calls and getting “office is closed” until she found one in Mooresville (about a 45-50 minute drive).

So I sighed. We hopped in the car and headed down there with a box containing five baby bunnies. We handed them over to the person at the wildlife rescue, explaining the situation–leaving them where they were was just really untenable. Dango wasn’t really being predatory, just playing but a 70 lb Aussie playing with a 3 or four ounce (if that) bunny… He’d end up killing it without intending to.

I’m still trying to figure out how they got there in the first place. Right in the middle of the back yard, in a nest that mommy rabbit took some time to make, including using loose fur as insulation. How did the dogs, who have free access to the back yard, not interfere with this operation? It wasn’t tucked in a brush pile of in bushes or otherwise where there might be some shelter/protection from the dogs but right there in the open yard.

Normally I’m all for that whole “circle of life” thing. But here? Given the location nothing would be served by leaving them. No fox or what not is going to miss a meal because these particular prey animals weren’t there. The main threat to them would be our dogs and our dogs are well fed. They don’t need to eat baby bunnies to survive. So if they survive to be released (I figure the odds aren’t good, but we did what we could) they might end up in a foxes or hawks gullet soon after that release. Or they might not. But in the end I didn’t do this for the bunnies.

I did it for my daughter.

“How Would You Feel if…”

So Biden has a meeting with Putin on the subject of cyberattacks:

In a conference afterwards, Biden said the following:

“I looked at him and I said, ‘How would you feel if ransomware took on the pipelines from your oil fields?’ He said it would matter.”

Seriously? This is an argument that Biden chose to make?

Look, let’s suppose for a moment that Russia really was behind the cyberattacks in question. This assumes facts not in evidence, but let’s presume it for sake of argument.

How would Putin feel if this were done to Russia? Would he feel angry? Probably. Frustrated? Probably, especially if there wasn’t anything he could do about it. What about the Russian people affected by such a cyberattack? They’d be hurt in many ways. Might Putin be saddened by the harm done to the Russian people? Perhaps.

Does Biden think Putin doesn’t know this? He set off an attack against the US (remember, we’re presuming that for sake of argument) and didn’t know it would hurt and anger people? They’d be all happy about it?

Or maybe that it would hurt Americans and anger and frustrate American “leadership” (well, it says “leadership” on the label anyway) is exactly why he would do something like that. He has thought about what it would be like to be on the receiving end. That’s why he would do it in the first place (again, presuming for sake of argument).

I see the same thing in certain anti-bullying memes. “The person you called fat is struggling with…” “The person you did this to had that problem.” All this is supposed to make the bullies feel bad and stop bullying. The problem is that bullies. don’t care. Well, they “care” in the sense that such things are exactly why bullies choose their targets in the first place. The person struggling with depression who, therefore, doesn’t engage his or her peers and thus has no circle of friends? Doesn’t matter to the bully. All that matters is that someone is vulnerable and weak and therefore a prime target.

There problems make them hurt more? From the bully’s perspective that’s a plus. They want their target to hurt. Other stuff that increases their pain is just an added bonus. The whole point of an attack is to hurt the other guy. That’s why they call it an “attack” and not a “fluffy bunny.”

Appeal to “feelings” is stupid in schoolyard anti-bullying campaigns. And it’s criminally irresponsible when it comes to international politics.

Musings on Loneliness

Was listening to a song recently with the lyrics “anything is better than being alone.” As someone who was in a very bad relationship for entirely too many years, that line, and variations of it, always makes me cringe (however much I might like the band).

I have been told, and my observations tend to support, that if you aren’t happy alone you won’t be happy in a relationship. On the other hand, loneliness is a thing and it sucks. This would seem to create a contradiction.

So, the question is how to resolve the apparent contradiction. The simplest thing to recognize is that one can be, overall, happy even with things that suck in your life. Just like you don’t have to be Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos to be well off, let alone comfortable financially, you life doesn’t have to be perfect to be happy, relatively speaking.

Being happy, relatively speaking, does not however mean that you don’t recognize the suckiness of particular aspects. Consider folk who have lost limbs in war. While some wallow in what they’ve lost and have their misery define what they are, some others go completely the other way. Consider for instance, the case of Travis Mills, a quadruple amputee thanks to an IED in the Middle East:

You think his life wouldn’t be easier/better if he still had arms and legs? Yet, here he is making jokes and giving motivationals to others.

So, clearly the advice to “be happy alone” is not inconsistent with recognizing that being alone is…not great and, yes loneliness sucks.

But the thing to remember is, as Robin Williams said, being alone is not the worst thing. The worst thing is being with people who make you feel alone.

A bad relationship is worse than no relationship at all. And so, you have to be at least comfortable with being alone. If you’re not, you’ll tend to grab onto whatever comes along, anything rather than being alone. This is how you get into relationships with the wrong person, with someone who is outright toxic for you (might be great for someone else, but not for you). Indeed, the person who is afraid of being alone is easily manipulated by the toxic. All they have to do is hold out that lure of your not being alone and they can lead you around however they wish.

And in the end, you realize you are lonelier than you were when you were alone.

So, while loneliness is a thing, and an unpleasant one, the paradox is that you have to become comfortable with it, to make it something you can live with, something that doesn’t render your whole life unhappy, before you have a realistic chance of finding someone to end the loneliness. Without that, you might get lucky. You might stumble into someone who will be a good “fit” and, between you heal the parts of you that need healing.

You might. But the odds aren’t good because if you’re in the “anything is better than being alone” because there are too many “not right” people for every “right” person, and if the “right” person isn’t the first one…well, then it’s too late. You have to be strong enough in yourself to walk away from a relationship as soon as it becomes clear that it’s the wrong one for you.

And that means that you have to understand, way deep down in your gut, that there are worse things than being alone.

Fatphobia? Really?

So there was this:

So let me get this straight. If someone is trying to lose weight (for whatever reasons seem important to them: I won’t judge). They are having success. If I complement them on their success in progress toward achieving their goals that, somehow, makes me a bad person because other people either aren’t working toward that particular goal or have obstacles toward such a goal?

Could this person make a more ridiculous claim?

If a person is making an effort to be what they want to be (In this case, thinner), then recognizing and applauding their progress toward that personal goals is a good thing. It has nothing to do with how “worthy” they were/are. It’s about their success at accomplishing a goal.

Anybody who follows this blog knows I want to figure skate, not just do simple roundy-rounds around the rink. I can’t do that at my former weight of 270. That weight is hard to move through various techniques. More weight is more to move through fast changes of direction. It’s more to lift in jumps. It’s more stress on feet that already have problems. It’s more stress on ankles that are already stressed because I’m balancing on knife blades. (Hello? Have you looked at a pair of ice skates?)

The bulk that goes with that weight, particularly the roll of fat around my middle and the fat clinging to internal organs, interferes with bending the ways I need to bend. And that I’ve put some of the weight back on during the COVIDiousy is concerning. Techniques I need to continue to move ahead in free skating, things like “sit spins” and “shoot the duck” I can’t do because my protruding gut just gets in the way. I try to bend for it and I can’t breath because compression of my stomach pushes it up into my lungs. Oh, and doing those techniques which require balancing on one sharply bent leg? Yeah, that’s a lot harder to do when you’re carrying more pounds (or kg for you metric folk).

That weight is an obstacle to my goals. I need to shed the weight if I want to accomplish my personal goal. Doesn’t mean that folk with other goals are less worthy. They just have other goals. And that’s fine.

And if someone is working toward their goals and making progress toward them, then good for them. That’s a laudable goal, worthy of being commented on.

And does this prohibition on complementing people for something becoming a “phobia” for people who don’t have that something extend elsewhere? Can I not complement someone on their haircut because it’s a long-hair-phobia or or bald-phobia?

From yet another direction, people like what they like and are attracted to what they’re attracted to. I like vanilla. Does that mean I’m “phobic” about chocolate? I like bacon. Phobic about chicken? Same thing about factors involving personal appearance. People are allowed to like what they like. That doesn’t make them “phobic” about people who don’t fit that ideal. The great thing, though, is that there are a lot of people out there and if one person doesn’t like you, somebody else can. The most unlikely people find friendship and even love.

But some people take it as a personal affront if there’s anyone, anyone at all, who doesn’t like them, who doesn’t approve of each and every aspect of their being. And that’s a ridiculous position to take. Nobody and nothing is going to be universally loved. Nobody and nothing has ever existed, exists now, or will ever exist, that someone isn’t going to find some fault with. Expecting otherwise is just a way of guaranteeing failure.

Far better to be happy with yourself. And if there are things about yourself that are you aren’t happy about (most of us who aren’t complete narcissists do), then make the steps that seem appropriate to you to change them. And if you get some honest appreciation from others either for the characteristics you have or the progress you’re making for the characteristics you’re trying for, then take pleasure in that. Don’t try to browbeat or shame others into claiming an appreciation for things that they don’t particularly care for, for things that aren’t to their taste. You might get them to mouth the words, but they’ll never mean them and you’ll know they don’t mean them. And that will end up just making you feel worse, which will lead you to push for even more empty appreciation and approval, which you will know is insincere, leading to yet more disappointment, which leads to more efforts to force approval… A never ending cycle which no amount of forced approval and appreciation can ever break.

The “break” has to come from yourself.

Goth on Ice: Captain’s Log

There is a thing in physical exercise called “overtraining.” Basically, when you exercise hard, your body needs recovery time before the next big, heavy session. If you don’t give it adequate recovery time instead of improving, your performance starts to fall off. Thus, more is not always better.

I’d been noticing that with some of my own practices. Several days of skating and then I’d just find it harder to complete the target time on the ice I’d start reaching a point where I’m getting winded and, more importantly, my balance and coordination start to go “off”. I get clumsy, start stumbling and…well, I have to stop before I become a danger to self and others.

So, while ice time is king when it comes to making progress–the more time you can spend skating and practicing, the faster you make progress–there is a limit to that. If you don’t get adequate recovery time between sessions, progress falls off.

There are several things you can do to work around that. First and foremost, of course, is when things start falling off, take a day or two off. On the off days you can do a different kind of exercise, but as far as the normal exercise is concerned it needs to be “rest”.

There are things that are supposed to accelerate the recovery period somewhat. Back when I was serious about bicycling (training for competition, back when I was in my 20’s), sauna, hot baths, and massage were recommended. However, the amount one is able to cut recovery time with those is limited at best. The claim I saw in the sports magazines of the day was something like about a 2:1 advantage. That is, one hour of sauna or hot bath counts as 2 hours of recovery. So if your body needs 36 hours of “recovery time” before hitting those muscles that way again, an hour in the sauna reduces that to 35 hours.

As you can see, that’s not really all that helpful. Maybe at the very high end, where every little bit counts, but for most of us? If you like saunas or hot baths, then take them. But don’t expect to be able to exercise hard every day as a result.

When I spoke to my instructor about it, she acknowledged that it is an issue. You need to be aware and know when to take a break. She recommended keeping a training log with notes about what you worked on, and how it went to help recognize when you are having a fall off and when you need to take that break. And use the break time to do something else–off ice training that works things differently is beneficial here.

And so, I started one. The first entry was for yesterday, after the practice session and class. (They have classes back to back–first the younger kids and the lower “basic skills” levels, then the higher basic skills/free skate classes and the adults. And there’s a section of ice set off so that while one set of classes is running, those in the other set can practice.) Here is my first entry (slightly expanded because “verbal shorthand” that makes sense to me would be gibberish to someone else).

Training Log Sun June 6, 2021

Practice Session:

Arrived late (misjudged drive time to the rink). Mostly just warmup. Worked hockey stop. They’re getting better. Hockey stop to the left is still weaker than to the right.

2 foot spins are up to about 4 turns when they go well, and most of the time they do. Still not entirely consistent. Trying to go from two-foot to one-foot I’m able to get 1/2 to 3/4 of a turn.


Forward crossovers. Tips from the coach–hold the extensions with both legs, leg straight with toe pointed. Practice holding the edges for a beat or two as an exercise.

Backward crossovers. I’m still “flicking” the back leg in the cross and bringing it back inside. Need to work on a longer, push with that leg. Tip: Hold the back leg out and glide on the inside edge of the front leg so I’m not in such a hurry to bring the back leg back inside.

Inside three-turn. I’m still getting my weight too far forward on the skating foot, causing the toe-picks to scrape. Need to remember to keep my eyes up. I have a tendency to look down which throws off my balance. Also have a tendency to lean out of curve as I make the turn, this gets me off a good edge leading to the skate skittering sideways. The coach had me doing a bit of reaching into the circle with my lead hand just before and as I was making the turn. That suggests a bit of “pre-rotation” of the upper body might help.

Backward stroking. I’d been doing that all wrong. I’d been doing it basically into a one-foot glide in a straight line. The instructor showed it instead as a push and glide onto an inside edge, so instead of a mostly straight line down the ice, it’s a series of graceful swooping curves. Definitely need to practice this more. (Note as I’m writing this up: this actually sounds a lot like backward inside edges on a line, which is a Free-skate 2 technique.)

That was my notes for Sunday’s class. In the meantime I’ve done further work on my two-foot spins:

And further work on spirals and lunges:

They’re a bit less clumsy than they were, but I’m still not getting the extension I really need to get. That’s a matter of stretching to build flexibility as much as anything else, which would make for some good off-ice exercises to do in the “off” days.